Posted in Technology and Software, Videos

iMovie Playback Glitches

OK, I feel like I’ve already outgrown iMovie, and I’ve only used it for two or three weeks!

Anyway, I found that iMovie video projects sometimes get corrupted. People recommend that we keep backing up older versions of the projects while working on them. I didn’t realize this at first, and was just a little way into a 10 minute video project when I found that some clips were not playing properly.

THE PROBLEM: iMovie appears to freeze on the last frame of a healthy clip just before a transition, and it stays stuck on that frame till all or part of the way through the following (corrupted) clip. The audio track, meanwhile, plays on.

I searched the forums for possible solutions, and couldn’t find any useful suggestions. On recommendation, I deleted various iMovie files and folders which were replaced by iMovie the next time it started up, but I still had the playback glitches. Many of the threads on this subject (citing iMovie skipping, freezing, stalling, refusing to play certain ‘random’ clips etc) tended to end up nowhere. In one thread, the iMovie user had been given the standard ‘delete such-and-such a preferences file’ answer. He came back and said nothing had changed, and what else could he try? [Silence]. “Yello?” said the iMovie user. [No reply]. “Nevermind.” I felt like that as well, though it must be difficult (and sometimes impossible) to diagnose problems in a computer you’ve never seen.

(I’ve got a sense of déjà vu here, and I’m not really sure why, as I’ve never used iMovie before! This ‘yello, nevermind’ thing! Nevermind).

I feared I was going to have to do what another iMovie user said he had to do… start the project all over again and keep it backed up in stages. It seemed such a waste, though, as MOST of the project was working. I didn’t want to mess around with expensive software like BBEdit or Final Cut Pro (I’m just an amateur!) so I threw those ideas out of bed as well.

Finally I found something that fixed the glitches for me, but it’s more of a process than a single thing that has to be done. Because it was a process, I fixed one glitch by mistake and then spent ages wondering why the other glitches wouldn’t follow suit! Finally I got it…

THE SOLUTION (for my own glitches, at any rate, maybe it will work for other people’s glitches as well): Usually the clip that freezes is not the corrupted one. The transition that follows it should also be OK. The following clip, which iMovie just skates through without playing, is the one that has to be fixed. You can see where it is marked (with an orange line) in the Event that houses the original video clips. That clip in Events hasn’t been damaged, but somehow the information concerning it in the Project has gone wrong (as I see it). If you delete the bad clip in the Project (NOT the Event, as that’s your original), you will see the orange line disappear from the original clip in Events.

Having done that, you can’t immediately recopy that clip to your Project and expect it to be fixed, because it isn’t yet!

I discovered that if I switched away to a completely different Event (one that had nothing to do with the video at hand), then came back to the current Event and reimported that clip to the Project, it should now play smoothly with no glitches.

It worked for me; maybe it will work for others — good luck!



I live in the UK with two cats -- Samson and Delilah.

45 thoughts on “iMovie Playback Glitches

  1. I have the same problem. I thought it was mainly with iPhoto Videos (from regular digital cameras. I did the preference file deleting and even found that just closing and reopening iMovie took care of it. I was able to get the video exported to Mobileme and also as a MP4 file, but once it was screwed up in the exported file.

    I had an apple appointment and of course, I couldn’t replicate the problem. I had come across something about needing Quicktime 7 and X if you are using regular digital camera video.

    Seemed to be okay, but then it happened again tonight with clips from my Canon Vixia HD camcorder. I closed out iMovie and opened back up and it was fine.

    Even still, I think this is a problem that apple has to look at fixing with an update. I’m on a 27 i7 iMac and memory and speed should be no issue at all. I NEVER had this problem once on my macbook. I thought maybe it was because i had transferred project files from a time machine backup, but it has done it with a new project. And the funny thing is my events are on the same drive as they were on the macbook, so when i transferred from Time Machine, the project files are pointing at the same external that I have my video on. Hmmmmmmm

    1. I have a very cheap and easy way to fix it, just put in really short cross dissolve transissions in between each clip and it will still glitch technically, but you wont notice it at all

      1. Thank you for this solution! I’ve been having this problem where the corrupted clips’ audio would bleed through the picture that preceded it and by adding transitions before the movie clip it totally fixed the problem. Plus, it was totally painless and easy to fix! Thank you so much, I truly can’t thank you enough.

