After Effects Tutorial: Preview in Real Time as you make Adjustments

 After Effects provides a variety of tools and features that allow you to preview your work in real-time as you make adjustments. This is essential for creating smooth and polished motion graphics and video projects. In this tutorial, we’ll explore the different ways to preview your work in real time in After Effects, ensuring that you can see the results of your edits immediately and make adjustments as needed.

Step 1: Understanding Preview Options

After Effects offers two main preview options:

  • Frame Preview: Displays individual frames of the composition, allowing you to examine specific moments in time.
  • Time Scrubbing: Allows you to smoothly navigate through the entire composition, previewing the animation and changes in real time.

Step 2: Accessing Preview Modes

  1. Preview Window: The Preview window displays the current composition view. You can toggle between Frame Preview and Time Scrubbing using the playback controls at the bottom of the Preview window.
  2. Preview Shortcuts: Use keyboard shortcuts to quickly preview your work. Press the “Spacebar” to start playback, and use the “Left Arrow” and “Right Arrow” keys to step through frames one by one.
  3. Preview in Timeline: You can also preview your work directly in the Timeline panel by enabling the “Preview RAM Preview” option. This will show a live preview of the composition in the Timeline panel as you make adjustments.

Step 3: Refining Preview Quality

  1. Set Preview Resolution: Adjust the preview resolution using the “Preview Resolution” setting in the Preview panel. This allows you to balance preview quality with rendering speed.
  2. Use Preview Memory: Enable “Preview Memory” to allocate more RAM for previewing. This can improve preview performance for complex compositions.
  3. Use Draft Mode: For very complex compositions, you can use “Draft Mode” to simplify the preview and improve playback speed.

Step 4: Previewing Specific Elements

  1. Solo Layers: To isolate and preview a specific layer, right-click the layer in the Timeline panel and select “Solo Layer.” This will temporarily hide all other layers, allowing you to focus on the selected layer’s animation and changes.
  2. Layer Markers: Use layer markers to mark specific points in the timeline for quick reference and previewing. Set markers by dragging the marker icon in the Timeline panel to the desired timecode.
  3. Layer Lock: Lock layers to prevent them from being accidentally changed while previewing. This can be useful when focusing on other layers or elements.

Additional Tips:

  • Use precomps to isolate and preview complex elements or animations separately.
  • Consider using third-party plugins for advanced preview tools and custom preview options
  • Utilize After Effects’ playback controls to fine-tune playback speed and navigate through the composition.


Previewing your work in real time is essential for creating polished and professional motion graphics and video projects. By mastering the various preview options and techniques outlined in this tutorial, you can effectively assess the impact of your edits, refine your animations, and ensure that your projects look their best throughout the creative process. Remember to practice consistently, experiment with different preview modes and settings, and leverage the powerful preview tools in After Effects to achieve a seamless and efficient workflow.


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