iPhoto won’t play older iPhone movies

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IPhoto videos wont play

I spent the better part of a Saturday trying to figure out why iPhoto 11 won’t play old videos. I know I recorded them on an iPhone. Yet, whenever I try to play a video, I get a the gray exclamation point triangle sign.

I pulled up the information inspector (Cmd-I), and I see that these older videos are in RAW format (compared to H.264 for more recent videos).

Installing Quicktime Player 7 — Strike 1!

After scrounging around on some forums, I see that the problem may be that Apple didn’t ship with the necessary codecs to play videos recorded, oh… IN THE LAST YEAR!

Apple: It Just Works — Until It Doesn’t… Because We Took a Part Out

Anyhow, download Quicktime Player 7 for the current version of OSX (currently Lion).

Quicktime player 7

Install it, and then relaunch iPhoto. I also hear using VLC also works for playing back these “old” videos.

Did that work for me? No, it did not. The videos still would not play, dagnabit! But, what the hey! It was worth a shot. Maybe it will work for you.

Cmd + Alt rebuild of iPhoto — Strike 2!

I was able to find the videos on the disk though and they were able to play there. So, it looks like iPhoto just needed to be rebuilt. I had already done the trick of restarting iPhoto while holding down the Cmd and Alt keys. This brings up the following window:

Cmd alt iphoto

You would think that running all of these would rebuild iPhoto. But, no. Even that did not work!

iPhoto Library Manager — Strike 3!

Finally, I tried iPhoto Library Manager from FatCat Software.

Iphoto libray manager icon

iPhoto Library Manager (ILM) has some nice features, including iPhoto library first aid.

Iphoto library manager features

Oh, yeah, that’s the stuff!!! I started iPhoto Library Manager, selected my current iPhoto Library and selected the Rebuild Library option (File > Rebuild Library or Cmd-R). Then it was time to go get a cup of coffee… from the nearest contiguous state. Depending on the size of your library, this process can take quite some time. Like… on the order of 10 hours.

And I got a very clean library with all of the those videos that wouldn’t play…. gone! Well, that’s one solution but not what I was really looking for.

Was I ever able to get my videos back?

Yes! Finally, I just went into finder and searched for “.mov” files. Then all the ones listed as being in my old “iPhoto library > Master” I moved to a new folder and then dragged them into iPhoto again.  After being re-imported the files are again playable. I am not sure what to say about this. The files were in the old iPhoto package, but three separate techniques for rebuilding the iPhoto database failed to find and do whatever mojo was needed to get them viewable and playable under iPhoto. This is not exactly a ringing endorsement for iPhoto.

Can anyone recommend another Mac app for videos? Would I be likely to have fewer problems with Aperture?


  • HektikLyfe

    Just FYI, I experienced this same problem. iPhoto ’11 but I’m still on Snow Leopard.

    I used Library Manager and it created another library then crashed. Then it locked me out of BOTH! If I wanted to combine them…I had to purchase the software. Curious.

    Still working on this. Its things like this that really make me miss the “caveman” Windows operating system. I have multiple thousands of videos since my entire family shares the same Library! Manually importing them again is going to prove quite the challenge.

    • Thomas Moller Jakobsen

      hi hektiklyfe, i just found this old thread. but i have same problem. had the problem under iphoto, and is persisted under the new photo app. i know i can find every single file under manually inside the library file but like you have have thousands of pictures and videos.

      how did you solve your problem?

      • HektikLyfe

        Thomas I’m sad to say I never did. One day the Mac mini just refused to boot and that was that. It was hard drive corruption at the core of the problem. I tried to recover but apparently the hard drive had surface damage. So I lost everything! It was a very horrible time. I had photos of my baby that I will now never see again. Back up your data now and do a surface check of your hard drive unless you want to suffer the same fate.

      • HektikLyfe

        Never did. Hard drive went kaput and I lost it all. :(