Leverage the Real-Time 3D Draft Preview in After Effects that uses the faster Real-Time Engine (RTE) renderer to preview in real time the changes you make to your 3D scenes.

Preview changes to 3D designs in real time with the Real-Time Engine

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

Why should I use it?

A fast button​


Unlike the older Fast Draft that has to be accessed from inside a few dropdowns, Real-Time 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 Real-Time 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 Real-Time 3D Draft Preview is backed by a faster and more efficient Real-Time 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 Real-Time Draft 3D 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 Real-Time Draft 3D Preview. What it does is, After Effects starts to use the Real-Time 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 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. 

Use the dynamic composition panel toolbar for a seamless 3D editing and creation

The composition toolbar with 3D turned off (top) and turned on (bottom)

To make your 3D designing more convinient and time-saving, the composition panel displays only the most used features. 3D options are now contextual and won’t get in your way when you don’t have 3D layers in your comp. Settings that are no longer accessible from the toolbar, such as Pixel Aspect Ratio Correction, can still be controlled from the Composition window menu.

This enables you to work seamlessly across both 2D and 3D, with the appropriate UX to guide your design work, without having to constantly enable or disable a large number of settings as you switch back and forth.

For more information, see Use the dynamic composition panel toolbar for a seamless 3D editing and creation.

Other points to note:

  • The Draft 3D button enables or disables the Real-Time Draft 3D renderer. This feature was previously enabled by changing the Fast Previews mode to Fast Draft. Note that the real-time 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.