Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline

Posted by danajstrom 
Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 10, 2010 07:16PM
12 Core Mac Pro, AJA Kona 3, Final Cut Pro 7

We're having very strange playback problems in Final Cut Pro. After a few hours or so of editing, we start to get this;


Sometimes, it can be temporarily solved by hiding FCP and going back, but usually a crash comes soon. Thinking that this was a Kona card issue, we've stopped using the AJA Kona presets and are just working in standard ProRes422 HQ 29.97 but the issue persists.

Searching forums for "flickering" and "stuttering" in Final Cut Pro hasn't yielded ANYTHING useful since these terms usually point to interlacing problems.

Can anybody help us? Delivering picture lock tonight and it's driving us crazy!!!
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 10, 2010 08:12PM
Can you post the crash logs from Console?

Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 12, 2010 03:12PM
The crash logs tend to indicate different causes each time... (I'm using Digital Rebellions AWESOME Crash Analyzer too)... here's a zip file with the last 10 or so crashes.


New development: all of our 'green' render bars (preview) have turned yellow (proxy).. at which point we noticed most of the stuttering is really happening once we play through those sequences... Additionally we're getting a LOT of 'Out of Memory' errors during renders and sometimes just during playback.

The problem is getting a lot worse and our deadline for output is quickly approaching!!
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 12, 2010 07:17PM
Did you recently install anything new? What about the ProTools upgrade? That's a known recent nasty with random effects on certain plug-ins. Anything else new? Drives filling up? Main hard drive filling up? Working with long-gop footage?

Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 12, 2010 07:28PM
Nothing really. It's pretty much stock FCP studio. We're working with a lot of 5D footage but that all gets conformed to ProRes 422 HQ at transfer. We have some 720p footage in our 1080 sequences, but they're all 30p... I'm pretty good at conforming EVERYTHING before handing it to the editor (I'm post sup) -- of course some clips can slip through the cracks but thus far, everything seems in order.

Actually, a lot of our render problems seem to be associated with ProRes itself... this is really only our second project to deliver in ProRes (been using trusty old DVCProHD for a number of years and now I'm considering going back) - a lot of filters, still images (all tiffs and under 4k res) won't render most of the time in a Pro-Res sequence, but have little trouble in DVCProHD or 8/10 bit uncompressed.

The 'Out of Memory' errors I might be able to get over because this IS a complicated documentary with a lot of footage, versions and filter effects.... but that stutter/flicker thing I just can't get over because in all my years of experience and hours of research, I haven't seen anything like it.

More and more, I'm getting 'that feeling' that it's a RAM issue... any thoughts?
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 12, 2010 09:39PM
I haven't seen that either, and even a few long gop clips slipping through the net shouldn't cause something like that. Given that lots of people are doing a very similar workflow without this issue, it feels like it might be machine specific.

Were there any upgrades recently though? And is there lots of space on the main HD? These can both cause weirdness. I recently discovered 28 gigs of AE cache files happily growing in the cache of a machine at one of my jobs, so even if you don't install anything, you can run out of space over time.

Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 15, 2010 05:41PM
It's a new machine. The only additions are an AJA Kona 3 card and a RocketRAID controller card (an eSATA connector to an 8TB SataMAX drive) This is our first project on it and things were fine to begin with... Along with this show, we've been cutting supplementary stuff - basic behind the scenes pieces and haven't had any problems with them.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 15, 2010 05:49PM
Try moving your footage onto another hard drive, skipping the RocketRAID/8TB SataMAX drive entirely and see if the problem persists.

On hindsight, did you do any prokit update lately? Are you running FCP 7.0.3, OS 10.6.4, QT 7.6.6?

Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 15, 2010 06:10PM
It's worth trying, but I really don't think that's the issue since I've been also cutting some shorter behind the scenes and promotional pieces from the same drive without any problems.

anyway, we have almost 6TB of footage on that drive and we go to Color Correction on Thursday... my thought is that we just 'muscle through' the current show but make sure we're not running into this crap on the next show.

I'm really thinking it's got to be a RAM issue... but I'm not seeing any other typical red-flags so could this be a Pro-Res issue? Any ideas I can check on? Crash logs seem to indicate (according to FCS Maintenance Pack) all sorts of different causes; mostly Graphics Card, User Interface Crash, Video Output etc.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 16, 2010 11:06AM
If Crash Analyzer is giving you a different cause each time, that's usually an indication that there is a much broader problem with your system.

