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  • The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    The DV Rebel's Guide: An All-Digital Approach to Making Killer Action Movies on the Cheap (Peachpit)
    by Stu Maschwitz
Thursday
May242012

Ray Tracing in After Effects CS6

The Best New Feature that You May or May Not be Able to Use

While I was busy making Canadian Lysol commercial history, Adobe released Creative Suite 6, including a major update for my favorite creative software of all time, After Effects. The new version includes some exciting new features:

  • Variable mask feathering
  • 3D camera tracker
  • Global Performance Cache (sexier than it sounds)
  • Rolling Shutter Repair tool
  • Ray-traced 3D extruded layers

Each of these features is worth its own post, so I’ll just pick one to start. The ray-traced 3D renderer is the first major update to AE’s 3D capabilities since they were first introduced in 2001–2002. AE was way ahead of most of its competition (except flame, of course) in bringing 3D capabilities to a compositing environment. At the time, adding 3D layers to a dedicated compositor was a somewhat controversial move. But now it’s hard to imagine compositing without a 3D environment, and After Effects has been lapped several times by its competition in 3D features. So I’m happy to see true 3D geometry finally spinning in my AE viewport.

I could be happier though. The After Effects 3D renderer is a powerful and feature-rich ray tracer. It supports motion blur, depth-of-field, diffused reflections, and soft shadows, all in 32-bit floating point color. The results can look amazing.

But ray-tracing can be computationally expensive. Adobe decided to accelerate their new renderer using the NVIDIA CUDA technology, where the massive parallel processing capability of a GPU is turned to general computing tasks. And indeed, on a supported system, After Effects CS6 can ray-trace pretty darn fast. The above iPhone animation rendered in 2 hours, 15 minutes on a machine with a $2,000 NVIDIA Tesla C2075 GPU. On a Quadro FX4800, it took 15 hours.

The problem is, I don’t don’t happen to own one of these supported systems. My MacBook Pro has an NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M, but that’s not beefy enough for AE6, so I’m stuck with CPU rendering. And my top-of-the-line, pimped-out iMac has an AMD GPU. So again, no dice. And by no dice, I mean you would not want to try to render something as simple as a pair of dice. On my $3,000 iMac, one frame of the iPhone animation takes 48 minutes.

I don’t begrudge Adobe the decision to accelerate the ray-tracer for CUDA, but I do regret the seeming prioritization of that optimization over any kind of CPU usability. If you have a CUDA card, you can use and enjoy the ray tracer. If you don’t, you pretty much can’t. I mean, sure, you can try, but the render times will very likely dissuade you. This binary hardware differentiation between the ray-tracing haves and have-nots is, to me, unbefitting of After Effects, which has always struck me as the “people’s choice” compositor—such a paragon of accessibility that I consider it a must-have tool for the DV Rebel. I expect Autodesk to ship something that requires esoteric hardware, but not Adobe. And yet, at the same time as the CS6 announcement, Autodesk announced a greatly updated Smoke for Mac, one of the primary features being that it works on just about any Apple hardware, including my iMac.

But surely it’s impossible that a ray-tracer could ever be as fast on a CPU as on a GPU, right? Maybe—but there are numerous well-established optimizations available to ray-tracers, including sub-sampling (where areas of sparse sampling are interpolated rather then allowed to be noisy), adaptive sampling (where the number of ray samples required for each pixel is adjusted based on scene content), and progressive refinement (where low-quality results are shown to the user rapidly, and then iteratively built-upon for higher quality). The After Effects ray-tracer has none of these. It’s a brute-force multi-sample renderer—the kind you’d write if performance in a massively-parallel computing environment (i.e. a specific GPU) was your sole concern. I wish Adobe had put their efforts toward making their renderer as fast as possible for all users.

I know it’s fashionable to hate on Adobe, but I have never felt a part of that crowd—probably because the Adobe tools I use, After Effects and Lightroom, are shining beacons of awesomeness within the company. I’m quite the opposite of an Adobe hater. So seeing After Effects sprout a feature we’ve been anticipating for a decade, only to have it tie users to specific, high-end hardware, feels a bit like seeing a good friend make a bad life decision.

