How to Solve the “Poster Frame” Problem

I received an email question about poster frames the other day, so I thought I’d make a video that shows how to solve a problem you might encounter with them.

The problem is basically this: When you have a video file on your computer, the operating system automatically chooses a poster frame to represent the video file.

The poster frame is a single frame from the video. Sometimes the frame the operating system chooses is great. Other times, it’s not ideal.

And the challenge is that not all apps allow you to choose your own custom poster frame when you export a video. For example, Final Cut Pro X doesn’t let you choose the poster frame when you export a project.

That said, there are ways of dealing with this. In the video, you’ll see me use a couple different options for setting a custom poster frame. One of the options feels like a hack, but it can get the job done.

If you’re someone who stores video files on your Mac, and you like to see a good visual representation of those videos, this quick tip should be useful.

47 thoughts on “How to Solve the “Poster Frame” Problem

  1. Another excellent video, would you be open to sharing your compressor settings for your MP4 1080, 720 and 360 encodes?

  2. Great video! I solved the poster frame problem for my purposes by adding a single frame at the very beginning of my project, in fcpx before exporting the video. It worked for me (e.g. iOS video posters), but I dont know, if this is always shown up in other applications like e.g. finder.

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you liked it!

      My experience is that the MacOS will automatically select a poster frame exactly 10 seconds into the video file. If the video is less than 10 seconds long, it selects a frame halfway through (from what I can tell).

  3. Hey Iz…

    Great stuff! But here is a real world issue…any ideas on how to set a poster frame that will hold up on Facebook (for example). We post a lot of vids for our clients on FB and always have to pull a still of what would be the poster frame to post separately as a custom thumbnail. Any idea how to export & post a video on FB with a poster frame set that FB will recognize?

      1. If all else fails, you could post your movie to Vimeo, which has a ‘choose poster frame’ facility, then use that as your Facebook reference either by downloading it or by referencing it.

  4. Great tips, thanks. However, you can set a thumbnail in FCPX. Place the playhead on the selected frame you want, then export. The frame the playhead is currently on will be the thumbnail.

    1. Hey Bruce, thanks for the note. Strange, when I tested that myself the other day, it didn’t work for me. I was exporting a Prores file. I’ll try testing other formats to see if that works.

    2. Okay, I just tested it again exporting both with Prores and the Apple Devices preset, and it didn’t work. When I look at the files in Finder using the Icon View, the poster frames are the standard, automatic frames generated at the 10 second mark. When you look at the file in the Finder, the poster frame is the one you had the playhead on when you exported? That’s not working on my system. Maybe someone else reading this can test this too?

    3. Same thing for me. No change. I just tried with ProRes export myself. The position of the playhead determines the image in the export window, but does not seem to make any difference in the .MOV file that shows up.

  5. Nice tips Izzy.
    Quicktime 7 has an option under the view menu to “Set Poster Frame”.
    Looks like finder ignores it if you simply “save” or “save as”. However the new poster frame displays properly in Finder if I used QT7 to “Export” to a Quicktime movie. The play button also works if you roll the mouse over this exported file in Finder.

  6. I go with Bruce. There’s a direct connection between were you left the playhead in the timeline when you choose the share destination window and what will show up in that window and later as a poster frame
    The great thing with your tip, Izzy, is that it solves how, if you must, to change it afterwards. Thanks.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Used the second “hack” in the video and it worked like a charm. After an hour of banging my head on the screen…. problem solved.

  8. Izzy great video thanks for the advice!!
    I’m doing a series of video for a website, would you advice me to deliver the master file (compressed) or I could simply export the mp4 in the apple device format?
    Why should I choose the master file? Thanks mate! Loving your work

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Frank. :)

      I wrote an article about master files that you might find helpful.

      In a nutshell, I export a Master in the highest resolution, highest quality possible (Prores422 is what I use).

      Then I transcode an H.264 MP4 (or M4V) file for the web. The Apple Devices preset would work for this too.

      I hope that helps.

  9. Thanks for putting up this video. I’ve been trying to figure that out for a long time. I tried using Quicktime pro, but setting the poster frame there doesn’t seem to stick.

      1. another way I found, because I dont have compressor and the other option you showed use to work but not makes the video file big and square for whatever reason and not the normal size. This option happens when it sends the video to itunes in your home videos folder. You just click on the video get info and then add artwork. When you go to finder and find the video it will have the image you added as artwork.

  10. Thanks so much Izzy! I’ve been looking for this for a long time. Your video is clear and concise. Thank you!

  11. I’d like to do this across devices and operating systems: my Android mobile chooses one frame from a video and Windows desktops choose another; I don’t use any Apple products, which this tutorial may only be about doing. Is there some way of doing this, maybe even some way of using an image that’s not from the video?? Even if it’s two separate ways, I can deal with that.

    If it’s in the posted video, that’s not working for me — the first image in the post is linked, and I click it, but the page just refreshes.


  12. Hi Izzy,

    I’ve been searching around for a while now for a way to add custom poster frames to mp4 files I create in iMovie and watch via VLC on Apple TV 4 (tvOS).

    Your method using Compressor looks good but, as I don’t have it and it would be the only reason I would buy it, I’m wondering if there is any other freeware that you’re aware of that would do the same thing (and which preferably didn’t go through the rendering process all over)? And of course, which would work with MacOS and tvOS.


    1. Unfortunately I don’t know the answer to that without doing research and testing. I’m not even sure that the Compressor method would work for your specific needs. Sorry!

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