Why is my video and audio going out of sync?

Audio and video falling out of sync is a common issue that can significantly impact the viewing experience. It occurs when the audio track and video track drift apart over time and become noticeably unsynchronized. This is often characterized by the audio playing slightly ahead of or behind the video.

There are several potential causes of sync issues, including problems with the playback device, network connection, file corruption, transcoding/compression, and more. Even small sync issues are very noticeable and distracting for viewers. Severe sync problems can make content unusable and ruin the intended timing of audio and visuals.

Fixing sync problems usually requires troubleshooting the root causes and trying different solutions. While workarounds like resyncing or converting files may help temporarily, the best solution is preventing sync issues in the first place by understanding what causes them and how to avoid those factors.

How Audio and Video Sync Works

Audio and video are synced together during encoding and playback by relying on timestamps and matching framerates. When video and audio are encoded together, the encoder matches the audio track to the video’s framerate by generating audio samples at fixed intervals that align with each video frame. This ensures the timing of the audio matches the timing of the video.

The encoder also adds timecodes or timestamps to each audio and video frame to synchronize them. During playback, the media player uses these timestamps to present the audio and video at the right time so they line up.

So in properly encoded media, the audio track contains the same number of samples per second as the video framerate. This, combined with matched timestamps, keeps things in sync. Problems arise when this timed matching breaks down due to errors in encoding, playback devices, or network issues.

Sources: How to Sync Audio and Video Across Devices, Audio-to-video synchronization

Common Causes of Sync Issues

There are several common causes of audio and video going out of sync on playback devices like TVs, smartphones, computers, etc.

One of the most frequent causes is encoding errors during the file creation process that lead to mismatches between the audio and video streams. If the encoding settings are misconfigured or the encoder malfunctions, it can improperly synchronize the two streams in the output file. This results in gradually increasing lag or lead between the audio and video over the duration of playback.

Another common culprit is frame rate mismatches between the audio and video codecs or between source files and output files. Most videos play at frame rates like 24, 25, 30, 60 fps. If the audio track does not match the frame rate of the video track, this will throw off their synchronization over time.

Issues with the connection between playback devices can also disrupt timing and lead to sync drift. Problems like bandwidth limitations, latency, cables not fully inserted, or compatibility issues between media players and displays can delay certain components and put audio and video out of alignment.

Playback Device Factors

The hardware capabilities of your playback device like a computer, phone, or TV can impact sync between audio and video. Most devices have limitations when it comes to processing high-resolution video and audio streams. If the device struggles to decode and synchronize the streams, it can cause gradual sync drift over time.

Software decoding processes on devices can also introduce latency and cause sync issues. When the device decodes audio and video streams separately, even small discrepancies in how long each takes to process can throw off sync. Improperly optimized software decoding pipelines may be unable to keep perfect pace between audio and video.

Upgrading to devices with more powerful hardware like graphics cards and processors can help. Checking for driver and firmware updates for your playback device can also improve media processing and sync capabilities. However, even high-end consumer devices have limitations. Professional media playback setups are purpose-built for frame-accurate audio/video sync.

As cited on Microsoft Answers, changing playback devices and checking their connections can help troubleshoot hardware/software issues causing sync drift.

Network Connection Factors

Your network connection can play a significant role in causing audio and video sync issues. Three key network factors that impact sync are:

Bandwidth Limitations

If your network bandwidth is constrained or you have a slow internet connection, the video stream may buffer as faster than the audio stream. This leads to delays in the audio reaching your device, causing the audio and video to fall out of sync (source).

Latency and Buffering

Higher latency networks and excessive buffering of the video stream can also impact sync. The audio may play immediately, while the video playback is delayed due to latency and buffering issues.

Packet Loss

When streaming media over a network, data is transmitted in small chunks called packets. If some packets are dropped or lost in transmission, it could impact one stream and throw off the synchronization between audio and video.

