The number one complaint from users of Sony Vegas Pro or Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum, is about the playback lag in the Preview Window which makes the video stutter.

In this tutorial I will explain the main reasons why this occurs and also offer some solutions. This article is actually one of four that I have uploaded in an attempt to offer the widest possible solutions to this common problem. The next three tutorials in this series are listed at the bottom of this article.

Technology changes that exacerbated the problem

This problem became a big epidemic when people started to upgrade from using Standard Definition Cameras to AVCHD Video Cameras, but were still using their old computer running a Duo Core CPU. Full 1080p HD Video is up to six times larger in file size compared to Standard Definition video that DVDs use. So that means that your CPU "Central Processing Unit - the brain of your computer", needs to do six times the work to play it back when editing with Vegas. On an older computer, 1080p HD Video will virtually freeze up the whole machine.

The other big problem with HD Video Cameras is the Video Codec they use to save your videos. The vast majority of cameras use AVCHD H.264 video codec which is highly compressed. What that means is that Vegas has to do a lot more work to "decode" the video as it is playing it back in real time - this definitely adds to the lag problem. If you were to convert your AVCHD Video into a non-compressed .avi codec before importing it into Vegas, you would notice a big improvement in playback quality, however this method requires that you have tonnes of Hard Drive space. Uncompressed video is MASSIVE - AVCHD video can go from being a couple of hundred Megabytes to Gigabyte file size - it's a real catch 22 situation.

So the number one thing you can do to improve playback quality in Vegas, is to make sure your computer has at least a modern 4 X Core CPU running at a decent GHz speed. If you're on an old clunker then it is time to buy a new computer if you really are serious about editing HD Video.

All the other components in your computer also have an important influence on how well videos playback in Sony Vegas. A decent GPU "Graphics Processing Unit", fast and clean Hard Drives and plenty or RAM "Memory" also need to be looked at. Increasingly Sony Vegas and other video editing programs, are now utilising the power of your GPU to speed up rendering times and increase the playback quality in the preview window. I have plenty of other articles on this website that talk about how to optimise your computer for video editing, so I won't go any further onto this tangent.


Sony Vegas Preview Window Settings

The easiest way to help reduce lag in the Preview Window is to have a close look at your Sony Vegas settings. The Preview Window has four quality and size setting combinations that have a big influence on the playback quality. Setting everything to the highest settings is a recipe for failure, so try reducing the quality settings until the lag disppears. In the video below I will show you exactly what to do.

GPU Acceleration in Sony Vegas Pro 11

If you are using Sony Vegas Pro 11 then please make sure that you have your GPU selected from the Video Preference Settings. Having this turned ON will definitely improve the playback quality. Once again, I show how to do this in the video below.

Proxy Video Editing

Proxy Video Editing is a process where you create lower quality Standard Definition copies of your original HD videos and edit/create your project in Vegas using these lower quality versions. Then once you have finished all your editing you then replace the SD Versions back with the original HD Video files and render your project with them. Proxy Video Editing should totally eliminate any lag in the Preview Window.

Related Articles

How to Speed Up Rendering Times in Sony Vegas
How to do Proxy Video Editing using Sony Vegas - Zen Method
How to use Media Converter 7 to Create MPEG-2 Proxy Video Files




