6 Ways To Speed Up After Effects Renders & Exports

Ever had this happen to you? You work tirelessly to get a project just perfect for your client. You build an epic masterpiece, and it comes down to the wire as you prepare for the final render or export. You need to deliver in 2 hours. You hit render, and then you see it. Your render will be completed in 6 hours, or worse, 20 hours. Ugh!

Maybe you haven’t have the exact same thing happen, but if you work in After Effects or a non-linear editor like Premiere Pro on a regular basis, you’ve surely been caught by a “longer than expected” export at some point. And sometimes it seems like there is no good reason for it. Maybe you created a similar project in the past that didn’t take as long. Or maybe it just doesn’t seem like heavy lifting. But for some reason, it’s worse than you thought.

We know this headache all too well, so today, we’re going to give you 6 tips for speeding up renders and exports.

1. Resize Large Images

One common mistake people make when working with images is to get the largest image size they can, import it, and scale it down. This isn’t necessary, and while it’s nice that our software can resize to what we need, the computer still has to process the full image when rendering or exporting.

So, if you import a 15Mb image that’s 4K resolution and you scale it down to 1920x1080 or even smaller, you are using valuable computing power for something that is lost.

When you are downloading stock images, just download the size you need instead of grabbing the largest thing you can get. And if you have a larger image then you need, try taking it into a photo editor like Photoshop. Resize it to your specs and save out a new, smaller version.

One large image won’t break your export, but if you have a lot of them, it will surely slow you down. It’s a very quick process so save a smaller file, and it can really save you time down the road.

2. Pre-Render Effect Intensive Elements

There are lots of reasons that we add effects to things. Sometimes we are generating elements like a particle background, and sometimes we are treating footage, like with a remove noise effect.

These effects can be important to our work, but they are also processing hogs. If you know that an element is approved, you can go ahead and pre-render it, so that your later render or export will have a lot less work to do.

For example, if you have noisy footage and you apply the remove noise effect, once the client is on board, pre-render the footage with the effect. Now you just have a new piece of footage which won’t take nearly as long to render. Minimizing effects processing is one of the biggest ways to save time on renders and exports.

3. Clean Up Your Compositions and Timelines

When you are working on a project, it’s really easy to make a mess. No matter how organized you think you are, unused layers will get stuck in comps, and layers will still be turned on even if an element has moved off screen of disappeared behind something else.

But, although you can’t see it on screen, the computer knows it’s still there and has to take time to compute this.

Before rendering, clean everything up in your comps. Delete unused layers completely. Find the places where layers are turned on but not seen and trim them appropriately. 

This will eliminate unneeded processing for something that isn’t even being seen in your final product, and it will speed up the export.

4. Resize Vector Graphics

Vector graphics are great since they can be resized all day long to stay sharp. After Effects even has a handy continuous rasterization function that will automatically redraw your vector art to the appropriate size as needed.

While this is the opposite of the the above tip about photos, you can actually save some render time in AE by sizing up your vector graphics to the largest size you need. By doing so, you can turn off the continuous rasterization function and save valuable computing power in return.

The good news is, vector art has a tendency to be much smaller in file size than raster based art. So, you probably won’t end up with a whole bunch of 15Mb files when you size up.

5. Quit Other Programs

This is more of a general computing tip, but it’s helpful when exporting or rendering. Simply put, the more apps you have running, the more your computer power is spread out.

If you’re chatting in Slack, watching videos on YouTube, and editing photos in Photoshop while you are trying to render, your computer is going to be busy working on other things and that will slow down the render.

When it comes time for a big render or export, avoid the urge to multitask and shut down anything that doesn’t need to be running. This will free up resources and get your export done that much quicker.

6. Use A Fast Local Drive

This is another computing tip, but one that many people may not know about. When you are working with source files in your projects, those files are being pulled in and exported out to your drive. Duh.

But, the speed of your export can be greatly affected by where those source files live. An internal drive if generally going to be the fastest for accessing files, an external drive will be slower, but the connection makes a big difference. For example, a USB 3 hard drive will access files faster than a USB 2 drive. Finally, a cloud based system could be the slowest as the files are being pulled through your internet connection.

When rendering, try and have all of your source files on the fastest available media to help speed things up.

Bonus: Get A Faster Machine

Okay, this tip isn’t one of the 6 because, it’s not easy for everyone, and it’s also kind of obvious. But if you are finding that renders and exports always take longer than expected, you really might want to think about upgrading your machine. It may be worth the investment just for time made up not waiting for renders.

We hope these tips help you spend a little less time exporting and rendering so you can spend more time making great projects, or just watching videos on YouTube.

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