As more and more of us use laptops as our primary machines, and as those laptops are getting smaller and lighter rather than necessarily more powerful, Autodesk is heading in the right direction, and Adobe is not. This, to me, was the big surprise of the post-production announcements at NAB 2012.

Want to know how I rendered these sample movies? I tried doing it on my mini-render farm of CPU-only machines, but it took days (of my laptop being too hot to touch) to produce unacceptable results. Smooth motion blur, fuzzy shadows, diffracted reflections and depth of field require a lot of samples (controlled by the anti-aliasing setting), and if I turned up the quality enough to stop seeing noise (for the iPhone, that was 14), those renders would still be going today. So I sent the project files to a friend with a CUDA GPU. A friend who happens to work at Adobe.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could do that too?

No, seriously.

Along with CS6, Adobe unveiled Creative Cloud, which includes subscription pricing for the Creative Suite applications. But is that really what After Effects power-users need from “the cloud?” What if that subscription also gave me access to a cloud-based render farm that is constantly Backblaze-syncing with my work directories and is ready to instantaneously render my 1,000-frame animation on 1,000 virtual machines at the push of a button?

Then what if Adobe removed the button?

It used to be my dream that After Effects would speculatively render my work in the background, using every ounce of my computer’s processing power. Now I want the same thing, but with Adobe supplying the processors. That would be worth a subscription fee.

The “big iron” days are over. Simplicity is the new powerful. Fast is the new good. The computer is the new hardest working guy in the room. Except it’s no longer in the room.

I can’t wait for my favorite creative software of all time to realize that.

Reader Comments (33)

Great article Stu. You obviously are someone in demand for your various talents. Wouldn't it be worth springing for a Quadro 4000 and a Tesla 2075 to add ray tracing to your arsenal? After my experience beta testing CS6 I decided to make the leap to Big Iron (Sandy Bridge EP system) with the above 2 cards. Premiere still needs power to speed up Exports and working with Red / Epic. AE benefits at the very least from 64 GB of ram. Getting an imac might serve some needs, but not mine.

May 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterTom Daigon

Thanks. I'm frustrated with the raytrace renderer at the moment. I have a qualified CUDA card, but I cant seem to get realistic results. Any chance of a quick tutorial on how you set up the box video?

May 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterAaron Green

Cloud rendering is a huge must have feature. Especially if were - contribute CPU/GPU cycles to get them back for free. The AEList has offered to do this in an informal, manual way, for my IMAX project as I have a mundo render coming up this summer that I could never hope to render on my mini-render farm.

I wonder what it would take to create this via plug-in/cloud-storage and code to co-ordinate it. Folding/SETI meets Creative Cloud meets crowdsourcing kinda of thing. I'm not a programmer, so I may have laid out something impossible.

BTW - glad you are back but even gladder you've been working on such cool stuff.

May 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterStephen van Vuuren

The Adobe cloud as a online Renderfarm? What a great Idea - I would join right away.
Doesn´t Amazon already have a service where you can rent online machines for rendering?

May 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterFrank Frohnhöfer

It seems the nVidia + Adobe relationship is actually hurting the consumer. The Open CL support is only beginning for Premiere Pro to trickle to Mac only and there are many reports of awful performance after a few minutes of good speed.

The lock in platform reminds me of the days of 3Dfx video cards and game titles. You had to get the card to get a good experience with all the good stuff. I know nVidia wants to sell cards but monopolizing the creative suite for their purposes seems to be anti competitive and a bad way to treat their loyal customers with other video cards.

Performance is ok on my AMD i7 Laptop but it's ages behind what you get with CUDA and just a fast Google search shows that Open CL on AMD has no real limitations on features to work just as good as CUDA, they support the features needed for CS. It has to be a different code string which means resources, cash and hired developers at Adobe.

Maybe AMD has dropped the ball and not pushed for equal treatment but I believe the best way they could work out their advertizing budgets is to form an equal partnership with Adobe and get the Creative Suite on Open CL at competitive levels with CUDA nVidia.

A render farm is a good idea but with thousands of requests they would need a pretty huge farm which would drive up the costs and profits down significantly.

AMD+Open CL - Wake up!

May 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterJames Benet

Really great post, Stu. Thank you for it. The little videos look amazing.

The cloud rendering idea is great!