About Derek Moran
Derek Moran is the author of all articles on Movie Studio Zen.
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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Derek · 13:17 07/01/2017
    Hi Laischa
    If Movie Studio has suddenly started doing something different to what you are used to, I recommend you do a full reset of the program. This will default all settings and clean the temporary files cache. Instructions here:
    You will need to re-configure a few settings after the reset.
    Make sure the GPU is turned on after reset at Options/Preferences/Video/GPU Acceleration.
    Sometimes I have seen updates to the Nvidia Driver cause problems. In this case I manually rolled back to an older build version.
    Your SSD is only quite small, so it may be getting full. If it is full, there want be enough room for temp files to be stored.
    If your videos are being recorded with a different format/codec, that could also explain problem. In that case, you should try creating video proxies. I made a video about this here:
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Laischa Ramirez · 10:33 07/01/2017
    System- MSI GT 72 6QD Dominator G
    Intel Core i7
    NVIDIA GTX 970
    16 GB of RAM
    128 GB SSD
    Windows 10
    My laptop is having strong lag issues when editing on Movie Studio Platinum 13. I have reinstalled it, but it didn't make a difference and I have also put the preview window to the lowest quality. The video that i'm making are 1080p gaming video so I understand that my computer has to work a lot more. However ,I have done over 10 videos already without no issue and it just now started to lag. Was do you recommend as the best solution for this problem.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Derek · 11:16 21/12/2016
    Thanks for the follow up These questions/comments never go to waste, because other users in the future will read this and be helped.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Benjamin · 05:27 21/12/2016
    I record using MSI Afterburner and NCH Debut. Although I have made a terrible error and understand why Vegas is running so terribly. It turns out it was compressed video so I apologize if I have wasted your time. I now realize that it was AVI compressed via MJPG.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Derek · 21:23 20/12/2016
    If Vegas Pro 13 use to work perfectly OK with the same type of video and exact same settings, I would recommend you perform a full program reset. This will delete all the files from the Temporary Files Cache and reset all Settings to the same they were when you first installed the program. It is safe to do and will not delete any of your saved projects. You will have to go back in and change some of the settings like GPU acceleration afterwards.
    Instructions listed here:
    Which program do you use to record your videos with ?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Benjamin · 17:52 20/12/2016
    Intel Core i7-4790k @ 4.00GHz
    NVIDIA GTX 970
    32GB RAM
    512GB M.2 SSD + 1TB WD Black
    DirectX 12
    Windows 10 Pro

    I have Sony Vegas 13 Pro and it has worked fine whenever I have used it. I record 1920x1080 @30FPS uncompressed AVI from my computer. I'm currently running into an extremely annoying problem where whenever I press the play button to begin playback of my loaded media, Vegas takes 10-15 sec before beginning playback. During this 10-15 sec period, Vegas appears to be using about 15% CPU usage but I cannot click on anything in the window. It doesn't help that in some places, the preview window only diplays one fram for about 20 sec of playback. I have made sure to turn on GPU Acceleration and have the preview window set to Preview Auto. I don't understand if this is a bug or I have some setting wrong. This is very annoying because it happens no matter where on my media I press play.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    TRACIE · 07:52 26/03/2014
    Could you pls tell me if you can answer a question i have regarding sony vegas pro10?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • Moderator
      · 12:57 26/03/2014
      How am I meant to answer your question if you do not ask one ?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Nick · 09:55 18/02/2013
    hey my video in windows media center is very high quality but when ever i drag the video over to sony vegas to do some clipping here and there, then the quality drops severley, when i was using my computer moniter it wasnt like that but when i plugged the tower into my bigger tv it does that i dont know if thats the problem but i was wondering if you could help me with that
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • Moderator
      · 03:56 27/02/2013
      Hi Nick

      Sorry for the lengthy delay in replying to your questions.

      I am slightly confused with the way you worded your question, because it sounds like a hamburger with the lot. You're talking about two different things and put it all together in one sentence.

      "my video in windows media center is very high quality"
      Are you talking about on the computer monitor AND TV ?
      Just referring to viewing Media Center on your computer monitor ?

      "when ever i drag the video over to sony vegas to do some clipping here and there, then the quality drops severley"
      Are you just talking about the computer monitor ?
      Are you referring to viewing Sony Vegas ONLY via a TV screen ?

      When you Import a video into Vegas, the Preview Window has many different Playback quality settings. To get maximum quality, it has to be in the Best (Full) setting. The whole idea of the "lower quality" Preview Window settings is to help with smooth playback while you are editing.
      The Preview Window settings have ZERO effect on your finished rendered video.

      The other thing I could not understand from your question, is whether you are ONLY referring to what the video looks like in the Vegas Preview Window ?
      Are you referring to a finished rendered video being played back on a computer monitor and TV screen ?

      In my experience, connecting a TV set directly to your computer can be difficult in getting the picture to look right.
      You really have to look at the settings for your Graphics Card Driver to tweek the output properly. TVs and Computer Monitors do work slightly differently.
      Once again, I am not really sure if this is what you meant.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    chris · 18:54 13/02/2013
    Great article.... one thing bugging the crap out of me is...

