24 Replies Latest reply on Jan 24, 2017 5:23 PM by Kevin-Monahan

    After Effects, the new Mac Pro, and ray-traced 3D compositions

    evie_harris Level 1

      I recently got one of the new Mac Pros and it doesn't get along great with After Effects, particularly when it comes to ray-tracing.  There is no Nvidia GPU option for the new machines, so ray-tracing defaults to CPU.  But then, even with a simple solid, it gives you an out of memory error.  I've seen postings saying this is fixed in 12.2 but I've got 12.2 and the newest CUDA driver installed and run the machine with all other apps closed, but no luck.  Presumably I'll figure out how to get it running after a fashion eventually, but even then, even with the new machines' many fast cores etc, CPU ray-tracing on the new Mac Pro is not looking promising on the speed/usability front.


      Element 3D is an option, but its reflections can't interact with the comp the E3D object is within, only with the environment map in the plug-in itself, so there are many cases where it's a poor substitute.


      My question isn't really how to get ray-tracing to work with the new machines.  That would be great, but my sense is the answer there is, it effectively can't.


      My question is, given that motion graphics increasingly involve the complex interplay of light, reflection, transparency, and three dimensional objects, and that from here on out Mac Pros will no longer accommodate nvidia cards, and that many creative types will only work on Macs, how long will this state of affairs continue?  How long can it continue?  Are there any plans to make After Effects fully functional on the new Mac Pros?  Ray-tracing has always been balky and wonky and prone to error messages and crashes, but despite all that it's also an indispensible part of After Effects.

        • 1. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
          Rick Gerard Adobe Community Professional & MVP

          First, are you using the latest build of CC? Second, did you change any of the Preferences? Third, C4D is included with AE now and works way better and is far more useful than AE's ray-traced rendering which was developed in conjunction with Nvidia and their Cuda (copyrighted and patented) engine. It's not logical to assume that the Cuda rendering engine could be used with an AMD card. There are certainly other rendering options for ray-tracing, but it's a lot more complicated that it seems at first glance. One of the rendering engines that I use for my 3D work takes a HUGE amount of time to render on a fairly powerful and fully compatible machine. It's a lot better than it was just two years ago, but true ray-traced rendering is something that is not going to be real time any time soon.


          I think that AE's ray-traced rendering was a little over sold when it was introduced, but as a compositing package, and in a compositing workflow, there is very little need for ray-tracing if you prepare your project properly. I've used AE's 3D ray-tracing features exactly twice in since it was introduced for commissioned work, but I can't count the number of projects that I have used C4D in and the new Mac Pro should handle that very well.

          • 2. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
            Todd_Kopriva Level 8

            Why do you have CUDA software installed on a computer that does not have CUDA hardware? That is just going to confuse matters, and it is likely the source of you problem with After Effects.


            Do not bother with the ray-traced 3D renderer. Use the other 3D alternatives, such as Cinema 4D (included with After Effects).

            • 3. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
              evie_harris Level 1

              CUDA was a shot in the dark, I'm no expert on any of this but then neither will many users be.


              I get that there are alternatives and will now use them, like C4D lite etc.  Still there were many cases where Ray Tracing was useful, and having to forgo it or find workarounds because I upgraded to more powerful hardware is a real loss. 


              And the larger point remains:  Especially now that the new Mac Pro is out, is locking its users out of key AE functionality quite fair or even sustainable over the long term?  I can vouch for it being annoying, so I hope an alternative that works across all platforms is added soon.

              • 4. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                evie_harris Level 1

                Everything's latest and factory-set.  I will try uninstalling the superfluous and maybe (see below) harmful CUDA driver. 


                And I'm looking into C4D now.


                There were many cases though where ray-tracing was convenient and didn't involve quite so steep a learning curve that a whole new piece of software will.  Adding a slight curve to a comp, or giving one a little depth or reflectivity.  It was great having that functionality right there in AE, wonkiness and all

                • 5. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                  Todd_Kopriva Level 8

                  > is locking its users out of key AE functionality quite fair or even sustainable over the long term?


                  The ray-traced 3D renderer is by no means "key AE functionality". It is and was a minor feature. In fact, it is a feature that we have already superseded by Cinema 4D integration, including shipping Cinema 4D with After Effects. Future 3D features in After Effects will go down the CInema 4D path, and the ray-traced 3D renderer will be abandoned. Do not waste time thinking about it, trying to use it, or buying specific hardware for it.

                  • 6. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                    evie_harris Level 1

                    I... guess I won't, then.  I found kind of a lot of uses for it though that seemed easier than C4D integration.  The latter feels bolted on and wonky...  Who wants to learn two interfaces instead of one?


