Premiere slow, laggy, sluggish? Call the Doctor

Over the past few years, the most common complaint about Premiere in long form TV edits (all on Mac) has been that it would get slower as the day went on – or even grind to a halt.

Sometimes Premiere takes longer than it should to respond to commands; sometimes the video in the timeline is slow to playback or stutters; sometimes it just hangs, beachballing.

This has got a lot better in recent releases, and was worse back when we were supporting clients using CC 2014 and below on pre-dustbin Mac Pros with older OS’s.  And it was particularly apparent on multicamera sequences.

In an important exec viewing, doing nothing but playing back video, an editor would only be able to get 30 minutes through playing a sequence before the system started dropping frames and losing sync because it had run out of memory.
And that would be on a hefty 12 core Mac Pro 5,1 with K5000 card and 48GB RAM.

At Support Partners, we’ve seen a big drop-off in reports of this now that our clients have been able to invest in newer software and hardware, but it can still happen – so it’s worth knowing why it happens and what you can do.

There were a few UI-based things that we’ve seen causing slowness:

  • Turn off Duplicate Frame markers. Showing Duplicate Frame markers all the time used to tax the system too much (a bug finally fixed in 2015.3 – hurray!).
  • Keep your timeline view to less than 20 minutes. Zooming out in the timeline panel to show more than 20 minutes slows down the UI because it’s trying to draw/track too much detail.
  • Set the “insert and overwrite sequences as nests or individual clips” button to nests.  Otherwise Premiere constantly tries to map track layouts from sequences in the project panel into the current sequence.
  • Don’t mix 48khz and 44.1khz audio – as there’s an Apple bug that struggles to switch between them and causes a few seconds of beachballing and general instability.  Convert all your audio files to 48kHz before importing them.  I made an Applescript called The Aiffinator which is in wide use now.  I’ll share it in a future post.

The main cause of Premiere sluggishness, though, is just that Premiere hogs all the RAM, and so the system runs out of available memory.  

It doesn’t tell you this – but you can see it if you use the system tools (Activity Monitor on a Mac; Resource Monitor or Performance Monitor on Windows).   

We were used to looking for this, as it was the biggest cause of crashes in FCP7, which only had around 2.5GB to use before it crashed. We thought we would escape it in 64-bit Premiere, which could use all the available memory – we just didn’t think it would.

In the beginning, the only way to clear down the RAM effectively was to restart Premiere.  Or just restart the whole machine.  Which interrupted flow and wasted minutes reloading a big project. But then after a while the memory would just get full again.

For instance, in the above example of an exec viewing, we would recommend that an editor restart Premiere before an important viewing just to give the best chance of success; but still it would choke 30-40 minutes in.

So in Summer 2015 we started installing the free Dr Cleaner app from Trend Micro on Premiere Mac workstations.

This allows you to clear down all the guff that Premiere leaves floating around in the RAM, without closing Premiere – so that you can keep working.

It runs in the background – you can set it to show memory use as a percentage in the top Notification Bar.  When you see it getting to 99%, you can tell it to Optimize – at which point it deguffs your RAM.   You’ll see the percentage drop, and Premiere performance will improve.  The difference for both offline and online editors has been amazing.


If you’re struggling with Premiere slowness / lagginess / sluggishness on a Mac, try the Doctor and let me know if it helps or not.  And let me know if you come across similar problems in your PC edits, or have any other tips for dealing with Premiere performance problems. I might cover a couple of the other suggestions above (eg 48kHz/44.1kHz audio) in more detail in later posts – I’ll be interested to look into whether these too have been improved with recent fixes.




2 thoughts on “Premiere slow, laggy, sluggish? Call the Doctor

    • Thanks! Yeah, it’ll work with anything – and most helpful with stuff that’s open for a while and keeping things floating around in RAM just in case.

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