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(For a brief video version of this frequently asked question and answer, click this link. For a more detailed video about setting up After Effects for optimum performance, click this link.)
Because compositions and computer systems vary greatly, there is no one right answer to this question.
A good start toward an answer, though, is here:
"Please try recommended memory settings for After Effects CS5 and give feedback."
Here are a couple of pages that go into detail about considerations for memory and multiprocessing settings:
"Performance tip: Don't starve your software of RAM."
"Performance tip: Don't overschedule your processors"
More performance improvement tips:
"Hardware performance white paper: tips to configure or upgrade a workstation for video software"
"FAQ: What computer and components should I buy for Premiere Pro or After Effects?"
"optimizing for performance in After Effects and Premiere Pro"
"Improve performance" (CS5 & CS5.5)
"Improve performance" (CS4)
After Effects & Premiere Pro Performance Workshop
Information about RAM usage in After Effects:
"Memory (RAM) usage in 64-bit After Effects CS5 & CS5.5"
"Memory (RAM) usage and storage in After Effects CS4"
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