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Chapter 8. Playback, Previews, and RAM

Chapter 8. Playback, Previews, and RAM

You've already used some of the standard playback methods for each window in After Effects. This chapter focuses on the Time Controls palette, which can serve as a master playback control for any window and includes a button to render previews of a composition. You'll learn to define a work area (or range of frames in the composition) to preview, and you'll use several preview options.

Although the terms playback and preview are often used interchangeably, this book observes a subtle distinction between the terms. While Playback refers to playing the frames of any window, previewing refers to playing an approximation of the finished product before it is rendered. You can play frames in any window, but you can only preview a range in the composition. Whether you're simply playing back frames or previewing them, the frame rate you achieve will depend on your system's capabilities, particularly its RAM. Explaining playback and previews without also discussing RAM would be like teaching you to drive without mentioning the engine.

In After Effects 5, that engine has gotten a tune-up. Now, frames are cached into RAM not just for RAM previews but whenever you play back a composition. Frames then remain cached, ready to play back, until you change them (or purge them from the cache)—a feature Adobe calls intelligent caching.

When you do make changes to a layer property, After Effects updates the Composition window interactively and suppresses updates only as an option—not the other way around, as it did in previous versions. If RAM can't keep up with these previews interactively, After Effects can reduce image resolution until RAM does catch up—a feature called dynamic resolution. This way, you can get visual feedback even when you're stretching your RAM resources.

Finally, to really use your RAM efficiently, you can set a region of interest, which limits the area of a comp's image that will be included in playback and previews. By reducing the rendering load to just what you need, you can significantly increase RAM mileage.


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