How to Fix Choppy Playback in Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro 07/09/2022 5 min read

Premiere is an incredibly complex piece of software, and the glitches and problems you run into can be frequent and frustrating. If your playback is choppy, it doesn’t always prevent you from continuing your editing, but it can become a challenge when you want to preview. In this article, we’ll look at some potential causes and ways you can fix your choppy Playback in Premiere Pro.

Part 1: What to Check When Your Premiere Pro Playback Is Choppy

To fix the problem, it is helpful to try and identify the cause; with such an extensive piece of gear, Premiere isn’t always forthcoming with what is wrong.

Check your Hardware

The first thing to check is your computer hardware; does your device have the specifications needed to run Premiere Pro? If you’ve been editing on your device for a while, and the choppy playback is a new issue, it is unlikely to be a Hardware issue but could be a lack of space.

Check where your project is saved and make sure there is enough space for the project to open and run.

Check for Updates

Both Premiere Pro and your system software will require regular updates, and a slightly older version of either can cause numerous problems for your editing. Therefore, if you are experiencing any glitch in Premiere Pro, checking for updates should be your first troubleshooting step.

Check the Sequence and Clip settings

If your choppy playback is on a particular clip or set of clips, it could be a discrepancy between the sequence settings and the clip settings. For example, this occurs a lot when importing 4K or 50+fps clips into a timeline sequence with different settings.

Check the clip settings by highlighting them in the timeline and checking the Info tab in the Inspector. If the choppy clip has been filmed with different settings to the rest of your sequence, you can isolate the clip and export it to match your other footage or create a Proxy clip.

Too Many Applications Open

A simple issue could be that your device is running too many applications. Premiere Pro takes a lot of processing power to run, so even a simple web browser can slow down your playback. Close as many applications as possible, so you only run those needed for your editing.

Turn It Off and On Again

As with any program on any device, a general fix is to turn it off and on again. Sometimes Premiere gets a little confused, and resetting the program and device can help the software figure out what’s what. Just remember to save your work before shutting down.

Part 2: How to Fix Choppy Playback in Premiere Pro

Many of the reasons you’ll experience choppy playback in Premiere Pro are down to how heavy or complicated your project is compared to your device’s capabilities. However, there are several ways to fix these lag issues directly within Premiere.

Consolidate the Project

It is always best practice to follow a clean and concise file structure for your projects, and Premiere can struggle if the behind-the-scenes gets a little complicated. Using the Premiere Consolidation tool will ensure all your files and media are in the same place.

Consolidating a project will allow you to select specific sequences in your project and copy them to a new project in a new saved location. The process doesn’t just copy the sequence; it copies all the media and elements used in it. Project consolidation is fantastic for archiving projects and decreasing their overall size at editing milestones.

  1. Go to File > Project Manager.
  2. Select the sequences you wish to copy.
  3. Look through the other checkbox option to ensure you are copying everything you need.
  4. Click on the file name to choose a new location.
  5. Select the Calculate button to see how large the project copy will be.
  6. Once you are happy, hit Ok and wait for Premiere to complete the consolidation.
  7. Find your new project and open it to continue editing.

GPU Acceleration

If your computer has a dedicated graphics card for your video work, you can turn on the GPU Acceleration for a smoother playback experience.

Choppy playback in premiere pro fix with gpu acceleration
  1. Open Premiere Pro on your computer; you can open any project to enable GPU Acceleration.
  2. Go to File > Project Settings > General to open the project settings pop-up box.
  3. Change the Renderer to Mercury Playback Engine GPU Acceleration in the drop-down menu. 
  4. Hit OK to save the new settings.

Clear the Media Cache

The Media Cache is a folder where Premiere saves accelerator files for your edit; these should help with playback. Premiere Pro will continuously add files every time you play back anything in your project.

While the Media Cache is filled with ‘helper files’ to aid Premiere in a seamless playback, over time, the Cache can get filled, taking up a lot of space. When you clear your Media Cache, you will have to render your ProjectProject again, which can drastically help optimize performance. Check out our tutorial or steps to clearing your Premiere Pro Media Cache.

Playback Resolution

premiere pro choppy playback fix with playback resolution

As a default, Premiere will opt to playback your edit based on the sequence settings, which will likely be 1080p or above. By dropping the Playback resolution, Premiere needs to display less information for each Frame, resulting in smoother playback.

You’ll find a drop-down menu in the bottom right corner of your Media Viewer that allows you to change the playback resolution.

Toggle Effects

If your project uses many effects, grading or layers, you might find the complexity is causing playback choppiness. If you need to check the speed of an edit, you can quickly toggle the effects off and on for the entire sequence.

  1. Check the toolbar at the bottom of the Media Viewer and look for an fx icon.
  2. If there is no fx icon, click the + icon.
  3. Find the fx icon in the pop-up box and drag it to the Media Viewer toolbar; once added, close the pop-up box.
  4. Click the fx icon on the toolbar to toggle your timeline effects off and on.

Create Proxies

Many editors are wary of using Proxies, but they can be super helpful on big projects with a lot of high-quality footage. We’ve already mentioned using Proxies as a solution for Sequence/Clip setting discrepancies, but you can use them for your whole projects.

Proxies are essentially lower-quality versions of your original media. These low-quality files don’t replace your higher-quality clips, but they act as a reference for your editing, allowing you to revert to your HD edit with a single click. We cover everything you need to know about working with Proxies in our handy Premiere Pro Workflow guide.

Part 3: How to Fix Stuttering and Glitches Video in Premiere Pro

Many issues arise in Premiere with no logical reason and no way of knowing what will fix them. This handy little fix is a fantastic solution for when you’re unsure of the cause of the problem and have exhausted other troubleshooting methods.

  1. Save and close your current project.
  2. Go to File > New > Project or hit Alt + Command/Control + N on your keyboard.
  3. Save the new project in the same location and name it something to indicate this version is the latest.
  4. Go to File > Import or hit Command/Control + I; search the finder window for your previous Premiere Pro project.
  5. Select the Project File and hit Import; it can take a while to import, depending on the project size.
  6. Save your new project.
  7. In the Media Browser, search for the sequence and open it; we’re not sure why this works, but it is a pretty good fix for many glitches experienced in Premiere Pro.

Choppy playback in Premiere Pro is frustrating but fixable; it might just take you a little while to find the solution that works. Now you know a bunch of ways you can fix glitches and lag in Premiere Pro; you can edit with confidence in your playback. If you’re looking for more Troubleshooting tips for Premiere Pro, check out this handy guide to preventing crashing.