Why doesn’t my .AVI file Import, or play properly in Premiere? Hey, it’s an .AVI file. Why can’t Premiere work with it? It played fine in Windows Media Player (WMP), and VLC Player. Even QuickTime Player does a good job. What’s up with Premiere?
Sound familiar? You may even have asked some of the same questions. What’s the answer?
Well, it comes down to CODEC’s. Those are the mysterious little modules that allow one to either encode, or decode Audio and Video files. With but a very few, and some rather esoteric exceptions, these little guys are lurking around every Audio or Video file that you will ever see. Their handiwork is in there someplace, but we can’t really see it.
If you’ve ever used an Adobe program to Burn a DVD, you’ve used the MainConcept MPEG-2 CODEC, whether you realized it, or not. That is but one of many hundreds of CODEC’s. They are everywhere.
Now, I mentioned .AVI files, but various CODEC’s play a role in almost every AV file. They do a job, but can also wreck havoc, when one goes to play, or edit a file. To use one, it must be properly installed on the computer. Some come with your OS, but others have to be purchased, or downloaded, and then installed to function.
The file extensions that we see all of the time, things like .AVI, .MOV, .MPEG, .TOD, .MOD, etc. are but "wrappers." There can be so many different things inside those wrappers - read CODEC’s. Imagine that someone has taken many packages of sticks of chewing gum and removed the outside paper from each stick. All we have are the foil "wrappers." That is what those file extensions are. Now, we feel fairly certain that each one contains gum, but what flavor is in each? Is it Double-Mint? Is it Spearmint? Is it Juicy Fruit? That is what we’re faced with, when dealing with most AV files. We think that the file is an AV file and will probably contain either Audio, Video or, in many cases, both. Still, we do not know what flavor is inside the wrapper. We can "sniff" the wrapper, but still do not know for sure. That "sniffing" is what we do, when we look at the file extension. We see .AVI (or other), but that does not tell us much. Here is where a little freeware program, G-Spot comes in. First thing that it does is to survey your entire computer to determine which CODEC’s you have properly installed. Next, when you drag one of your AV files to it, it will give you almost every bit of information on that file. It works most thoroughly with .AVI’s but also will give info on .MPEG’s, .WMV’s and .MOV’s. The amount of info will differ by the file’s format. With .AVI’s it will not only tell you the "flavor" of the gum, but exactly how that gum was made. The most important bits of info will be the CODEC’s used in the creation of that file. If it’s an Audio only file, it’ll yield that info. If it’s a Video only file - same thing. If the file is muxed (multiplexed with both Audio and Video) it’ll tell you both CODEC’s used. Next it’ll tell you if you have the necessary CODEC’s installed properly on your system. If you do not, it will warn you, and also give you the official name of the necessary CODEC. Here, you’ll need to use that name to go out and find it. Google will be very helpful here. Remember, some CODEC’s will be free, and some will need to be purchased. Whichever you end up with, you’ll need to install them properly on your computer.
Next, G-Spot will allow you to Render your file, using the CODEC’s, if installed. This can be a multi-step process, especially with muxed files, as you will need to Render both the Audio and Video. If all completes successfully, G-Spot will offer to play the file in a small viewing window. This is one of the most invaluable tools that you can have. Another is MediaInfo, which is very similar to G-Spot. For a Mac, try MediaImspector (http://mediainspector.massanti.com/).Then, the use of the Properties function in WMP, or QT Player will also come in handy for gathering as much info on the file, as you can. All are useful, but I use G-Spot first and most often.
OK, we now know that the .AVI file is Beechnut Liquorice (DivX CODEC), not my favorite. What do we need to do for this file? First, we’ll need to probably download and install the DivX CODEC. With that, we can play the file in one of our players. Can we edit it? Maybe yes, and maybe no. Note: some players have their own set of CODEC’s and will play almost anything. This, however is not a guarantee that any other program can use those versions of the CODEC’s. As a matter of fact, it’s highly unlikely that any other program can use them.
If we can play it, why would there be a problem editing it? Well, there are major differences in being able to play the file and being able to edit that same file. Some NLE’s (Non Linear Editors) can handle some CODEC’s better than other NLE’s. It could just be a choice between different editing programs. Premiere cannot usually handle DivX, or its open source cousin, Xvid well, if at all. Most NLE’s can’t either. The majority are based on a DV-AVI Type II w/ PCM/WAV 48KHz 16-bit Audio workflow. That is what they handle best. Let’s call that file format Spearmint, my favorite flavor. It’s created with the MS DV CODEC, and works perfectly in Premiere, or most other NLE’s. We’re lucky, because there are programs available that can turn almost any flavor of AV file into Spearmint, er-r DV-AVI Type II. We just need to use one of those to do the conversion, prior to Importing the file into Premiere.
What about feeding Premiere with say Double-mint, and letting it convert internally to Spearmint? Some times Premiere can work with some CODEC’s for editing. Often times its internal conversion will be perfect. Still, there is a price to pay for this and it’s usually performance when editing. On a very powerful computer, one might not notice the necessary internal processing going on, but if the computer is less than state-of-the-art, editing is likely to be slow, and can also crash, or run out of resources. Doing the conversion outside of Premiere is always going to be better, as long as we convert to that DV-AVI Type II format.
Even if Premiere can Import some of these files with other CODEC’s inside, there are very often problems. Some common ones are OOS (Out Of Sync) issues, no Audio, no Video, horribly pixelated Video, partial display of Video or Video and Audio that halt, or stutter.
When you see a .AVI file, think of the foil wrapper on a stick of gum. We think that there’s gum inside, but we first need to find out the flavor.
Message title was edited by: Brett N