This tutorial is on the different options to play (preview or playback) your composition in After Effects. I’ll show you how to do a RAM Preview, how to preview just the audio, some keyboard shortcuts and more.

By the way, big announcement below! Keep reading after the tutorial!!

Recapping Tutorial on How to Play a Composition in After Effects

There’s a number of ways to play a composition but to get started in After Effects you really only need to know two: RAM Preview and Preview Audio Only.

You would think that just hitting the spacebar that After Effects would play your composition like normal (just like every other video program) but it doesn’t 🙄.  So what do we do?

First, open or find the Preview panel. If you can’t find it go up to the Window menu and find Preview. The keyboard shortcut is Command+3 if you’re on a Mac or Control+3 if you’re on a PC. In the Preview panel I really like to have From Current Time checked. This plays the composition from the time position indicator, not from the very start of the comp. From Current Time may be different in later versions of After Effects.

Preview Panel in After Effects for Playing a Composition in AE CC 2017

Note: In AE CC 2017 “From Current Time” is now the “Play From” dropdown

There may be other options you’ll want to eventually explore in the Preview panel such as changing the RAM Preview button but to get started in After Effects the only thing you might want to change is the Play From option.

RAM Preview

To preform a RAM Preview hit the zero (0) key on the number pad. The zero (o) key on the top row numbers (the ones above the letters) does something else. Alternatively you can click the RAM Preview button in the Preview panel.

You’ll see the green bar at the time of the timeline start to fill. If you wait long enough, or if you have enough RAM in your computer, the entire composition will load green and After Effects will play your composition. If you don’t have enough RAM, After Effects will load as much as possible into your RAM and start to play when there’s no more room.

Instead of waiting for the entire composition to load or if you just need to play a small section, hit the zero (0) key again on the number pad and your composition will start to play.

Play Audio Only in After Effects

To play just the audio hit the period / decimal point (.) on the number pad. Hitting the period key in the regular keyboard, the key next to the comma, will do something else. This takes no time at all and begins playing right away.


Below are useful links related to the tutorial:

Announcement!: The Command+Edit Podcast

HEY! I’ve been working on this secret project for the past few months. I haven’t announced it anywhere but on Twitter and now right here. If you’re reading this then I know you’d be interested in it. It’s a podcast about video editing and life. It’s me and another editor, Nick, unfiltered and talking about all the struggles and successes about life as a video editor. Anyway, we JUST went live on iTunes. I’d absolutely love for you to check it out and let me know what you think. The link is below. I’m going to have a ton more about this soon. Give it a listen! Please?

Click here to listen!

Reach out to me if you have any questions on this tutorial or anything else After Effects, motion graphics, video or post production-related. I’m here to help you emotionally, mentally and technically as a video editor.