AVCHD Lite on a Intel Mac

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by MrMister111, Apr 3, 2009.

  1. MrMister111 macrumors 68020

    Jan 28, 2009
    Hi I have a Intel Mac, and iLife 09 (inc iMovie 09)

    I am thinking of getting a Digi Cam, with HD movie recording on, which records in AVCHD Lite (Panasonic TZ7)

    However Ive heard you get no Mac software with it, and its pretty difficult codec/format to edit on a Mac.

    Can it be imported straight into iMovie for editing? at full/same resolution etc

    if not what can/do people do for using it on a Mac please? I have a PC also but dont want to have to use it on there, or convert on a PC, and then import to iMovie

  2. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    AVCHD Lite is a very new subset of the AVCHD codec, so I'm not entirely certain that the camera would be supported. But logical reasoning would tell me yes, since it's basically a 720p variant of AVCHD. I suppose it really depends on whether it uses the same file naming structure as AVCHD does.

    Assuming that the video ingests like AVCHD does, on a Mac, you would have to transcode the video to Apple Intermediate Codec first (iMovie will do this for you). This is a bit of a time consuming process and it does use quite a bit of disk space. But once you're edited, you can export to an efficient deliverable codec like H.264.
  3. jimidan macrumors newbie

    Mar 22, 2009
    Frankfort, KY
    So, if I am understanding this correctly, by using the Mac and iMovie to edit a 1080p video (in AVCHD format), that one has to endure a penalty of 360p right off the bat. Is there no other way to still obtain the quality that one has paid hard-earned $$$ to get the 1080p resolution?

    I know that one does not use Word to open a Word Perfect doc, but it looks like there is a basic incompatibility between a Mac and the best camcorders on the market (Sony and Panasonic) that are in AVCHD. I believe that Mac and Cannon are joined at the hip on this. Bummer...
  4. Courtaj macrumors 6502a


    Jul 3, 2008
    Edinburgh, U.K.
    No, you're not understanding this correctly. Apple editing applications on Intel Macs support AVCHD at 1920x1080 resolution. In iMovie or Final Cut, AVCHD is transcoded or converted to AIC during the import process.
  5. MrMister111 thread starter macrumors 68020

    Jan 28, 2009
    thanks for the replies, I understand off Panasonic that AVCHD Lite is exactly the same as AVCHD t just limited to 720P because its a Digi Cam, rather than a dedicated Camcorder.

    Your right it does have a horrible file structure from what I've read on the net, its a .mts file buried away in private folders etc.

    So this isn't too bad then, iMovie 09 does import it ok, but an intermediate step of AIC is done 1st.

    I'm a noob to all these codecs, so then, when I import, edit it, and be finished what should I export it out as a final project for saving/archiving as the best quality, ie I think whatever I put in I want out, I will then re-encode if I want it on my iPod, Xbox etc

  6. Tom5Z macrumors newbie

    Apr 4, 2009
    Do I need iLife '09?

    So I downloaded a sample MTS file and tried to import into iMovie '08 and it refuses to accept it.

    Is there a way to try out '09 to see for myself if it will work? Or can someone confirm that it does indeed manage to open the file.

    Sample file can be downloaded here.

    This is from a review of the Panasonic DMC ZS3 (TZ7 outside USA).
  7. NeoMayhem macrumors 6502a

    Aug 22, 2003
    You can only import the files if they are on the memory card or in a dmg file. None of apples apps will let you import the raw files for some unknown reason.
  8. jimidan macrumors newbie

    Mar 22, 2009
    Frankfort, KY
    I do understand that...I read it on the iMovie page on the Mac Support site. It is still a bummer for me, as I do not own an Intel Mac. I have a G5 PowerMac dual-core 2.7 that I just purchased before I read it to do this editing. I cannot afford a $3700 Mac Pro 2.66ghz Quad-Core Intel Xeon "Nehalem" Processor machine, so I am SOL.
  9. giffut macrumors 6502

    Apr 28, 2003
    You ...

    ... should look into the new Elgato Turbo H.264 HD device, which natively supports editing (cutting, trimming) directly from the camera or the file itself:


    It also would let you transcode to native H.264 (which is basically just a container change and no real transcoding) - and therefore easy import to iMovie etc.


