>Avoiding the "After Effects error: could not create image buffer"

>Here’s a few tips on how to avoid the dreaded image buffer error. But first a little background on why it happens…

Unlike many other compositing and 3D programs, After Effects doesn’t use a scanline renderer. Instead it renders each layer and then stacks it on top of the previously rendered layers. While this gives great performance for layers that can be cached and use several times without re-rendering, it can spell disaster when you are trying to work with bigger sources and output resolutions.

While you can use Shake to zoom in on a giant 30.000 by 30.000 pixel image on an old machine, doing the same thing in After Effects takes a bit of imagination, plus a knowledge of how to tweak AE’s memory settings. Basically, it comes down to the memory being to fragmented for AE to be able to hold the entire frame/layer in one contiguous piece of RAM. Here’s how you avoid that from happening:

1. Set Your Preferences Correctly
Start out by making sure you have set After Effects to use the optimal settings. These should always be your default values, and you should reset them according to these settings once you have gotten around the image buffer errors!
Maximum Memory Usage: 120%
Maximum RAM Cache Size: 60%
Enable Disk Cache: On
Maximum Disk Cache Size: At least 2 GB (I use 8-12 GB, typically)
Prevent DLL Address Space Fragmentation: On

The Maximum Memory Usage tells AE how much of the total amount of installed RAM it can use as a maximum. Why 120% Maximum Memory Usage you might ask, why not 100% or even a sensible 95%? Well, since running slow sure beats running out of memory, that’s why! If you set it over 100%, AE will use the harddisk as virtual memory (slow but sometimes necessary.)

The Maximum RAM Cache Size is the amount of RAM (set in “Maximum Memory Usage”) that After Effects uses to load sources, render effects and composites into, plus to store already rendered frames in. The setting of 60% is a moderate one that over time has proven to work optimally for most projects. Lowering this value will slow down your rendering and previewing speed, but it is sometimes necessary in order to render large layers/comps.

The Disk Cache is where AE can off-load already rendered images/frames/layers/comps onto your harddrive instead of throwing them away when you are running short on RAM. Note that AE will only use the Disk Cache if it is faster to read a frame from the Disk Cache than it is to re-render it.
If possible, put the Disk Cache on a fast harddrive, preferably not the same as your operating system or your source material (the above screen shot was taken on my laptop, where you seldom have the luxury of three drives.)

If you’re on Windows, make sure you check Prevent DLL Address Space Fragmentation, as AE will then try to keep more of the memory in larger chunks. It should be left on, unless it is causing an extremely rare crash (the reason it is not enabled by default.)

Make sure you turn off multi-processing in After Effects CS3 (and Nucleo / Nucleo Pro if you have that plugin.)

As a final step, avoid OpenGL previews, instead use Adaptive Resolution.

OK, with these settings, try to see if you can preview/render the problematic comp. If not, continue with the next step…

2. Lower the Number of Undos
Every operation that AE has to be able to Undo takes up valuable memory space. Try to Purge Undos from the Edit menu. If that doesn’t help, go into the Preferences and lower the number of Undos to just a few, or even just one step. (Remember to set it back to somewhere between 20 and 32 when you’ve gotten the renders done.)

Still having trouble? Then let’s try the next remedy…

3. Lower the Image Cache: Maximum RAM Cache Size
Even though the Image Cache will speed up renders (by avoiding having to re-render stuff) it leaves less memory to be used for other things, which can lead to the fragmentation of the memory. Here’s how Michael Natkin of the Adobe After Effects team explains it:

“Yep, it is counterintuitive, isn’t it! Here’s the reason. Just like a
hard drive, your address space can get fragmented. So if you have the cache percentage set high, AE will try to use a lot of RAM and though you may have enough left for the next image buffer, it may be so fragmented that there is no place to put it. So by lowering the cache percentage, you reduce the fragmentation and paradoxically are able to fit that frame.

Lower the Image Cache bit by bit, until the error goes away. If you have it as low as it will go (10%,) there’s only one option left…

4. Chop Up Your Sources

Split the source image up into several layers (somewhere around 2.048 by 2.048 pixels each) in Photoshop, then import the PSD file as Composition Cropped Layers. Press your Caps Lock key on the keyboard (to prevent AE from trying to render a preview) and then change the preview mode to Wireframe. Open up the composition, select all layers and change their mode to Alpha Add. Finally copy all layers and paste them into a comp with the size of your final output.

It has worked for me with 16-bit images over 24.000 by 24.000 pixels.

