Top 10 Ways to Fix Laggy Playback in After Effects

After Effects 03/10/2022 4 min read

Lagging playback is one of the most frustrating things for an editor to experience. Sometimes the lag will create odd audio playback; other times, you will have to watch your composition playback frame by frame. Whatever the cause, lagging makes it incredibly difficult to review your work accurately. This guide will show you everything you can try to fix your After Effects laggy playback.

Part 1: What to Check When Your After Effects Playback Is Laggy

When fixing playback lag, the first thing to do is to figure out why the lagging is occurring. While there are many reasons that After Effects might be having playback issues, we can divide them into X broader categories; software, hardware and conflicts.


There is a good chance your lagging issues are caused by out-of-date software. That’s especially true if there’s a discrepancy between the operating system on your device and the After Effects version you are using.

Always check that your software is up to date for your device and Creative Cloud. Going further, it is worth ensuring all your Adobe software is up to date, even if you are using After Effects. AE works with Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere, Encoder and Adobe Bridge, so make sure everything is up to date, especially if you use Dynamic Linking.


The device you use to edit can also be responsible for playback lag; After Effects has specifications for the amount of Memory/Ram you need to run After Effects. Even if you meet the minimum threshold, you may run into trouble on more extensive or complex projects.

Always check that your device meets Adobe’s specifications; if not, you may need to consider getting a new editing laptop.


Conflicts occur when trying to use out-of-date products with a more up-to-date version of AE. Unlike Software issues, where the discrepancy is between programs, your conflicts may occur within After Effects. 

Creative Suite is a powerful and impressive selection of tools that can be built out with third-party plugins and effects. However, while these easily downloadable add-ons are ideal for kitting out your editing suite, sometimes they are not updated as swiftly as After Effects.

If a conflict is occurring, it will usually result in lagging or crashing when using a particular effect, plugin or template. If AE is up to date, check with the third-party creators to see if the plugins also require updating. If there is no update, but the conflict still occurs, you may need to uninstall the plugin.

Part 2: 10 ways to Fix Laggy Playback in After Effects

If you’ve figured out what was causing the playback lag, you may already know how to fix it. However, if you’re still struggling, follow each of these steps until the issue is resolved.

1. Close Down Other Applications

Every application takes RAM for your device to run; After Effects will need a lot of RAM to run efficiently. Therefore, you should always limit the number of applications you have open simultaneously; close down those you don’t need while working in After Effects.

2. Delete some Files

The lagging could be caused by a lack of space on your device, and with the size of media files, it can happen quickly. If you are using numerous downloadable assets, your Downloads folder can soon become cluttered with Zip folders and footage. Regularly clear out your downloads folder and file the assets you need accordingly.

3. Clear Media Cache

After Effects creates Cache Files each time you play back compositions – Small rendered files that help with the Preview. Over time the Media Cache can clog up your device; unlike other files on your device, the Media Cache needs to be emptied from within AE.

  1. Go to the After Effects Menu > Preferences > Media and Disk Cache
  2. Hit Empty Disk Cache followed by OK.
  3. Next, click Clean Database and Cache, followed by OK.

4. Move Source Files to Local Drive

After Effects references your original files from wherever they are saved. If you work from an External Hard Drive or a Cloud-based setup, your system may struggle to reference the footage you are working with. Move your project to an Internal Drive while working on it for a speedier Playback.

5. Hardware Accelerator

Another way to improve your playback is in the Display options for After Effects. You will need to restart AE once you have made this change, so make sure you save your work first.

  1. Go to After Effects Menu > Preferences > Display.
  2. Uncheck Hardware Accelerate Composition, Layer, and Footage Panels.
  3. Hit OK and restart After Effects.

6. Change Playback Resolution

Playback resolution is super easy to change and gives AE a much easier time playing back your compositions. The Playback Resolution settings only work within AE, so your exports will still be in full quality. While the Playback Resolution settings decrease the quality of what you are watching, it will help you review it at full speed.

7. Adaptive Resolution

Adaptive Resolution is a function that allows AE to decide how much information to show from a high-resolution clip. It’s similar to changing the Playback resolution; only AE decides what minimum Resolution is needed to preview the data.

  1. Click on the Fast Previews icon next to the Playback Resolution drop-down.
  2. From the menu, choose Fast Previews Preferences.
  3. Change the Adaptive Resolution to 1/16 and hit GPU Information.
  4. Change the Texture Memory to 1152 and hit OK.

8. Memory and Performance

All Adobe Programs allow you to specify how much RAM your device dedicates to the application’s performance. Of course, your device will come with limited RAM, so you should only adjust this if you are not worried about running other applications.

  1. Go to the After Effects Menu > Preferences > Memory and Performance.
  2. Change the RAM Shared By After Effects, so your device uses as much (or as little) RAM as required.
  3. The RAM used for other applications will be adjusted accordingly; this setting only affects your other applications when Adobe is open.

9. Divide into Smaller Projects

If you have a particularly big or complicated project, dividing your composition into smaller projects can help After Effects. Bigger projects will require compositions within compositions; the more comps within comps you create, the harder it will be for AE to playback. So divide your project into scenes and create a separate AE project for each.

10. Export as Previews

If your playback is still lagging, the last resort is to export for Preview rather than rely on the AE Playback. Unfortunately, doing this can add a lot of time to your edit, as you need to export your project after each change. Still, it will at least give you a realistic view of your project.

If you’re experiencing choppy or lagging Playback in After Effects, there are plenty of things you can try to fix it. But, of course, you are far less likely to run into problems with your editing with an optimized workflow.