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Have you tried an export, instead of a render?
Yup, I tried exporting media but the same thing happens - i.e. RAM is eaten up at a heck of a rate until it tops out and the the system freezes, that's when I ran out of ideas and posted here.
This only happens with image files, there's no problem with video files (.MOV, m2ts...). By comparison I can use Pinnacle Studio 14 to create timelapse sequences using the same image files with no issues and all other software works as usual, so I'm pretty sure it's not a hardware issue.
Another curiosity - if I manage to Ctrl-Alt-Del to close CS5 it remains in the processes list for quite a few seconds. Also, If I cancel the render and close the project no RAM is 'released', so CS5 sits there with no project loaded but hogging say 6GB RAM (or where ever it reached when I cancelled the render).
Thanks for the quick response Jim.
An update: JPEG format causing is causing the problem
Following some experimentation the issue seems to be with the JPEG file type. BMP, TIFF, GIF all import, preview and render without problems. Tellingly, if I save the sequence if stills as a TIFF but choose JPEG as the compression type Premiere returns the error message "unsupported compression...", but save as TIFF with no compression and no problem.
BMP, TIFF are big files at 4-5MB each - too large?
GIF - unsatisfactory quality.
So, your sequence is composed of about 300 images? What is the length (in time) of your sequence? What effects are you applying?
I've heard that in most cases After Effects is used instead of PPRO for a time lapse with images from a DSLR with intervalometer, for instance. If using AE is an option for you, it may be that AE has a better architecture for this type of thing.
I'm creating movies of about 10 to 12 seconds at 25fps and applying no effects as I'm processing the images in Photoshop first. I did try AE which performed marginally better than PPro but still ultimately crashed.
After some experimentation (see my update above) I've been working with stills in BMP format and everything works smoothly, and that's despite each frame being 4MB as opposed to half a megabyte.
My PPro and AE seems to have fallen out with JPEGs - perhaps just a unique glitch/conflict on the system I'm using? Maybe future updates form Adobe and Microsoft will sort it out