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When video playback in Premiere Pro is choppy or laggy, the root cause is often the source footage itself. Before trying other troubleshooting steps, analyze your original files. Highly compressed or improperly encoded media is prone to playback issues.
Review the technical specifications of your footage. Codecs like H.264 and AVCHD are designed for delivery, not editing. They use temporal compression which saves space but makes scrubbing difficult. Uncompressed or lightly compressed formats like ProRes and DNxHD edit more smoothly.
Check the resolution and frame rate of your clips. Footage with excessive resolution demands more processing power to decode and play. Scaling 4K or 6K video down to your timeline's 1080p could improve performance. High frame rates also impact playback, so consider converting 60fps or 120fps clips to more edit-friendly 24fps or 30fps.
Inspect the file for errors and artifacts. Corrupted media can wreak havoc during editing and cause choppy previews. Try transcoding damaged clips with software like Handbrake before importing into Premiere. Also scan footage for irregularities like duplicate frames or sync issues.
Pay attention to variable frame rate (VFR) media, common with screen recordings and phone videos. VFR can disrupt editing workflows and lead to choppy playback. Use a tool like VFRdetective or EditReady to check for VFR and conform clips to constant frame rates.
Lastly, organize your media before editing. Reliance on sprawling camera files or fragmented folder structures will bog down Premiere. Consolidate footage into a single location before importing. Delete unwanted clips, organize into subfolders, and transcode only necessary media. A tidy, lean folder of optimized media will always perform better.