In the last edition of this book I rather bracingly inserted a list of optimal Preferences settings near the beginning of Chapter 1. This time around, many of these are embedded in context throughout other chapters, but as we have arrived at the end of Section I of the book it is time to mention a few optimizations that haven't come up yet. Not only preferences, but also settings for memory management and what do to if After Effects crashes.
Setting Preferences and Project Settings
The preference defaults have changed in version 7.0 and you may be happy with most of them. Here, however, are a few you might want to adjust that haven't been mentioned yet:
To restore Preferences to their defaults, hold down Alt+Ctrl+Shift/Option+Cmd+Shift immediately after launching After Effects, and click OK on the prompt. Hold down Alt/Option while clicking OK, and you're asked if you want to delete your shortcuts file as well (otherwise, they remain).
One area of major improvement in After Effects 7.0 is that the application can handle more physical memory (RAM) than previous versions.
In OS X, After Effects can now see and use more than 2 GB of RAM. Theoretically the amount of space available is 4 GB, but because the system reserves some of that space, it is more like 3.5 GB. Your machine may have more total memory than this, but most applications on a Mac are still limited to 32-bit 4 GB address spaces.
On Windows XP, the maximum amount of memory supported for a single application is 4 GB (again, using 32-bit 4 GB address spaces). According to Microsoft, however, "The virtual address space of processes and applications is still limited to 2 GB unless the /3GB switch is used in the Boot.ini file." Editing this file is out of scope for this book, so check out www.microsoft.com/whdc/system/platform/server/PAE/PAEmem.mspx for specific information.
Close-Up: On the Mac: Forcing a Crash
One benefit of After Effects has historically been that it is among the most stable applications in its category, and when it does crash, it attempts to do so gracefully, offering the option to save before it exits. The new auto-save options, if used properly further diminish the likelihood that you are ever likely in danger of losing project data.
For OS X users, there is an extra feature that may come in handy if the application becomes unresponsive but does not actually crash.
Open Terminal, and enter ps x (then press Return) to list all processes. Scan the resulting list for After Effects and note its PID (Process ID) value.
Now enter kill SEGV ### where "###" is replaced by the After Effects PID value. This causes the application to crash with a save opportunity.
On either platform, extra memory (beyond what the application can use) will come in handy when running more than one version of the application, when using Nucleo (which simulates running multiple versions of After Effects), or, obviously, when running other applications simultaneously.
Some users have found in certain situations that renders that fail due to out-of-memory errors will succeed if the image cache is emptied more aggressively than usual. If you want to try this, hold down the Shift key when opening any category of Preferences, and the Secret category is revealed in the pull-down menu. You can check Disable Layer Cache and specify the number of frames after which the cache will be purged (1 being the most aggressive setting). You can also check Ignore Sequence Rendering Errors, which will continue rendering even if out-of-memory errors occur. Under normal circumstances, neither should be necessary; this option exists only for desperation situations in which renders fail due to memory errors.
Onward to Effects
Section I. Working Foundations
The 7.0 Workflow
Selections: The Key to Compositing
Optimizing Your Projects
Section II. Effects Compositing Essentials
Rotoscoping and Paint
Effective Motion Tracking
Film, HDR, and 32 Bit Compositing
Section III. Creative Explorations
Working with Light
Climate: Air, Water, Smoke, Clouds
Pyrotechnics: Fire, Explosions, Energy Phenomena
Learning to See