However, I think the render engine will improve greatly in the next years, although Adobe came 5 years too late to the party.
It still lacks Ambient Occlusion for example and can't use OBJ's or any other object format. I think this will come together with improved render speeds in the near future.

And let's not forget VideoCoPilot's ELEMENT. It is not using ray tracing (AE CS6 uses nVidia OptiX) but OpenGL 2.0, means it will not support object-2-object reflections nor shadows in the first version but it is very fast, can render SSAO at least and will be able to run on CS5, too. Beta testing it at the moment and it's a beast.

May 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterDino Muhic

Great Post.
Maybe now it's the best time for a new computer. I definitly am considering buying one of those new HP Workstations to be able to use after effects new 3d capabilities (among other things :-))

I don't think someone can blame Adobe for going this route and accelerating ray tracing via Cuda. Of course it will exclude a lot of people who would like to add it to their work and are hoping to produce sequences like you did. But you could still get a plug in like Zaxwerks Pro Animator ot Mettles Freeform if you really want 3d in AFX but don't have one of those high end cards.

Maybe you should blame Apple a bit for pissing NVIDIA of (don't know how they did it, maybe by using ATI graphic cards in their mac pros) who are just producing most of their fast GPUs for the PCs. But I also heard that with the newest Lion Version you could also use a GTX 560, 570 and 580 (I'm not suer on the last one) in your apple machine.

Workstations will always be big fat machines so I don't think that an iMac or Laptop will replace it in the near future (but maybe I'm wrong)

Cloud computing is a really good idea. I came across cloud computing while working with Blender (http://www.renderfarm.fi/ , http://www.renderweb.org/ ). Maybe a smillar approach can be done with After Effects.

May 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterPascal Fuerst

Hi Stu

Was thinking..what about thunderbolt? Couldn't we have an external pci chassis running this graphics card plugged into any Mac? I know it still means extra investment but it would geatly speed things up. Love the Adobe render farm in the sky.Nice.

May 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterAlan Eddy

3 things:

-PC nVidia graphic card with Lion: http://nrsotw.blogspot.com/2012/05/pc-nvidia-graphics-cards-in-mac-pro.html

-Adobe has no 3D software experience, not like Autodesk...

-Smoke 3D rendering doesnt look anything like these.

May 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterJulio León

Great post and you echoed my thoughts (and then some).

Further thoughts/rants about the 3D in After Effects:

It all looks like a tech demo and of course, people will create awesome stuff with it (as you proved). But for a general purpose and great motion graphics design tool, the After Effects team should make their software sing on any machine.

It's lazy coding.
Rely on 3rd party hardware is lazy.
Build a proper toolset for the main cpu and optimize the code so it's fast while designing. Then add plugins to utilize cpu/gpu for added speed.

As mentioned, Elements looks real promising.
We don't need to have a "real" raytracer - we need tools that we can make things look great. We need tools to shape 2D, 2.5D and 3D objects for camera projections. (It could be great to track a scene, select a bunch of points to create a mesh.)

Why not have a proper toolset for 3D objects and have a plugin toolset so companies can port various tools and renderers to work within AE instead?
It could be especially cool with non-photorealistic renderers!

Though I don't know anything about AEs future toolset, it looks like they are painting themselves into a corner. Will they dump this incarnation of 3D in the next release?
If I'm going to invest in 3D, I would get Maya/C4D (or spend some time learning Blender) instead of spending the money on cards that rely on yet another company to provide drivers for my machine.

Do I sound bitter? Naw! The Blue ICE card was great! (For about 5 months...)

May 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterTobias Lind

* Happy to have you back. We all missed you, and at the same time were happy thinking you must have been working on something awesome (as you usually do).

* That cloud rendering thing is a great idea.

* You complain about the "binary hardware differentiation between the ray-tracing haves and have-nots", how it goes against the DV Rebel's "accessibility" requirement, and blame Adobe for this. I think you're barking at the wrong tree. You can get a very powerful workstation with a high-end CUDA card for under $2000. Same for a relatively powerful laptop with CUDA acceleration They won't have an Apple sticker, but if you're not ready to consider these options, don't blame Adobe, blame Apple.

