Home > Main > AVCHD Editing Article in USA Today

AVCHD Editing Article in USA Today

While I was at my parent’s house I was flipping through the USA Today and came across an article of much interest to me as an owner of an AVCHD (or tape-less) video camera.  It compared editing software for both the Mac and the PC.  Here it is!

My general impression is that the article is right on.  Windows has terrible support for AVCHD (despite the fact that Vista is so new… odd how Microsoft is so lousy when it comes to support public standards like AVCHD  yet they’re good at pushing their own proprietary standards (WMV HD anyone?).  Mac support is better (who’s really surprised?).  Like the article says I find the new version of iMovie to be simply too easy – and therefore useless.  At the same time, the solution offered by the author is expensive and somewhat complicated.  I own Final Cut Express and I love it – but I do more than the average home movie editor.  The best Mac solution is to use iMovie ’08 to import your AVCHD content, and then use iMovie 6 (the older version) to do your editing.  iMovie 6 supports both 1080i and 720p editing.  iMovie 6 is the idea level of difficulty – powerful enough to do something, but simple enough for my wife to figure out in about a day (that’s not a slam on my wife – she’s pretty good on the computer.)

The only thing left out of the article on the Mac side was too other pretty good AVCHD tools.  The first is VoltaicHD.  This handy $35 program lets you convert AVCHD files into iMovie and Final Cut ready files at a very high quality.  It’s ideal for those with PowerPC Macs that do not have native AVCHD support.  The other program I’ve found super-handy at handling AVCHD files is Toast 9 Titanium.  Although it’s $100 Toast 9 is a complete CD/DVD/AVCHD/Blu-ray/HD-DVD burning tool kit.  It too can take the stand-alone AVCHD files and convert them into a host of formats (basically anything QuickTime will support plus a host of other formats and devices).   It’s direct conversion into Apple Intermediate Codec Video and Linear PCM Audio does show significant quality loss over conversion through Final Cut Express or VoltaicHD.

Edit: One feature I didn’t realize at the time was that Toast 9 actually has the ability to natively edit AVCHD files without converting them for Final Cut/iMovie.  If you add an avchd file to a Blu-ray project and click edit and then click edit again you can select portions of the file.  You can then burn only those portions either as a disc image or to an actual disc.  This is a big plus if you’re doing TV recordings and want to remove commercials, etc.

Categories: Main
  1. Jeff
    August 23, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Great Article but I havea question. When I use Imovie the AVCHD files are HUGE!

    What is the best way around this and still retain as much as the image quality as possible?


  2. August 23, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    The best solution is to pony up $100 bucks or so and buy an external hard drive. AVCHD is a good delivery format – in other words, good for simply playing back, but it can’t be used for editing. It has to be converted into something less compressed for the editing phase – hence the large file sizes you are discovering. You won’t need much space, because once a project is done you can compress it again for easy archival, but the editing phase will require a lot of disk – no way around it.

  3. josé
    November 17, 2008 at 1:22 am

    I cannot agree on this; for avchd native editing, on windows you have sony vegas movie studio that works quite well. I have a mac, but I boot to windows when I want to edit avchd. I dont want to convert all of my avchd files into a .mov 8 times bigger than the original one. I really hope apple will provide real avchd support in the near future. If sony vegas studio can do it on windows, apple can also

  4. November 17, 2008 at 1:50 am

    That was not my point at all. Sony Vegas Movie Studio is not standard with Vista. You have to purchase something extra or use whatever came with your camera – Vista provides no built-in support. The Mac, via iMovie HD does.

    Native AVCHD editing is in general a bad idea because of its complexity – it requires a relatively fast hardware set-up to do in. On the Mac side I can use Toast Video Player or EyeTV to edit AVCHD files natively (and I do) but for the adding of effects, titles, etc. I will put up with the short term hassle of converting my files into an Intermediate Codec for the ease of editing.

  5. March 19, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Both Winows 7 and Vista now support AVCHD playback fully.

  6. James
    April 11, 2009 at 4:54 am

    I’ve dabbled in this now both on a new Macbook pro and on a three year old Dell Inspiron 6000 windows xp machine.

    Apple’s imovie 09 on the dual core 2.93Ghz machine has by far superior playback compared with my three year old windows dell (single core 2.0gHz), but the contest is obviously an even playing field.

    First, imovie 09/Macbook pro setup has the ability to play (preview) AVCHD (shot in this case on Canon Vixia HF10) natively. You can see the clips in the native format before you decide to import them. But to actually edit them and work with them, as mentioned elsewhere you have to import the clips – as far as I can tell – in their entirety.
    This is just crazy. You might just want a one minute section and you may have to import an hour clip. Crazy because it will decompress the whole thing and it took in my case about an hour for an hour clip to import. By the way, you can import from a location on an external hard drive to which you already copied your SDHC contents (Select Import -> Camera Archive, then choose the AVCHD folder with the contents you want to see. Next click import – don’t worry, it won’t immediately start copying everything, first it detets scenes and you get to select which you want, and that is also how you get to play them natively.

    Windows solutions. I tried the adobe elements demo, pinnacle studio plus 12, and cyberlink powerdirector ultra version 7. On the older 2ghz machine, powerdiretor won hands down, because it could natively play the video footage back, not that well, as there were speed issues and drift between video and audio, but well enough that I could find my cut points – and this feature of natively viewing and choosing cut points appears to be missing in imovie on the mac. Pinnacle studio plus 12 was second place, as it showed stills and played some audio, and premiere elements demo wasn’t very useful. I can’t say how these would do on a quad core machine.

  7. fidozoom
    November 10, 2009 at 1:30 am

    Mac support for AVCHD through imovie sucks. I bought my first Mac because of the promise of iMovie being able to “edit” AVCHD without me having to buy extra software. It does let me work with AVCHD but it sucks. It wants me to import my clips which on my 2.2 GHZ core 2 duo macbook (with a fast 7200rpm drive I added) take 3 times and then encoding it as a MOV takes the whole night and then I have to write it to DVD to send to family (and for that I had to buy Toast). So in all it takes almost half a day to get a DVD full of content done and that too with me having to intervene atleast thrice. That’s not at all the usability that Apple claims!!! And finally Apple seems to be making a ton of assumptions and usage decisions for us. Its not really what does the consumer want but what apple thinks they should want…. they just decided that nobody will be burning DVDs but only uploading to youtube. Their Product Management guys need a lesson in listening to the mass market.

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