Sometimes you take the attitude of a master chef—you know what can be prepped and considered "done" before the guests are in the restaurant and it's time to assemble the pièce de résistance. At other times, you're more like a programmer, isolating and debugging elements of a project, even creating controlled tests to figure out how things are working. This chapter helps you both artistically and technically (as if it's possible to separate the two). Once you
- understand how to use multiple compositions
- know when to precomp (and when it's safe to avoid it)
- know how to optimize rendering time
you may find the After Effects experience closer to what you might consider "real time." This type of efficient rendering depends not only on optimized software and a speedy workstation, but on well-organized compositions and the ability to plan for bottlenecks and other complications.
Note: for performance-related info, see Todd Kopriva post, FAQ: What are the optimum memory settings for best performance in After Effects CS4 and CS5? (and the video version), which links to various help resources. Fav quote, "Because compositions and computer systems vary greatly, there is no one right answer to this question."