Advice please - setup for home vid ed (AVCHD)

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by NoPRO, Jun 17, 2011.

  1. NoPRO macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2011

    I have bought my first digital video camera due to the birth of our first child. It is a Sony HDR-CX350. It records video in AVCHD.

    (I also have a happy snapper photo camera which can take little videos in AVCHD-Lite)

    I have never done any video editing. I am reasonably creative and have a fair idea of what I'd like to be able to do when creating videos. However, I am not at all 'technical' and don't understand much at all about how these new formats work, or how to edit video, or how to make a DVD. So I'm starting from scratch.

    I am a bit intimidated by AVCHD and AVCHD-Lite and also have no experience with the whole movement of files between camera, computer and dvd.

    I figure I probably need a new computer to edit my video on. I have a 5 year old PC which is about 3ghz (processor) and 2gb (RAM).

    I have never used a MAC.

    I'm inclined towards an iMac for video editing because of the way Apple markets its products. By that I mean, they consider the software and you can try things out. With PCs, there's no shop I can go to and say "I'd like to edit video, please show me how your product will work" like I can do with an Apple.

    So I will go to an Apple Store, take my (long) list of things I want to be able to do with video editing, take my camera and ask them to show me how it all works. Given I'm so new to it, I don't think I'll truly absorb much, but I do see this as a way to test out whether the machine and software can do what I want.

    I could put my list of requirements up, but if you just think of a typical Dad wanting to video his kid, turn that raw footage into something succinct and actually watchable and then make a DVD with a proper menu structure - that is the bulk of my requirement. I'd also like to express myself with some creative video making, but wouldn't be doing anything advanced (just some messing about with audio, the speed of the video, over-written text etc).

    I've read a lot of forum threads but almost all seem to be from "pro-sumers", full on enthusiasts or actual professionals.

    I would appreciate some advice prior to my visit to an Apple Store.

    I'm not fussed about whether I get an Apple or a PC for this job and I don't have any preference about what vid editing software to use, I just want something I can learn, understand and use for a long time. I won't be bothered upgrading and needing the latest and greatest. The only future proofing consideration may related to BluRay as that may become the norm within the 5yrs or so I'd keep this machine. I presently do not have an HD television, but we'll get one sooner or later.

    My expectation is that I'll probably buy an iMac for the reasons noted above and use that purely for vid editing (and perhaps photo editing as it should be good at that too) then buy a basic laptop to use for all my regular computer stuff (emails, internet, excel etc) as I'm used to PCs and having a laptop will probably be nice.

    I know forum advice givers always like proper background info so I hope the above is adequate, if not, I'm happy to post further clarifications. You may note I've not talked about dollars as I don't want that to rule the discussion. Time wise, I expect the purchase to be after September 2011, but I am happy to wait longer if that is what I'm advised to do.

    Thanks in advance for all useful comments and advice.
  2. De Rocca macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2010
    I have an early 2010 Imac.
    For editing AVCHD on a mac, i am Using Imovie, and it'll concerted the files to AIF, converting takes a while, but after that you'll be editing smoothly.

    Good enough for home video

    Some programs can edit AVCHD natively but this 'll take up a lot of process power (and thus you'll need a full packed MacPro...)

    As long as you record in HD and than let Imovie do the convert, you'll be OK.

    After this learning curve, maybe you'll want to check out Adobe Premiere or Final Cut pro....

    Imovie 11 can do a lot, and if you look around on youtube for Imovie 11 movies , you can see what it's able to do.

    A few jobs i did with it :
    - editing footage + putting subtitles and extra audiotrack on top of the footage audio.

    - editing 2-camera footage from different viewpoints into 1 movie. You can do someting like a 2-track editing in Imovie which is kinda neat, and easy to use....