                    I know there's a type that loves the most difficult but powerful solution to a problem but I just want to make pretty movies as easily as possible.  Ray Tracing was a big step in that direction so it's loopy that you guys are abandoning it for something wildly less user friendly. 

                    • 7. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                      Rick Gerard Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                      "Wildly less user friendly" is a completely inaccurate statement. "it will take a little while to become familiar with the interface," is more accurate. "More capable," is more accurate. "Produces better results in less time," is more accurate.


                      I'm not trying to start an argument but I've been at this since AE was born and I can't wait to dive into a new tool and explore new and better ways to make pretty movies. Some of the most useful effects that I use on a daily basis have 'different' interfaces that take a while to learn. Thinking you will get anywhere in this business with one skill set is like expecting to manage a construction company when you only know how to use a shovel.

                      • 8. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                        Andrew Yoole MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                        I share your frustration with the AE 3D ray trace capabilities.  It was certainly oversold, and never really came to fruition due to limited hardware support and horrendous render times without that supported hardware.  However, the focus in CC toward C4D integration is a fantastic step forward in comparison, as the possibilities are now far more advanced, and faster to render.  As Rick says, learning C4D skills will be a great benefit to any motion designer.


                        If you'd prefer other options, remember there are other third party tools you can use for advanced 3D capabilities within AE.  The two most popular are


                        Video Copilot Element 3D


                        Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator

                        • 9. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                          brianchaffee Level 1

                          Hang on a minute...What about: 'Why are we using CUDA laden GPU's that aren't even white listed?' Or that you are not in your 'lab', as you have described in the past, certifying the cards, that DO have your prerequisite hardware?' That is the question.


                          So, that being asked, when do you anticipate the newest imacs with up to 4GB GPU's of CUDA, being white listed? It took over a year for you to get to the 2012 imacs GPU's listed. Meanwhile you are considering AE to be pro but does a pro user resort to hacks in code?


                          GPU technology has been with us and is now raising its very powerful head and whoever is not in the race for real, gets dusted.


                          C4D states from London to Germany to California: 'C4D does not recognize gpus's. It is solely cpu processor centric.' Though all three offices said they do not know if it is better to have many CPU processing cores being used minimally or just, say four, that are screaming.


                          Hardware is far beyond the software and software companies are forced to get real with that fact.


                          In regards to real time anything, you should check the history of SGI as well as its current capabilities. Then you will see how everyone is just being played, big time.


                          And for the record, it is NOT C4D that is 'included in AE.' It is the lite version. And there is a difference.

                          • 10. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                            evie_harris Level 1

                            And you're welcome to it; I'll do my best too because apparently I have no choice.  But here's what I know:


                            Adobe -- in partnership with whomever, I hugely don't care -- developed some pretty useful features that relied on Ray Tracing.  Environment layers.  Reflectivity.  Geometry options, both the ability to bend 2D layers and make certain full-fledged 3D objects.  All within the existing interface.  Now I'm being told those essential (to me) aspects of the software are no longer available to me because I upgraded to the hugely heralded Mac Pro everyone had a year to get ready for, but it's okay because all I have to do is forget everything I learned and learn similar things all over in a wholly separate piece of software that talks to After Effects (hopefully better than their own Premiere Pro does, don't get me started,) and hope there's a 1:1 corrolary for every feature I had come to depend upon.  For instance I haven't yet come across a tutorial that explains how to get my c4d objects to reflect items they're passing in my AE space, or have an environment map at all in AE, for instance skies. 


                            A far more sane way to develop software, it seems to me, is to slowly add features and improve on them.  If Ray Tracing was proprietary its underlying functionality is not; finding a way non-Nvidia systems can get the same results.


                            Frankly Adobe has a geek problem and always has.  This sort of thing is easy to engineer types -- fun even -- but creative types find the creative part fun and want all this under-the-hood functionality to be easy and consistent.  I can tell you that I have ported my edit over from Premiere Pro to Final Cut Pro 10.1 and it's like night and day in terms of usability, and my work is much improved for it. 

                            • 11. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                              evie_harris Level 1

                              I bought Element and am learning it now.  It's got strengths and weaknesses, for instance you have to fake reflections of items in your comp, and, again, you can't have a spherical environment layer in your comp for anything to reflect anymore without ray tracing.


                              Picking up on your comment about motion graphics designers being better off knowing C4D, true enough.  But when Apple took their eye off the pro ball and Adobe went with their whole "switch" campaign, they weren't targeting motion graphics designers so much as filmmakers, like me.  We were kinda without good options for a while, with both FCP and Mac Pros not up to feature length DSLR filmmaking.  So for a time I DID switch.


