Solving Dropped Frame Errors

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the May, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

There are three questions I get asked all the time:

The first two are already covered in articles in my library (Click the question to read related article.) However, this last one I haven’t really addressed. So, here is a quick checklist you can use to solve a dropped frame problem.

In general, dropped frame issues are caused by a hard disk that is too slow to keep up with the video format you are using.

Here’s an article that provides an overview of hard disk speeds compared to video data rates.

NOTE: By the way, if terms like RAID 0 or RAID 1 confuse you, read this short explanation of how RAIDS are defined.

System Setup Issues

  1. Make sure your hardware is supported by Final Cut – check Apple’s web site.
  2. Make sure you are not using a hard disk connected using USB.
  3. Make sure your drive spins at least 7200 RPM, many inexpensive drives are slower.
  4. Don’t capture media to your internal boot drive.
  5. If you are using FireWire drives, make sure your total cable length is less than 15 feet total among all devices.
  6. Make sure all your data drives are formatted for the Macintosh (Utilities > Disk Utility > Erase tab — if the format popup menus says anything EXCEPT Mac OS Extended or Mac OS Extended Journaled you may have problems.)
  7. If you are using a third-party hard drive or RAID, make sure you have the latest drivers.
  8. Disconnect all external devices. Reattach one at a time to see when the problem recurs.
  9. Adding a second FireWire bus, via PCI card, can also solve data bottlenecks.

Operational Fixes

  1. Make sure your Easy Setup settings correctly match the video format you are capturing.
  2. If problem occurs during playback of an RT sequence, render the sequence.
  3. If problem occurs during a rendered sequence, delete render files for that clip (Control+B) and re-render.
  4. Make sure you have at least 20% free space on the hard disks you are using for capture.
  5. Save your work, quit, and restart Final Cut Pro.
  6. Save your work, quit, and shut down your computer. Wait 30 seconds, then restart.
  7. If the room temperature is too hot, let things cool down.
  8. Make sure AC power is not fluctuating wildly.
  9. Do a Safe Boot on your boot disk. (Click here to learn how.)
  10. Repair permissions on your boot disk. (Click here to learn how.)
  11. Run Utilities > Disk Utility and repair the disk containing your scratch disks.
  12. If you own Disk Warrior X, rebuild the disk directories on the disk containing your scratch disks.
  13. Using System Preferences > Accounts, create a new user. Log into that new user. Restart Final Cut and see if that fixes your problem; if so, you have corrupted operating system preferences.
  14. If all the prior steps don’t work, then trash your FCP Preferences.

Herb Issacs writes:

Why do you say not to use an internal disk to capture? Isn’t the internal bus faster than firewire input?

This was amplified by comments from Trent Anderson:

I frequently get dropped frames, and the error message at the bottom in red says, RT Extreme has determined that your hard drive is too slow, please increase the speed of the hard drive. Well, it is 7200 RPM, and I don’t see how I can get a faster one.


I notice that you said to not save to an INTERNAL hard drive. It would seem to me that having those things set to an External hard drive, via Firewire, would be even slower than going to an internal hd.???

And from Ben Balser:

Reading the newsletter, and in avoiding dropped frames you say, “2. Don’t use an internal drive to capture media.” Why not? It’s the most efficient and best method to capture without dropped frames. I don’t understand why you mention this. There must be something I’m not aware of.

Larry replies: Herb, Trent and Ben – thanks for pointing this out. I stated this poorly. What I meant is not to capture to your internal boot disk because it doesn’t have the ability to service the operating system, all running applications and still feed media reliably over time. It isn’t an issue of bus speed, it’s an issue of contention, rotation speed, and priorities. Complicating matters is that most laptops spin their hard disks slowly to save battery life.

An internal, second drive is perfectly acceptable.

UPDATE – Dec. 2007

I’ve recently learned that the Canon XL-1, and perhaps other Canon cameras, must not be directly connected to a FireWire drive. The chip set the camera uses does not communicate properly with the drive, causing dropped frame errors. This is a Canon problem, not a hard disk problem.

The only known solution is to add a PCI-based FireWire card to provide a second FireWire bus (if you have a tower) or to capture to the internal drive of the computer (if you have an iMac or laptop), then copy the files after capture to your media drive. It is never a good idea to edit video files stored on your boot drive.

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24 Responses to Solving Dropped Frame Errors

  1. Sorry but the dropped frames problem is solved very easily…its a compression issue. its compressing in h264. Same compression as older quality/frame rates. change it and wa-laah. No more dropped frames. Guaranteed.