I have seen this flickering happen before (along with other visual glitches) and it is related to the Kona card. The company I was working with reported it in detail to AJA and there have since then been several software updates, so first of all make sure you have the latest version of the Kona software and drivers. You can get it to go away by restarting Final Cut Pro, but if it really becomes a big problem then I'd advise pulling the Kona.

My software:
Pro Maintenance Tools - Tools to keep Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Pro X, Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere Pro running smoothly and fix problems when they arise
Pro Media Tools - Edit QuickTime chapters and metadata, detect gamma shifts, edit markers, watch renders and more
More tools...
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 16, 2010 04:14PM
I'll certainly try that out - we're in full-speed finishing mode right now so I don't want to rock the boat too much at the moment. We did try switching the FCP setup to use stock Easy Setups to try and avoid the Kona Card altogether... is it possible that the card can still cause these problems even if we're not working in Kona World?

I'm on the latest drivers, I was told by Pro Max (who assembled the computer for us) to use the NDD driver From Kona:

"KONA 3 NDD Driver Version 8.0, Control Panel, and Notes
This NDD version is identical to the standard version, but without the Macintosh Desktop feature."

...so question, does the Kona card handle the real time rendering as well then? Since we're seeing a strong corrolation between unrendered "preview" clips and the flickering issue?
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 18, 2010 06:30PM
Currently we're having our biggest issues getting sequences to fully render. Where a lot of our playback problems are happening on "preview" renders and typically goes away when we render them, a lot of it craps out; Out of Memory

Strangely, these parts will happily render in another codec such as 8-bit, 10-bit or DVCProHD...

I'm starting to think ProRes isn't really the answer to our prayers it pretends to be. We've done 8 shows at DVCProHD without a fraction of the problems we've had with ProRes. It seems especially finicky and not nearly as stable as the others. Am I barking up the wrong tree here?
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 18, 2010 07:03PM
Now that you mention it, the company I encountered with this problem was also using ProRes (albeit 4444). Perhaps the AJA cards don't play nicely with it. Has anyone else had any issues?

My software:
Pro Maintenance Tools - Tools to keep Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Pro X, Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premiere Pro running smoothly and fix problems when they arise
Pro Media Tools - Edit QuickTime chapters and metadata, detect gamma shifts, edit markers, watch renders and more
More tools...
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
November 18, 2010 07:17PM
None that I have seen before here, but I'm usually using the LH/LHe variant.

Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
January 21, 2011 12:27AM
Did this ever get solved? I'm experiencing the same type of thing. I found that when the flickering/stuttering starts, if I turn off the external video, it goes away and I can avoid crashing Final Cut. I can then turn it back on a little later for a few more minutes until it starts doing it again. If I restart Final Cut, I'm good for a couple of hours.

If I don't turn off the external video when the flickering starts, it will crash Final Cut very soon thereafter.

I'm using the Kona LHi in an 8 core 2.26 macpro with 24 gigs of Ram. Also have an Esata card for an external 4TB OWC drive set up as a raid. My footage is on this drive - its all pro-res 444. The video card is an ati 5870.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
January 21, 2011 06:34PM
That sounds very similar to what we experienced... Unfortunately, we haven't gotten it solved (yet) and I plan to send the system in to our vendor as soon as I get all the media backed up.

We found that we could simply hide Final Cut Pro for a few seconds to alleviate the flashing problem, but it worked less and less as we went throughout the day. Restarting was definitely the best answer, but a gigantic hassle in a tight post schedule.

We've since wrapped up that project and have moved on to another on a different machine- on that machine we've managed to get through a handful of small projects; a trailer, promo and behind the scenes stuff etc... without so much as a hiccup which makes me think it's gotta be RAM related....?

