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Mylenium's answer is somewhat misleading.
Mercury Playback Engine has nothing to do with After Effects. That is in Premiere Pro. The Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro is three things:
- GPU acceleration of rendering
- 64-bit application
- multithreaded application
I presume that what you're actually asking is how After Effects will use the GPU. For details of that, see this video:
The short answer is that GPU acceleration of many things will work on the AMD GPU in your computer, but the GPU acceleration of the ray-traced 3D renderer requires CUDA on some specific cards. The list that begins with "The following NVIDIA GPUs are supported in After Effects CS6" on the system requirements page is just for the ray-traced 3D renderer.
So will the 3.4ghz iMac be sufficient for editing EPIC footage in Premiere? Are there any thunderbolt devices I can get to speed up my workflow aside from just a thunderbolt raid?
Such questions never have simple yes or no answers. You can edit anything you like on even old and weak systems if you're willing to make tradeoffs regarding patience and working smart. Digital cinema assets were worked on in After Effects more than 15 years ago for Titanic, on computers far less powerful than yours.
That said, the only way to be sure is to download the trial version and see for yourself. The trail version of CS6 will be available soon.
Here's page full of resources about making Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects work faster: http://adobe.ly/eV2zE7
On that page, there are links to such tips as lowering preview resolution, et cetera, for working with even the most demanding footage and compositions on whatever system you have.