                              Filmmakers have to learn a little about everything but can't deep dive into only one specialty because filmmaking is so broad based.  It was hugely useful to be able to go into AE and get fast results putting a shiny 3d airstream trailer behind a car, for instance.  The fact that I didn't have to learn a whole 3d modeling suite to do it was a huge part of WHY it was so useful.  Apple always got this; Adobe always takes the position that hard is somehow more noble.  Well, Apple has their eye on the ball again and if you ask me Adobe wasted their 3 years of having the field to themselves without ever quite internalizing why The market was Apple's to lose in the first place

                              • 12. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                evie_harris Level 1

                                A fun update, long after the fact:


                                So I've learned Cinema 4D in order to reacquire the capability After Effects once offered internally and have succeeded after a fashion.  Let's look at the relative ease of the new method versus the old one using a real-world scene from my project:  Adding a bus shelter over actors on a bench.


                                In ray-trace enabled After Effects of old, I could draw simple draw shapes in Illustrator, extrude them into objects, collect them under a null and position it in my scene.  Particularly powerfully, I could bend 2D photograph layers into half-domes for a fun roof, and create planes of transparent glass of any thickness I chose with refraction levels that made for interesting visuals as actors moved behind it, and add reflectivity to any layer I chose -- including the dome roof, for instance, which would then pick up the reflections of any other objects in my scene.  I could also put 2D layers in front of my bus shelter as easily as placing a layer closer to the camera than the makeshift model.  Well, sometimes it didn't work as advertised; sometimes you also had to have the foreground layer above the background one in your comp even when both were 3D and that wasn't supposed to still apply, but at least it was After-Effectsy.  The whole thing was After-Effectsy, which of course is good because presumably AE users know AE, but also it was similarly logical.


                                To achieve a similar end with C4D and Cineware, all you have to do is this:  Build your bus shelter model in Cinema 4D.  Wait, first learn Cinema 4D, a hugely complicated piece of software.  Come back in 3 months, I'll wait.  Hi again.  I see you've built your bus shelter.  In fairness, you were able to add textures and complicated curves you couldn't in After Effects.  But then you always could, if you were willing to learn a hugely complicated piece of software.  Anyway, let's get that model into after effects.  Just drag that C4D project into your AE project and put it in the comp.  Put other layers in front of it or behind it.  Easy!  Now just a few caveats.  1.  Scale.  There is no formula available anywhere for the relative scales of your two projects.  So tweak that.  Just go back and forth between the two software suites -- I hope your computer can have both up and running at the same time! -- until you get that right.  2.  Cameras.  You can import your AE camera into C4D and vice-versa as easy as pressing a button in Cineware.  It shows up somewhere strange in C4D unless you use a workaround unless you are also camera tracking in AE in which case you can't.  3.  Scale again:  Your camera will match its moves in both suites now.  But they are drastically different sizes.  If you import your C4D camera into AE it becomes tiny tiny tiny, if the scale of commercial C4D models is to be considered at all standard.  Just shrink your model down to say 1% and you should be good to go.  And if you tweak your camera in AE or C4D, you have to junk your imported camera and re-do that step.  4.  Reflectivity.  Your C4D model will only reflect items in your C4D project, not the, um, scene it's going in.  5.  Refraction.  Transparent C4D items will indeed show your AE items behind them.  But you can't add refraction.  6.  I've saved the best for last.  Say you want your actors in your bus shelter, meaning part of the model is in front of them and part behind them.  You used to place them (shot on a greenscreen or roto'd) in the bus shelter model.  Now you simply do this:  Divide your bus shelter model into halves, the in-front half and the behind half.  Put both under nulls.  Give the front null a C4D "tag" called compositing.  At least its name makes sense.  Then go into the tag and enable a numerical "object buffer."  You're almost done!  Next simply go into "render options" in C4D and into "multi-pass" there and then enable object buffers again there, so intuitive!  Make sure to enable the same numerical object buffer you enabled in your compositing tag. Good?  Good!  Now, all you have to do is place two copies of your C4D project heirarchically in your AE project.  You're still almost done!  Now all you have to do is go into "multi-pass" in your Cineware plug in in the instance of it that goes in front of the actors and specify your numerical object buffer again.  Wait, one tiny thing:  If your Cineware plug-in is still set on the default "Standard" setting that option will be grayed-out.  Just switch it to the much slower-rendering C4D opions and you're good to go!  And don't worry about two copies of your C4D project in your AE one meaning it will now take twice as long to render, because it will.  But, as a bonus, you've probably learned a lot of ways to render C4D models really well when learning C4D because Adobe made you.  So you can use those to make your AE comp really shine... or wait, could, but they're not supported.  You can however render it in that flat ugly video early Pixar style, but life is full of trade offs, no?  You end up rendering out the layer you need in C4D and comping it into AE exactly as effects artists have done ever since always.  Which is to say AE gave up even trying to do 3D and sent you into the waiting arms of a more-capable competitor, their seeming specialty in the world of video.  Maybe it's better this way.  AE was only ever for comping.  It briefly got a swole head.  Now it's back in its comfort zone.  The end

