20 August 2012

After Effects CS3 performance comparison

A while back I had an After Effects project with 640 layers of footage. I've had to learn patience with my ancient Power Mac which struggles to render anything in real time, even simple comps, but I shouldn't have been surprised to find that 640 layers took about 40 seconds per frame. The entire 90-second animation took 23 hours.

Last winter I upgraded the Power Mac's standard GeForce 6600 LE video card to a GeForce 7800, which was the fastest available when the computer was new back in 2005. I remember testing a single frame render took just over 20 seconds, but after a couple of weeks of ridiculous fan noise the video card died and I had to refit the 6600.

So this week I decided to try the same render on different hardware. At my disposal I had a 2007 MacBook and a 2008 Mac Pro. I tried the render a couple of times on each using After Effects CS3. I guesstimated that the MacBook's lack of decent video hardware would be made up by faster CPUs and RAM. And I tried the Mac Pro, well, because I could. Both are running Snow Leopard 10.6.8, whereas the Power Mac is on Leopard 10.5.8.

The Power Mac took 36-40 seconds for the single frame.

The MacBook took 25-28 seconds for the single frame. Extrapolating this to render the entire animation should take about 16 hours.

The Mac Pro took 13-17 seconds, to render the full animation should be about 9 hours.

All this just serves to make me more impatient to replace the Power Mac. But it's likely I'll remain about 5 years behind state of the art, this time due to software incompatibility with the latter Mac OS versions. How did we manage before ebay?

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