Quicktime: Invalid Public Movie Atom was Found in the Movie

When using quicktime in Windows or OS X, this error is occasionally seen when trying to view video files. Here is the cause and the fix.

The movie could not be opened.
An invalid public movie atom was found in the movie.

When ripping and viewing videos, this is an error message that is difficult to interpret.

Basically this error occurs when a program converts a video for which the correct codec is not installed.

For example, many programs will convert from divx/xvid to Apple friendly formats for iPods or AppleTv. Most of these programs assume that the correct video interpretation software (codec) is installed. If it is not, the program will convert it anyway. The ultimate unusable output will spit this error.

The fix is to install the correct codec on the machine before performing the conversions.


About David Kirk

David Kirk is one of the original founders of tech-recipes and is currently serving as editor-in-chief. Not only has he been crafting tutorials for over ten years, but in his other life he also enjoys taking care of critically ill patients as an ICU physician.
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The Conversation

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  • exasperated

    How do I find out what the correct codec is?

  • Mark MacKay

    I also would like to know the correct codec!

  • dennis

    This does us Mac users running 10.5 Leopard no good at all, since AVS works on Bill Gates machines only. Got a solution for Apple computers?

    • pedroparamo

      You should think about setting up a virtual Windows environment on your Mac, especially if you do a lot of video/multimedia work.  I use a mac primarily but unfortunately the Mac OS lags behind windows in the apps department as far as video conversion and re-encoding software such as AVS, VOBMerge, OGG video converter etc.  A good free virtualization software package is Virtual Box, developed by Sun Microsystems.

  • Meh, I opened it with VLC and it woks fine.

    • film festival maven

      Whats’ VLC?

    • Rene

      Video Lan Player

  • Calvin

    is there a solution to save the files?

  • Mannox

    IF you have the files saved on an external drive (or even if they were at ANY point saved on an external drive), go to your manuf’s website and download the latest firmware upgrade for that external drive. Worked for me and solved ALL my .dmg issues, ALL my public movie atom issues, and all my “Error 4960” issues.

    If the files became “corrupt” at some point (while they were on an external drive) – copying them to another location would only be making copies of broken files. You have to go back to the drive (hopefully they are still there). Keeping the files ON the drive, update the firmware. Everything came back for me, instantly. Whew!


  • SarahKH

    No, the problem is not related to codec’s. I’ve had this error with pretty much every file I’ve transcoded from avi using ffmpeg (command line script). Whilst VLC will play the files quite happily, Quicktime will not… throwing the stated error message.

    The only solution I’ve currently found is to throw the file back in to be transcoded using something like HandBrake so it builds the MP4 structure QT is expecting.

  • Anonymous

    Get a program called handbrake and re-encode. Worked for me.

    Not really anything to do with re-installing codecs.

    This article is really shallow and un-helpful.

  • Anonymous

    VLC doesn’t open the MP4 file for me, i know i need the right codec, but’s hard to find and it would be much appreciated if someone knew if there was some type of software, which can fix or patch the file.

  • Anony Mouse

    Use handbrake to convert it

  • Martinspurgeon

    I also use Handbrake…It has been a great program and I use it for for converting my AVI files to MP4 or M4V. When Using Handbrake for Atom Problem, I just use the Apple TV option and press start. Be prepared becuase this could take a few hours to finish. I usually start it when I go to bed and wake up to a finished movie that will also work on Apple Tv. For MKV files, I use MKVTools. I also use FFMPEGX, DIVXDocgtor, Quicktime, and VLC. My goal is to have all my movies in Itunes so I can work it from my iPhone. So far so good. If one program doesn’t work, another program is sure to fix the problem but have had best luck with HANDBRAKE Because it is the best quality along with ignoring the atom probem. For Xvid files with sound problems, either use DIVX Doctor or FFMPEGX to fix the problem. I Also have PERIAN which makes sure I have all the codecs. My only problem is that sometimes those mp4 files with atoms sometimes screws up the sound. Have been able to fix some of these problems but some MP4 files are just wont translate the sound propery. Would like to find a program to transcode these properly. It is mostly files that have 6 channel audio. I might have the setting wrong in handbrake but am still trying to figure that out. These screwed up files like everyone else works fine with VLC but want all my file in my itunes. Has anyone have had the same issue and come up with any answers. And OH MY GOD, is they come up with any more video or audio formats (codecs)
    , I’m liable to go postal….LOL

    Merry Christmas Everyone,


  • Anonymous

    I had this problem in my Mac. I think it’s a bug in Quicktime, because the same files play without problems in VLC Player. It’s not a codec problem.

  • ZachMac

    Can’t be a codec issue. I have a professional video editing system with every codec known to man-kind. I have been using GoPros for  a couple of years now and just today for the first time I received this error. The only thing that has changed is that I purchased a new SD card. It has to have something to do with that…

  • Pedro

    ZachMac – Did you get to the bottom of this ?

    Ive had EXACTLY the same happen to me today.

    New card in my GoPro and now it wont let me view any of the MP4s its created due to this error.

    HELP ?????