* A couple of years ago, I looked into GPU computing for a HPC project. It never came through, but I researched enough to reach this conclusion: nvidia was way ahead of ATI in terms of support, programming tools, etc. This raytracing project surely started development more than 18 months ago, it's no wonder why they went for CUDA.

* Even if at the time Adobe had access to better ATI or OpenCL support and programming tools than I did, it wouldn't be surprising to see Adobe choose a path that pulls users away from the Apple ecosystem. Remember all those Flash fights? It may be payback time.

May 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterSamuel H

I'm amazed that Adobe haven't bought an existing full 3D solution off the shelf before now and asset stripped it. It seems like a truly huge gap in their offering. The obvious choice would be something like Cinema 4D. Maxon are small, and its one of the more 'designer' focused 3D apps.

Its weird watching Adobe - such an artist focused company, make such a hash of basic 3D modelling and rendering. Their last go was obj's inside of photoshop, with optional rendering in AE. As a workflow, that was just kind of surreal.

Its like their determined to re-event the wheel. Except currently, their's is gonna be square.

I love AE and have been using it every day for work since we swapped from Big Iron - Quantel gear in the late 90's. But, it is starting to look a bit long in the tooth in certain ways compared to the competition...

Not being able to load an OBJ (or any 3D file) is a real pain. So much so that I shelled out £4K last year for a copy of Nuke X just to use camera mapping and meshes in some shots, thats how much I value those basic features of a modern compositing system.

I can live with AE's bad 2D tracker - still 10 x noisier that the one that Shake retired 5 years ago.

I can live with fact that I have to buy a background renderer from a 3D party. Lloyd's is very cool, and very cheap after all.

I can even live with the fact that AE - once a pillar of stability, is a lot more prone to crashing since CS4 onwards... And the Global cache in CS6 (very welcome though it is) seems to make it even more so. CS6 now can now crash so hard that it just exits in front of you, without even a beach ball - generally a sign of some poor coding.

I can live with all that because AE is so beautifully flexible. Its like one of those little hot hatches that you can pimp out cheaply with 3D party gear into a 140mph street racer...

But the bit that makes me feel sad is the squandered promise since 2002.

Adobe - you need proper 3D space, meshes, basic texturing, lighting and rendering. The democracy of decent scanline rendering on the CPU, including render times that come from of this century, not the early 90's.

Premier has gotten much better than it was 15 years ago, but when
Apple dropped the ball with FCPX, Avid picked it up and Premier is still third in a two horse race to be a serious edit platform.

Its time to face the fact that if you couldn't get a proper slice of the edit game while Apple was rolling on the cobbles, your probably not going to ever get it.

AE and Premier should be ONE PRODUCT, proper edit and composite in one package... AE could be a laptop Flame, and more, if Adobe really new what their road map was.

I think it was Steve Jobs who said you should never be afraid to cannibalise your own products to innovate, because if you don't, your competition will.

My worry is that the cannibals have already spent a decade chewing the foot off AE with the lack of core innovation like edit and proper 3D compositing.

With these constant mis-adventures in development, they're now up to to AE's knees...

May 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterGonzo

Sam,

...if you're not ready to consider these options...

Deciding not to do something is not the same as not considering it.

May 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterStu

@Gonzo
Have a look were Apples self cannibalism lead to for the video professionals: shake dead, color dead, fcp making last breaths, mac pros disappering. If you ask me that's way too much canibalism.
And why do you think Premiere is number 3? It's clearly rising to the top. I never liked working with Avid (starting way back in filmschool) and always prefered other programs over it.

May 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterPascal Fuerst

Fair enough.

In any case, my point is that the one to blame here is Apple: they are the ones with a bad habit of restricting your choices.

To me, Adobe seems to have done what made most sense: develop for the platform that was most mature.

Those CPU-oriented optimizations you talk about would have been nice, though.

May 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterSamuel H

I understand your point, but obviously I disagree with it. It was Adobe that made the conscious choice to release a major new feature, a much-anticipated one, and make it only usable for a subset of their paying customers. That sucks.

There have been numerous instances of Apple truly screwing Adobe and its users, but this is not one of them.