- Jonas

58 Responses to >Avoiding the "After Effects error: could not create image buffer"

  1. Anonymous

    >”It has worked for me with 16-bit images over 24.000 by 24.000 pixels.”

    and on which machine?Specs?

  2. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >I created all the satellite image fly-overs for The Planet which was shown in cinemas in Sweden during September 2006 and is right now showing in four one-hour episodes in SD and HD on Swedish TV.

    All-in-all I delivered over 17 minutes of animation in 1920×1080, 25 progressive frames per second in 16-bit uncompressed format, which added up to around 400 GB of TIFF sequences.

    All this was created on my trusty PC I built a couple of years ago when I clearly had too much time since I built my own water-cooling into a standard chassis. By today’s standard it isn’t a real screamer, but it still works OK.

    I have a single AMD Athlon XP 3200+ (2.4 GHz I believe), 2.5 GB of Corsair PC3200 DDR RAM (CAS 2.0 timing), an Abit “NF7-S2″ nForce2-based motherboard, an 80 GB Seagate 7200.7 IDE as system disk and two 80 GB Seagate Barracuda V SATA drives striped to RAID 0 configuration via the RAID controller on the motherboard. To top things off, I have one of the first-generation nVidia GeForce 6800 cards with 128 MB of VRAM.

    As you can see, you can get a faster Dell system today for around $1.200…

  3. Anonymous

    >I got around the errors by using Gridiron Nucleo (I am currently using Nucleo Pro). Gives faster renders, and no errors at all.

  4. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >Since both Nucleo and Nucleo Pro is just a bridge between your After Effects user interface and hidden AE instances that render frames in the background and then push these frames into your main application, you should look at your memory settings, since it is AE that can’t create the image buffer, not the plugin.

  5. Andreas

    >Tack! Finally I can do renders over night without worrying over render errors in the morning!

  6. Anonymous

    >Hi, thanks for the article. I have one question, i’m work on amd3200+ with 160gb of hard disk and 1gb of Ram, when i try to save the “preview RAM” After Effects crash and close. some idea about this?. thanks.

  7. Anonymous

    >I forgot, when i’m going to File >> export >> Adobe Premiere Pro, the type list (*.proproj) contain some
    stranger chars. (my version it’s AF7). Thanks again.

  8. Allen

    >See, the strange thing for me is that my 2160×480 comp is rendering fine on the iMac G5 with 1.5GB of RAM, but when I “Collect Files” and head over to the Intel Mac Pro w/ 4GB of RAM, it gives me this error abour 1/5 of the way through.

    Does that make any sense? Both are default installs of AE7.0 with no preferences touched.

  9. Jonas Hummelstrand


    That makes perfect sense! After Effects 7.0 is not “Intel native” meaning it runs in emulation mode on Intel-Macs. This emulation is called “Rosetta” and limits the amount of RAM used to 1 GB.

    Here’s more info on how to best use AE7 on Intel Macs until AE CS3 is released sometime this fall.



    - Jonas

  10. b. Touch


    Thank you immensely for this. It was invaluable information.

  11. Anonymous

    >The tiling thing works a treat, I have been up all night trying to do it for my uni project, I am making a huge floor for a forest
    thankyou very very much indeed

  12. Anonymous

    >(somewhere around 2.048 by 2.048 pixels each)

    can you clarify? is this supposed to be inches? Even if 2.048 was a solid integer, it seems awfully small.

  13. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >Ah, the joys of international punctuation. :-/
    I meant “two thousand forty-eight” pixels.

    Inches have nothing to do with video, as I recently posted.

  14. Anonymous

    >Thanks alot! Step 3 worked for me!

    Cheers ;D

  15. ricardo

    finally i found the problems.. thanks a lot man..the step 3!!
    all the best..

  16. Jonas Hummelstrand


    If you have an Intel-Mac, make sure you run AE CS3. Previous versions aren’t Intel-native and will only get access to 1 GB of RAM under APple’s “Rosetta” emulation.

  17. Anonymous

    >You truly are a hero, thank God for people like you and the medium of the internet otherwise i would have been arrested and reported to the RSPCC, the royal society for the protection of computers. I was about to throw it out the window. Ha ha.