    Have fun!
  3. Soura2112 macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2008

    I recently purchased a Sony 560v camcorder, i have problems using final cut express, but I have been waiting for FCX which should make AVCHD a lot easier.
    So for now I'm taking a short cut by using iMovie, it's a good free App that comes with all Macs. I tend to do things through final cut, but for what your looking for iMovie would work fine. It's fairly easy to use and will make your HD videos go on a regular DVD when you bring it into IDVD, which is your menu, iMovie and iDVD go hand in hand. For what your doing that's all you need, iMovie and iDVD. The computer model is up to you and what you want to pay, I have a iMac in my house it works great (rest our 2 MacBook pros, and 2 Mac Pros). IMO go with a iMac, for what you do.
    The Apple store should help you to some degree, but some employees may not be to great with editing and your Sony, just cause not all are editors. Plus once they hear you want to edit movies they may push you toward a higher end machine, such as the i7 or Mac Pro, which sounds like you don't need, not saying they will, just something to watch out for so you save some $$$.
    Just beware of how large the hard drive is or keep in mind to save some money for an external drive since expanding an iMac is no fun, plus expensive to have done later through Apple, cause you don't want to loose your Apple Care by doing it yourself, unless your really good at opening machines. Unlike a Mac Pro you can't just easily instal hard drives. You may also want to keep in mind when you go HD TV and blu ray you may want to buy a external blu ray writer, about 2-4 hundred depending on the brand.
    You will be amazed how many GBs you will go through adding all those videos, and like my friends with kids they have lots of videos of their kids. Also make sure you back up your videos to an external drive so you don't loose those videos. Being AVCHD you won't have tapes to be able to get your videos back, though with a 1TB drive only used for video should be a good amount of room for awhile, as you learn more you will need more space, especially if you get the editing addiction like we all do.
    As NoPro said there's better editing programs out there once you get the idea of editing, which you may or may not ever need. As I mentioned FCX will be out soon, plus Adobe as mentioned. Just don't buy Final Cut Exress, its going away cause of FCX.
    With a kid on the way I doubt you will have time for a night class at a JC, but say you did, find a Final cut or Premire class and you can be editing much better. Just tossing that out there.
    For instance I'm going to take a similar class for Adobe After Effects. I teach myself a lot of programs but After Effcets I need help with, hence the class (plus it's an expensive program).
    So just buy a good book on the program you go with. I learned Final Cut before iMovie, some class I took in college (and learned Photoshop and other big named programs).
    FCX hopefully will be out soon, so again don't let them talk you into FC express. Though just start with the free apps, iMovie and iDVD if you go with Mac. I have not used windows for editing so I can't help you there, once I learned Final Cut I was sold on Apple in 2005, not knowing how long I would need to wait between FC7 and FCX, I can't wait for FCX!
    Good luck, and feel free to ask me anything, won't know all the answers but beimg new to to AVCHD I understand your situation and since this is a new format for me I'm teaching myself with help from this board and the net. People will help you or you can find most answers in a google search.
  4. Steamrunner macrumors member

    Aug 9, 2008
    I'd agree that your best bet is to start with an iMac, and kick off with iMovie and iDVD.

    Although iMovie isn't entirely like traditional non-linear editing apps (such as Adobe Premiere or Apple's Final Cut), it's very easy to get to grips with. Once you get to the point where you're ready to do more, you can then move up to the next level. iMovie is surprisingly capable - I put together a corporate video last year which ended up being more popular than the ones shot by external agencies costing thousands of pounds.

    In addition, if you buy the "One to One" package when you order your iMac, you'll be able to book a session in any Apple store and get training on Apple products whenever you want it. Although Apple reps will do their best to show you quickly how to do what you want to do, they'll draw the line at actually training you - but the One-to-One is great value (assuming you're within easy reach of an Apple store).
  5. kev6677 macrumors member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Good luck Imovie does a horrible job with AVCHD. It does not edit nativelly but instead converts your file to a lower bitrate format which once played back on a real television and NOT your computer monitor looks horrible. the only work around is purchasing Adobe premiere elements or the other more expensive Premiere pro that does a very good job with AVCHD.
  6. cgbier macrumors 6502a

    Jun 6, 2011
    That actually is the beauty about it. That lower bitrate format doesn't bog down your 'puter while editing.
    AIC is an editing format, not a delivery codec.
    AVCHD is a delivery format, not an editing codec.
  7. NoPRO thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2011
    Thanks guys. So it seems that step one will be getting an iMac and using iMovie and iDVD. I took the tip to look at iMovie 11 stuff on youtube and it looks very much like what I'm after.