  2. Hi Jason, that’s interesting about the MacBook not having this problem. I have an iMac too, and there should be no issues with speed, space etc, so I didn’t listen to anyone who suggested my hard drive was filling up. I think too that it’s a bug that needs to be fixed, and it might explain some of the unhelpful silences on the forums. 🙂

  3. yeah I don’t know. I’ve deleted the preference file and that seems to work for a little, and for the most part I can get movies put together, but lately, on this new iMac, when I am working on something, occasionally it will freeze a frame in the viewer and then keep playing the audio. most of the time just closing iMovie and reopening helps.

    One thing I thought maybe you would know – when I got the imac, I migrated all my data from my macbook so my iPhoto library, iTunes, etc would all be the same. So I use an external to store most of my iMovie events, so when I migrated from my macbook’s time machine, the project files copied to the iMac, and therefore, when I open iMovie, it looks just like my iMac, and the project files are pointing to the same external so there is no issues with the links being broken.

    however, I’m wondering if the project files got screwed up that way. You would think the point of time machine is to back everything up and it wouldn’t, since I wasn’t moving events that were already tied to a project – I realize you have to do that in iMovie – but essentially I made a duplicate of my project files, BUT I’m still using the same external where the events are stored and they seem to work fine. Do you think this bug is related to that?

    Also, I think the mobileme gallery is just plain crap. I think they can’t handle the bandwith. I am now having problems viewing them after I upload them to the gallery, sometimes, then believe it or not they were fine on my work PC (go figure). when I upload to Vimeo – they are fine.

    Thanks for all your help, there seems to be not much help at all available in the apple forums. it’s making me want to get FC or FC express, which may be there goal. LOL

    1. Hi Jason, I remember reading here and there that people had problems when moving events; I don’t know why they had those problems but it sounds a proper nightmare. 😦 I haven’t moved anything yet but later I might be moving the video clips to a hard drive, so I’m hoping I don’t have problems with that.

      I was looking at FC Express as well, if it cut down on those sorts of problems it could be worth switching… I don’t know if it does, but I was thinking it seems rather an old version in software terms. I wonder if there will be an upgrade some time soon?

      I was having those glitches without moving anything anywhere, so it might have nothing to do with your migration. I read somewhere that iMovie sometimes ‘writes bad data’, and I was wondering if perhaps I had interrupted it too abruptly. For instance, instead of stopping playback by pressing the spacebar, I clicked on the project. So now I try always to use the spacebar if I need to stop playback… just in case it has a bearing.

      It’s frustrating about iMovie anyway, as it doesn’t seem as though we did anything especially bad to merit the glitches. It’s also strange that the corrruptions seem to vary in severity — you could fix it (if only for a while) by exiting iMovie, but that didn’t work for me, and I had to do it the more convoluted way. 🙂

  4. yes! this is so frustrating!

    the problem i’m having is that every single clip pauses for just a split second before it moves to the next clip. which means it’s impossible to finish any edit, because i can’t get a proper playback out of it.

    i’ve spent hours in precision edit mode, just randomly clicking around– and it’s corrected it in a few clips, but i can’t repeat it consistently (even when i perform the exact same routine). so this 30 second movie that should’ve taken 20 minutes to edit, has now taken 20 hours and counting. and even my victories are total accidents.

    rumor has it they’re trying to push more people to final cut express. i’m not buying it– in protest!

  5. You buy the Mac thinking all of the advertised goodies like iMovie are quality, part of what you’re paying for, and then when you get there you suspect it’s only a taster. :/

    One of the things I would really like to do is have more ‘themes’ but there aren’t very many in iMovie to choose from. To make your own, I think, you need really expensive software like After Effects in CS5 or… there’s something in the Final Cut Studio package, but I’ve gone and forgotten the name! I don’t say this from experience but from hearsay. I would love different themes…

  6. I saw the new post and wanted share something. Over the last month I was working on some footage from a trip to Australia, when I tried to export it the other day it was getting stuck near the end (with about four minutes to go). I called Apple care (completely useless with almost every issue), and I explained the issue. He told me they couldn’t trouble shoot with me because it would take all day but that I should try testing it by doing another project, and if that didn’t work, “Just start the project over” – Yeah genius, the project I was working on for several weekends?

    what was happening is that it was just getting stuck and hanging during export and after a complete day I was able to figure out that it was one 2 second clip that was causing the problem. But it was luck to find the clip causing it (I noticed because that clip was doing the freeze thing for split second). I even updated to the new iMovie with iLife and it didn’t help.

    What is most disturbing is that the applecare guy actually told me “well you have to understand that iMovie is just a consumer product and you really need something like FC if you want it to always work”. He continued to tell me that iMovie is their number one source of problems and that I just have to life with the fact that movie editing gets screwed up sometimes.

