One of the single most frustrating things that I’ve experienced on the technical side of non-linear editing is dealing with Apple’s Compressor. It’s a media encoding application that’s part of Final Cut Studio. It has a relatively simple and easy to use interface but the frustration has come when just up and out of the blue it loses its ability to submit a batch for encoding and gives you one of several error messages. This problem began to show its ugly face in version 2 and continues in version 3. It seems as if the problem lies with Qmaster, Apple’s application for distributed rendering across a network. Qmaster screws everything up and it isn’t easy to get it back.

There seems to be 2 versions of the problem. The first is the Unable to connect to background process error. Apple has at least identified this as a problem as there is a tech support article addressing the issue.

The second error seems to have cropped up with Compressor 3 (Part of the Final Cut Studio 2 upgrade) and/or Mac OSX 10.5. It could be one or the other or maybe both. This error states Unable to submit to queue. Please restart your computer or verify your Compressor installation is correct. You see this little warning box:


There is another Apple support article called Compressor: Troubleshooting Basics that addresses this error.

It’s not unusual to have bugs and glitches in software. The hope is that updates and upgrades will solve a lot of the on-going issues that users are experiencing. But that hasn’t happened with this particular Compressor/Qmaster problem. A Google search of these error messages will bring up discussion threads in forums from all across the Internet. What’s worse is that the discussion threads about these 2 problems have been going on in Apple’s own support forums for years now. I first book-marked this thread back in 2005 as after several reinstalls of Final Cut Studio didn’t fix the Unable to connect to background process error. I found that the terminal command suggested here did allow you to then submit your batch… until you restarted. I used that “work around” up until the Unable to submit to queue. Please restart your computer or verify your Compressor installation is correct started popping up with version 3 of Compressor. This fix is what has worked for me so far with only a minimum of headache, though I can tell you that anything related to this problem is a headache since it has gone on for so long.

So the big question I have is why has Apple not fixed this after all of these years? If your own support forums are full of the same problem and there is post after post after post about it do you not care enough about your customers to fix a real issue that totally breaks your application rather than doing something like updating an interface? Some comments I have seen are that Apple engineers don’t read the forums. If they don’t then they are missing one of the biggest opportunities to (at the very least) anonymously listen to problems that customer have. This post might mean that that is not entirely true but that isn’t the discussion forum that will get Compressor fixed! And if Qmaster is the culprit then why not allow an install of Final Cut Studio that completely leaves Qmaster off a system. I would guess that most Compressor users don’t use Qmaster and distributed rendering anyway. It seems like such a simple solution.

Whatever the reason the application breaks and whatever the real fix entails is something we might not ever know. More than anything I implore Apple’s Final Cut Studio engineers to address this problem. Look at all the people that this has been happening to for several years now and think about all the lost productivity time as we have been chasing down Qmaster files buried in our system and feeding discs into our Macs and waiting as the install progress bar slows ticks by only to be confronted by exactly the same thing again. Think about it. It is a lot of time.

If you have had this problem then here are a couple of helpful links that might show you some success:

Apple’s Compressor and Qmaster – Fixing the ‘Unable to connect to background process’ error dialog problem

Compressor hatred. Resolved?

If you want to move on to a different compression application then here’s a few links to those as well:

Episode Pro. Squeeze. BitVice. MPEG Streamclip. VisualHub.

That might be the best thing as I bet these companies actually listen to their users and care about the problems their customers have. These are smaller companies and small software companies usually mean better support and quicker fixes to problems as they have to do this to survive. But to ignore a problem with a piece of software that has been on-going for several years is just inexcusable. If Compressor withers and dies on the vine then it couldn’t have happened to a better application.