    It won´t work with any PowerPC based machine, though, due to intense utilization of the host CPU for transcoding content to the device DSP processor.
  10. Courtaj macrumors 6502a


    Jul 3, 2008
    Edinburgh, U.K.
    Don't be a quitter. Have you heard of VoltaicHD?
  11. knarzie macrumors regular

    Aug 5, 2008
    I am in the same boat. except that I really don't understand anything about this conversion business.

    last fall i bought an SD camcorder because I did not own an intel mac, only for it to turn out that with that I still had (still have on my unibody macbook)) trouble editing clips :( (panasonic sdr-s7)

    now i just downloaded a sample clip from the lumix dmc-tz7, an .mts file, and I seem to be unable to even play it :(
  12. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    Just for the record, the AVCHD Lite footage from the ZS3 (aka TZ7) is somewhat compatible with iMovie. However, there's an issue where imported footage plays at 2x the actual frame rate.

    See the following links for details.

    DC Resource Review

    Apple Support KB
  13. tcgjeukens macrumors regular


    May 16, 2007
    IJsselstein, the Netherlands
    AVCHD transcoding

    AVCHD is a very sophisticated codec using a very complex method for compression. It is incredible that a 1920x1080 picture at 25/30 frames per second fits in such a small data stream at a decent-to-good quality.

    Marketing is good at highlighting these benefits, but the "cost" is that it takes extremely powerful hardware to digest AVCHD video.
    Both on Mac and PC you would need so much CPU muscle to manipulate the raw footage, that it becomes a non-affordable option.

    In stead almost every editing package will require you to transcode the raw material (eg the MTS files) into something less CPU intensive. This will be called an intermediate Codec. Actually yout highly compressed (MTS) file will be extracted to something (much) bigger with less compression.

    Eg. 1 hour of full HD at highest quality in AVCHD will be approximatrely 10 Gb on your SD card. In intermediate codec it is about 7 times bigger.
    You will edit the 70Gb file.

    What marketing did NOT tell you: buy more HDD.

  14. jzuena macrumors 6502a


    Feb 21, 2007
    Lexington, MA, USA
    No, the resolution penalty was specific to the camera that the OP was thinking of getting, since it is a still camera that can also shoot video in 720p. Macs work fine with Sony and Panasonic AVCHD video cameras (there are a long list of supported Panasonic and Sony AVCHD camcorders for iMovie alone), and the OP just wanted to know if the particular software he already has (iMovie 09) will work with AVCHD Lite. This format is new enough that even Windows-only NLEs like Sony Vegas Pro only support it in the latest version. If iMovie 09 doesn't support it yet, it will eventually get added. If it doesn't, there are other editors available for the Mac from the same companies that make editors for Windows. This has nothing to do with a basic incompatibility of the hardware or operating system.

    To the OP, there are other forums that mention that you can also shoot videos in M-JPEG format on that camera which take up more space but may give you better looking video. That may be another option if you end up getting this camera.
  15. MrMister111 thread starter macrumors 68020

    Jan 28, 2009
    I'm a bit confused now!?!? :confused:

    So iMovie 09 will import but goto AIC codec, but will be 7x the starting size!! as you say! gulp :eek:

    I dot really want to use the M-Jpeg as you say its biger size, and not as good quality will put me off.

    i really want to use the iLife apps I got, rather than more software though to.

    If I do import to iMovie 09, re-encodes to AIC, then after editing what should I export to for best quality please

  16. tcgjeukens macrumors regular


    May 16, 2007
    IJsselstein, the Netherlands

    The story about intermediate codecs (like AIC) is not so complicated, only your HD camera supplier will probably not have told you about the disadvantages of the sophisticated AVCHD codec.

    Let's go back a few years when SD camera's used the DV format.
    In this format each frame is captured and stored indepently. Compression was applied to each individual frame.
    Even today a SD camera produces 10Gb/hour of DV. This fits neatly on a single DV tape.

    Now with HD the information per frame is about 4 times more. Would you use the same DV compression you would need 40Gb/hour. So the camera manufacturers needed to invent a more efficient compression in order to reuse the old DV tapes for HD material. The started compression Group Of Pictures (GOP).
    In HDV you take a group of 12 frames. The first frame is stored completely. The other 11 are stored relative to the first one. So only the delta's need to be recorded.
    Like this the cram on hour of HDV (1440x1080) with a GOP of 12 on a single 10Gb DV tape.

    The reverse side of this efficient compression is that your playback and editing software needs to calculate each frame (except the first one in each GOP).
    iMovie can NOT do this trick with HDV. iMovie requires reach frame to be complete, thus the need to use an intermediate codec. Expect HDV conversion into AIC will increase file size with a factor 4.
    Note: your quality will NOT be less when using AIC. It simply is an INTERMEDIATE codec that eases the editing process.
    Note: FCE and FCP can edit native HDV files. You will have smaller file sizes but require more CPU horsepower.

