It’s 11pm at night. I’m banging my head against my battered and weary keyboard. My deadline was 5 hours ago… “Why, oh why won’t you Export?!”
We’ve all been here. These are the times you expand your technical knowledge (or envisage your entire adult life’s work as a video professional come hurtling towards the ground). As I’ve been here more often than I’d like to think, I feel it’s my responsibility to share my learning’s from the last 10 years of working with NLEs.
Things have come a long way since the heady days of Final Cut 4.5 (the biggest novelty was that you could cut HD video content) where my career began. Fundamentally though, the way some NLEs work (including Premiere Pro) hasn’t changed that much. Essentially, your video content is stored on a drive, you create a sequence of content referencing those video files, and you export that with all the effects, transitions and fancy moving graphics you could wish for. Because of that, many of the problems you’ll face will fall into a category of Premiere Pro software error, dependent software error (e.g. plug-ins) or hardware failure. The key is figuring out which one it is and how the hell you get around it.
Here are a few common errors I’ve come up against and how I fixed them. I would point out though, I’m not a computer engineer and I can’t guarantee these pointers will fix your issue. I’m merely an experienced editor with a lot of hours in front of “Premiere Pro CC has quit unexpectedly” screens.
First up is the Premiere Pro version you’re working with. Bugs can be resolved just by simply updating PP to the latest version. But this too can create problems. One recent example, where PP’s media management tool would unexpectedly delete video files from their original hard drive location, left many editors scratching their heads (and reaching for their back-ups).
As general advice, never update Premiere Pro (or your Operating System) mid-project unless there’s a specific reason for doing so. Before I upgrade, I usually leave enough time for the guinea pigs out there to find the niggles and bugs in the latest versions and report them.
In some cases, though, an update to Premiere Pro can be the only way to fix the problem that you’re having. In that case, make sure you back-up your sequence and media and make note of the exact version of Premiere you are currently using. A system snapshot backup system (something like Time Machine on a Mac) is great for this. Then try updating Premiere. If that doesn’t work, or creates more problems for you, you can always roll back to a previous version. But only if you keep a separate copy of your sequence and media, and if you know exactly which version of Premiere you were running first.
This is great for fixing a wide range of different issues and will often be the first port of call if something seems amiss in PP. Trashing preference basically means resetting PP to factory settings. By trashing preferences, you remove a lot of the preferences you may have changed in the program, so do make a note of any customizations you want to keep.
To do this, press Option (Mac OS) or Alt (Windows) while launching Premiere Pro. When you see the splash screen, release.
You can reset the preferences and the plug-in cache at the same time by holding down Shift-Option (Mac OS) and Shift-Alt (Windows) on launch and letting go when you see the splash screen.
When the Welcome Screen loads, if you see a list of your previous projects, the preferences weren’t correctly reset.
If you’re cutting on a Mac, Premiere Pro’s standard “I-frame only MPEG” codec used for all sequences by default, may well not be the most stable choice you could use. Whilst this only affects playback when you’re editing, I have found changing this to a ProRes format has solved many issues in the past.
To do this, go to Sequence> Sequence Settings and the Preview File Format drop-down. If this is greyed out, switch the Editing Mode drop-down to Custom (make sure all the other variables stay the same when you change, though). From the Preview File Format drop-down, select one of the ProRes formats. As a guide, ProRes LT is sufficient for most purposes. If you’re working on content for broadcast and want a more accurate vision of what you’re creating, you could select ProRes 422. If you’re working on detailed effects work, you may wish to use ProRes 444 instead, although this may cause considerable strain on your machine and will use more hard drive space.
If Premiere Pro crashes on open, it could well be a plug-in issue. The crash occurs because PP is trying to load the plug-in, but for some reason, it’s not compatible with that version of PP. To figure out if this is the case, copy the contents of your plugins folder to a safe place.
On a Mac, the folder is located at /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Common/Plug-Ins/
And on a PC it’s located at C:Program FilesAdobeCommonPlug-Ins
You could perhaps create a new folder on your desktop. If you can now open PP without a crash, you’ve found the culprit. Simply reintroduce the plug-ins one by one back into the plug-in folder, until you find the offender. Once found, it’s best to resolve with the plug-in’s developer. Since they usually have to release a new build for each version of Premiere Pro, crashes can occur because the plug-in isn’t up to date.