    I asked him why then was apple advertising how easy it is to use iMovie and do video editing? I understand that it is a consumer product, but don’t advertise that it is easy.

    1. You mean if there’s a clip acting up, it stops the export? That’s bad… I thought that probably the video itself would be OK and it was just the editing project that got screwed up (annoying enough on its own).

      A problem I was having recently was something to do with a title in the movie. I found that sometimes the projects didn’t autosave, even if you left it a while before closing. But it wasn’t all of them, just two projects, both using the same kind of title or font (I forget which). And it turned out that you must ‘OK’ the title before leaving it, though you can leave it without doing that, and it seems to work, as it would stay there while you were editing other things and playing it back. But that part of the project doesn’t save unless you ‘OK’ it!

      There should be a little dialogue box saying “do you want to quit without saving changes?” or something. It’s exasperating having to go back and redo all the text (that you’d carefully researched) all over again.

      It’s definitely not easy to use! I found myself thinking it’s actually the professional software that’s easy to use (once you know how) whereas you are always having to come up with workarounds and solutions for using ‘cut-down’ software. 😉

  7. yeah, it’s ridiculous. Although, the new iMovie does have some cool features that make things easier. But it’s really annoying to worry about working on a project for hours or days, then finding out that one little screwed up clip could ruin the entire export. It was literally a 2 second clip, and I found out by trial and error. I don’t know why it was corrupted, maybe that is my camera, but I suspect iMovie.

  8. Thanks for posting this; it’s nice to know one isn’t alone. Misery loves company. I had the same problem, a clip that hangs as the narration goes on (with the added feature that the clip—a static image actually—appears in later frames distorted).

    Arrgh! On a project with a deadline, no less.

    Your solution didn’t help. I will have to redo the whole thing (deadline’s been extended) with no guarantee that the same glitch won’t ruin things again at the end.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Hope a team at Apple gets fired for this. They sure deserve it, and worse.


    1. That’s incredibly frustrating; I would hate to have that sort of dilemma with a deadline looming. I’m sorry my fix didn’t work out for you; I guess it depends on the type of glitch, or type of set-up, or something incomprehensible to most of us.

  9. question about the new apple TV and exporting – I usually export to Mobileme, Youtube, or Vimeo, then I also export a copy that I store on the hard drive and then copy it to my laptop and backed up for safe keeping. I got the new apple TV and the videos must be shared in iTunes to be viewed on apple TV (I was actually impressed with a large format on a 52 inch screen.

    I noticed that when I added them to iTunes it is making an extra copy becuase I have the option in iTunes to make copies of imported items. I’m wondering if there is an advantage to this. What then is the difference of exporting to iTunes then copying them to other computers out of the itunes folders instead of exporting the movie again – assuming I make it the same size and format, then they are the same right?

    Why couldn’t I just uncheck that option in preferences and then just add my movie folder to iTunes so anything I export there would be in iTunes?

    1. I don’t know — I find iPhoto confusing, probably for a similar reason. I want to know exactly where my files are, but iPhoto copies and squirrels them away somewhere hard to find. 🙂 I don’t bother with it any more as I find it unsettling.

      And now I’m struggling with Bento 3. 🙂 Whoever said it is more of an organizer than a database said the truth. The Appleworks database was more versatile and powerful, so far as I can make out. Hopefully it’s just that I haven’t yet uncovered all of the possibilites, both current and future, but I have a sinking feeling…

  10. It was a while since I had edited a video, but had to do a very short quick 4-minute video last night. I soon got the dreaded frozen clips in the project and couldn’t even remember how I fixed them before, so I had to search out my own blog post here to remind me! Fortunately it still worked.

    I also got a frozen event, but it fixed itself after I quit iMovie.

    I get the feeling we only get these frozen clips in a project after adding a soundtrack?

  11. Not quite. I am editing a 25-minute video for a presentation on Tuesday. Guess what? Despite playing perfectly fine whilst editing (numerous checks) it has (upon completion) started freezing all over the place. I haven’t added any soundtrack- using the sound attached to video files. I have spent a colossal amount of time on this project and am close to tearing my hair out. Contacted Apple but they can’t get back to me until Monday evening (its due to be presented on Tuesday morning)!
    At least I’ve finally found a possible way through this. I’ll try your method and let you know.

    1. That must be really frustrating… and, to be honest, it’s a let-down by iMovie. If it has a tendency to corrupt that can’t be explained or easily fixed, then it’s unusable. I hope my fix works for you, at least long enough to create a working video.