                                • 13. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                  bogiesan Level 4

                                  Evie, I share your frustration, many of us do.

                                  I am not looking forward to moving into the CC world at all;. We migrate our Macintoshes to new Pros in a few weeks and all of our legacy Adobe products will get trashed. New toys, new challenges, new delays, new learning curves, new creative possibilities; shoot, I even get a new MacOS.


                                  I enjoyed your rant, too. Thanks for posting. And I hope this gets easier for you. And me.

                                  • 14. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                    Andrew Yoole MVP & Adobe Community Professional

                                    I think your rant is actually perfectly reasonable and justified.  The ray traced render features in After Effects were originally marketed as a major new feature, and users were justifiably excited by them.  True 3D built right into After Effects was a real game changer!


                                    Sadly, because it's usability was hamstrung by being entirely hardware-specific to one brand of GPU technology, and even then required specific support to be written for each and every GPU, for which the poor AE engineers clearly weren't provided adequate engineering resources to support quickly, the whole project frustrated users enormously. Many users were horrified to discover their expensive new hardware wasn't supported, and the CPU rendering was so abominably slow that it was basically unusable.  (I must confess I got a decent amount of work being hired by designers who had got themselves into trouble with AE ray trace render times and deadlines!)  New Mac Pro users like yourself, who can't use NVIDEA GPUs, were one of the casualties.


                                    As you've seen, third party solutions like the new C4D integration, or VCP Element or Zaxwerks 3D Invigorator/Pro Animator, are all useful tools but require substantial learning curves, and are always hamstrung by their external existence within the AE pipeline.


                                    It's a shame Adobe couldn't develop the ray traced renderer more, but clearly it was just too much of a drain on their resources to continue extensive development.  But I understand your anger that such a highly touted feature was so quickly thrown aside for an alternative.

                                    • 15. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                      Johan_Mellin Level 1

                                      Thanks, you just saved me from both moving to CC and MPro

                                      It seems better now to run my CS6-PP until it just gets to old, and then look for a modern GPU supported software to replace it with.


                                      To bad, I really liked it..

                                      • 16. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                        evie_harris Level 1

                                        Update 2:


                                        I briefly thought up a way to use Cineware in the more traditional C4D/AE configuration where you render in C4D and comp in AE:  I could at least bring over my C4D camera and maybe use it to track my greenscreened actors within my C4D scene, rather than try to "camera track" a virtual camera or mess with mocha etc.  Well you CAN do this.  UNLESS you use any of C4D's non-vanilla camera, like for instance it's popular new crane.  It would be easy for AE to import the camera and a null keyframed to the crane but sorry!  You just get the camera.  Which just sits there, because the crane was doing all the moving.  Helpful!

                                        • 17. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                          evie_harris Level 1

                                          And then of course when you do resort to AE's camera tracker it may well not work, instead giving you the opaque message:  "timed out obtaining dynamiclink server project."  This may well confuse you, since you are not utilizing any of the CC suite's dynamic link services, since they so rarely work smoothly themselves.


                                          There is a nice video online called "The Story of Adobe Illustrator."  I recommend it; it's all about how the founders of Adobe transformed graphic design by approaching it from the point of view of the artist.  Then they did the same thing with photography.  Then they tried to do the same thing for video.  But they had no real feel for video and so we got balky, unintuitive and unreliable programs like premiere pro and after effects, which will go to their graves buggy and unintuitive and in many respects plain useless

                                          • 18. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                            Rick Gerard Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                            Here's another 3-D rendering I'll jump for aftereffects. Best hundred bucks I ever spent.https://atomkraft.hk/aftereffects


                                            currently only works with CC

                                            • 19. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                              evie_harris Level 1

                                              Update 3:


                                              Say you have a reasonably large-scale effects scene for a run of the mill action film.  Admittedly, the problem with Ray-Tracing in AE was that it would choke on such scenes and give you an error message, whereupon your options were to scale down your scene or give up. 