    With proxies... whether you use Sony Vegas Pro or Premiere CS 5.5... if you enjoy resizing your clips and doing a lot of picture-in-picture stuff with borders (such as the one-man-band videos on YouTube... by Jack Conte, State Shirt, and many more)... when you switch back to your source files after editing with proxies... all the resizing is useless because of the project settings... proxies are wonderful if you don't plan on doing anything remotely interesting in your video other than cuts and transitions... but what about those of us who want to show like 5 different clips/angles at the same time, playing different instruments and such... there's basically no workaround, other than transcoding your footage to something that basically looks like crap... only to have the computer slow to a halt, anyway.

    My specs: 8GB ram, duo-core desktop running Windows 7 x64, with a 2GB Nvidia Geforce GPU.

    I wish there was a way around this, other than forgoing all of this, in favor of getting a Mac desktop and Final Cut Studio or FCPX.

    Thoughts? I'd love to see you do a video on this, or another article.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • Moderator
      · 19:32 13/02/2013
      Hi Chris

      You may possibly be doing something incorrect with your proxy workflow, if what you said above is happening.
      When I do Proxy Video Editing myself, I can do exactly what you described and it works flawlessly - nothing is lost.
      I have a tutorial which shows my method for Proxy Video Editing, which you may like to watch.

      If you set the Original Project to match your Full 1080p HD video properties, and then dump the low-res proxies into this, Vegas remembers everything at the full 1080p dimensions and settings.

      At the second step when you replace the Proxies with the Original HD Video files, everything remains the same.

      The only way to get a good editing experience, is to invest in a computer with a 4x Core Intel i5 or i7 CPU - this makes a dramatic difference. I use an Intel i7-2600k @ 4.5 GHz - this changed my life. When I was on a Duo Core laptop, I basically could not edit HD video.

      Your Duo-Core CPU is the main thing slowing Vegas down.
      Going to a Mac doesn't change anything. It's all about computing power.
      Please have a look at my Proxy Tutorial - I think this should help you out quite a bit.

      • This commment is unpublished.
        Chris · 02:33 14/02/2013
        I must be doing something wrong, then. What I tried using was Proxy Stream 1.5... swapping the proxies for the source files before final rendering. It screwed up the look bigtime. It's easier to use Proxy Stream 1.5 than your method, but if your method doesn't alter the files at all, then I need to try it again to make sure all steps are intact.

        I have a Canon T3i, and a Vixia HF200 camcorder. I'd like to be able to use proxy files for both... Vixia uses MTS, and T3i uses MOV, of course... but with your method, it seems tricky because of the file extension.

        You also mentioned to encode at 640x480, but shouldn't I be using widescreen-style clips, to match the widescreen aspect ratio of my 1920x1080 source files?

        Again, any and all help is greatly appreciated, thanks!

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Nathan · 08:21 13/02/2013
    I'm using a i3 processor with 2.1 ghz and 4gb of RAM, my problem is that the raw footage is hd quality but when imported to vegas it drops frantically and the rendered video is terrible, I've changed many settings and nothing changes any solutions please
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • Moderator
      · 16:12 13/02/2013
      Hi Nathan

      The Preview Window has quality settings which are designed to "speed up" the playback rate of your video so that it does not lag. These settings have ZERO effect on the finished rendered video. They are strictly temporary settings and don't change the original video.
      If you set it to BEST-Full, there is no reduction in how it looks.
      However, at these settings lagging is sure to occur.

      Which exact version of Vegas are you using ?
      I have "How to Render" tutorials for every version of Vegas and Movie Studio.
      If you use the the correct rendering profile and settings, you will get great looking video.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Scott Woodwiss · 13:22 07/02/2013
    I'm using a Dell laptop with an i5 2.3ghz processor, 4GB of RAM and 500GB memory. I've had it since November 2011, and I get this problem. Surely my laptop's not too old, is it?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • Moderator
      · 17:45 07/02/2013
      Hi Scott

      It is normal that everyone experiences some degree of lag in the Preview Window, depending on the nature of the project.

      1080p HD video requires a huge amount of processing power to play back in live view once you start adding Video Fx. Every time you add an extra layer, the computer has twice the amount of work to do.

      Editing on a PC instead of a laptop is preferable, because the CPUs and GPUs used are normally more powerful. I have an Intel i7-2600k 4.3GHz and this works heaps better than my laptop. If it's a simple project I don't get lag. If it's complex I do. When that happens I simply reduce the Quality Setting for the Preview Window down to Good/Preview Half/Quarter.

      If it's a big problem for you, you could try using the Proxy Video Editing method.
      I have a tutorial for that here:


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