  12. Have any of you looked at the new Final Cut. It’s funny even though there have been tons of complaints by industry professionals, it seems for everyday users, it’s dropped in price a lot (from the original $1000) and is probably better than iMovie. Not sure if it’s worth the $300 though if it’s just a higher version of iMovie (which is how some critics are describing it now).

    1. I saw a short piece about that, and meant to look and see how much Final Cut Studio costs in the UK now. It does sound off-putting that it’s been labelled as an extended version of iMovie, but hopefully that doesn’t include iMovie bugs. 🙂

  13. Hi, I am having the same issue as above where whilst working on a project, you can skim through the project with the mouse and everything works fine, but as soon as you hit space bar to play, it freezes! All of the projects (8 of them) do it as well. It is driving me crazy!! I remove the plist files in User>Library>Preferences and it fixes it for a little while (5 mins), then the issue comes back!

    Are there any solutions to this so far? It would be much appreciated!

    I am using iMovie 09 on 27 inch iMac (last model).


    1. Yes, I found they tended to come back after a while, though not necessarily in the same places. I’ve not used iMovie for several months now, but I hope that the bugs will be sorted. Fingers crossed. 🙂

  14. This problem happened to me too, and without going into all the other ins and outs of Macs or iMovie, I’ll just say that your fix worked and I am incredibly grateful! I couldn’t find the answer anywhere else.


    1. Select the Clip
    2. Go To “Video Settings”
    3. To Adjust Speed, Click Convert, & Set @ 100%
    4. Make Sure The Clip After (If Different) Has It’s Speed Adjusted to 100%

    I tried this method around 5 minutes ago, so why not share the knowledge once gained? I hope this helps any future movie-makers.

  16. Diddums thank you SOOOO much for this post. It has helped me enormously and saved me hours of stressing out and reading futile discussion forums. Thank you also for speaking in layman’s terms as I am definitely an amateur but care VERY much about my movies.

  17. YES! It works….thank you…have also been trolling the internet to find an answer, not much around, but this flipping to another video entry and then back has fixed the freeze! Thank you.

  18. Thanks for the tip, it saved my science project presentation. The frozen frame vanished when I removed and re-inserted the still frame that followed it. Adding a transition between them had not worked. This was on iMovie 9.0.4

  19. I am bookmarking this post. I haven’t had the problem yet, but who knows… I think I will have to move to a new editing platform too. I haven’t heard of BBEdit.

  20. YOU ARE AMAZING!!! This fixed my issue and has saved me a TON of last minute stress trying to get a video to work for a wedding. THANK YOU!!!!

  21. A month and a half of work, a 1 hour 12 minute and 57 sec iMovie and now the video glitches come as I’m ready to finalize. I’m ready to smash my brand new MacBookAir!!!!! Been using iMovie for years and never had a glitch. Now, the longest movie I’ve ever made (gift for my husband’s 40th this weekend) and having the same freezing frames issue. Trying all the recommendations, but to no avail. Anyone had any success with other solutions?

  22. I’m not sure if its a bug or not but my end title will only play in the viewer, not in fll screen mode. I”ve deleted and replaced this image, transition and the clip before all to no avail incase there was a corrupted file. though its still persitent. Has anybody come across this before? how do I fix this?

  23. Brand new MacBook Air. First iMovie editing on the new machine. New content, newly imported, no reason for anything to be challenged. Everything in my 4 minute video plays perfectly on my computer, but when I send it to my colleagues, they say it freezes on their computers (Audio continues on while visual freezes). I never had an issue using iMovie on my previous MacBook (which I used for 7 years). Totally mystified as to how to fix the glitches as they do not appear on my machine, only on my colleagues’. How do we get Apple to fix this apparently common problem?

    1. It’s interesting that it used to work for you on a different set-up; maybe this is some bug that was introduced somewhere along the line… in a new version of iMovie, or something to do with newer, different hardware… a clip seems to corrupt itself. It’s strange that there has never been a solution for it!

  24. My video usually plays! i created a small video via my go pro. I then closed my computer and came back to view the iMovie but for some reason it is playing with the music and i can see all the sections of my video but not the actual video itself! so it plays but i cannot see or watch anything? someone help please!!!

  25. Thank you very much for your iMovie suggestion! You saved our Father’s Day! I made a video for my husband and imovie kept freezing on this one clip. I ended up finding your post (almost in tears) and deleted the clip and a few surrounding it including the transitions. Once everything was deleted and replaced it worked! Ty

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