  2. sorry, you change it by going into sequence, settings and most likely your compression rate is default at h.264. Change it to motion jpeg a. No dropped frames, no lost quality. Simply go back after you change it and render. All your multimedia needs under one roof.

    • Katlyn Moody says:

      I know this was literally forever ago but i am about to scream and your thing seems to work but I don’t know what you mean by sequence, settings… I’ve looked all over the place.

  3. Kevin says:

    Thank you @flawlessdray! That solved the problem. I was trying to figure this out for hours and ever the Apple website couldn’t help. Thanks!

  4. Michelle says:

    I know this thread is, like, sooo 3 to 8 years ago, but I work for a tiny npo with a tiny budget and am stuck editing nice fancy footage on an old FCP 6 machine, and this motion jpeg a trick just made my life SO MUCH BETTER. Thank you, @flawlessdray. Thank you.

    • Larry says:


      Michelle, its because there are folks like you working on older systems that we leave all these older posts online and accessible. Happy we could help.


  5. Bradley Dichter says:

    How about importing and then editing 4K video captured on a iPhone 6s Plus. To avoid dropped frames, what must one do and what must one avoid? I heard capturing to RAID was to be avoided, but RAID is faster than a single drive. Got a Retina 5K iMac with 512GB flash storage. Got new 4K editing iMovie v10.1 and Final Cut Pro X. Got a Blu-ray burner for HD video. Thinking about external storage.

    • Larry says:


      Whoever told you to avoid using a RAID did not know what they were talking about.

      Transfer (i.e. copy) the files from your phone to a folder on your RAID. Then, import the files from that folder into your NLE. Always store media externally – because the files are so big – don’t use your internal drive because you’ll fill it too quickly.


  6. Lexi Fleet says:

    Larry….. T H A N K YO U !!!!!!!!!!!! this tip to change the sequence setting to apple jpeg literally saved me the most important job of my life. Constant dropped frames on a brand new IMac left me bewildered. After staying up all night and near tears…I found this and the problem seems to be solved. I don’t even have words to express my appreciation! You are appreciated more then you know brother!

  7. Yunus says:

    Hi Larry,

    I am having video frames dropped during playback. I am using FCPX 10.2.3 I will be more than happy if you could help me.

    • Larry says:


      Dropped frames are almost always caused by a hard disk that is too slow or too full. Look there first.


      • Amy says:

        Hi Larry,

        I’ve hit a wall but have found your website! I am getting dropped frames to the point that I can’t playback, let alone edit (all background rendering is complete). I have a 2014 MacBook, using an external USB 3.0 HDD.

        What hard drive do you recommend?


        • Larry says:


          You don’t mention what software you are using to edit – however, you are correct, a USB 3.0 drive is WAY too slow for editing.

          Anything connecting via Thunderbolt or USB 3.1 Gen 2 would be fast enough; unless you are editing resolutions greater than 4K or RAW images, in which case you’ll need at least a two-drive RAID.


          • Amy says:

            Thanks Larry!

            Apologies. I am using FCPX. I’m also editing 4K video.

            I’ll look into your suggestions. Thanks again for your help.

  8. Keith Holmes says:

    Ok what’s the quickest way of removing black frames in FCPX post in in a movie because the streaming computer couldn’t keep up?

    • Larry says:


      Sadly, there’s no automatic way to remove single frames. You’ll need to do so manually.


      • Keith Holmes says:

        Thanks Larry. That’s what I guessed. Using FCPX flow transition is working well but it took me two hours to do 5 minutes and then go back and fix the audio to make the flow jumps not audible. That’s 48 hours of solid editing ahead. Thanks for coming back to me – I appreciate it.

  9. I have a 2 hour documentary completely edited on a Macrosystem S6000 unit (PC based). Everything is done and looks great (audio and image on all formats of 1080 30p, 1080 60i, etc.) on the Macrosystem unit (and when authored and replicated to BluRay). The goal was to use an inexpensive Sony HDR-PJ790 (a tiny camera under $1200.00), using 5 or more LED light boxes, quality Samson wireless mics., teleprompters, sliders, etc. striving to get that ‘Hollywood’ production look (with live action and interviews)… the goal was proving “that if you know what you are doing in front and behind the camera, you can make a great project without buying a RED or a Sony PXW-FS7. Now have to convert to ProRes 422 HQ for TVODs. Bought the newest 5K Retina iMac (Version 10.13.3, 3.8 GHz, 40 GB 2400 MHz DDR4, Radeon Pro 580 8 GB with Fusion 2 TB) loaded with licensed FCPX 10.4, Compressor 4.4 and Motion 5.4 (also packages for photo work). Not bragging, merely explaining what I am using… I followed the opening advice from Tom Wolsky on set-up of iMac/FCPX for maximizing iMac. Now the questions. What is the best way to transfer HD footage from Macrosystem editing unit? I have been doing it with a thumb drive 3.1 in piecemeal 2 – 4 minute format of uncompressed HD, converting to ProRes 422 HQ using Compressor and placing on FCPX timeline in order of sequence. While watching on small screen in the edit mode, I never get notified of dropped frames, I do when watching on full screen (5K). If I do the whole doc in this fashion and export to an SSD external HD… will I have dropped frames? Am I experiencing dropped frames because the iMac is trying to put up the large ProRes 422 HQ onto a 5K screen? Is there a way I can streamline the transfer from editing deck to iMac (avoiding thumb drives)? What is the best SSD HD to transfer finished ProRes 422 HQ codec onto? I am not well versed in using FCP, but I am learning quickly. I have been editing for over 20 years on Macrosystem NLEs, so editing IS NOT the problem. Getting a perfect ProRes 422 HQ onto the SSD is. Any suggestions would be very welcomed.