May 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterStu

Your right it's sad that only the ones with the workstations can use this great feature but on the other hand wasn't it always this way? I mean sure you can import and use 3d in Nuke but I guess you also have to have a really fast computers to get instant and good results.
But hopefully this will change in the near future. Maybe we just have to be a bit more patient. It's just the start of true 3d in AFX :-)

May 25, 2012 | Registered CommenterPascal Fuerst

Pascal-

I'm not saying that Apple are a shining example of how to develop highend software. Shake was killed too early, and their handling of FCP has been a master class in how to lose a market.

But your missing my point. Apple make hardware, and killed both FCP and Shake because they aren't really interested in those high end markets any more

Adobe supposedly make specailist creative software, this is meant to be the market that they really know and want. Taking 10 years to add real 3D to After Effects and then getting it wrong twice is worryingly odd. It shows a dev team that aren't properly in touch with their users. Relying on CUDA so heavily is an engineers choice, it splits a user base (always a bad thing) it makes it impossible to move projects between machines on different specs without serious head aches. A very bad thing for creative teams too.

My point is not an Apple veiw of the world or an Adobe one. It about what you do with innovation. Very real innovation in AE is so often being squandered in the final dev, and arrives stillborn.

 Adobe seem to be developing a nasty habit of bring odd or half baked solutions to AE and then just leaving them sitting there. Let's look at the main ones from the last few releases: Rotobrush, auto camera stabilisation, content aware cloning, for example. All are great ideas underpinned, by world-class R&D. But the actual implementations of the technology are half-cocked and the features fail to fulfil their full potential. Great tech is ok, but I want great tools. 

The Rotobrush and camera stabilisation white papers are amazing, but final implementations are 'black-box' / push button solutions that keep the artist locked out of their output and thus the power to merge that data into other areas of he compositing workflow. Why can I get a spline from my partial Rrotobrush solution to refine with keyframes as part of any manual roto I'm doing? Why cant I get at the optical flow, camera image stabilisation data help with use for later tracking?

Great stuff is there in the app, but it won't get used fully because the implementation isn't really there. CUDA based 3D is best example yet:

3D check the feature box - is it in? Yep! Does it really work for artists? No.

Pascal - I'm not an Avid fan either, but you're wrong to say that Premier is rising to the top. Adobe are very fond of rolling out the PR jem that the BBC bought 2000 seats of Premier when FCP stumbled - the biggest single order Adobe ever had for edit. But the more telling fact one is that Adobe are less keen to publicise. 18 months on, do you know how many shows are currently being cut on those seats? None. There are no major BBC shows editing on the platform. They went back to avid, or stayed on FCP7, because most editors hate to learn new platforms. They just want to cut.

So edit is a conservative and evolved market - one which Adobe are still struggling to penetrate, despite having a reasonable offering....

Amalgamating AE and Premier to create a Smoke or Flame like offering would create a new killer app in the market. This is why Autodesk have spent the last 5 years cannabilsing their highly profitable Flame and Inferno market with Smoke and are now driving that cost of software down toward AE's price point - where the main stream and high user numbers are.  If they get low enough AE's market share will suffer. For the first time in 10 years someone might start to eat After Effect's lunch....

May 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterGonzo

If a render on one computer takes 10 days with a 1000 computer cloud you could have it in less than 15 minutes, but this is only if the cloud were empty of users. The only feasible approach is to make a virtual cloud made of users computers, the same way as SETI@home or Folding@home, but with a difference. In this case it would work with credits. When you give computing power to the cloud you get credits and when you render you pay credits. There could also be a credit market where you can buy or sell credits with real money.

May 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterJose Ignacio

5tu, did you model the Lego blocks with AE or only the rendering? I thought that AE 6 only could model text and extrude objects with bevel. Thank you.

May 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterJose Ignacio

@ Gonzo
Nice to have such great discussion with you :-)

I totally agree with you that Adobe should develope the RotoBrush and WarpStabilizer a bit further and let Artists take over at some point to polish the work the computer started.

I'm not sure if I like the idea of one Application (lets call it Adobe Premiere Effects Pro) for all my work. Adobe also said that it won't happen because both programms have a different program structure if I remember it right.
Blender also has a lot of different features (3d, matchmoving, compositing, editing,...) and from time to time it gets really messy. So I think it's better to have specialist applications for all the different tasks. But maybe that's just me.
I haven't used Smoke and am not able to do so in the near future because I'm using a Windows PC (Autodesk also excludes a lot of potential users ;-) it happens all the time)

Regarding Premiere: Yeah your right on that one. Editors don't like to learn new applications and hang on as long as possible. But there is a new generation of Editors coming along the way and those might choose Premiere because of it's flexibility and reasonable price point.

