[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”3″]H[/su_dropcap]ave you ever been in a relationship where you love everything about the other person…except one detail?

It’s not enough to stop the relation of course…but every time this thing (let’s say she doesn’t like Deerhoof) comes up, it makes you question everything.

Well, I love everything about Ableton Live 9…except the way it deals with video.

Live was for live performance only, then it was for electronic musicians only…but it has now evolved into a multi-function machine (like all the other DAW, arguably).
Still, Ableton Live 9 and video are not a winning team which apparently helps Reaper becoming the industry standard for game audio.

I considered being unfaithful to my beloved Live 9 and go with the slanderous Reaper…but then decided to rather invest in the relationship. The support who just blew my mind with their professionalism. I had such a nice combination of problems that I now have a full roadmap to help You with:

  • why Ableton Live 9 can’t import video files (the forbidden symbol and the “File could not be read…” error message)
  • what to do when the video remains black (and a cool workaround if nothing else work)
  • how to deal with sluggish videos

So ditch the mistress and let’s reconciliate Ableton Live 9 with video!

This post is pretty technical compared to what I usually write. If you’re not an Ableton live 64bits pc user who’s struggling with videos, you might prefer stories about promiscuous Neighbor (and Rocky) or What I did after discovering the CEO of Patreon is my twin brother.
If you ARE an Ableton Live 64bits pc user, however, let’s get into it!

Problems causes, alternate solutions and why I didn’t pick them

If you just want the solutions and, like this lady, think that you can skip directly to the walkthrough.

Ableton Live 9 and video: Why is it so hard?

This is explained in details in this Ableton article but, in short, on pc, the 64 bits version of Ableton is unflexible with the kind of video it supports. Also, there are windows permission problems. And double screen issues.

So much fun.

Alternate solutions

You can solve this issue by changing some of its parameters (Reaper vs Ableton Live, Live 10 vs Live 9, Mac vs PC…), here’s why I didn’t do it.

Why stay with Ableton Live 9 when Reaper does it better?

Because Peacefulness also means having a working system you can rely on.
I’m partisan of putting the hard work upfront to facilitate creativity later. In this case, even though it’s not Abe’s strong side, I believe it’s worth the time to have it work with video. Using a program I know extremely well enables greater efficiency and inspiration.

I prefer that rather than knowing a little bit of every program for each different use (mix, score, djing, podcast etc.).

Peacefulness also means having a working system you can rely on. Click To Tweet

If you’re interested in the concept of ‘Creating System for increased peace-of-mind’, you might enjoy this article on how to use depression as an ally to creativity.

If you want more, you can subscribe to the newsletter and receive a FREE ebook on THE technique that helped me

  • score AAA game,
  • tour Europe with a no-name and
  • get hired by the best company in the country.

[optin-cat id=6826]

Anyway, next parameter:

Why use the 64 bits version of Live, instead of the 32?

Using the 32 bits version avoids Ableton live 9 video codec problems (I forgot why; it’s QuickTime’s fault).

The 64 bits, however, allows the program to use fully the RAM on your machine. This is extremely handy when manipulating big sound banks (e.g. East West Hollywood strings).and want to give as much power as you can to Abe.

Also, once you make the switch (as I did a few years ago), it’s kind of a pain to switch back because of VST plugins. Those have typically different .dll files for the 32 and 64 versions, meaning you have to configure Live to look for it in a different place. In addition, some plugins don’t have a 64 version so you need to patch it using a bridge application.

All fun and games. I’m glad I did it once and it’s working, and I’m not going back.

It’s a NO, Jack.

Why use Ableton Live 9? Live 10 is out!

First, I’m not sure the problem is solved in abe 10 (lemme know in the comment if you know).

Secondly, I like the idea of having a stable program with no update but still some support.

Finally, I’m not excited about live 10 new features (except the ‘put groups into group’one, yummy)  and don’t want to pay a $250 upgrade.

Don’t get me wrong, I Love Ableton Live and I definitively recommend buying it if you don’t have a DAW yet.
For me, I’m still happy with the 9th version and lack trigger to upgrade.

Ok, I know some of you have been thinking about it the whole time, so let’s adress the elephant in the room:

Why don’t you just switch to MAC?

I feel you.
In theory, this should solve all these codecs problems, I agree.

I don’t go Mac because I’m pot-committed: I’ve spent so much time patching, repairing and customizing my pc setup than going Mac would feel like surrendering to me.

Also, idk if you knew but Mac is 30-50% more expensive than pc in Europe and, yes, money is still an important factor in my decision making 🙂

Finally, hype aside, I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of mac-related problem nobody is talking about because Mac’s so good at marketing. And yes, I know a guy who’s mac once froze.

For now, I’m sticking with PC.

Ok, so if like me, you want to

  • stay faithful to Ableton Live
  • embrace the future and stay 64bits
  • embrace the past (and be greedy) and not upgrade to Ableton Live 10
  • stay on pc

…and have Ableton Live 9 and video work perfectly, I got you, fam.

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for.