    • Larry says:


      Why not just output your entire movie from the Macrovision at the highest quality, then attach a drive to your PC, formatted as EXFAT – which supports file sizes larger than 2 GB, copy the file to the external hard drive, then attach the drive to the Mac (which reads EXFAT disks) and use Compressor to convert to ProRes 422 HQ?

      Save all the thumb drives and make your live MUCH easier.


  10. Niyah says:

    Hi Larry, I’ve been researching and changing as much as I can to fix my dropped frames but nothing will work. I’m using FCPX Version 10.2.1 on a MacBook Air Version 10.11.6 so early 2015 model. The processor is a 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5. The video I’m editing I believe was shot in 4K, I never paid close attention to details like that because I didn’t know it made a difference especially being that I’ve edited other videos many times before with no problem like this before (that may or may not have been shot in 4K). At first my 9 minute video wasn’t rendering when I manually chose for it to render. A notification would come up that lead me to believe that there’s wasn’t enough space on my laptop for it to render so I changed the cache location to my LACIE external hard drive. It then rendered out fully but that’s when the dropped frames started. After reading all of these replies, I realized the LACIE USB 3.0 drive is too slow even though it has 1 TB worth of space. I cleared out as much space on my laptop as possible and currently have 92.43 GB worth of space, so it’s rendering fine but the frames are still dropping. I also changed my media to proxy for better disk performance. The only thing I can’t figure out is your suggestion of changing h.264 to jpeg because I don’t know where to find it.The frames are still dropping and I’m completely lost as to what else I can do.

    • Larry says:


      Let’s take this in several steps. First, and MOST important, there are two key parameters for storage: 1. How much is holds (capacity) and 2. How fast it transfers data (bandwidth). Your external storage (Lacie) has lots of capacity, but way too little bandwidth.

      Dropped frames are caused by your storage being too slow to play the media format you are editing. It is a bandwidth issue.

      Rendering, which does not occur in real time, can deal with slower hard disks, but now capacity comes into play. 4K media requires 4X the capacity and bandwidth of HD media. A system that can play HD can be – and in your case is – overwhelmed playing huge 4K files. ProRes 422 requires almost 70 MB/second for 4K playback, more for 4K editing.

      From a storage point of view, you’ll need at least 40 GB to for render files, plus another 40 GB to store the final exported video.

      Switching to proxy files for editing is the perfect solution. It should solve the dropped frame problem. Then, switch back to the master files when you are ready to create the final export, which does not require real-time playback.

      Finally, you can’t switch H.264 to JPEG, rather, you can use either ProRes Proxy or H.264 for your proxy files. Given your system, I recommend ProRes Proxy. They are bigger than H.264, but playback more smoothly.

      If you still have problems, contact me directly via email.


      • Will says:

        Hey Larry,
        Would love some help here. I am editing GoPro footage on Final Cut Pro and have had no issues until now. I am getting a pop up message: “video frames were dropped during playback.” I have no idea what created this issue but playback is very laggy. This has only been an issue when rendering. But rendering is finished, and playback very choppy.

        I have a SSD drive which stores my FCP library; USB-C to USB-C on a MacBook Pro. Trying to finalize a project and have never experience this before. Any advice, please let me know.


        • Larry says:


          In almost all cases, dropped frame errors are caused by storage that’s too slow to support the video format you are editing. So is lag, for that matter.

          My GUESS is that somehow your render files are not stored on the SSD, but on a slower USB drive, or, maybe an internal drive that is running very, very slow. Verify the speed of your storage, then make sure files are getting stored where you THINK they are getting stored.

          IF that doesn’t fix it, call Apple Support.


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