Best Workstation Computer For After Effects [2021 Guide]

CG Director Author Alex Glawionby Alex Glawion   ⋮  Updated   ⋮   215 comments
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Best Workstation Computer For After Effects [2021 Guide]

There are quite some factors to consider when building a new PC that is mainly targeted at After Effects use. Compositing & Motion Design are popular workloads within After Effects, that use a lot of resources.

In this article, I’ll show you what Hardware Components you’ll need for a top-performing After Effects PC & Workstation.

Let’s start out with identifying some of the typical workloads you might want to run when working in After Effects.

There are two main categories of workloads that we should take a closer look at:

  1. Active work: Active After Effects work is when you sit at your desk and are actively using your workstation. This might involve animating layers, editing your footage, creating masks, adding effects, scrolling the timeline, or navigating the User Interface through menus and buttons.
  2. Passive Work: Passive After Effects work is done when the Program executes tasks on its own without you having to interact with it. Such workloads include Rendering out your Projects and Effect Processing Tasks such as Footage Stabilization.

Let’s take a look at how the CPU handles the above tasks.

Best Processor (CPU) for After Effects

1. Actively Working in After Effects

If you are planning on actively working heavily with this Computer I recommend a maximum single Core-Clock CPU such as the Intel i9 10900K or AMD Ryzen 9 5900X.

The 12-Core AMD Ryzen 9 5900X clocks at 3,7 GHz base and has a 4,8 GHz single-core turbo-clock and the i9 10900K even boosts up to 5.3GHz but only comes with 10 Cores.

AMD Ryzen vs Intel CPU

User Interface and frame updates in After Effects heavily benefit from high core clocks.

Take a look at these benchmarks by Pugetsystems, where it becomes clear very quickly how superior high-clocking CPUs are in After Effects CC.

CPU NameCoresGhzAfter Effects ScorePriceValue
AMD Ryzen 7 3800X83.9983399
Intel i9 9800X83.8885589
AMD Ryzen 9 3900X123.81019499
AMD Ryzen 5 3600X63.8922249
AMD Ryzen 7 5800X83.81247449
AMD Threadripper 3960X243.811561399
Intel i7 10700K83.81044375
Intel i9 10900K103.71142520
AMD Ryzen 9 5900X123.71321549
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X83.7850251
AMD Threadripper 3970X323.711261850
AMD Ryzen 5 5600X63.71150299
Intel i5 9600K63.7882262
AMD Ryzen 5 2600X63.6816149
AMD Ryzen 5 360063.6912199
AMD Ryzen 7 3700X83.6970329
Intel i9 9900K83.61047488
Intel i9 9700K83.6926362
Intel i9 9920X123.59391189
Intel i9 9900X103.5909989
AMD Threadripper 2950X163.5900729
AMD Threadripper 2920X123.5876369
AMD Ryzen 9 3950X163.51164749
AMD Ryzen 9 5950X163.41343799
Intel i9 9820X103.3871889
Intel i9 9940X143.39311387
Intel i9 9960X163.19441684
AMD Threadripper 2970WX243.07971300
AMD Threadripper 2990WX323.08181699
Intel i9 9980XE183.09481979
AMD Threadripper 3990X642.910253990
CPU NameCoresGHzAfter Effects ScorePriceValue

This is true for lots of other Creative Tasks such as 3D Modeling and Animation or Video Editing too, having high Core-Clocks will make your Computer or Laptop much more responsive and snappy.

For Active Work in After Effects, even a 6-Core CPU is faster than a 64-Core CPU. The reason is: CPUs with fewer cores tend to clock higher and boost higher.

2. Passive tasks or using the Machine mainly as a Render-Node

Now, what if you are using this Computer mainly to render out projects that you have already set up beforehand?

In this case, you will want to lean towards more Cores in your CPU than when also doing active work.

This means the more cores you have and the higher those cores are clocked, the better.

After Effects, unfortunately, is not great at using Multi-Threading. Compared to 3D-Rendering, where performance scales almost linearly with every additional Core, After Effects is still playing catch-up.

You’ll make good use of additional Cores up to a point, after that you will see a Performance degradation. The sweet spot clearly lies on the Ryzen 9 5950X with 16 high-clocking Cores.

Both the 3960X (24 Cores) and the 5900X (12 Cores) perform worse. A Threadripper CPU in an After Effects Workstation really only makes sense if you need its unique features and Core-Counts for other Workloads such as 3D Rendering or for driving multiple GPUs.

After Effects CPU Benchmark

After Effects CPU Benchmark

My recommendations based on your budget:

After Effects used to make full use of all of your CPU’s Cores, but Adobe refactored the renderer a while back, making it much less powerful.

To still be able to make use of high-core-count CPUs though, check out the BGRenderer Plugin.

The overall best After Effects Performance Value currently is offered by AMD with its mid-range Ryzen CPUs such as the Ryzen 5 5600X.

How much Memory (RAM) do you need for After Effects?

You can never have enough RAM for After Effects. If you thought Chrome was RAM hungry, think again.

The amount of RAM you will need depends a lot on what type of projects you are working on, what other programs you have opened at the same time, and what kind of Plugins you are using.

