17 May 2012

After Effects CS3 crashing on save

I recently found a bargain-priced copy of Adobe After Effects CS3 on eBay. It's the full professional version for my Mac so I didn't foresee any problems. I'd been using it for a few weeks before I ran into what seemed like a terminal issue...

The other day After Effects crashed on me during a save. I'd already saved recently so it wasn't such a big problem. I reopened the project and resumed working where I left off. I made a few changes and pressed Cmd-S to save, and After Effects crashed again, in exactly the same manner. This looked like a recurring problem, and I managed to replicate the crash a few times.

Now CS3 is not new software, it's four years old. However I found an update online, taking my freshly-installed version 8.0.0 to the updated version 8.0.2. Unfortunately this did not fix the crashing problem.

A simple project

The work I was doing on After Effects was a collection of motion graphics. I'd made three separate compositions and I arranged them one after the other in a 'master' comp, with a card wipe transition between them. At my last-good save I'd applied half of the card wipes. When replicating this crash, I'd apply the other card wipes and try to save, and the crash would occur. I wondered if it was something to do with the card wipe transitions, despite being unlikely. Otherwise, my master comp was relatively simple. My ageing PowerMac G5 often took its time rendering a complicated comp, but it hadn't ever crashed when being taxed by a heavy-duty render.

A corrupted comp?

After plenty of experimentation by adjusting other compositions in the project and trying the Save command, I'd found that the crash usually occurs when working on my master comp and trying to save the project with that comp open on the timeline. When working on other comps, the crash didn't occur so often. I suspected there was something wrong with my master comp -- even though it was a long shot, I was getting fed up by this stage -- so I deleted that comp from the project viewer and re-built it. This was a worthwhile experiment because my master comp was relatively simple, so it didn't involve too much work. Lo and behold, after creating the new master comp I haven't experienced a crash since. Is it possible a composition can become corrupted in After Effects without affecting the rest of the project?

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