View Full Version : Backing Up AVCHD Files

Sep 18, 2009, 06:17 PM
Hello, I have been searching the interweb for some ideas on how to back up the AVCHD files from my Canon HG 10. So far, no luck.

Here are some specifics:

Camcorder: Canon HG10
Computer: Macbook Pro 15" dual core 2.4GHz 4 gig Ram
Software: OS X 10.6, iMovie 08.
Backup HD: 1 TB WD MyBook (HD on the laptop is small, and almost full)

I need some advice from some AV-savvy folk out there: What is the best method of backing up these files? Should I focus on maintaining integrity of the original AVCHD/.mts file, or should I import everything into iMovie and let it reformat the data into a mac-friendly format (if I do this, will I lose data quality)? Is there a way to do both? What are the pros and cons? What is the best way to ensure that this data will be stored safely for years to come?

-a semi tech-savvy father whose wife will kill him if he loses the camera footage

Sep 18, 2009, 07:36 PM
I have the HG21. If you're concerned about size you'll have to transcode them into another format. Keep in mind that while you may be using iMovie now you may graduate to something more robust in the future like Apple Final Cut or Adobe Premiere.

Both of those have the ability to read the raw AVCHD files and pull segments out of them without having to fully import the entire file. This is important because of the size of the AVCHD files to begin with. Dumping a couple of gigabytes fully into FCP or Premiere when you only needed a minute of video can be burdensome on the editing process and the storage needed for the project.

Premiere and FCP will read out of a saved AVCHD directory natively. It treats it like the drive in the camera. As long as the directory and file structure is intact it will allow you to access the files as described above.

If you don't think you'll ever move on to a more significant program than iMovie I'd say to transcode to another format significant enough for the best output you intend to create. That's what you will need to decide. Will you be rendering for an HD TV, a SD monitor or the web? If it's the web will that original clip ever be used for anything better? You'll need to target the best format you may eventually use. Never go lower because you can never get the lost resolution back.

If you must transcode out of AVCHD then I'd go with the Apple Intermediate Format. If that's still too large for you then a higher resolution H.264 format will have to do.

As for future-proofing your storage, that's a little more difficult because we don't have crystal balls. AVCHD is newer for the consumer market. the HV10/20/30 used MPEG-2. Experts have differing opinions as to how AVCHD will hold up as a format. It's cumbersome to edit and today's computers can have a very tough time keeping up with the bandwidth. Your HG10 maxes out at 15Mbps where the newer models are now 24 at a maximum. 15 is much easier to get along with the average computer.

In the end, you could go with H.264 but who knows what may come down the road. You can always stay on top of the current preferences as time passes and convert again as needed. Drives just keep getting bigger so storage won't be an issue.

-a semi tech-savvy father whose wife will kill him if he loses the camera footage

Probably most importantly you aren't addressing back-up. If you have only one copy of something you don't have a back-up. If you're worried about being in the dog house, what happens if that WD MyBook fails? Hard drives fail frequently. You're going to be eating Alpo. You're going to have to come up with a back-up strategy. That drive data is going to have to be backed up on another drive as well. I have a 1TB drive I use for project management. I will do my editing there and my original copies stay there. I have a NetGear ReadyNAS network storage drive that retains all my back-ups. It has 2 1-TB drives in it. There is 1TB of storage and 1 TB mirrored back-up. That way I have my original files plus two backups of everything. I've lost too many files in the past to let it happen again.

A co-worker of mine had a hard drive fail about six months ago and she lost all of her digital photos. She got the drive replaced and bought an external drive. Her replaced drive failed a few weeks ago. She still ended up with nothing because she never did anything with the external drive. She claims she has learned her lesson now. We'll see.

If these files are important to you then you really need to come up with a back-up strategy along with your decision about what format to save in.

Sep 18, 2009, 09:17 PM
What is the best way to ensure that this data will be stored safely for years to come?

I've you want these files to really last for many years it will require more effort then most people spend. Do both. Keep the camera files and the working copies.

The rule of thumb is to always make sure you have three copies of the data and that the data is always in at least two geographic locations. And this includes during the backup operation itself (some backup programs delete the old data before writing the new)

Keep the files that came from the camera and a copy of same as an archive. In two different locations. Backup the transcoded files too and the iMove or Final Cut projects too.

Time machine works well but only counts in the above as one copy and one location.

Backup is hard to do. I predict because it is hard to do that in 100 years there will be very few 100 year old photos

Sep 22, 2009, 07:35 PM
I haven't used the "back up your camera" feature of Toast 10 ("Titanium" - please!) but it claims to easily archive your AVCHD files.

I have used Toast 10 to write AVCHD files to DVD, the resulting discs playing on my Panasonic Blu-ray player with very gratifying HD results.

Sep 22, 2009, 11:26 PM
Thanks for the advice. I would like to keep the files in their original format, so I should either get Toast 10 in order to make hard copy back ups, as well as basic DVDs. If I want to edit, than either import the data as Apple Intermediate or shell out $199 for Final Cut Express.

So far as backups are concerned, I have time machine, but my HD is too small to store the movie data. I will have to load it direct to the external. I will look in to mirroring the data, and what is involved with that.

Again thanks for the knowledge, it is always nice to get advice from experienced folk.

Sep 23, 2009, 09:02 PM
According to the manual, Toast will automatically span your camera contents across as many single- or double-layer DVD's, or Blu-ray discs, as are needed.

You can also edit in AIC and Toast will (IF you download the $20 additional HD plugin) transcode and write AVCHD files to standard DVD's, creating high-definition discs that you can view on most-but-not-all Blu-ray players. This works delightfully well for me.

Look up reviews for Toast -- it's fair to say not all of them are good. I, however, have been happy with the part of it I've used.

Sep 24, 2009, 03:24 AM
After I offload from my Sony TG3 (TG1) I back the project up to external HD, then I back up again on my (original) PS3 which has card slots, I can view raw footage immediately in glorious HD!