Performance – the endless Story

This seems to turn into the week of "Why does After Effects suck at this and that" now that the bag is out of the cat (or was it the other way round? ;-) ) with Adobe‘s plans for world conquest by drawing all electricity from your enemies using hungry nVidia cards or something like that *lol*. On the AE List, Jack Tunicliffe of Java Post asked a fair question: Why does it take forever to even do a simple footage conversion in After Effects? Now obviously we all know that a compositing program works uncompressed all the time and therefore expands everything to full RGBA data, even if it may have originated as crappy chroma-undersampled footage in YCbCr color space. That’s already an extra processing step. Based on that it also quickly becomes clear, that the way back, in particular to equally compressed formats, involves at least one such extra step, also, in many cases in fact multiple ones. It may not appear much on a reasonably fast system, but with lots of frames this sure adds up. So no matter what you do about it, it’s a lose-lose case. Of course you could go on endlessly about system specs and hardware as well, but that’s not the point here. So to return to the original starting point, why even use this seemingly less than ideal workflow? There are reasons for it and odd as it may sound, After Effects decompressing everything first is one of them. This provides the opportunity to introduce color corrections just by assigning different color profiles even if you don’t use any additional effects plus it also gives you a chance to do the craziest framerate, fields and pulldown removal tricks which in other tools are either not possible or, which then makes those tools also crawl, is relegated to dedicated filters there, many times less optimized than a barren After Effects. This skews even more in the program’s favor, the more possible adjustments you add, no matter how minor. Still, should it provide a pass-through mode and different native color spaces for faster processing? In the crunch I sometimes feel that, too, but most of the time I don’t care. The problem here is that you can’t optimize 100% for everything and when you get it right for one specific format and use case, there is a million others you can’t satisfy. So ultimately perhaps it’s best things are left as they are before making a mess…

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