Best Laptop for Graphic Design, RAM

Image-Source: G.Skill

If you are using After Effects for lower-res projects that don’t go above 1280×720 and you work in 8Bit Color and your timeline isn’t too complex or long, you might get away with 16GB of RAM without noticing any slowdowns.

I wholeheartedly recommend at least 32GB of RAM for serious After Effects use though, better 64GB if your projects are in FullHD or above and you re working in 16 or 32Bit Color Depth. Especially if your Footage consists of multiLayer EXRs or similar heavy footage you’ll need at least 64GB of RAM if you don’t constantly want to hit the purge button.

After Effects will take it all, and be sure you limit the RAM usage of After Effects in your preferences, otherwise your System might crawl to a halt.

Best RAM specifications for After Effects

Be sure the RAM you chose is decently clocked, with 3200Mhz or 3600Mhz usually being the sweet spot of value. Look out for lower latency RAM such as CL14 or CL16 if your budget allows this.

Having at least two RAM modules makes sure they run in Dual Channel mode, giving you double the potential bandwidth for accessing your Memory. On HEDT Motherboards with chipsets such as x399, TRX40 or x299, you can double that bandwidth again (Quad Channel) if you have at least 4 RAM Modules hooked up.

Be sure to buy RAM Modules in Kits. The modules within a Kit are factory tested and guaranteed to run smoothly within that configuration of modules.

If you buy multiple kits or even modules from different manufacturers, the possibility of them not working together smoothly is much higher.

Best Graphics Card (GPU) for After Effects

Most After Effects workloads rely much more on CPU Performance than on GPU Performance.

It is only when using certain effects or plugins (Such as NeatVideo Denoise), that a strong GPU will show you noticeable speed-ups – Or if you are working on 3D-Projects and are using the After Effects Raytracing engine or Cineware.

The most important feature in a GPU for After Effects are the number of Compute Units (on AMD Cards) or CUDA Cores (on Nvidia’s GPUs) since After Effects can make use of these in 3D viewport rendering, as well as in speeding up some effects-calculations that might be applied to your footage.

Great choices here are the Nvidia RTX 3060 Ti and RTX 3070 since these have a great price/performance ratio. If you have some cash left over, consider the Nvidia RTX 3080 for that extra bit of performance.

Best GPU for After Effects

Best GPU for After Effects

As you can see in the above Benchmark Rankings, the performance difference between a GPU for 350$ or one that costs 5 times that, is marginal.

If After Effects is the only Content Creation Tool you are using, and you know you won’t use the Raytracing Engine or specific Effects that make use of GPU-acceleration, then feel free to get a lower-tier GPU such as the Nvidia GTX 1660 Super or AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT.

Also, After Effects doesn’t natively make use of multiple GPUs, but if you use your PC for 3D-Animation workloads and do lots of GPU rendering in Octane or Redshift, having Multiple GPUs will greatly increase your performance.

Best Hard-Drive (HDD/SSD) for After Effects

Most work in After Effects involves footage, and if this footage is high-res and has a high bit-depth you’ll want to make sure to have fast storage. MultiLayer, 32Bit EXRs, or RED Files are just some examples of typical footage that you use in After Effects.

You’ll greatly benefit from having a high-end storage device to make previews and rendering as fast as possible.

NVMe M.2 SSD such as the Samsung 970 EVO PLUS or PRO have excellent performance and outperform any SATA SSD by far.

Highly recommended for Footage, Cache and Software Drives.

Drive Speed Comparisons SSD vs HDD vs NVME

The above Chart shows you how superior an NVMe SSD is to HDDs or traditional SATA SSDs. Of course, this is sequential performance, but random read / write and higher queue-depths too are faster on NVMe Drives.

If you’ve been in the Motion Design game for some time and you projects are on the complex side of things, you should consider getting at least 1 – 2 TB of fast Storage.

Our NVMe Guide will help you make the right choice in picking an NVMe SSD for After Effects.

Best Monitor for After Effects

There are quite some things to consider when buying a Monitor for After Effects.

I’ve written an in-depth Guide to buying the best Monitors for visually demanding work, which should have all the information you’ll need for getting the best Monitor for After Effects. Do give that one a read if you’re in the market for a Monitor.

After Effects Custom PC Recommendation

Head on over to our easy PC-Builder Tool, which will let you configure a Motion-Design & After Effects build in less than 4 clicks.

Here’s an excellent After Effects Build that is able to handle highly complex projects without any issues. Price-Point: 2800$:

Some Notes on this Build:

Since After Effects is badly optimized for CPU Multi-Core Usage, you’ll see better performance with CPUs that clock high vs CPUs that have lots of cores. The Intel AMD Ryzen 9 5950X which clocks at 346 / 4.9 GHz Turbo will give you a snappy active work experience as well as great rendering speed when exporting your comps.

The beQuiet Dark Rock Pro 4 Air Cooler is among the best Air Coolers you can get and it will make sure the CPU stays below its thermal limits.

When using an overclockable CPU you should make sure the Motherboard supports this and has strong VRMs to deliver all the required power. The MSI Tomahawk X570 is an excellent choice for making sure your Motion Design PC-Build does not run into any Power-Limits.