May 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterPascal Fuerst

Jose Ignacio
I like your idea of a credit system, with a complementary market with real money
Adobe could also distribute a free downloadable package that doesn't allow users to create anything but lets them supply number crunching power in that market

May 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterSamuel H

Pascal-

Definately alway good to debate this stuff! :)

Sounds like my wishes for an Adobe edit and comp super app are scuppered then if AE and PP are so different under the hood! I can but dream!...

I'll lodge my vote for non CUDA 3D then as top feature fix.

Stu-

Is your wish for a cloud renderfarm just for the ray tracing 3D elements of AE or more general rendering too? If its the latter - it seems to me that the biggest problem on any farm would be support of 3D party plug-ins and scripts.

We once tried to use Rendercore (one of those rent a farm sites) to render some maya shots when our farm overflowed, and couldn't sort out compatibility beyond the vanilla package. The guys running the service were really good and nice, but they couldn't support any 3rd party plugins.

After effect is an even broader church when it comes to 3rd party plugins- which is partly you guys at Red Giants fault! :) Cloud based plugin and versioning would be a nightmare any hugely expensive.

The only way I could see it working really well is if it was handled by Adobe, that way all of the plugin manufactures could submit free plug-in volume licences to them for render support.

May 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterGonzo

Great discussion. In order to share it with Adobe:
www.adobe.com/go/wish

The more people banging on their door the better. Hopefully.

May 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterAndreas Urra

Slow render time?
Welcome to the world of 3D.
Try to render the same scene in mental ray with DOF & motion blur turned on.
You'll be so thankful that AE supports GPU.

May 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterJason Hamilton

Okay - no one seems to be pointing out that these renders are incredible - not just the quality of the scene, but also the modelling. How on EARTH did you do the iPhone? Please post the scene files or run a tutorial because they are beautiful - hell, I'm still moving extruded circles around.
So onto a second point - AfterEffects only supports certain CUDA cards just like Premiere. This I only just realised. What I also realised is, just like Premiere, you can hack the text file and add non-supported Cuda cards. I just did this and rendering sped up 10-fold.
It's in Support Files and is called 'raytracer_supported_cards.txt'
Still not the best news for non CUDA owners, but great for those with unsupported cards.
Love the site - keep up the good work.

The iPhone model can be found on www.turbosquid.com. For free. I'm not sure if it is the exact same one, but it's a high quality one. No I don't work for their site, they are a great source for .objs if you need a model.

Stu, you are absolutely dead on right about Autodesk going the right way. I have made my living editing on the Avid since 2004, and Smoke 2013 is the first app to make me say, "this might kill Avid." I never got on the FCP bandwagon, but Smoke is the first new app that doesn't try to prosumer itself, rather it gives you access to more power. I always felt like FCP was asking me to compromise, I don't get that vibe from Smoke.

By the by, I suspect Trapcode Form came into play on the iPhone render. Yes, no?

May 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterBrad Schreiber

Brad, you're right that Turbosquid is an excellent resource, but it couldn't have helped me here—the only solid geometry one can render in AE CS6 is extruded shape layers and text. So I had to model the iPhone using those tools. Trapcode Form, as awesome as it is, also had nothing to do with these renders.

May 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterStu

Ok, a little cautionary tale about a new feature in CS6 - be careful where you put the Global Cache folder.

Adobe suggest putting it on a separate drive to your system for speed, but it's also worth doing that for safety...

I spent the weekend working in AE CS6, and the noticed that disk cache is large. 50 Gb on average during the time I was working. In an earlier post I said that CS6 seemed a little more crash prone than previous versions, and that also the crashes were harder than most - the app just vanished at times in front of my eyes with no warning.

Last night the drive that I was using as my cache became very corrupt - to the point that it couldn't be fixed with disk utility or Disk Warrior, and I had no choice but reformat it completely.

Luckily the workstation I was using has 3 internal drives and I'd taken Adobe's advice an allocated a spare one to be the new GC - so it was frustrating but not too big a deal.

