How to Work Efficiently

Date: 04.Oct 2007 | Reading Time: 3 minutes, 19 seconds

A lot of times I hear people complaining how slow this or that program is. “shake is so slow”, “motion is total crap” or “why is this taking so long?”

Well, guess what, there is actually a solution to it. And the magic word is workflow. We are working on pretty heavy projects most of the time. HD material (even if the output will be PAL in the end), 2K material for film or lots of layers or 3D layers. All that stuff is by definition slow. Especially if you work in a more complex setup then one or two layers. Add to that, that we are working in a network based environment and you get a workflow slow as molasses.

There are a few things you can to do help pretty much every program to work faster.

  1. Don’t work in full resolution
  2. Don’t turn on all the effects, just because it looks better
  3. Don’t work over the network
  4. THINK before you work

Don’t work in full resolution

Yes, I know, you just built the most sexy motion graphics ever and you feel like looking at it over and over again, while tears run down your cheeks. Don’t.

Your first responsibility is to work as fast as you can, because that allows for making it even better and being more flexible when the customer has last minute changes. It is of little importance to look at your masterpiece in 100% resolution and highest quality most of the time. Don’t use these settings until you really need them to judge the final output quality.

For all other cases go ahead and turn down the display size to 50% and the display quality to a third or a proxy of a third. Some applications even offer the option to go one step lower in quality as soon as you move things around. Use that.

Another thing you should think about is the use of proxies. A proxy is a lower resolution version of your footage. So instead of working on HD material you work on PAL or half PAL material. After Effects and shake both support the automatic use of proxies. That means they automatically switch from low-res to high-res version as needed.
To see how that is done, have a look at the tutorial video, that describes it in more detail.

Don’t turn on all the effects, just because it looks better

Yes, that 3D lighting in AfterEffects is sexy. But if you are working on font sizes, it is absolutely irrelevant. So switch it off. Same goes for every other effect that slows you down, but has no effect on the part you are working on at the moment (Motion Blur, other kinds of blurs, re-timing, heavy 3D, particles, you name it). It is much faster to switch off 5 effects, do a change and switch them on again, then trying to make a change while waiting 5-10 seconds for the screen to update.

Don’t work over the network

You might have a pretty fast network, but when 10-20 people work with HD or 2K footage over the network it slows down. Nothing that can be done about that. Except to copy your source material to a local drive. That will be way faster to work with then waiting for your bits and bytes to trickle through the cable.

THINK before you work

Seems pretty obvious, right? Try to think before you start working.

Working locally is fast. But if it takes 2 hours to copy footage to make a 10 minute change, then it might not be the most efficient way of working.

Generating proxies is cool if you work on a shot for several hours or days. But generating proxies takes time as well. It might be faster to just open a file, do a quick change and render it out again.

Assess the situation and act accordingly. But don’t get lazy!! If you see a benefit, do it!