Full program multi-threaded support
After Effects would benefit greatly from being able to actually utilize all cores when rendering, rather than having to rely on a third party solution, like the excellent program Render Garden by Mekajiki.
(This post was co-authored by Tim Kurkoski (After Effects Product Owner), Andrew Cheyne (After Effects Engineering Manager), and Victoria Nece (After Effects Product Manager).)
This thread has been sitting here for quite a while without a response. To start, we want to apologize for that. We haven’t been ignoring you or your feedback – this is just a particularly complex topic. That said, it’s time for us to check in with you, clarify a few things, and give you an idea of what we’re looking at for the future of After Effects, especially when it comes to performance.
Before jumping into the specific request here (multi-threading AE), we should talk about how the AE team looks at performance in general. There are three areas:
- Rendering Performance: How fast can AE get pixels onto your screen?
- Interactive Performance: How fast does the UI respond to your actions?
- Workflow Performance: How fast can you complete a task in AE?
All three are important. All three impact how quickly you can make creative decisions and get your work done. This request and this discussion are focused on the first area, rendering, so we will focus on that, however we don’t want to lose sight of the bigger picture.
What have as the AE Team been doing? When we set out to tackle rendering performance, we looked at the potential improvement offered by different technical paths. And we set a high bar: we didn’t want to just have an incremental speed increase. We wanted a major leap forward in rendering power.
The obvious technology that would enable us to achieve that goal was leveraging the GPU. Because GPU processing power has leapfrogged the CPU — and is explicitly designed to handle this type of processing — the decision was made to invest in getting AE’s core rendering pipeline running on the GPU.
This is not a small task, and we’re not done yet. The most visible result of this effort has been the porting of individual effects to the GPU – more than 40 so far. Less visible is the work we’ve done getting the rest of the After Effects rendering pipeline on the GPU, such as layer transforms and motion blur or debayering RED raw R3D footage.
We still have further to go, as the real power of the GPU is unlocked when you don’t have to send a frame back and forth between CPU and GPU for different stages of rendering. As more links of the GPU chain come online, you can expect further rendering performance gains.
We do know what you’re thinking at this point. You want to know what we’re doing about multi-threading.
We all recognize that After Effects would benefit from additional general-purpose multi-threaded rendering. And while we can’t get into specifics here or make any promises about our future roadmap (that’s all confidential when you’re a publicly traded company), we are actively working on multi-threaded CPU rendering.
Ultimately, when it comes to achieving the best rendering speeds possible for AE, we know we’ll need a combination of GPU and CPU processing that maxes out all the resources on your machine.
We recently partnered with the folks at School of Motion and they did a fantastic video on how to get a more optimized system for After Effects: https://www.schoolofmotion.com/tutorials/after-effects-computer
Please keep posting and letting us know what you think. We’ll continue to watch this thread (and all the others on UserVoice). And we appreciate your patience with our response to this post.
@Luc Clayton I don't think it's a question of engineering smarts, and I wouldn't presume to tell the AE team how to build an app as complex as this one is. I'm talking about shoddy communication and shockingly poor management of a customer-facing forum.
What's the score now? 16 months and 434 comments since the already overdue "update" from our benefactors, and nothing has changed. Including After Effects. Unforgivable lack of respect.
Whenever this mythical, high-performance version of After Effects eventually arrives, the product managers have already ensured that their customers will be too ******-off to show any appreciation. Great job.
15 Sept - Adobe reports record revenues. When Adobe shifted to subscription, we were sold a lie: that the regular income would fund development and result in better products with more updates. Anyone actually think this is true? Updates used to have dozens of headline features, to make it worth upgrading. Now, if we're lucky, there are a a handful of things. And this is pretty much every product, not just After Effects. Apart from XD, which is updated all of time. As we all suspected the guaranteed income, coupled with a monopoly position, has resulted is coasting. Time is wasted developing Adobe's own dialog boxes instead of using the ones in the OS. Of course, they miss a load, so we have an annoyingly disjointed UI. We get new icons - designed be someone who doesn't realise that it's a good idea that they are all different colours, so we can tell them apart. Now we're all accidentally launching the wrong app all the time. So where is the money going? Look at your mailers. It's going into Adobe building its Marketing Cloud, not into the creative apps. I feel pretty certain that if they had sometime to tell us, we'd be hearing it. They might amaze us all by revealing a reengineered After Effects but I'm really not holding my breath. Although this is the After Effects forum, most of their other apps have other similar issues. Premiere Pro's famed 'stability' for example, making it the only video editor of the three I have installed which I guarantee will choke on a big project, crashing out without notice. This is the monopoly, they don't need to try harder because they are 'the standard'. They don't need to respond because our business is assured.
