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What is Mercury 3D Draft Preview | Adobe

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Leverage the Mercury 3D Draft Preview in After Effects that uses the faster Mercury 3D renderer to preview in real time the changes you make to your 3D scenes.

Preview changes to 3D designs in real time with the Mercury 3D Engine

Leverage the Mercury 3D Draft Preview that uses the faster Mercury 3D Engine renderer to preview the changes you make to your 3D scenes in real time. It is an engine that assists animation workflows by speeding up real-time playback in heavy scenes. ​The renderer runs on GPU. Unlike other renderers in After Effects, the Mercury 3D engine is only intended for draft quality and not the final output.​

To learn more about the 3D Design space, see Work in 3D Design Animation Space.

Why should I use it?

A fast button​

Unlike the older Fast Draft that has to be accessed from inside a few dropdowns, Mercury 3D Draft Preview can be accessed from a single Draft 3D button located on the composition toolbar. When you add 3D content to your composition, the 3D tools appear in the Composition panel toolbar. You then need to enable Draft 3D.


At any point in your 3D design creation process, you can switch off the Draft 3D button from the main composition toolbar to view how the comp is rendering. The button is right in front of the main work area, making it simple to find and use.

Instant feedback

Using the Mercury 3D engine, it speeds up play-back times for 3D projects. Get instant feedback while working on your designs, cutting down the lag time for improved preview playback speed.

Note: 2D content needs to be cached before it can be played back in real time, but you can make 3D changes such as adjusting position keyframes without needing to re-cache.

Is it different from the old Fast Draft renderer?

Type of Renderer:

The Mercury 3D Draft Preview is backed by a faster and more efficient Mercury 3D engine renderer, whereas, The old Fast Draft was backed by OpenGL Fast Draft renderer.

Purpose of the renderer:

It is different from After Effects’s other 3D engines (Classic and Cinema 4D) in that it isn’t intended for final output. It works in draft mode, while you are editing and creating designs in 3D space and are looking for instant feedback.

Turn on Mercury 3D Draft Preview

  1. When you have 3D content in your comp, the Draft 3D button appears in the Composition panel toolbar. Select the button to turn on Draft 3D Preview. What it does is that After Effects starts to use the Mercury 3D engine renderer to show you in real-time the changes/updates, you make to your 3D design. This experience is seamless and faster, thus avoiding lag during the preview.

  2. Use any camera control such as dolly, orbit, and pan to view instant feedback for your designs.

Use 3D Ground Plane to view the space within your 3D scene

A ground plane is a horizontal plane of projection that gives you a sense of perspective and space within your 3D scene. It visually orients a user in 3D space. It gives a reassuring grounding to a 3D space.

To use it, ensure that the Draft 3D Button is enabled, and then switch on the Ground Plane button next to it. This tool is helpful in keeping everything in your scene in perspective and proportion at a glance.

Important points

  • The closer the objects are to the ground plane, the easier it is to understand their relationship to one another in 3D space. 
  • The ground plane grid progressively scales as you dolly in and out of the scene.
  • The scene center locator axis is present in the centre of the comp view to give you a sense of X,Y,Z direction. 

Other points to note:

  • The Draft 3D button enables or disables the Draft 3D renderer. This feature was previously enabled by changing the Fast Previews mode to Fast Draft. Note that the Mercury Draft 3D renderer is different from the Timeline panel “Draft 3D” control. 
  • The 3D Ground Plane button enables or disables the 3D ground plane when Draft 3D is enabled.
  • When Draft 3D is enabled, some effects may not render on precomps.

Do more with your 3D animations

After Effects offers various capabilities to modify, edit, and enhance your 3D animations and 3D space. To learn more, see 3D animation settings.

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