12 tips on how to render vfx faster in after effects and premiere pro banner

12 Tips on How to Render VFX Faster in After Effects and Premiere Pro

12 Tips on How to Render VFX Faster in After Effects and Premiere Pro

You might spend less time rendering, and more time working with these VFX render speed tips!

You’ve got a deadline to make, big plans tonight after work, and you don’t want to be stuck sitting around the office for hours waiting on frames to render.

While we can’t guarantee to save your social life, we do have a dozen quick tips for speeding up your render times in After Effects and Premiere Pro, which should help you stress a bit less as you’re finishing up your VFX project!  

1. Clean Your Media Cache

When you clean the media cache, it frees up disk space so your render can breathe. It’s surprising how quickly your media cache can grow when it hasn’t been cleared in awhile, so make sure you take some time to clean it every so often.

It’s also a good idea to do this before you start working on a big project, because it will dump some preview frames you may have generated. It’s still worth clearing to help save space, and maximize the speed of your render.

How to Clean Your Media Cache in After Effects:

On macOS, go to the After Effects toolbar at the top, and select After Effects CC>Preferences>Media & Disk Cache>Empty Disk Cache. 

On Windows, go to Edit>Preferences>Media & Disk Cache>Empty Disk Cache.

After the “Empty Disk Cache” command processes, you’ll also want to click on the button near the bottom of that window that says “Clean Database & Cache” to clean your conformed media cache.
How to Clean Your Media Cache in Premiere Pro:

On macOS, go to the Premiere Pro toolbar at the top, and select Premiere Pro CC>Preferences>Media Cache>Delete Unused.

On Windows, select Edit>Preferences>Media Cache>Delete Unused

 2. Make Sure You’re Using GPU-Accelerated Rendering

If you’re having trouble rendering in Premiere Pro or After Effects, it may be because the project isn’t set to the optimal renderer for your system. Typically, newer Macs will work best with the Metal GPU renderer. On both Macs and PCs, you may also have the option for a CUDA or OpenCL renderer. 

The important thing here is that you don’t use the option that says “Mercury Playback Engine Software Only”, because that will slow you down for sure! If you do have the option for CUDA or OpenCL, CUDA is typically the best choice.

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Just check your project settings in both After Effects and Premiere to ensure the best renderer is selected. You’ll also want to check under the Preferences>General panel in Media Encoder to make sure the correct renderer is configured there, too.

3. Optimize RAM 

Take a look at your RAM settings under Preferences>Memory in After Effects and Premiere Pro. You can adjust the RAM reserved for other applications, but it’s a good idea to make sure you’re leaving some space for your system to run backend processes.

Ideally, setting “Ram reserved for other applications” to something like 3 GB is a good way to make sure you’re not running into background processing issues.

4. Close Unused Programs

After optimizing your RAM, make sure that you close any Adobe apps you aren’t currently in, because they will share the memory you allocated - even Photoshop!

5. Render Using Preview Frames

When exporting In Premiere, check “render using preview frames” in the export dialog box to speed up your render!

6. Use Media Encoder to Render Whenever Possible

Media Encoder has one job and one job only: render your projects as fast as possible. While you may be tempted to render in After Effects or Premiere directly, remember that your render will almost always be faster if you run it through Media Encoder, because of the “light” nature of the program.

7. Watch File Transfers

If you’re transferring large files during the render, this can affect your computer’s data write workload, making your renders take a little longer.

8. Consider Your Media Storage

Editing on an external drive? Make sure you are using USB 3.0, Thunderbolt, or ethernet connections! Nothing slows a render down like a small data pipeline on an outdated or faulty cable or drive.

9. Consider Your Network Setup

If you’re editing on a NAS, make sure the infrastructure allows for the fastest file access possible. If not, you may need to download a copy of your project files locally or onto an external drive to edit there first.

10. Render in After Effects Without Preview Frames

Your previews may be taking a little while in After Effects, but you can turn on your caps lock button prior to rendering the preview in your composition to turn off preview frames. This allows every ounce of computing power to be dedicated to producing the composition playback, rather than simultaneously giving you a preview of each frame as it tries to create a video preview.

11. Use a Secret Menu in After Effects

This is a cool trick! Hold the shift key while you navigate to After Effects CC>Preferences>General>Secret on a Mac, or Edit>Preferences>General>Secret on a PC. By holding the shift key, it opens up the “secret” menu option. Check both boxes on the “secret” menu screen, and set it to purge every 2 frames.

This secret menu gives you more control of how After Effects renders your footage, but just know that if you check the second check box “Ignore Sequence Rendering Errors (Danger!)”, you are running the risk of potential errors in your render. This is really just to help you work more quickly, but you will probably want to uncheck this in other less demanding projects.  

Also, by disabling the layer cache, you will need to re-render for every RAM preview if you make changes, but it should make your overall playback a bit faster.

If you use the secret menu, make sure you are saving your project frequently to cover yourself in the event of a crash. This menu is secret for a reason!

12. Transcode Your Source Footage

While you can edit quickly with proxies, you still can expect a long render time once it pulls your original source clips during export. One of the biggest ways you can speed up your render time in After Effects and Premiere Pro is to convert your source footage to a more digestible file type, such as an h.264 or h.265 .mp4.

You may not truly need all the data in those massive source files, to accomplish what you need, and a true visual quality loss may not even be perceivable. I can attest to this fact. When I’ve had to key long clips, my render times go from 20+ hours on a really decent editor using raw source footage to one or two hours keying an .mp4. 

That’s how drastically you can cut down your render time, without any perceivable dip in quality. Granted, there will be times you need all that data, and you need to ensure you’re not overly compressing your plate footage, but this is honestly the ultimate way to reduce your VFX render time in After Effects and Premiere Pro.

A lot of these tips may not be new to you, but there are so many little tricks to maintaining an optimized workflow in After Effects and Premiere Pro. It’s good to have a consolidated checklist in case there’s anything you missed.  

What is the best method you’ve found for rendering your VFX faster in After Effects or Premiere Pro? Let us know in the comments below!

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