Ableton Live 9 and video: how to make it work

My issue was a combination of issues. I can’t share Support response but I can share my original question.

robert hue

Apr 14, 13:54 PDT


I can’t see videos in live

I followed instructions on


Live has been tested with the following two solutions:

CCCP provides a wide ranging collection of free codecs here:
Combined Community Codec Pack

Matroska Splitter and FFDShow (both components need to be installed):
Demuxer: Haali Media Splitter (also known as MatroskaSplitter, download directly)

Codec: ffdshow 1.3.4531 (H.264, DV)

I tried to uninstall/reinstall several times haali+ffdshow or cccp

I ran Live as admin

doesn’t work: atm I can’t even import

please help

I’ll present the issues in the order they appeared to me, ineffective solutions followed by the solution that made it for me.

Also, I’ll use the present for more action.

1. The forbidden symbol

When I try to import a video in Live, this symbol appears:

forbidden symbol Ableton Live 9

ineffective solutions  (for me, might work for You)

This is due to Windows permission so I run Live as an Administrator. It doesn’t help (even after restart)

I try to change the permission level of the folder I want to import into Live.
Go to Properties > Security > Your Username > Advanced > Effective Permissions > Select “Full Control”.
No change.


On the support’s recommendation, I create a folder which I added under ‘Places’. Then I add the video files in the created folder and hooray I the forbidden symbol disappears.

2. “File could not be read. It may be corrupted or not licensed.”

The symbol disappeared. Now I have the following error message when I drag a file from the folder in Places to the arrangement view of Ableton Live 9.

“File could not be read. It may be corrupted or not licensed.”


I know it’s related to Codecs (that’s one of the first solutions I had tried) so I uninstall all of them (again).
Instead, I install Combined Community Codec Pack.

It doesn’t work. I hear the Mac people

I install Haali Media Splitter  (the one you’re supposed to install with FFDShow ).
And it works: I can import video into Live 9 without forbidden symbol nor error message.

3. The video window remains black.

The video file is in Live 9 but when I press play, it remains black.

ineffective solutions  (for me, might work for You)

Abe’s support tells me to update my graphics drivers. No result.
They tell me to switch from the dedicated graphics card to the integrated one. No result.


Rereading their mail, I notice the problem might be caused by my setup: a laptop connected to a big screen through a USB3 docking station.

And here comes my secret sauce: the double screen. Because I can’t have the video working on my big screen, I just move it to the small native one. It’s awesome: I have the full space of the big screen to work AND I constantly see the video on the small screen.
Turning problems into opportunities 😀

So, everything’s perfect now, right?

4. Video playback is sluggish or lagging.

This is a problem I have for so long that I just gave up on solving it: everything works but the video isn’t smooth. If I click through it, it doesn’t update immediately. I have to go a few seconds back before pressing play and even then, the frame rate isn’t good.

It makes scoring a pain because you need a perfect sync between image and sound. Retrospectively I think that’s the problem that made me consider an affair with Reaper.


Ableton Support is amazing once again.
The problem comes from the way the video is encoded. They suggest using MPEG Streamclip in order to modify the file to H.264 codec/.mov and a keyframe amount of at least every two frames.

I do it, import the converted video and finally, the system is complete and everything is in its right place

The only thing I can’t do is have the video window on the big screen.
It’s actually an improvement to have it on the small laptop display constantly so I give up and call that a victory.

If you’re really bothered by this last piece

Check that the drivers are up to date, switch back to the integrated video card, check the Nvidia control panel.

If it still doesn’t work, contact Ableton support: they’re truly amazing.

Conclusion: Couple Therapy

Just like in a relationship, the more you invest the more you get. I’m definitely happy I invested some time into Ableton instead of answering the calls of the Reaper sirens. I’m also glad I reconciliated Ableton Live 9 and video.

So 2 couple were saved during this mission: successful Couple Therapy.

What about you guys?

Do you cheat on Ableton?

What about Abe 10 on pc, does it solve the problem?

Any Reaper fans who want to give their opinion?

3 thoughts on “Don’t cheat on Live with Reaper: Ableton Live 9 and video, how to make it work

  1. hey man, thank you I actually went the same way as you. But I can’t think of a solution to make keyframes like you did.
    I have a 10 min clip and inserting keyframes in premiere pro would take like two hours, is there a simple way? The video doesn’t work. I installed Reaper, but for all the reasons you told above, I want to stay in Ableton.

    So how did you put in the keyframes>

    1. Hi Henlo,
      thanks for your question. The honest answer is: I don’t know, I wrote this article years ago and my life changed a lot since then.
      I don’t currently make music for media. I wish I could be of more help.
      Out of curiosity, which kind of media do you produce for ? Feel free to post your portfolio in the comment 🙂

  2. Hi, does anyone have the issue with 64bit Win 10, Ableton 11 where the video comes in upside down? I’ve had pretty good success with the codec Matroska Splitter (it’s clear with no glitches or lag) but it’s upside down!

    So frustrating to get so close…

    Please any advice would be welcome



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