Luc Clayton commented
Yeah I think it's clear that over the years the AE team have been lost at sea. If I were to guess, I would say they keep making really bad decisions on how to progress the app. I'm sure at one point they thought that optimising for GPU was the way, then single core, and now who knows (something that works on ARM?). I bet in a dusty cupboard at Adobe there are a ton of attempts to make the program fit for purpose, but were all abandoned after they realised they were barking up the wrong tree, or got diverted onto another simple program that will get them more users. I guess they are a business so maximising profit is the most important thing to them, but as with all their misguided development, they fail to see value in communication or providing good value to their customers.
One of the After Effects team members listed at the top of this post is doing a really, *really* bad job. Not sure which, and I'm not sure I care. The lack of any response or update whatsoever feels they're trolling us now.
John Myers commented
I have tried in vain to relay Adobe's absolute lack of communication around After Effects to their team. They don't care, they give me tons of "Oh yes, we're talking to the team about it and things are going to change!" Aaaaand, they don't. No updates on any of the other requests in here, even requests that have been marked fulfilled are not acknowledged. Meanwhile on the Premiere uservoice page and almost every other major app there are constant updates on progress. I am so absolutely utterly disgusted by the apathy from this team.
Michael Funk commented
Its about time to ramp up the speed of After Effects in general – NOW!. It doesn't matter what machine with what specs is used – AE just doesn't benefit much of higher specs. Everything above Full HD is a pain in terms of speed. 3K and 4K Footage is used more and more and in AE painfully slow – blowing every normal project timing. Don't miss understand me – i love AE – its my favorite tool – but i begin to wonder if we ever get an update in this matter. Some GPU accelerated effects here and there from time to time don't make a big deal. Everyday using AE is a lot of unused productive and creative time – because of the endless waiting for the next preview. CPU and GPU being not fully used by AE are unused resources on every machine. I think speed is by far more important than any new effect or other feature.I can get all my things done – but it just takes too long. Is there a time frame for speeding up AE?
Robert Eggleston commented
I can appreciate the update from Victoria Nece from August 2019. If GPU support is the way forward then at least we have a clear path forward.
However, I'm finding that both my CPU and GPU utilisation generally doesn't peak past 25%, yet I can rarely playback in real time for even the most basic of animations. I'm doing really basic stuff here, trim paths animations, a couple of trak mats, a few shapes flying around or an image panning in Full HD.
I run my system on three SSDs as recommended by Puget Systems (boot, working files, cache). My computer is high CPU clock speed and was top tier three years ago. I have 8GB of dedicated graphics memory and 32GB of RAM.
I personally feel that performance should far exceed what it currently does and I believe that's been the sentiment with After Effects for the last five years.
As an aside, both Cinema4D and Blender allow use of either GPU or CPU. Perhaps this sort of arrangement should have been considered for After Effects? But I feel that the team is probably dealing with so much legacy code now that they're unable or incapable of making the sorts of changes that are necessary. I'm not a software developer so that is just speculation.
Scott Crozier commented
If you are seriously working on these issues why have we seen no evidence of them in the beta program!!! One effect every six months is not what we are looking for here. At that rate we might get a relevant After Effects in 2320. There have been no meaningful updates to shape performance, interface performance and lag, or 3D layer rendering performance. All the while almost nothing has been done to communicate progress with users even though you have established a beta program perfectly suited for dogfooding these critical areas. We are a passionate user base who just want to see some of the same passion from the development team! Instead we get lack luster updates and less transparency than the Trump administration.
Just a timeline of what AE users have been given:
2014/2015 - Multi-threaded features (as hacky as they were) are pulled with the promise of a fully multi-threaded and performant AE to come "soon."
Instead of developing a new 3D engine in house you ported over Cinema4D as a frameserver which is somehow SLOWER than the old single threaded 3D engine. Dont get me wrong-- it has its uses but its not what AE needs.
Five years later, some tweaks to use mercury playback to decode footage and moving a near inconsequential amount effects to the GPU and every workstation using maybe 10-20% CPU on a normal project render. All of us lose hours and hours and hours of productivity.
You've had five years to make this right. How long does it take to develop a program? I think you could fully develop an operating system two times over in the time it takes Adobe to update an app.
I don't know if AE is too complex and too old to fix from the inside out but if that is the case you should have released an AE-X alongside AE-classic and just phased out the old program as the new one took over all the features. Sort of like Final Cut X but with a phased roll out.
