Join Todd Kopriva for an in-depth discussion in this video Using Fast Previews, part of After Effects CS6 New Features Overview.
After Effects CS6 makes it much easier to choose how to preview your composition. Many of these changes are especially useful when using the Ray-Traced 3D renderer. But the various fast previews can be used for other compositions as well. Let's take a look at the new fast previews. Begin by opening the Dancers Project and do a quick Ram Preview. So, as you can see, this composition involves some Ray-Traced to 3D objects. Some Extruded Shape layers to make up these cogs, as well as this text here.
And if we click the Fast Previews button, we can see that we're currently viewing this composition in Final Quality off, referring to the fact that the Fast Previews are off. This means that if we want to manipulate an object in the Composition panel, it might take a while for the result to render. I'll drag this Text layer, and notice that it's taking awhile for the framed update. Each of these frames in this composition takes about 5 seconds to render.
So, just moving a Text layer like that is quite slow, and we'd really like a way to speed that up. I'll press Ctrl + Z under that movement. If we switch down to Adaptive Resolution and then move the Text layer, watch what happens. The composition is being down-sampled so far fewer pixels are being rendered, but it allows me to drag this text layer around. And see a rendered result, even though a very low quality one as I drag.
As soon as I let go of the mouse, the frame is rendered back in full quality. So, this speeds up the movement of an object on the Composition panel. Or the changing of a property, but it means you're viewing a low quality result in the Compsition panel. I'll press Ctrl + Z under that movement. Let's go down to the next preview mode, Draft. Pay attention to the reflections and the shadows and the glossiness in this cog here as I switch to Draft mode. We still have an extruded shaped object here, but it's not very high quality. And we have problems with aliasing here on these edges. When you use the Draft Preview mode, you're only using one ray per pixel. Which means you're using the lowest possible quality of the Ray-Traced 3D renderer.
But at a lower quality things go a lot faster so I can drive this Text layer around, no problem. I'll press Ctrl + Z to Undo. And if Draft isn't quite fast enough, we can move down to Fast Draft. Notice that in Fast Draft, reflections and various other aspects of the scene are not rendered. But we're able to interact with the scene quite quickly. And when things can't be rendered as I drag, it shifts to Wireframe mode. The difference between Draft mode and Fast Draft mode is that Draft mode is still using the Ray-Traced 3D renderer, processing on the GPU using optics. However, Fast Draft is being processed using OpenGL, also on the GPU, but using a different technology platform.
Fast Draft can be much faster, but it's nowhere near the fidelity. You'll probably find, when working with extruded shapes and text, that you'll use Fast Draft mode while placing items. And then you'll switch to Full Quality to see how things actually appear. I'll press Ctrl + Z to Undo. And finally, look at Wireframe mode. This is the highest Performance Preview renderer, but it's also something that doesn't really show us how things appear at all. So, we just get a sense of placement with bounding boxes, but it's very responsive. Even in the most complex of scenes, you can drag things around in Wireframe mode with no lag.
I'll press Ctrl + Z to undo, and now I'll switch to a 4-view mode so that we can see four different views of the same composition. And notice, each of them can use a different Preview renderer. This one is using Fast Draft as indicated here, and Wireframe is being used in the other three. I'll switch this top one to use full quality by selecting it, and then choosing Final Quality.
And the same can be done for any of the paints. You don't have to click and choose from the menu. You can instead, use a keyboard short cut with one of the views active. Press Ctrl + Alt and then a number key between 1 and 5 on the main keyboard. So, Ctrl + Alt + 1 is Final Quality. We'll give that a moment to render. Ctrl + Alt + 2 is Adaptive Resolution, Ctrl + Alt + 3 is Draft, Ctrl + Alt + 4 is Fast Draft and Ctrl + Alt + 5 is Wireframe.
If you want to change all of the panes in the Composition panel to use the same render. When you choose a render from the Fast Previews panel, press the Ctrl key, that's the Cmd key on Mac OS. So, I'll set everything to Wireframe by holding Ctrl and clicking Wireframe. Note that there is an option here, Fast Preview preferences. If you click that, you can set some preferences related to fast previews. Specifically, whether you want to see the individual Wireframes for each character in a Text layer, and what the adaptive resolution limit should be. In other words, when you are using Adaptive Resolution, how much down sampling can After Effects do.
I change this to 1 half, and then it will only down sample to show 1 out of every 2 pixels, both horizontal and vertically instead of 1 out of every 8 pixels. I'll click OK. And now, if I switch to Adaptive Resolution, when I drag, notice that it's not getting nearly as pixelated as when I used Adaptive Resolution before. And if Adaptive Resolution can't keep up, it switches temporarily to Wireframe mode.
If I'm going to use Adaptive Resolution, I actually prefer to have the Adaptive Resolution limit set to 1 4th or 1 8th. Because at only 1 half, I find that it moves over to Wireframe mode a little bit too readily. So, I'll change that back. We can also do it in Edit Preferences instead of going through the Fast Previews menu. It's the same preview pane either way, and I'll choose 1 8th. So, with these various new ways to preview compositions quickly, you can work with even very complex scenes without experiencing a lag.
It's an especially good idea to remember those keyboard shortcuts. Ctrl + Alt + Number key, or that's Cmd + Option + Number key on Mac OS. So, that you can switch back and forth between Fast Preview modes as you work.
- 3D animation
- User interface changes and removed features