Another issue relating to plug-ins can happen during export. If PP crashes during export, this may well be related to an incompatible plug-in. If this is the case, a good starting point is disabling all third-party plug-ins on your clips in your sequence and seeing if you can export. A quick way of doing this is to duplicate the sequence, right click, select Remove Attributes and select the plug-ins. If you can export, then you’ve found the root cause. To diagnose the offending plug-in, you will need to go through your original sequence and disable each instance of the plug-ins one by one until you find the offending one. In my experience, I’ve found that plug-ins that use the GPU tend to be the most buggy. If I’m having issues during export (or playback for that matter), I tend to ensure that the plug-ins are set to not use GPU.
Whilst GPU support has been somewhat temperamental in the past, I’ve currently found that Premiere Pro CC support has become much more stable. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, if you do keep having crashes during playback. To disable GPU usage during playback (or render) go to File>Project Settings>General. Set the Renderer to Mercury Playback Software Only.
Then go to Sequence>Sequence Settings and uncheck the Composite in Linear Color checkbox.
It’s also worth disabling any additional video output you have from Premiere Pro. This is done by going to Premiere Pro CC>Preferences>Playback and unchecking the Enable Mercury Transmit option.
Further to this, if your exported video appears glitchy or you find unexplained green frames appearing, this could be due to a failing or overheating GPU. Usually, the GPU or the entire computer will need replacing. If you’ve isolated your issues to the GPU, I would recommend searching for diagnostic tests for your particular model
Video and audio interfaces can also be the root of crashes. One thing I’ll do if PP keeps crashing is disconnect my I/O device. If this improves stability, you’ve found your cause. Make sure you’re running the latest drivers and your devices’ firmware is current.
A common but obvious cause of a slow-down or crash in Premiere Pro can be the hard drive(s) attached. If playback skips frames and generally struggles, you can start by knocking the resolution down to a quarter in the playback window.
In my opinion, for the most reliable playback of media when editing, I advise only using either a RAID or SSD to hold media. Cheap external hard drives (even if they say USB 3) are not suitable to run multiple streams of media or 4K video. USB 3 or Thunderbolt only refer to the type of cable connecting the drive to the computer. Ensure the actual hard drive(s) inside the enclosure are fast enough for your content.
In a similar vein to hard drives, the actual format in which the media was recorded on the camera can be an underlying issue to PP struggling to play back or crashing. A codec like XAVC-L (Long GOP) is a highly efficient codec, meaning that the video files are smaller but require more processing by PP to playback. To get around this, I advise transcoding these files to ProRes before editing with them, or using PP’s inbuilt Proxy tool which can automatically manage this for you.
Another general issue with Premiere Pro slowing down and stopping (and your whole system as a matter of fact), can be not enough RAM available. Whilst applications are supposed to release RAM when no longer using it, sometimes this doesn’t happen. I tend to always run a monitor like atMonitor in the background so I can see what’s going on. Your operating system will also have simpler tools to view RAM usage. If you can see your machine is slowing down and the RAM is full, you can instruct the computer to purge all the unused RAM. But if you’ve only been working on PP, then it’s quite possible PP is the only one using that RAM and purging it isn’t really going to solve anything.
Here’s how to do it on a Mac:
- Launch Terminal (From the Finder hit ⌘ + Space Bar and type Terminal. Or launch from the macOS LaunchPad).
- Once Terminal has loaded, type Sudo Purge
- Enter the system password
This is by no means a definitive list of issues that you’ll encounter in your career as an editor. Every system is different with different hardware and software interacting with each other. Adobe does a fantastic job of testing and refining. In my opinion, PP is now more stable and reliable than it’s ever been before. But crashes will still happen and there are a million different causes. Hopefully, though, by overcoming them and sharing the solutions with each other, we can all help to become better, more efficient editors.
If you’ve got any tips that might help, feel free to leave them in the comments.