I'll assume the image sequences are interpreted at the correct frame rate for this project.
If you're mixing image sequences of different dimensions in a single AE comp, try working with NO multiprocessing to see what happens.
Personally, I'd render one sequence per comp, render them out in AE, then finish up in a video editing application.
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As Dave said, I'd render one image sequence per comp and assemble them later in an NLE like Premiere Pro.
But, if you have to render really long 30-70 minute compositions out of AE, I would render to a PNG image sequence. PNGs are smaller than TIFFs and the quality is excellent. This way if you're render gets stopped due to a crash you can start it again from where you left off instead of having to re-render from the beginning. All you have to do is remember to check the Skip existing files box in the Render Settings window, which will also allow you to render using multiple machines:
You will of course have to re-render the final image sequence to a contained movie file, but pre-rendering the whole thing to an image sequence first should make the final render fast and painless.
The sequences are @ 20 fps in 30 fps comps. But I also routinely time remap the sequences, so the frame rate fluctuates.
Working without multiprocessing does work consistently, but then previewing is obviously comparatively slow.
That's a good idea. It seems that AE is made for smaller sequences.
Good call. I have done that for previous projects - it works great.
Great idea re. rendering individual frames! - I hadn't thought of that.
I've tried doing a network render, but I have found that it is actually slower than using just my 8 core Xeon machine. It doesn't seem like AE is smart enough to get both computers to work out their long-term schedules for which frames to render far enough in advance. I think that the Xeon machine will load footage into the RAM to get ready to render a frame, which the second computer ends up rendering instead-thus negating that work. An alternative to this overlapping of effort could be giving the Xeon machine 3/4 of a project, and giving the second computer the last quarter, so that they wouldn't have any chance to render frames that end up being rendered by the other computer. But maybe I'm doing something wrong.
But rendering the final sequences works great, and the fact that it crashes on the longer sequences seems more to be a symptom of my workflow rather than anything else. The main thing I want to fix is this pesky multiprocessing RAM preview problem that makes me have to restart the program often.