Anyway, I'm subscribed to this thread and I'll check back in once we get it looked at.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
March 10, 2011 02:09PM
We are having the same issue, the hiding of FCP did alleviate some of the flickering, as did refreshing the server. However, I don't believe it's a ram issue because our systems are running on 32 gb of ram and FCP has it's own limit on what it can access. If anyone has any insight into this issue it would be amazing to solve this problem. Thanks.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
April 03, 2011 01:55PM
Having the EXACT same problem and am at my wit's end. Only difference in system is that I am using a BlackMagic Multibridge Eclipse but even when I am not viewing my media through it, FCP still flickers in the viewer and then crashes. What is going on here?
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
May 03, 2011 05:42PM
I'm wondering if anyone ever solved this issue. Just a hunch but it seems that most of the people experiencing this problem (including myself) have a newer 12 core MacPro? I'm having this issue even when not using a 3rd Party card. It seems when I get many sequences open and I'll be scrubbing through my timeline this problem will start. The older MacPro's that are on my edit are not having this same problem. VERY VERY frustrating.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
May 13, 2011 07:29PM
We are experiencing the same issue on several of our new 12-core Mac Pros. FCP 7.0.3, OS 10.6.6, QT 7.6.6; some KONA3, others KONA3G; storage is 4Gb fibre-channel RAIDs. Working with redcode and prores; some system have red rocket cards but the ones without see the issue as well.

One of our editors takes his projects home and works on a 27' iMac that does not have the issue; we suspect this doesn't happen on our older first-gen Mac Pros as well but have not fully tested yet.

We also see constant 'Final Cut Pro (....) malloc: *** mmap (size=XXXXXX) failed (error code=12)'

followed by

'*** error: can't allocate region' in our console logs - literally clogging up the logs within minutes of working in a project. Not sure if this is connected to the jiggling/flickering/stuttering playback.

Have tried swapping out RAM, clearing caches (we use the FCP maintenance pack as well), trashing prefs and all sorts of other settings tweaks to no avail. This issue is causing us to crash at least once or twice daily.

Open to any ideas and willing to provide further information/logs/whatever in furtherance of fixing this frustrating problem.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
May 19, 2011 09:50PM
Just chiming in here. We managed to muscle through the project above and have since started a new show. This time around we have a lot fewer mismatching resolutions but we're still running into this issue with anything that's unrendered (both "Preview" and "Full" render bars)

I also wanted to note that we have an older system... one of the earlier Intels (can't remember exact model) that hasn't had this issue at all- so that this point I have to agree that this does seem to be an issue with the newer macs.

We're fairly early in the process, so I have time to experiment a bit now. I'll pull out the Kona card and uninstall the drivers tomorrow and post my results, but we severely need a solution before we get into full swing.

This is an extremely frustrating problem so any help is appreciated.

Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
July 13, 2011 11:33AM
Not sure that you are still having the Stuttering problem but I just received a new mid 2011 imac and was working on a documentary with lots of large stills. I only had it delivered with 4 gb memory but my preview of Stills panning and zooming in and out has been smooth. Until last night..... when I changed out the old memory for 16gb memory. All of a sudden my smooth preview on both my preview monitor and the canvas were jumpy. I first thought it was the memory but I started changing some Preference settings for memory cache etc. Then everything was fine and back to normal (now with the 16gb memory). I come back later and it started jumping again. This time I turned off Automatic Rendering in the preferences and now its smooth again. I think that the auto render (mine was set to every 10 minutes) works in the background when you have several sequences within a project. So as your working on a sequence, you don't realize if its auto rendering another (closed) sequence while your editing and previewing the open sequence. I'm also wondering if FCP holds off rendering in the background when you don't have enough ram and maybe thats why I didnt see the problem before. Anyway, try disabling auto rendering and see if that helps. Mine seems to be working now.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
July 13, 2011 04:39PM
We haven't solved the issue- we've just been working around it. Interestingly, because it's usually an unrendered (green preview) clips that starts the stuttering/flashing - a good work around for us has been to leave Auto-Render on so we're just working in rendered sequences pretty much all the time.

I'm pretty sure FCP 7 doesn't do any background rendering... the auto render just kicks in after 10 minutes (or however long you set it) of inactivity like a screensaver, and renders sequences.

We've also gotten another new MacPro - a base of the line Quad-Core and just began seeing the same stuttering issue with that...

...yet still, our old 2005 MacPro has been a stable workhorse throughout.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
July 15, 2011 12:35AM
Here's a goofy thought-- does anyone have windows or palettes overlapping on any of these systems?

The stuttering with overlapped windows was famous on Avid years ago, and I thought I detected it in FCP a while back, causing me to go very OCD and arrange windows with a pixel of space around them and load such layouts into Custom 1 and 2.. so, any window overlaps? Even a pixel?

That would make these events purely a video display card issue, wouldn't it?

- Loren

Today's FCP 7 keytip:
Temporarily mix down audio tracks with Command-Option - R !