    AVCHD is using even more compression than HDV (HDV is 18:1, AVCHD is 30:1 or 90:1). The GOP for AVCHD is 15 in stead of 12.
    On :apple: there is NO editing software that can edit native AVCHD. iMovie, FCE and FCP all require transcoding. iMovie uses AIC. FCE and FCP support both AIC and ProRes.
    Note: transcoding to AIC and ProRes do not degrade quality. They will explode your file by factor 7.
    More space to reduce CPU muscle.

    iLife apps work great out of the box, but on the other hand, in case you want to use more features you will need to buy something.

    Now suppose you use iMovie (AIC) or FCE/FCP (AIC or ProRes), your end result will be in this INTERMEDIATE CODEC. You can store it as an QuickTime (MOV) file. This is the best quality you can store.

    But for distribution you will like to have something more convenient in size.
    In case you want to make a DVD this intermediate file can be used in iDVD. iDVD will reduce its file size and convert to MPEG2 to fit within the DVD5 specification.
    You can use the iLife Media Manager to bring the file to web. The frame size will be reduced and the result converted into flash and/or H.264.

  17. MrMister111 thread starter macrumors 68020

    Jan 28, 2009
    Thanks for that great explanation.

    So I understand that iMovie 09 will import as AIC and be a big file size.

    So should I do an import, then immediately export as MOV to store it, this way it will still be in full resolution/quality as originally imported, but as a more easily workable and smaller file size for iMovie?

  18. theBB macrumors 68020


    Jan 3, 2006
    Thanks tcgjeukens...

    According to posts on Apple's forum that even though iMovie 09 can import AVCHD and apparently can archive the clips onto your harddisk so that you can import them later instead of having to do it right away. (Some people also claimed even iMovie 08 accepted a simple directory copy of files from Canon's card onto your hard disk.)

    However, one poster claimed that the only export option in iMovie'09 was 960x600. Is that true or has that user not fully explored the expert options etc? I am not sure whether in the end there would be much of a quality difference if our home or travel movies recorded in less than ideal light conditions on a hand held camcorder is 1080p, 720p or 600p and I may not mind it if this reduces the size of the files iMovie uses, but I am curious nonetheless.
  19. jjjcoop23 macrumors newbie

    Mar 31, 2009
    I have a canon HG10 HDD HVCHD and imovie 09, they work together seamlessly and the quality is still awesome.
  20. djkirsten macrumors regular

    Nov 3, 2006
    Another option for the edit is Adobe's Premiere, and possibly Premiere elements. You can get a free trail from adobe and it edits the AVCHD natively with no conversion (I know premiere pro does this, I don't know about elements). I know the OP doesn't really want to buy any more software but you can get it fairly cheap with student discounts (even if your kids are in school).

    But as others have said, editing natively will be a hog...and I dont know if Premiere pro is intel only. Give the trail a shot.
  21. MrMister111 thread starter macrumors 68020

    Jan 28, 2009
    Can you expand a bit more please.

    What format does your camera record in? AVCHD? AVCHD Lite?

    Do you have to connect the camera direct to import stuff?

    What does it import to in iMovie 09?

    What cn you export as? as someone says what is the resolution export at?

    What is your work flow for AVCHD please?

    I know elements probably supports it, but I'd rather keep it as iMovie, I dont want to buy more software for certai files, as I wont be editing that much

  22. jjjcoop23 macrumors newbie

    Mar 31, 2009
    I am new to both my mac, and the Canon. I bought them for each other basically.

    The canon is HVCHD (hard drive hd camcorder) it imports to imovie09 in 1080i as soon as you plug it in and open imovie.

    i dont have an HD DVD burner on my computer so i doubt that it will export as HD, but considering it is HD when captured, I still think the quality is top notch.

    hope that helps.
  23. MrMister111 thread starter macrumors 68020

    Jan 28, 2009
    Bit more info please ;)

    When you plug it in, after iMovie opens, does it ask what to import it in as? or does it do it automatically. If so what is the file imported as, ie type, resolution, bitrate etc?

    exporting after editing you should have an option on the file type.

  24. jjjcoop23 macrumors newbie

    Mar 31, 2009

    It will automatically import them. I CAN import them as either a "large" 960X540 or FULL 1920X1080

    you just select that under preferences

    I download at 960X540 because it doesnt take us as much space.

    I am so new to mac's i DONT EVEN know how to tell you what the file is saved as. sOME sort of quicktime file??

    sorry I cant help more.

    also take into consideration that I have only owned both the camera and the Mac for about 2 weeks.

    I am still learning this whole process myself
  25. MrMister111 thread starter macrumors 68020

    Jan 28, 2009
    Any news? any updates? hows it going? is it all working ok?


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