Tip: Force an After Effects Render to Fail (and Save!) on a Mac

No doubt you already make liberal use of the After Effects Auto-Save feature, which incrementally stores sub-versions of your current saved project in set increments of time. By default, the last 5 20 minute increments are saved, with the oldest replaced by the newest, but you can freely change the interval and number of saves. Still, what happens when your session hangs up and you have valuable unsaved information?

On a Mac, you’re in luck if you take note of the following simple (if slightly opaque for the non-unix-inclined) command to trigger a segmentation fault. This is the system’s way of saying that an application is trying to do something it shouldn’t with memory or read/write and needs to be shut down.

A segfault can be triggered even when there is no threat to the system, and it has a key advantage over simply killing the applicaiton via Force Quit: a copy of the project is saved before the application goes down. So don’t let that spinning beachball of death get you down; try this.

First, you need the process ID (PID) for After Effects. There are several way to get this; this simplest is to open Activity Monitor and look for the AE icon in the list, then look over to the PID column. You can also open Terminal and type “top” and look for After Effects in the list, with the PID listed to its left (to get out of that lilst view, use ctrl +C).

Copy or remember that number and from the Terminal command line type the following:

    kill -SEGV [pid]

replacing [pid] with that process ID you copied (no brackets). Press enter and a dialog that looks like the following should appear. Boom goes the dynamite.

And that, my friends, concludes 30 tips for the month of April. I thank you for your questions and comments. For more After Effects tips like today’s, be sure to check out After Effects CS4 Visual Effects & Compositing Studio Techniques, or any of its predecessor books (for versions 6.5 through CS3).

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Designer of effects and experiences, author at LinkedIn Learning ( and Adobe Press (After Effects Studio Techniques).

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Dave T
Dave T

THIS IS GREAT! In this adobe discussion “How to stop a render in the render queue” – The issue is that AE goes back to the comp window when you hit render. This leaves you no way to stop or pause a render. This little trick was a time saver for me. I added six animations to my cue that were all long renders and noticed a flaw that was going to be in all six, wasting hours of time and I had no way of getting out of it other than a force quit, which would leave me… Read more »

Mark Christiansen
Mark Christiansen

Awesome. So psyched that worked for you.