Jittery Video Playback

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the April, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Monthly Final Cut Studio Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Recently, I had an email conversation with an editor who was having problems with jittery video playback. The editor could see a jitter in their video posted to the web, yet when I looked at the same file, but using my system, the jitter was gone.

This ruled out hardware and software problems. It also ruled out problems with the file they posted to the web. If I could see it without jitter, then it didn’t have jitter in it.

So, that brought us back to the first question, what caused the jitter? Two things came quickly to mind: download speed and video codec.

If your connection to the Internet isn’t fast enough, playback will be jittery. To check this, type Shift+Command+U to open the Utility folder. Then, open Activity Monitor.

The Activity Monitor shows network speeds.

Click the Network button at the bottom and, while playing your video, watch the green Data received/sec number. This shows how fast your system is downloading data from the Internet. If you encoded the video at a higher data rate, you’ll get stutters and dropped frames.

NOTE: Encoding data rates are often measured in kbps, while data transfer speeds are often measured in KB/s. To convert from KB/s to kbps multiply the KB number by 8.

Also, if you are trying to play H.264 video on a G-4 or G-5 you will often have dropped frame issues. H.264 is a great codec, but it takes a lot of computer horsepower to decode. If your clients are working with slower systems, you may need to encode using a different codec.

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