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Undoubtedly, as you work in After Effects, you'll end up building some compositions that take some time to render. And if you know you're going to be reusing a certain element over and over again, you might consider prerendering or caching. This will streamline your workflow. Before you get into prerendering and caching, you need to start with general organization because this is a workflow and it requires a little bit of prethought. So let's look in our Project panel and look at how things are organized. Notice the bottom folder here, Windmill Layers, if we open that, that has some Illustrator files and I have an Illustrator folder up here.
So let's drag the Windmill Layers folder up in to the Illustrator Sources. We also have Pre_Comps and just layer Solids and of course our Output_Comp. So double-click the Output_Comp just to make sure that it's up and active and let's look at our project. To actually see what's going on, let's load up a RAM Preview. Now notice this is taking a little bit of time to render. If I press the Spacebar, notice I can preview my render. And as you can see, I've got a bunch of windmills.
I have rather shallow depth of field. I have an Adjustment layer with a Glow applied to it, and the kineteco logo which currently resides in two dimensions and is applied with a Screen mode effect. In looking at this, if I know the background is going to stay the same but we might need to change the logo, I would go ahead and cache this background comp. To do that, we need to just pre-compose anything that we think would stay the same.
So let's start by selecting the two things that we want to remain editable, which is Layer 3, our logo layer, and Layer 2, our Adjustment layer. Let's drag those up to the top of the layer hierarchy and then we can select all the rest of the layers. Just click on Camera 1 and Shift+Click on Layer 9 to make sure they're all selected. Now if you go up under Layer, you can choose Pre-compose. When we pre-compose, obviously, you want to name it, so let's call this Mill Pre Comp and click OK.
Now with the pre-comp set up here, you can see the overall view of my scene has not changed at all. And if I just turn off the visibility of Layer 3, you can see I can turn off the entire composition. The cool thing about caching is the fact that it works downstream, meaning if we open our Mill Pre Comp here by double -clicking on it and then go up under Composition > Cache Work Area in Background, it's automatically going to start caching this composition. And the great thing is, any other comps that are using this composition will reference this cached data, so it definitely will speed up your workflow.
Now I know caching is working because I can see it up here in the upper right in the Info window. Also, in the timeline you can see I have some blue lines that are just letting me know the progress of the caching. Now what's great as this is caching, it is literally caching the background. So I can go back to my Output_Comp and make an adjustment to my Glow effect. I'm just going to press E on my keyboard and here let's bring the Glow Radius down a little bit, and we can bring the Threshold down and just make a minor adjustment.
There we go! Now the logo is glowing a little more brightly. Okay, now notice when we go back to our comp here, it's still caching. Let's go to our Output_Comp and load up a RAM Preview. I want you to notice that it's definitely loading a little bit faster. That's because it's referencing the cache. Now let's go back to our Mill Pre Comp so we can check out the cache. After Effects is rather smart. It will automatically try and background-cache comps that are really complicated.
So you don't have to force the issue, but a lot of times, if I know a comp is going to be kind of complicated, I'll go up under Composition and manually tell it to Cache the Work Area in the Background. Let's jump back to our Output_ Comp and I want to talk to you about prerendering. I want to pre-render this Mill composition. So when you select the Pre Comp layer and go up under Composition and choose Pre-render, look what happens. It gets loaded in the render queue and After Effects has loaded the main comp that that layer was in, and that's not what we want to do.
So if you're going to pre-render anything and its pre-composed, what you want to do is open that specific pre-composed project, so the windmills without the logo. With my Mill Pre Comp selected, I can go to Composition > Pre-render. Now let's delete the old comp by selecting its name next to the queue and press Delete. And here now under our Mill Comp, notice by default, it will automatically render to Best Settings, and if we click on the Output Module, notice it's going to render an animation full-quality QuickTime with RGB and Alpha channel.
So if I click OK, this will be good to go to render. So in order to pre-render, all you have to do is click Render. This may take a second, so I will join you as soon as this is finished. So as you can see, we covered two different processes for streamlining your workflow, the first being caching, and the next one prerendering. When do you do one and not the other? My general rule is this: If you're working on your own system and you're going to be staying there for a while and you know you're going to be bouncing around within that project for a bit, go ahead and use caching for your specific projects.
And like I said, remember, After Effects will do this by default so you don't always have to manually choose how to do this. But if you think you're going to be sending your project out to an external designer or a different design house, or maybe even building like a project where, let's say, you're using some filters in your pre-composition that you know don't exist on another system, you could pre-render that pre-comp and then save this project out and send that. So now, it's self-contained and you can work on any system regardless of the effects or filters that are loaded on it.
Either way, whether you use pre-render or just caching, you'll definitely be increasing your workflow by getting the heavy lifting out of the way early and often.
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