Using Video

  • Live Versions: 8.4.1 - 10, Standard and Suite only
  • Operating System: Mac, Windows

Live is the perfect choice for scoring to video. Read on for our tips and recommendations for using video with Live.

Understanding video files

A digital video file (e.g. .mov, .mp4 or .avi) is a container that encapsulates one or more video and audio streams. Each of these streams again is encoded using an industry standard codec (e.g. mp3 or aac for audio, H.264/AVC or MPEG-2 for video).

Recommendations for optimal playback of video in Live

For best performance in Live we recommend using videos with a keyframe every frame, or at least every two frames. Lower keyframe amounts will result in higher CPU demand, possibly resulting in stuttered or glitchy playback. 

  • For videos up to 1080p we recommend using Photo-JPEG
  • For high resolution videos, use H264
  • As container file format, the best choice is .mov or .mp4

Note: Encoding in these optimal formats will require more disk space, but this trade-off is necessary for smooth editing. Once finished scoring to video, you could encode the final video export with a different compression setting and keyframe amount, if you would rather have a smaller video file size.

Recommended codecs for Windows (Live 64-bit)

The 64-bit version of Live can use any DirectShow compatible demuxers and decoders that are available on the computer, but on a fresh Windows system, only a limited number of video codecs is installed by default. That's why you might need to install additional codecs. Both a suitable demuxer for reading the container file and a matching decoder for each audio and video stream must be installed.

Live has been tested with the following two solutions:

1. CCCP provides a wide ranging collection of free codecs here:

2. Matroska Splitter and FFDShow (both components need to be installed):

Important: Windows defaults to the first installed codec pack. Therefore if you are trying out both of the solutions above, you need to uninstall one in order to be able to use the other.

Recommended video conversion tool

We recommend using MPEG Streamclip if converting videos for better playback in Live.

Recommendations for encoding video when exporting

When encoding uncompressed video, use as many keyframes as possible (optimally encoding with Keyframes exclusively), which will noticeably enhance responsiveness and lower CPU usage. If you wish to have a smaller video file size, you can reduce the keyframe amount.

In Live, you'll find the "Encoder Settings" in the "Export Audio/Video" dialog accessible after enabling "Create Video". The options available depend on which encoding method you select (which varies depending on your operating system).

Using Mac exclusive formats on Windows

Although some Windows codec packs may claim to support them, certain Mac-only proprietary formats such as M4A or ALAC may not work on Windows. In these instances we recommend converting the file format first using MPEG Streamclip.

How to make a video window fullscreen

Double click the video window. This will toggle fullscreen view on and off (when double clicking again). If the video window needs to be fullscreen on a second monitor, drag the window there before double-clicking it.

Troubleshooting issues with video

Video playback is glitchy or sluggish in Live

If using a highly compressed video with a low keyframe amount, the CPU demand is much higher and this may result in glitchy or sluggish playback in Live. Re-encode the video at a higher keyframe amount (every frame or every two frames at least).

Video cannot be imported (Windows)

First install one of the recommended codec solutions above. If the issue persists, make sure that you are running Live as Administrator. Running Live as Administrator will make sure that any Media File import access rights are correctly designated. Follow this guide to run Live as Administrator. 

The "Create Video" button in the export dialog box is grayed-out and cannot be activated.

Be sure to first enable the "Encode PCM" button in the export dialog box; video export requires a WAV, AIFF or FLAC file. This also means that it is not possible to export a video using only mp3 audio.

Live crashes while importing video (Windows)

Make sure one of our recommended codec solutions is installed, if necessary try both but uninstall each one before trying the other. If the crashes persist, convert the video format to one of our recommended formats for optimal playback (above).

Video works only in the 32-bit version of Live (Windows 7)

Quicktime is usually used to decode videos on the 32-bit version of Live on Windows 7. Quicktime is only available in 32-bit on Windows 7 (and not at all on any later versions of Windows). Install one of the recommended codecs above to work with video in the 64-bit version of Live. More info in our article about the use of Quicktime and Live.

Video Screen remains black (Windows)

If the video screen remains black after importing a video but the audio plays normally, this could be happening for one of the following reasons.

1. Using Two Monitors

It may occur in certain cases that video issues are caused by the use of two computer screens. For example, the video window stays black if it is positioned on the secondary monitor, but plays correctly from the primary screen. In case the monitors are used for Arrangement and Session View, it would be an easy workaround to use TAB in order to swap Arrangement / Session view and use the primary monitor to preview the video.

2. Switch from dedicated to integrated graphics

Please make sure that your graphic drivers are updated. If the problem persists, it might be worth trying to switch from the dedicated graphics card (e.g. NVIDIA) to the integrated card. This can be done via the NVIDIA control panel:


If this doesn't help, right-click on the Ableton icon and select the integrated card.

3. iPhoto Slideshow Movies

Imported iPhoto slideshow movies play sound, but only show a black screen instead of video. To resolve this, slideshows have to be exported from iPhoto using the “Slideshow” tab instead of the “Quicktime” tab in the export window.

Further Reading