  18. Ivailo

    >Thanks a lot, i have resolve my problem with step 1, and now i haven’t any more this error

  19. alex

    >excellent help. it appears step 3 fixed my problem. much thanks

  20. Anonymous

    >Thanks, you saved my project! Just in time too. :)

  21. Anonymous

    >excellent help… but i have a project where i used a cc cylinder in a comp of 8000×1000, it is have 7 videos (720×480) side by side… i create a virtual set with a cc cylinder in this comp… so, the comp spin and a camera move around the comp… 30 seconds have the animation….
    I heve a Mac G5, dual ppc…. 2.5gb of ram… after cs3….
    I cant apply your step 4…. becase my comp have videos and not images…
    how i apply split or fragmentation in this case???


    please…send me the ansewr in my e-mail as well…ok?


  22. Nate Boe

    >I checked another online resource and they had different ideas on the disk cache size- increasing to 8000MB seemed to do the trick.

    thanks again

    Nate,OakBrook IL

  23. Jonas Hummelstrand


    Glad you got it working.

    If you look again, I say “at least 2 GB” and I even have it set to 8 GB in the screen shot.

  24. Jonas Hummelstrand


    It’s the size of your 8000×1000 composition that is causing the problem. Do you have to show each of the seven videos in full resolution? If not, you could create a smaller composition since you won’t need all that resolution.

    Make sure you turn off multi-processing in CS3 (and Nucleo/ Nucleo Pro if you have that plugin.)

  25. Ashika Bracher

    >Jonas… You are a LEGEND !!! :)

  26. Anonymous

    >Worked great. Thanks for your help.

  27. Sgt SOB

    >Hey Jonas, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. Your article solved my preview problem but I just had a quick question regarding Nucleo and Multi-processing. I guess I still don’t understand why we shouldn’t use these tools since they should speed up rendering. I was also curious if anyone recommends one or the other or notices a difference in rendering time. Thanks again for everything.

  28. Anonymous

    >Great post, but what if you cannot get into the preferences because this error always pops up at the start up? What do you do then?

  29. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >See my other post about “Troubleshooting After Effects”



    I needed to ask you about something related to a previous post, Avoiding the “After Effects error: could not create image buffer”:


    I needed some help with solution #4, “Chop Up Your Sources”. I’m working with a 2K project in After Effects with the virtual camera travelling around a large 6000×6000-pixel background. This background is actually a composition of several solid layers blended together with various fractal noise effects. As you can imagine, it’s hard to get previews or renders (if at all).

    I would like to know how I can “Chop up my sources” in After Effects itself and more detailed information about this process would be very helpful. If there is a different solution, that would also be great.

    I couldn’t find your email address anywhere on the page, so I decided to post this comment on the old article and the most recent one as well.

    My email is rohit.iyer@gmail.com. Please feel free to mail me regarding this.

    Many thanks in advance,
    Rohit Iyer

  31. ludwig desmet


    I found this the best working solution for AE7 on intel Macs:


    turn down all the memory settings, to prevent Rosetta from hitting the 1.5 GB ram on your intel mac, and everyting renders absolutely fine, and fast!! currently rendering a 2 minutes HD sequence, within total about 7 Gb of source files.


  32. Anonymous


  33. Shawn

    >I am putting time-lapse together with after effects. I import my files as a sequence get it rendering but when it gets to around 750 files it stops and gives me an error.(-1305) Just want to know what I need to adjust to solve this problem.

  34. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >Please ask your question in the AE “User-to-User” forums.

    You might want to check that you have enough disk space on the disk you are rendering to.

  35. Shawn

    >Space is definatly not the problem. It happens only when the TL is over around 700 to 750 JPEGS. I can render out other TL's that are under 700 Jpegs no problem. This is the first time this has ever happened to me.

    After Effects error: adding to movie (-1309)
    (44 & 39)

    Is the error it gives me.

    Desperate man. I have hit a wall on this one.

    Thanks for your help.

  36. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >Try using the “Secret” preference to empty the rendering buffer, it’s one of the many tips found here: http://generalspecialist.com/2007/02/troubleshooting-after-effects-7.asp

    Or, as a work-around, divide your sequences up so you only have around 650 images in each (temporarily remove 651.JPG, 1300.JPG and so forth before you import/replace the sequence.) Not as elegant, but it’ll get you through the day.

  37. Shawn

    >Hello Jonas,

    I am using a mac and I can’t seem to acces the secret preferences. Any tips will help alot.

    Thank you

  38. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >”holding down the Shift key and then select Preferences…”

    From this post which tells you more about what settings to use: http://generalspecialist.com/2007/02/troubleshooting-after-effects-7.asp

  39. martha mccollough

    >It’s 11 p.m. and thanks to this post I get to go home! Thank you!

  40. azim

    >You are a life saver =)


  41. Anonymous

    >step 3 solved the problem :}


  42. roei

    >hi. thanks for your sharing. I have a question about the solution : “4. Chop Up Your Sources”.

