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If you've ever used someone's computer who hasn't had their cache and preferences set up properly, I'm sure you already understand just how important those settings can be. Trying to use After Effects without considering how your system is set up can often be a rather trying experience. So let's save ourselves the headache and check out some key preferences and cache settings. On the Mac, to get to Preferences, you just click on the word After Effects in the upper-left corner of your interface. On the PC, you want to go to the Edit menu and go down and choose Preferences.
So I'm going to go back and choose my preferences, and we'll start with the General section. In the General Preferences, you can change the Levels of Undo, although I recommend just leaving it at 32. Show Tool Tips is a great thing that you can leave enabled when you're first getting started within After Effects. See, let me just click OK to show you what Tool Tips do. When you hover over any part of the interface, after a certain amount of time of not moving your mouse, you'll get a tip that pops up, tells you what the specific thing is that you're hovered over, and it will give you a key command shortcut.
So let's jump back into our Preferences, and move out of the General section. We can just click Next, and look at Previews. Now the Preview section, let's click on the GPU Information button. In here, you can actually accelerate the processing of graphics processing within After Effects by enabling GPU ray-tracing. Now understand that the devices that are required to enable this require a CUDA driver, and those graphics cards are NVIDIA graphics cards.
Now since this system doesn't have an NVIDIA card, I cannot enable that option. If you wanted to make an adjustment to the Texture Memory, you can, just to understand that you should never make this more than 80% of the value of the total amount of memory that you have on your graphics card. Now let's click OK, and jump to the Import section. In here, there is a setting for Still Footage. When you import a still image, by default, it will set up the length of the composition. But if you want to specify a length for a still image, you could enable this option and change the length, so any time you import a still, it's that length.
Let's go to Labels. In the Labels section, notice you can change the label for each different part of the interface; how videos are labeled or audio. Just understand, when you click on these pulldowns and choose the different options, the colors that actually correspond are labeled down here. So if you wanted Sea Foam to be a different color, you would come down to this drop well, click in it, and change the color. I'm just going to click Cancel because I like the default settings. So I'll leave it like that. The Media & Disk Cache section is arguably the most important section in your Preferences.
The first thing you want to enable is Disk Cache. If you have a fast external drive that's separate from the drive that you're actually using After Effects on, you want to choose that folder. If After Effects is acting a little squirrely, you want to empty the Disk Cache. Also, there is an option for Conformed Media Cache. As you're working in your project, After Effects will sometimes create some extra media cache files that it will reference to make using After Effects a little bit faster. Typically, when I enable a folder for my Disk Cache, I also change my Media Cache folder to the same location.
And the same general rule applies if After Effects starts acting a little funny, after I empty my Disk Cache, occasionally, I'll empty my Database Cache as well. Now let's go to Video Preview. If you had an external monitor or more than one monitor on your system, this is where you could choose the other device to output the video signals. So as you're working in After Effects, anything in your comp viewer would be mirrored in that external monitor. The Appearance section is fun. The only thing I change in here is the brightness of the interface.
If you want the interface to be really dark, you can drag it to the left, or really bright, you could drag it to the right. Let's click Default to make sure we're set at the default settings. Auto-Save; if you enable this, just understand, any time After Effects goes to save a project, it may take a second to save that file. So try not to save it too often, otherwise I've found it just interferes with your workflow. Memory & Multiprocessing is another great area inside of After Effects. If you notice, RAM is shared between all of these different applications in the Creative Suite.
As a general rule, you should always reserve at least a little bit of RAM for other applications, especially if you have it open for like email or browsing the web or something like that. After Effects Multiprocessing; lets enable Render Multi-frames Simultaneously. This really takes advantage of multi core systems and as you can tell, the system I'm working on has 16 core processors. You should also make sure you at least have one CPU reserved for other applications, so as you're working, After Effects doesn't try and take over the entire system.
So now if you want to optimize the settings for After Effects for your specific system, you may want to just click OK, and go to the help section of After Effects. Under the Help menu, if you go to After Effects Help, in there you can type in the search field, improve performance. And in that section, you'll see plenty of tips on how to set up your system with its own individual optimum settings, and that way, you can have your preferences and your system set up exactly the way you want.
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