As we discussed above, the Graphics Card isn’t as important in a PC-Build for After Effects.

There are some Effects that are GPU accelerated, but the GPU will rarely be used intensely throughout your work. The Nvidia RTX 3080 I recommend in this Build, is right in the sweet spot of performance and value while sporting a good number of CUDA Cores for other workloads such as GPU Rendering in Redshift or Octane, if you have a need for that.

64GB of RAM should take care of even complex projects, but there certainly is the possibility of upgrading to 128GB of RAM if you can make use of it.

If you do need 128GB of RAM, be sure to go for high-capacity (32GB) modules though, as you only have 4 RAM slots available.

I added two 2TB Storage Drives to the Build configuration. One is a moderately performing Sata SSD, the Samsung 870 QVO (Comparison with EVO) for your OS and Applications, the other is an NVMe SSD with high performance for your Project Files and Footage.

If you don’t want to spend that amount on fast storage, consider getting a large HDD instead, for backing up your inactive projects to free up room on your fast drives for your active projects. On a side note: Redundant Backups / Archiving should be mandatory anyway!

That leaves us with the PSU and Case. For this kind of build, you’ll need about 750W. If you plan on upgrading or adding more GPUs in there future, you can also consider buying a PSU with more Wattage now.

I recommend getting a Modular Power Supply, as they reduce the clutter inside your case substantially, and that increases airflow.

The Case is a simple, white, professional and compact ATX case that will easily fit all of your components. I’ve had great experiences with these minimalist NZXT Cases, but you might prefer a different brand or style. 🙂

 

That’s about it!

 

What kind of Computer for After Effects are you building?



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Alex Glawion - post author

Hi, I’m Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I’ve built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I’ll do my best to help out!

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Comments
Also check out our Forum for feedback from our Expert Community.

RAJ Shekhar

Need your opinion which is better for after effects for my new pc in my budget

1. 3rd Gen AMD Ryzen 5-3400G(8GB RAM/1TB HDD + 256GB SSD/Windows 10/6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1660 Graphics

2. (10th Gen Intel Core i5/8GB/1TB HDD + 256GB SSD/Windows 10/NVIDIA GTX 1660 Super 6GB Graphics)

please guide me in this!!!

thanks raj

Ashlee Tiner

Hello!

I need some help/advice about a laptop. I am a student studying VFX and I need a laptop that I can use to work on projects from home. I travel alot as well and don’t have the lifestyle to invest in a PC setup. I’ve done a little bit of research and I think I know what I need but I would really like a second opinion.

The programs I would need to run are After Effects, Nuke, Fusion, Maya and Houdini. The most I’m willing to spend is $2000 but I’d like to stay closer to $1500.

Thanks for your help!

Ashlee Tiner

Marie

Hello Alex,

I am looking to purchase a pre-built desktop for After Effects use. I am working on a project that contains multiple layers of 5 minute footage and multiple effects on each layer, including Keylight. For this project, After Effects is nearly unusable (playhead responds very slowly and AE often freezes) on my current laptop. I am considering the following Dell XPS desktop, and I wanted to check if you think these specs will resolve my issues or if you have any other recommendations:

CPU: Intel i9-10900K processor(10-Core, 20M Cache, 3.7GHz to 5.3GHz)
Memory: 64GB, 2x32GB, DDR4, 2933Mhz
Storage: 2TB M.2 PCIe NVME SSD + 2TB SATA 7200RPM HDD
GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 8GB GDDR6
https://www.dell.com/en-us/shop/desktop-computers/xps-desktop-special-edition/spd/xps-8940-se-desktop/xd8940se08s#techspecs_section

My current laptop has an Intel i7-8550U CPU @ 1.80-2.00 GHz, 16.0 GB RAM, and an SSD (not sure which one). I am hoping for drastic improvements with the new computer.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Steliyan Ivanov

Hello dear Alex,
First of all, I would like to say a big thanks for your attention and time.
Could you please give me an advice. I will buy a machine. I am a developer but sometimes I edit videos, make short movies and work on Videohive After Effects templates.
Can you tell me which one to buy. Thanks a lot.
1. https://plasico.bg/apple-macbook-pro-133-ips-2560×1600-retina-apple-m1-8gb-256gb-ssd-apple-m1-mac-os-big-sur-silver-z11d000ln-173725.html

2. https://plasico.bg/kompyutyr-krait-intel-i7-10700k-8gb-1tb-gtx-1660ti-6gb-gddr6-156150.html

3. https://plasico.bg/kompyutyr-frost-amd-ryzen-7-3900x-8gb-1tb-gtx-1660ti-6gb-gddr6-107205.html

Deadhead

Has anyone tried a used Server with dual-socket like the Xeon E5 2680 V4 or similar for rendering?
They come quite cheap if you have no problem with noise and powerneeds. I’m trying to find a good build for about 1.5k.
I know this CPU has a relatively low single-core performance. Is this still an issue with adobe-tools?
With a machine like this you get really much cpu-performance and a memory bandwidth which will hit about 150GB/s (i think).
I wish there were dualsocket AM4 Boards 😉