Why do you need to use all the adjustment layers? Something sounds fishy.
Unless you want to apply an effect to ALL visible layers below it in a comp, an adjustment layer is largely unnecessary: just apply the effects to the layer itself.
And you certainly don't need one effect per adjustment layer. That just complicates things.
Agree with Dave. You are probably overdoing it and not structuring your setup in a smart manner. also this may be related to hardware acceleration both in some effects as well as footage decoding...
Not really sure what's fishy about all of this...
Anyway, the reason I'm using adjustment layers is to dial in each effect via the opacity slider to taste (as the look is being applied across many clips), and doing it this way works in a 'node-like' workflow. I've notice that some effects applied onto a clip, even in sequence, don't always apply as you would think they would. Also, some effects cause errors when above, below other in the stack (i.e. unsharp mask below Finesse sometimes causes a flicker like effect where Finesse is active in some frames and inactive in others).
How can I test if this is a hardware acceleration issue?
You do realize that Color finesse in and of it's self contains levels, curves, hue, saturation and more in one interface, it just uses a different set of controls to adjust about everything in your image except sharpness.
That said, I understand the thought process of trying to emulate nodes using the opacity of an adjustment layer. I use masks, track mattes, and opacity on adjustment layers all the time to control effects and that's a good and normal workflow. My suggestion would be to put Color Finesse or Colorista or Magic Bullet or whatever you choose to use as a color grading tool on the first adjustment layer in your comp, do 90% or more of your work there, and then use an adjustment layer with masks and opacity to fix any other problem areas. I've never seen a project that needed more than one or two additional adjustment layers to fix problems that could not be corrected with a single layer.
You'll find the workflow is faster and you'll get more done and make changes quicker. Great Colorists simply the process as much as they can so they can get work done, get paid, and get another client. Think about it...
As for Curves crashing I think you're just running out of system resources. The calculations required to blend all of the pixel adjustments under an adjustment layer are cumulative.
Try the same project in After Effects CC and see if the crash happens there. We've fixed a lot of bugs related to color effects on adjustment layers recently.
Rick, the workflow you describe is exactly what I do. I'm not quite sure what gave you the impression of otherwise... I will use the curves on those power window adjustment layers for vignettes, enhancing points of interest in the frame, etc. I do most of my grade in one layer, but some projects require more than one node to achieve a look as they leverage themselves against each other. The issue comes in when those layers with the curves crash my AE.
I really doubt that I run out of resources as I usually am active at monitoring my system. Of course one work around is for me to use Finesse to do the simple curves adjustments on those other adjustment layers, but that effect is more resource intensive and will increase my render times. Also the fact that a more resource intensive effect isn't crashing AE goes to show that the problem isn't with my system but his AE is implementing the effect.
Todd, I'd love to try that, but this is my machine at work and even though there are clear benefits for me to move to CC they won't allow the upgrade yet unfortunately. Any patches in the works for CS6?