Your Final Cut Studio KeyGuide? Power Pack
with FCP7 KeyGuide --
now available at KeyGuide Central.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
August 09, 2011 08:58PM

I am having the same issue and have been for over a year on and off. I had the same issue with my last computer (MacPro) and now with my new computer. I migrated all my footage and media onto my laptop and there are NO issues. It must be a MacPro thing. I simply can not continue to work at this rate. I lost one job because of this last year. I don't know what to do. I have erase and installed my os. putting only FCP Studio 7 on my system without any drivers/ or additional software and it still does flickers. I am at a total loss and this issue is costing me money.

2 2.4 Quad-Core Intel Xeon
8GB Ram
Blackmagic extreme HD Card
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
August 09, 2011 11:18PM
Yeah- we haven't found a solution either. Recently our older Mac Pro even started doing this when it had seemed completely immune for more then a year. I feel like it's gotta be a RAM or Quicktime thing... I also haven't seen it on my Macbook Pro - however the projects I cut on my laptop tend to be much shorter and simpler.

I've noticed somewhat better performance on our Mac Pros when we try to cut down on the project file size (deleting old sequences, etc) - not something we should HAVE to, but it seems to help.

Also- just keeping everything in your timeline rendered... meaning all those GREEN bars too. Seems like as long as you're playing rendered/master clips, it won't set the issue off. Turning on the auto Render helps to keep this at bay.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
August 11, 2011 01:59PM
Dana you are correct in the fact that it happens less if you leave auto save on. I also noticed that it didn't do it as much if I left my windows on one screen in "standard view".
Still this is unacceptable and I don't know what to do. I have had this happen on several MacPros and I have been in and out of the apple store. I don't know what to do. I am not about to go out and purchase another MacPro.

In my experience and interaction with Apple, they don't know what to do or how to fix it. They keep pushing blame on an incompatibility with my blackmagic hd card or some other program. I have told them that it still happens if I do an erase install and only put FCP 7 on the system. Still they keep blaming everyone/everything else but their computer. Maybe I should forward this link to them to prove that it is happening to a bunch of people. Not too sure they will give a crap considering FCP 7 is dead.

Any thoughts?

Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
August 11, 2011 02:21PM
Yeah- it's been terribly frustrating.
I've been round and round with the reseller that sold us our newest system (where we first saw the problem)

They blamed the AJA Kona 3 Drivers so I uninstalled them.
They blamed the XDCam media we were using, but it also occurred on other projects.
They blamed the project file size- I cut it down which helped the crashes a bit... not the video issue
They blamed ProRes 422 HQ.... so what's the freaking point then?

Basically we're getting by. We're too late in the show to stop and try anything different and we put up with 3 or 4 FCP restarts or crashes per day on each of our two MacPros.

I think the problem is that people just aren't experiencing this much unless they have a large, complicated project. I think we're just too few and far between right now.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
September 05, 2011 01:18PM
I am having the same problems on a Mid 2010 8 core Mac Pro. This is going to kill my business If I don't get it fixed. AJA thinks it might be my raid which is a 2006 Xserve Raid. A thorough preferences trash, Pram reset, etc seems to help for a while. I have also heard there might be a memory leak somewhere.

When I started the current project I was OK just cutting straight footage. When I started to add layers, titles, generators and plugins I started to flicker and crash. Now I render everything before viewing and stay in SafeRT. I am working my way through. I am going to order a new raid tomorrow to see if it helps but it sure feels like a memory issue. I too was getting the malloc -12 errors. I get all kinds of suspected causes from Digital Rebellion 's crash analyzer to the point that they seem meaningless. They often point to the AJA card but that seems to always be the last thing in the chain of processes before a crash and I don't put too much faith in it being the cause of these issues.

I have noticed HUGE virtual memory sizes in activity monitor. More than 200GB. I am not sure but that sounds excessive. The vm listed by process do not total more than 10GB. I can not say that I know anything about VM but to me the math doesn't add up.

If anyone has figured this out I would love to know. Perhaps it is just moving on to PP or Avid and not dealing with this anymore.
Re: Flickering/Stuttering Playback From Timeline
September 05, 2011 01:31PM
>I have noticed HUGE virtual memory sizes in activity monitor.

That is weird as hell. Try running a RAM test with Diglloyd tools. And while you're at it, do a speed test on your array as well and see if you have any unreasonably low dips in driver throughput.


Btw, just a wild guess... Go into the Final Cut Pro App in the applications folder, right click on it and select show package contents. Do you see any render files hidden somewhere in there?

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