    So if we assume that's the combo I'll start off with, what tips do you have for getting underway (which will build confidence) with the whole process of downloading the movie files from the Sony, storing the video on the computer, saving your various raw footage for use in making various DVDs etc.

    It certainly sounds like getting some form of external HDD with lots of space is a good idea, so any tips in that regard would be appreciated.

    As noted, I plan on only using the iMac for video editing and photo editing and will use a pc laptop for my general stuff.
  8. De Rocca macrumors member

    Apr 28, 2010
    My configuration for editing :

    External Harddisk 1 "BACKUP" : contains the raw footage (let Imovie do the archiving of your camera files, this way you won't end up with corrupted file structures)

    External Harddisk 2 "EDITING" : to 'import' the converted footage into Imovie, and editding,

    Imovie will manage your imported footage, and your projects, but you need to tell Imovie to store your imported footage to your external HD (and not the default one...)
  9. arjen92 macrumors 65816


    Sep 9, 2008
    Below sea level
    Some people are talking about Final Cut Express and Adobe Premiere Pro, but these are for when you want to do more with video editing.

    iMovie should be perfect for you. Even though some people here are talking about how iMovie handles things (with codecs and stuff) the most important thing for you (I personally think) is that you can just hook up your camera, open imovie and import the video (it's all pretty intuitive).

    With iMovie you can do these awesome effects really simple, but some sound under it and create your family memories, really easy, really nice. Then just export to DVD or apple TV.

    Blu-ray is not that well supported. But I think Apple is right about moving on from optical media. You can probably hook up your computer to your coming HDTV, or you might actually buy an apple TV or HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer). I just always hook up my Macbook Pro.

    iMovie is intended for people like you to be creative without the technical part. It's only gonna be technical when you want it to be technical (for example, you want "1080p 60 frames" output, instead of "I want HD, that I can watch".
  10. NoPRO thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2011
    Speccing the box

    Thanks for that.

    yes, I think iMovie will be more than adequate to get started with. I can always upgrade to another more featured application if I need to later but I'm sure iMovie will be more than I know how to use for at least a few years.

    Given the above comments, I've started scoping out what iMac to get.

    Now it seems that you need advice from people who really understand video when it comes to hardware.

    Per my original post, I'm just going to do some home video stuff, so I don't need the most whizz bang performance, but I do want it to run smoothly enough that it doesn't discourage me from using it and getting familiar with the whole process.

    I would appreciate some comments on what is important when configuring my iMac.

    Assume I'll get a 27 inch iMac and will choose either the 3.1ghz i5 processor or the 3.4ghz i7. I would prefer not to spend the money on the 3.4 ghz i7 unless it is actually going to make a noticeable difference.

    I'm sure I'll need to get a good video card. So what is recommended? Is a 1gb card sufficient or will I need to get the 2gb card?

    RAM-wise, what is recommended here? It comes with 4gb, but you can boost that to 8gb for an extra $240. You can also go to 16gb but that is a whopping $720 extra!

    It comes with a 1tb hard drive. Given I'm only using this machine for video and photo stuff, that's probably more than enough and I can simply buy one or two external hard drives to give me back up / extra storage.

    So I gather no need to upgrade that but I'm open to opinions.

    More importantly, what external hard drives are recommended? I use a WD 500gb unit on my pc and it's been great. I've been told that apparently it is better to get one from a company starting with "e" (can't recall their name) but I don't know why they are better and whether it is appropriate to my needs.

    Naturally, when asking about processor, vid card, RAM and HDD the obvious answer is more is better. However, more comes at a price. So what I would like to know is what is actually going to make a difference and what is going to be unnoticed.

    I bought my pc 5 years ago, chose a fairly high end processor and RAM combo and it has worked nicely for me all this time. If I wasn't about to do video editing I'd be hanging onto it longer.

    So I'm not about penny pinching or working to a set budget. I just don't want to waste money because, like for many of us, money doesn't just grow on trees!

