How big is your image? I recently did a wedding slideshow and wanted to do some zoomed-in pans across some of their engagement pictures, so used pictures sized around 3k on a standard 1920x1080 sequence. It crashed AME's encoder every time as soon as it hit that first big picture. I downsized the first big picture, tried again, and it crashed on the second big picture. I downsized all of them and redid my pans and zooms, and it exported fine. Didn't get quite the same look that I had wanted cause the pics were smaller, but it worked.
I'm still getting this issue (thanks david, but already downsized them. Current one thats crashed premiere is 3500x1500), and besides up until a week or so ago it was exporting OK.
Is the graphics card use for the final render? Is it worth switching off the cuda stuff?
Also the behaviour is inconsistent - sometimes if wil lmake it throught to the end (or near it), sometimes it'll crash as soon as it gets to the still
As this document suggests, toward the end, you should perform the general troubleshooting steps when you get the message "Error compiling movie. Unknown error.".
If you also have After Effects, you might want to try using that instead. I did a three month timelapse with 70,000 stills (plus or minus a few hundred) that were 4928x3264 and had no problems. I was able to zoom, pan and layer stills upon stills for blur masks, effects and so on.
I tried using Premiere first, but I only got about four days into the timelapse before the system choked on it. Importing images as a sequence in AE solved all my problems, and allowed me to export one massive video clip with close to 100 layers (at 4928x3264 resolution, by the way) which then imported into Premiere CS5 with no problems.
I only have 16GB of RAM, but at the time I also had three 7200rpm drives in a RAID0 stripe (separate from my OS drive) and I think that helped a lot.
I should also add this was not using my GTX 285, but rather my ATI 5870, which seems to work better in After Effects.
I'm thinking one or more of your images are still too big.
Try duplicating your timeline (so you don't lose any work) and then press A
and hold down Shift and click on your first clip. That should select all
clips on all layers. Then right click on the first one, and select "Scale to
Frame Size." If you've already used that command, selecting it again will
turn it OFF for all layers you turned it on. (If you've not already used
that command, then ignore the next bit because it will have worked). If you
have already used it, right click a second time and select "Scale to Frame
Size" and it will turn it ON for all layers. If that export works, then you
know you've got an image too big somewhere.
Also if you render as mpeg and not H.264, you'll be able to watch through
you're failed export until you hit the frame that killed it, which will tell
you exactly where your problem is. Mpeg doesn't require a full render to mux
the video and audio together to give you your finished .mp4 file.
thanks for suggestions, I'm locked into using premiere for these projects, yes I'll use AE for my own timelpase stuff.
I dont know how the images could be too big - they play back in realtime! Surely if they play in realtime they should be able to be rendered? They are 3,500 pixels wide.1.5 ish MB jpegs, using adobe RGB colourspace.
The helpfile led to this document:
full of general system tweaking stuff. I'm sure its all helpful, but not immediately so. I know exectly what image is causing the crash (i export to FLV, which also seems to give me a viewable file right up to the frame that caused the crash). I'm currently looking at a frozen progress box for a completely different project.
in desparation I switched off the mercury playback engine, and rendered a test avi (instead of FLV). That worked. (but OH so slowly)
So I rendered a test FLV. Which also appears to be working as I type this.
So I think I can safely say its an issue with the graphics card. Next question then is:
Can I disable the mercury playback features just for rendering? (ie is there an "off switch" in the export settings, or do I have to switch it off in project settings each time?
final postscript. update to most recent drivers (280.26) makes no difference. Rendering with mercury off takes about 5 times as long