So I figured out today how to get a vector file to become a 3D object using the AE auto trace function. It's a neat feature that solves a lot of problems for me...but unfortunately it's created a brand new one.
In short, the interface is so slow when I'm using the converted object (with bevel and extrusion enabled) that it's not useable. I find myself waiting literally five to ten minutes at a time for the interface to start responding if I so much as click the layer to select it, and all the while AE stops responding. It's a gamble every time it locks up as to whether it's then going to unlock. I've reduced the Fast Preview and Resolution settings to their minimums, to no avail.
I know these two shape layers have a lot of paths and groups, so I'm sure that's got something to do with it. Still, there's got to be something I can do to speed up the interface--anyone?
Sounds like you're using the raytracer, which can be very slow. Instead, take a look at Cinema 4D Lite, which is included with AE. In the latest version, you can export 3D shapes and text to C4D, extrude/bevel and texture them there, and still work with them live in AE via Cineware. See this video for more info.