    This may be hard for people to answer in context of the needs of a Dad sitting at home doing basic video editing, but I appreciate all advice here as this is the bit I think I'll struggle to get relevant answers to from the Apple Store given they may not have much real video experience.
  11. Dave Braine macrumors 68040

    Dave Braine

    Mar 19, 2008
    Warrington, UK
    It seems that all you want to do is edit a few home movies. Any of the iMacs will be adequate for the job, even the most basic.
  12. NoPRO thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2011
    Hi David,

    Thanks for that. I hope that really is the case.
    I popped into an Apple Store briefly yesterday (not for my "proper" visit) and was told that not all iMacs would be suitable even for my very basic video editing and that I'd need one of the two iMacs I mentioned in my post.
    Similarly, they mentioned the need for various upgraded componentry.

    In past online research I've performed on video editing forums I've found that there seems to be a whole science around building a machine which is good for video editing. Now I have basic needs so don't need to engage in one of those sort of discussions, but I would like to clear up the conflicting messages about the role and interaction between processor, RAM and dedicated video card and arrive at a sensible configuration for my needs.

    That is an area I'm totally dependent on advice from people with a proper technical understanding.

    I've been told things which contradict what you've said, but if you're right that is great - just grab any iMac and go would make it rather easy.
  13. Dave Braine macrumors 68040

    Dave Braine

    Mar 19, 2008
    Warrington, UK
    Sounds like sales talk to me. I use a two year old MacBook(2Ghz) with iMovie and it's fine. Prior to that I used a PPC MacMini and that was fine. The only thing the MacBook has over it is the speed at which things get processed.

    If you're not the "I need it done right now!" sort of guy, then if the 21" screen is enough for you, then the basic model will suffice, at nearly half the price of the 3.4Gig model.

    If you want the bigger screen then the cheaper of the two will more than enough.
  14. NoPRO thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jun 17, 2011
    Thanks for that useful tip.

    Out of interest, why would someone require the higher spec'd 27 inch (the i7 processor) and why would someone require the 2gb vid card.
    Likewise,why would you need more than the 4gb of RAM?

    All those options exist and must suit some purpose other than lining Apple's pockets and you'd think video editing would be a key example.

    Is it that doing it with iMovie is all so low draw and doing it with Final Cut is when you need the extra processor, vid card and RAM?
  15. Dave Braine macrumors 68040

    Dave Braine

    Mar 19, 2008
    Warrington, UK
    A lot of the time for pretty much the same reason that people buy a top end, fully specced SUV, that could take a ten man expedtion through the Amazon rainforest...and just use to take the kids to school and do the shopping. Because they can.

    Having said that, if you are editing the latest Spielberg blockbuster, then the high end stuff is what you need. I'm not that much up on video cards, but I think that the better the card, the better screen resolution that you can have.

    The computer requires RAM to do what it does. Each application that you have open uses some of that RAM, so the more RAM that you have, the more apps that you can have running at the same time without any noticable loss in perfomance. Some apps will use as much RAM as they can take, so again, the more that you have the better that that app will perform.

    For high end computing you need high end specs, but for the likes of you and me editing the occassional home video, the base model is usually sufficient.

    If you are going to be doing a lot of video work, the consensus is that you do all the video work on an external drive. The constant reading and writing to the disc causes more wear than normal, so it just saves wear on your internal drive.
  16. cgbier macrumors 6502a

    Jun 6, 2011
    I do HDV on a 2008 24"iMac on FCP with rarely a problem.... yes, rendering feels like molasses, but that's about it. AVCHD with AIC is also fine if I don't have too many streams at once.
    You have only one timeline in iMovie (plus overlays), so don't have to bother with multiple streams.

    The external HD is not only about wear and tear of the internal drive, it makes editing a bit faster. If iMovie needs access to the internal HD, you can't get access to it for editing decisions at the same time. Having system and editing drive separate, makes editing a bit more fluid.

    If you're fine with the 21", go for it, but don't get the base base system, but the $200 extra one and give 8 GB of RAM. I'm not sure if the latest abomination of iMovie is 64 bit, but even if it is 32, you still have a little bit of overhead for other programs in the b/g with 8GB.

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