Which OS are you using?
Assume you updated to 14.1.
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" it's a reel with 120 different source videos of varying types with a wide range of video settings".
That's likely at the root of the problem. (It also doesn't help that you're using MP3s as your audio, which further taxes the program. In fact, replacing any MP3s with WAV files might well resolve most if not all of your issues.)
I know you say you were able to do this in versions 3, 7 and 10 but .. well, I'm very surprised. Those earlier versions were much less tolerant of mixed video sources than version 14.
Where is all of this video coming from? What formats are you talking about? Are you, for instance, trying to combine camcorder video with phone video with video downloaded from YouTube with tape-based video, etc.?
Have you rendered your timeline (pressing the Enter key) as you work?
I know you want this to just work, but that's just not going to be the case. Unless removing the MP3 is enough to make this all manageable. It's going to take a lot of troubleshooting.
It will also be helpful, as Ann says, if we know your operating system, your processor, your RAM load and how much free space is on your hard drive. There is a lot going on here, and any number of things could be choking things up.
Sorry for my delay I'm using a MAC running El Capitain and yes I've updated to 14.1
Thank you for the advice in regards to WAV vs MP3, I just assumed since the WAV file is larger that it would slow the system down but I will try that.
In regards to the video sources, they come from all types - I work in television, live tours, concerts, commercials, etc. so it's a wide range of sources, and some are just youtube rips. This is why I condensed all of the sources into 8 "source" videos to actually upload into the program and edit from those 8 sources as opposed to 120. The timeline however is at about 2 1/2 hours with all the videos in play.
Rendering the timeline makes the system stop playback all together, I've done it a few times.
After cleaning up my system with a 3rd party app, and deleting all the render files I freed up 30 GB of space and it began playing everything in a slowed down version again.
I will try changing out the soundtrack file from MP3 to WAV to see if that helps.
Actually, if you think about it, smaller music files are actually MORE challenging -- because they use more compression.
WAV files flow through Premiere Elements like water.