                                              But now, with Cineware, for all its faults, all that has been solved!  You get a wholly DIFFERENT error message when your scene is reasonably complex; alas the results are the same.


                                              So you give up yet again and render out in C4D.  But there's a kicker:


                                              Say you gave up on that comp in AE and maybe even deleted it.  But you kept the .c4d file in your project out of absent-mindedness because who cares what's in there if it's not being used?  Suddenly though even simple key-pull shots are taking forever to render, and the whole machine bogs down.  There is no way to know what is happening within after effects, but Activity Monitor will show you that for reasons known only to Adobe, that c4d file in your project -- even when not used in any comp -- is grinding away at something to the tune of all your cores. 


                                              That level of attention to detail is what makes CineWare really something special

                                              • 20. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                                evie_harris Level 1

                                                Thanks I'll check it out! 

                                                • 21. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                                  Video@SouthpointCCC Level 1

                                                  You just summed up my buyer's remorse.  I know this is almost a year old, but any progress?  Also -- what are your thoughts on Motion?  If I have to learn a whole new interface, maybe I can go with something that supports all GPU's.

                                                  • 22. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                                    Nick Zimmerman

                                                    I personally love Motion. It does the most important 99% of what AE does, and it does it about ten times faster. I can run 4k video with multiple effects in real time on my MacBook Pro, yet my Mac Pro (12 core D700) struggles to hit 12fps without any effects in AE CC. Motion was designed around real time playback and editing, and it's pretty incredible to be able to loop playback and adjust countless sliders during playback. At this point I do as much as possible in Motion and only swap to AE when clients specify it. Even then I will prototype in Motion to get my timing and sizing figured out, then "port" that over to AE. Behaviors aren't quite as capable as Expressions, but get extremely close, and Motion now has an integrated native 3D renderer (although it's currently limited to type). On the effects side of things I prefer PrPro & AE's integration, but if Apple brought back "Send to Motion" that would be solved. Where the Motion/FCPX integration shines though is in effects/titles/generators in FCPX. It's a one way street, but anything you design in Motion can be used and edited directly in FCPX. Adobe ripped them off with their "Edit AE text in PR" feature last year, but it isn't nearly as powerful as the rigging and publishing engine on the Apple side. Your editor can adjust any parameter that you publish for them, and practically all FCPX effects are Motion documents that can be opened and edited. For importing 3d objects there is a wonderful plugin from MotionVFX named mObject, which I can't recommend enough. In general, there is a lot that I love about AE and Premiere, but I still find myself preferring to work in FCPX and Motion.

                                                    • 23. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro

                                                      I love this whole thread. Justifies my own frustration, very well communicated. I have been a long time user of Motion just because it just never seemed to let me down. But I always felt like it was behind AE (And I am not saying it's not. I am not versed enough to say one way or another.) I don't know... lately I felt like maybe I should go back to AE and I probably should just to stay diversified but I would much rather spend my time on 3D software or Color correction. I mean at some point there are only so many hours in the day to learn...unless you are independently wealthy. Thanks for your comments Nick I thought I was the only one who still liked motion. I must say though with both apps. I am getting a little tiered of drilling through a mountain of layers. I miss the TRUE node based compositing of Shake.


                                                      One final comment and I know this probably isn't the venu for this discussion but you guy's seem pretty cool. We do all this stuff... motion art, motion graphics, animation, compositing what ever you call it...digital art for commerce... to try and make a living in a marketplace that continues to devalue the artist as the worth of technology increases and becomes commonplace and public. Is anyone else just tiered of the meaninglessness of it all. We are so caught up in making things look cool, what I call photo-un-realistic that meaning and purpose seem to become lost. Don't get me wrong I am as guilty as the next guy. It's just, I guess as I get older I am just beginning to ask the question "does this scene really need graphics or composites? Will what I CAN DO really be WHAT I SHOULD DO? Does it really communicate anything in the scene better...does it tell a better story? Many times I am afraid of my answer because inevitably it's "Hell yes if you want to get paid!" Is anyone else out there just tiered of that? What happens...what do you do when the doing of digital art, the process and it's result are just not enough? When the 2 seconds of praise you get from someone saying wow that's really cool no longer pitches a tent in your shorts?

                                                      • 24. Re: After Effects and the new Mac Pro
                                                        Kevin-Monahan Adobe Employee

                                                        Hi Evie_Harris,

                                                        The thread is a few years old, but now there is the C4D renderer which has the same or similar functionality to ray-traced 3D compositions. It no longer matters what kind of GPU you have.