Anyways this has all been a colossal fail and extremely short sided by Adobe and they are just extremely lucky that the industry hasn't really responded with a true competitor app. On the other hand Calvary is here and I think a lot of artists are going to jump ship sooner than later once they figure it out.
Updates just announced to Adobe products including Premier and After Effects (the latter via a beta version)... no mention of these issues at all.
The update is nice and all, but meaningless. Making great progress and looking really promising do not a timescale provide or an expectation set. A year? A decade? Who knows. I get that as an individual he can't say certain things and I respect that, I also value that he's given us something.
@Matthew Reinhart It's great that you got a response, but it's terrible work by the product manager that it has to come to _customers_ tracking down individual team members on Twitter in order to get it. FFS.
I think most people here understand that we're not going to get weekly progress reports, but by the same token it's disingenuous to hide behind the "we're not allowed to say because we're a publicly traded company" nonsense. Adobe *could* say, and they could quite easily give themselves the necessary protection with some caveats about forward-looking statements and the work being experimental. They're just choosing not to.
The Engineering Manager has just shown what they *could* be saying. Why are they not saying it here, out of courtesy to their customers, rather than forcing us to chase them down and bang on their doors? Why do they not understand, from a straightforward PR and Customer Relations point of view, that it's better *for them* to say these things here?
Once again, I think most of us understood work was going on, despite the frustrations we all show here, but it's a huge failure of product management to let your customers get to this level of frustration without, you know, *managing* it.
Matthew Reinhart commented
I could tell quite a few people are frustrated in this thread, hoping for more communication on this subject, myself included. So I reached out to one of the authors of the official response above, After Effects Engineering Manager Andrew Cheyne, on Twitter. Much to my surprise, he responded!
So as an "official/unofficial" update, it's unfortunately difficult to talk about much publicly, but nevertheless good progress is being made, and apparently it's looking very promising! Personally, just hearing "Yep, things are going great!" is quite the relief after more than a year since anything's been officially said about it - and I hope as small as an update as it may be, it provides a bit of relief and optimism to others in this thread as well!
the dudes commented
@Christopher Jeffries: By 2020, you should know that more cores almost always equals to less AE-performance. It's just very barren to think that a Threadripper would do you good there. It never worked that way.
John Myers commented
Hey Adobe, how about you deign to communicate with your users more? WTF are we paying this much money per month for? There are even a few requests in here that could be considered accomplished, yet nobody on your team can take a moment to address this?
Likewise, I have a £7K iMac Pro with most of the power wasted when running almost anything Adobe. After Effects is the worst, the performance is dire. But Da Vinci Resolve Studio (which I am in the process of moving to, simply because the performance and stability of Premiere Pro is also an embarrassment) makes it feel like it was worth paying that price. Meanwhile, Adobe doesn't even do things like - use consistent dialog boxes, for example, having decided to spent time creating its own and not using the system ones... sometimes.
Christ, that price is a tear-jerker. I "only" opted for a 3900x/dual Vega56 and I'm ******, I can't imagine the frustration, if not total rage you must be feeling! I'm right there with you in that this application has become the bane of my existence; I legitimately dread doing work at this point because I know above all that it's going to waste an inordinate amount of my already limited time on this planet, and cause me an unfathomable amount of stress. And until I'm proven wrong, I highly doubt anyone at Adobe actually cares. They'll make their money no matter what, the end users can pound sand.
For a brief moment I had a shred of sympathy while considering the current global pandemic, but then I realized this software came out 27 years ago, and multi-core processors have been around for the last 15 of them. I think they had ample time before the world went to **** to make their program USABLE.
********, I should stop checking the comments on this thing because it just gets me into rant mode lol. </rant>
Edit: bahahah apparently I've been censored lmao
Christopher Jeffries commented
Oh look! I built a new workstation! (Specs: https://pcpartpicker.com/user/Cx/saved/gWRk99 )
What's amazing: Cinebench scores are fantastic! Lowest rendering time (quickest!) of the many years I've been running the AE Total Benchmark scene! Everything else I run other than AE is much improved!
What's not amazing: AE previews are still slow and the UI is laggy. And there's seemingly nothing I can do about it.
PugetBench results: Overall score of 1156. (The School of Motion article listed in the response from Victoria Nece shows a score of 985.)
CPU-Z benchmark results: 16336 (multi thread) / 499 (single thread)
I am beyond frustrated at the state of this application. It is, without hyperbole, the greatest pain point in my professional life.
Luc Clayton commented
lol, It's been over 6 years, time for an update!
@the dudes : I admire your optimism, I really do!