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3 Common After Effects Errors and How to Fix Them


Spending hours to solve an error in After Effects can be a frustrating waste of time. To save you the stress, here are 3 common After Effects errors and how you can fix them.

Few things are as discouraging as pouring over endless forum threads in hope of discovering a solution to a stubborn error within a program. Sometimes the solution is surprisingly simple, but you can often find yourself desperately entering places in your computer you didn’t even know existed in search of answers. Here are a few After Effects errors, both simple and complex, that we found most frequently troubled AE users in the past few years.

1. “Files Are Missing Since You Last Saved the Project”

This is by far the most prevalent error message in After Effects. Luckily, it’s a simple issue with a simple solution. If files imported into your project have changed location on your computer, or the project file has been moved, After Effects will often lose track of their location.

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: missing files

Relocate Your Missing Files:

To relocate your files, navigate to the Project tab and type in the search term “Missing.” This will show all the files that are currently missing, as indicated by a Television Color Bars thumbnail. Right click on each file, and select “Replace Footage > File.” Select the file from its new location, and it will instantly be restored to the project.

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: finding missing files

Repeat this process for each missing file. If there are multiple missing files in the same location, you will only need to replace one of them. The rest will automatically update once After Effects recognizes the new location.

Prevent Lost Files with “Collect Files” Feature:

This issue tends to occur most often when opening a project on a new computer. To prevent this from occuring, you can save your project as a folder that includes all necessary files with the project file.

Just go to File > Dependencies > Collect Files.

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: Collect Files Dropdown


Make sure the “Collect Source Files” dropdown menu is set to “All” and that the “Generate Report Only” checkbox is not checked, then click “Collect.”

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: Collect Files Menu

2. “Output Module Failed” [H.264]

Before delving into this rather common problem, it helps to understand how various media file types work. Video and Audio files can be exported to and played in a number of different file types, otherwise known as Containers, Wrappers, or Formats.

Some video examples you might be familiar with are the .AVI, .MOV, and .WMV, amongst others, whereas some audio examples would be the .MP3, .WAV, and .AIFF. Each of these formats can be exported using a variety of codecsA codec is the algorithm used to compress data into a smaller, more efficient file. Some codecs maximize quality, while others may be designed to export fast or playback smoothly.

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: Output Module Failed

While h.264 is one of the most popular codecs to export with due to its balance of quality and speed, it can often produce the “Output Module Failed” error within After Effects, especially when using a Quicktime format. Unfortunately, this error has a plethora of possible causes, so I thought we would investigate as many as we could find. We’ve placed them in order of complexity, so that you can start with the easy solutions and work your way down if your situation is more complicated.

Use Adobe Media Encoder

In a best case scenario, you can simply export using Adobe Media Encoder instead of using the built-in After Effects Render Queue. Adobe Media Encoder is much more reliable and provides a much better workflow as well. Instead of normally clicking “File > Create Proxy > Movie…”, you would select “File > Export > Add to Media Encoder Queue”.

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: Add to Media Encoder Dropdown

Avoid Exporting With a Quicktime Format

If this error persists, try exporting in H.264 in an .MP4 wrapper instead of a Quicktime .MOV. Sometimes issues within Quicktime itself can cause your render to fail, so avoiding it altogether may be another easy fix.

Purge Memory & Disk Cache

After Effects constantly stores the files that are used to preview render in a folder on your hard drive, so that they can be easily accessed in the future without having to re-render each time. This folder is known as the Disk Cache, and as it grows full over time, it can cause problems within the program. Output Module Failure is no exception.

To empty or purge your Disk Cache, navigate to “Edit > Purge > All Memory & Disk Cache.” The only consequence of this is that you will need to wait for any previously rendered previews to re-render if you access them again. With any issues you stumble upon, purging the disk cache is a good place to start.

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: Purge Disk Cache

Disable or Limit Multiprocessing

Multiprocessing is a feature that was designed to maximize the use of your computer’s processing power, and though it was recently removed for CC 2015, it often causes multiple problems in older iterations of After Effects, including this one.

You can access multiprocessing options by navigating to “Preferences > Memory & Multiprocessing.”

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: Multiprocessing Dropdown

Once there, try lowering the number of available processor cores. If this fails, you may need to disable multiprocessing altogether. Your render times will suffer, but at least you can export what you need. Don’t hesitate to try this with other errors, as the multiprocessing feature has been the culprit behind many issues in the past.

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: Multiprocessing Dropdown 2

Manually Purge Disk Cache

On rare occasion, After Effects may fail to completely clear the Disk Cache. You can find your Cache Folder by navigating to “Preferences > Media & Disk Cache,” where its location is displayed. Open this folder and ensure its contents are deleted.

Reset Flash Memory

On a few occasions, users found that resetting their computer’s flash memory solved their Output Module Failure. This is a rather unlikely cause, but entirely worth the effort if you’re out of options. On a Mac, this is as easy as holding “CTRL+CMD+P+R” during boot up. For PC users, the process to do depends on the motherboard brand. More often than not, the option to do so can be found in the motherboard’s BIOS settings, which can be accessed by clicking the key displayed in the BIOS Access Prompt (usually the first thing on-screen during startup.)

3. “RAM Preview Needs 2 or More Frames to Playback”

This maddening RAM preview error became widespread around 2013, and has plagued many users since. Though Adobe is aware of this error, it has not been entirely fixed, and it still frequently appears from various causes. Currently, the error is most commonly a result of a conflict between Adobe’s Dynamic Link Manager and System Firewalls. Most other causes have been patched in recent iterations of After Effects.

After effects Errors and How to Fix Them: Ram Preview Needs 2 or More

Allow Dynamic Link Manager Access Through Your Firewall [Mac]

Navigate to the folder “/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Common/” and click “File > Get Info.” Make sure the Lock icon is not activated, and enter your administrator name and password if necessary. Scroll down to “Sharing & Permissions” and grant your current account Read & Write Privileges. Below this, click the small Settings icon and select “Apply to enclosed items.” Re-lock the folder and you’re done!

Allow Dynamic Link Manager Access Through Your Firewall [PC]

Navigate to the folder “C:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\” and right-click it to access its “Properties” menu. Choose the “Security” tab and allow your current user “Full Control” of the folder. Click OK and you’re good to go!

We can’t guarantee that these solutions will work in every instance, but hopefully they’ll help save you some time down the road.