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August 31, 2011 / Randy Coppinger

ProTools + H.264 video = Problem

This had to be the strangest video problem I’ve ever encountered recording to picture in ProTools. The client sent me an MP4 video file that used H.264 video codec. It was not broken into reels, so this was the ENTIRE film from start to finish with continuous timecode. The video file was 2.7 GB even with the H.264 video compression.

It had all of the things I like for verifying location and position: window burn, First Frame of Action at hour 1, head & tail sync pops with matching flash frames. There was even an academy leader. Technically speaking, it was gorgeous. I imported the picture reference into ProTools and spot checked the window burn against the timeline to verify sync. I dropped the cursor somewhere after hour two and the window burn rolled back to hour one! Uh oh. Houston, we have a problem. I found the exact frame where the timecode rolled back and wrote the guy who supplied the video.

His reply was about problems with the H.264 codec, which wasn’t what I had identified as the problem. It’s the window burn! But much to my surprise, it WAS an issue with the file format. And all I had to do was check the video file again using the stock Apple Quicktime player to see that the video was just fine outside of ProTools. But inside ProTools the video got to a frame just under hour two and started playing again from frame one. It would go back to frame one and play forward at the exact same spot every time, which was what lead me to the wrong conclusion.

Apparently there are two related issues. One is known as The 2 GB Problem, where video files have problems when you play them in ProTools past the 2 GB point in the file. But it only happens with certain codecs, notably in this case: H.264. All I had to do was convert the video to Motion JPEG A, which made it significantly larger than 2 GB, and the video played just fine in ProTools.

For more, here’s a post on the Avid site-

I still like H.264 as a way to move video files efficiently, but anything over 2 GB will get converted before I import into ProTools.

Here’s an overview about using H.264 video in ProTools.

See also: Conflict between ProTools and Spotlight, Bounce to Quicktime Movie with Full Options, ProTools Sync: The Short Video Problem


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  1. Conflict: ProTools and Spotlight Indexing « Randy Coppinger
  2. ProTools: Bounce to Quicktime Movie with Full Options « Randy Coppinger
  3. ProTools and H.264 Video « Randy Coppinger
  4. ProTools Sync: The Short Video Problem | Randy Coppinger
  5. Nasty ProTools Errors | Randy Coppinger

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