    1.why did you change the layer mode to alpha add?
    what does it do exactly?

    2.why to copy the layers and paste to a final comp instead of copying the whole big comp into a new final sized comp?
    or just change the comp settings of the original big comp?

    tnank you very much.

  43. Jonas Hummelstrand


    1. Without “Alpha Add” you will get gaps between the layers as semi-transparent alphas are multiplied together.

    2. You could also change the size of the comp, but I prefer to keep the original comp for backup and troubleshooting.

  44. brian

    >Thanks for the help. Step 3 seems to have fixed the problem. (Intel Mac)

  45. Glen Wilson

    fixed my problem – you are a legend…

  46. Anonymous

    >I have the message:
    After Effects error: Sin memoria (-108) ( 25 : : 16 )

    when i try to open a project with many many comps and media.

    The result is that I can not open the project, and I need it for my job.

    What can I do? Any idea what is going on with this?

    I will apreciate so much your help.

  47. Anonymous

    >I have the message:
    After Effects error: Out of memory (-108) ( 25 : : 16 )

    when i try to open a project with many many comps and media.

    The result is that I can not open the project, and I need it for my job.

    What can I do? Any idea what is going on with this?

    I will apreciate so much your help.

  48. stormer

    >Probably a stupid question but I figured I'd better check – I assume that the same goes for large AE solids that have an effect applied ie. I'm assuming that these too would need to be chopped up.

    Thanks for your help.

  49. Jonas Hummelstrand


    Yes, any layer can cause the image buffer to fill up.

  50. Tech guy

    >I am working on a large composition. When I try to drag it to a "new" composition AE crashes on My Macbook Pro. Is it the plug in I am using, the computer or something in the composition? I have tried different ways to duplicate it but to no avail. Can't complete the project now.

  51. Jonas Hummelstrand

    >Try to isolate what is causing the problem. Duplicate the comp in the Project windows (Ctrl-D or Cmd-D) and rename it "Test."

    Now turn off the visibility of half your layers and see if it still crashes. Continue doing this until youi find what is causing the crash.

  52. özgür

    >Thanks dude

    that's works like a charm (so far)


  53. Anonymous

    >I pity da fool following these instructions and/or spending $300 on Nucleo Pro! Wtf? lol!
    Get the free "BG Renderer" plug in and all your problems shall be solved!

    I have several projects that I wouldn't even get through a few frames, despite trying all suggested secret and not so secret settings. Nucleo Pro works judging by the demo version, but the price tag? Rofl!

    It's BG Render or bust, don't even bother about using the tweaks above "just render"!

    Have fun!
    "The Real Specialist"

  54. Janne


    First of all, thanks to Jonas for providing the advice. Regrettably, none of the tricks have worked for me. I've tried all but the last one, and I'm wondering if somebody would bother explaining in detail how to do the chopping up of sources and using them, on CS4 versions?

    I'm a beginner on Photoshop CS4 and AE CS4. I'm afraid many of the selections in the advice post are not available on these versions – I can't even manage creating a PSD out of slices in Photoshop, and I don't quite get how an image layer could be replaced with multiple images (slices). So a detailed explanation for CS4 would be very greatly appreciated – my project is not rendering and this seems to be the only option, or a complete redesign of the project itself.

    Thanks for any advice.


  55. Jonas Hummelstrand


    After Effects CS5 will launch on April 12th 2010, and about the only thing we know so far is that it will be 64-bit only. This means two things: you will need a 64-bit system running 64-bit OS (Win Vista64, Win 7 64 or Mac OS X 10.5 or later) and AE will be able to access a lot more RAM, making image buffer errors a thing of the past (if you have enough RAM.)

    I guess that won't help you right now, so use the Solo button to help you figure out what layer is causing the buffer to fill up. My guess is it's a Blur effect on a layer that is giving you problems.

    Check and post back!

  56. Anonymous

    >I need some help with a probelm I am having with after effects.
    When I import quicktime files, there is an error saying that it can't import this Moov file. I tried importing a self contained quicktime file and it worked, however couldn't be rendered. It said that the output module failed and the file might be unsupported or damaged.

  57. Anonymous

    >Maybe creating a proxy render can be helpful for this situation?

  58. Rafael Farras


    Greetings from a somewhat desperate user. I am trying to RENDER a file on AECS4 and i am getting this 7 39, 7 66 rendering BUG. Is there a PATCH to fix the error?

    Please Help.