File Corruption or Format Issues

One common cause of audio and video going out of sync is file corruption or incompatible formats. When video files become corrupted or damaged, the audio and video streams can get out of alignment. Some common issues include:

  • Damaged files from incomplete downloads or interrupted processing. If a video file does not fully download or fails to encode properly, this can cause desynchronization issues (https://www.nucleustechnologies.com/blog/fix-audio-video-sync-problems-in-video-files/). Trying to play damaged files often results in sync problems as the audio and video tracks no longer line up.
  • Unsupported formats that your playback device cannot properly decode. If you try playing a video format that your player or hardware does not fully support, it may not sync the audio and video correctly.
  • Limitations of the container format. Some file containers like AVI have limits on audio/video sync precision. Converting to a more advanced format like MP4 can help resolve format-related sync issues.

Checking for file corruption or incompatible formats is one of the first steps in troubleshooting audio and video sync problems. Either repairing damaged video files or converting them to better supported formats can often resolve out-of-sync issues.

Transcoding and Compression

One of the most common causes of audio and video going out of sync is issues with transcoding (converting between media formats) and compression. Lossy compression methods like those used in H.264 or MPEG4 video can cause sync issues in a couple ways:

First, the variable bitrate encoding can lead to uneven frame sizes, causing drifts or jumps in the sync. As the Ars Technica forum post points out, “if the video frame rate is actually fluctuating instead of being rock solid, that can definitely cause sync issues.”

Second, the lossy nature of the video compression can introduce errors that throw off the timing and correlation between audio and video streams. As one Creative Cow forum user experienced, compressing an edited sequence to MPEG4 introduced noticeable sync drift.

So issues can arise both during transcoding, as compression artifacts alter the streams, or during playback, as variable bitrates cause frame pacing problems. Using less lossy codecs, constant bitrates, or editing in uncompressed formats can help avoid introducing these sync issues from the start.

How to Fix Sync Issues

There are some steps you can take to try fixing audio and video sync problems:

Adjust Encoding Settings

If you created the video file yourself, adjust the encoding settings. Reducing the video bitrate and using optimal encoding presets for your playback device can help prevent sync drift. Refer to encoding software documentation if unsure of best practices.

Use Optimal File Formats

Some file formats like H.264 video work better for maintaining AV sync across different devices. Converting files to an optimized, standardized format for your situation can help. But take care not to degrade quality through too much re-encoding.

Improve Network Connectivity

For streaming content, factors like bandwidth, latency, interference and connectivity can impact sync. Try ethernet instead of WiFi, position devices closer to the router, or upgrade your internet plan if needed. Consistent high-speed connectivity prevents delay.


While most focus on fixing the root cause of audio/video sync issues, there are some workarounds that can provide temporary relief:

Adjust Playback Timing

The most common workaround is to simply adjust the timing of the audio or video during playback. Many video players will have an “audio delay” or “sync adjustment” option that allows you to nudge the audio earlier or later to match the video. For example, the free and open-source software VLC player makes it easy to adjust timing.

Use Audio Delay Software

Specialized audio delay software like AudioDelay allows you to independently adjust audio timing before playback. This can be helpful for resolving sync issues originating from the files themselves.

Convert to Optimal Format

Sometimes sync issues are due to suboptimal encoding or compression. Converting the file to a better format can avoid these problems. For example, the open Matroska (.mkv) container tends to have less AV sync issues than MP4 or AVI.

Preventing Sync Issues

There are a few best practices that can help prevent audio and video getting out of sync to begin with:

Follow encoding best practices. Looking closely into a file’s technical specifications and encoding settings can reduce the chance of sync problems occurring down the line. Choosing optimized codec and container formats compatible with your playback devices is key.

Check compatibility. Before playing a file, double check that the codec, resolution, frame rate, and other settings are fully supported by your device. Conceptually similar but technically different formats can sometimes cause timing issues.

Monitor connection quality. An unstable or low-bandwidth network connection when streaming files can lead to gradual desynchronization or intermittent stuttering. When possible, use a wired high-speed connection for the most consistent performance.

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