However the point is, I did this for speed - I didn't think about what happens if you're regularly reading and writing 50Gb of data in single comp and crashes happen.

If the GC was your on system drive, and that drive wasn't fully backed up, this would be very bad indeed - you be looking a complete re-install of the OS and applications.

Its worth noting I'm really liking the global cache feature - it's big improvement. I'm also definitely not pointing the finger at Adobe for my disk dying. My directories could have had some problems already which I just exposed by continually swapping so much data so quickly. This is not the most scientific test - I could have been causing the crashes by using a drive with errors...

A 50Gb disk cache of small separate files is a lot of balls in the air for the hard drive. If you get crashes some of that data may get corrupted - which in turn may make crashing more likely. Your disk will then get chewed up fairly quickly, and you may not notice this. I didn't.

Lesson to self: Global cache should be on a drive that really doesn't contain anything else of value - FOR SPPED AND SYSTEM SAFETY. This drive should maybe be reformatted and verified regularly, so that it functions as Adobe intend it to.

Because it will be doing a lot of hard work for you.

May 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterGonzo

I agree with stu, I was a PC user but moved over to an apple computer, why? because I wanted to. However like stated the ray-tracer just takes way to long without a dedicated GPU workstation card as mentioned. Not everybody has workstation cards, regardless if they own a PC or a Mac. I'm not a Pro, I'm a student studying animation and VFX, I can't afford a CUDA GPU, well a decent one anyway. So at home I'm stuck to unrealistic render times using the raytracer for AE's CS6. I'm what Stu mentions as a everybody kinda guy, which is what After Effects is suppose to be for, not just Industry Pro's but the people trying hard to get there.

Everybody knows rendering takes ages without the proper hardware, but there's acceptable and then there's realistic render times, no way would I try rendering something that took 48 minutes on one frame, that's for sure.

I just wish like what Stu said, that they included a way to use the CPU to render effectively and not just the brute force of a GPU. The best of both, so pro users have their CUDA's and the rest of us get to use our I7's and what not.

May 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterShaun Berry

You may want to join this:
http://www.facebook.com/MacProsPlease
which I found here:
http://nofilmschool.com/2012/05/waiting-mac-pro-growing-petition-seeks-answers/

And also, it would be nice if someone could build a benchmark for raytracing on CS6, so we could know which GPU makes more sense for this (i.e. whether a quadro GPU is needed, or if a good GeForce will do just as well). I don't have CS6, so it can't be me...

May 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterSamuel H

I've done some informal testing regarding the possibility of using an external thunderbolt chassis with a graphics card. The results are interesting -

http://www.pixelworkshop.com/2012/05/02/slot-card-racing-mac-pro-gpu-speed-tests/

May 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterDave Bittner

Maybe I've found the answer to your problem that only Nvidia graphics cards profit from the new ray tracer because AK/AE does not use any GPU-assisted rendering. AtomRender is a fully CPU optimized renderer: https://atomkraft.hk/aebeta

From the manual:
AtomKraft for AfterEffects (AK/AE) is the first complete 3D toolkit for the leading
broadcast visual effects and motion graphics application Adobe After Effects® .
It aims to provide a broad range of tools to interactively perform the following tasks, all while staying comfortably within Adobe After Effects:

• import/generate/modify 3D geometry & assets in various formats (currently
Alembic .abc and Wavefront .obj)
• look development
• matte painting
• camera projection mapping
• lighting
• rendering

Through AtomKraft you can access high end features such as:
• high quality anti-aliasing and filtering
• true, fast 3D motion blur & depth of field (bokeh)
• micropolygon (sub-pixel) normal/vector displacements
• bump mapping
• multiple output render channels
• ray tracing effects like (soft, area) shadows, (glossy) reflections & refractions ...
• global illumination effects (HDRI lighting & shadowing, environment and ambient
occlusion, color bleeding ...)
• subdivision surfaces
• particle rendering
...and many, many, many more to come!

AK/AE uses the same core technology of its high-end VFX counterpart, AtomKraft for
Nuke (AK/NUKE), this time in your favorite compositing application, After Effects, with
the ease of use and affordable pricing that AE users have come to expect.

June 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterPascal Fuerst
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