How to transfer AVCHD videos to Macbook and share with Windows users?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by pandalovebear, May 5, 2013.

  1. pandalovebear macrumors newbie

    May 5, 2013
    Hi experts,

    I seem to have stumped myself with gadgets that are overly advanced for me. Would appreciate some great advice for my below situation!

    1. Sony NEX-6, 16.1 Mega Pixel Camera with SELP1650 Lens. Took videos of quality 50i/17Mbps/FH.
    2. Macbook Pro, 15-INCH, 2.53GHZ Intel Core 2 Duo, 256GB. Mac OS X 10.6.8. iMovie'09 is installed.

    Dilemma #1:
    I have recently bought a mirrorless camera, Sony NEX-6, 1 day before my trip. Unknowingly, I took videos of AVCHD and 50i/17Mbps/FH quality... Did not realised there were the options of AVCHD or MP4 videos. Now, I vaguely understand AVCHD is of higher quality and would like to continue shooting with AVCHD format. However, I need advice how to manage it asap! I would like to know how do I first transfer it to my Macbook Pro? Which file format should I transfer it over as and using what method or program (to retain the AVCHD good quality)? I am not a pro user nor fan of editing movies etc. I simply would like to transfer it to my laptop for viewing/backup (on laptop and external HD).

    Dilemma #2:
    Additionally, I have many friends mostly using windows laptop. How should I then share these videos with these windows users? What do I convert them again to and using what program? Or is there a ideal situation where I can convert it to a particular file type in my Macbook that is also compatible with Windows laptop?

    Current haphazard solution:
    I have been so confused with this whole AVCHD files... That I had attempted to transfer the AVCHD videos via iMovie'09 using the Import from Camera option, went into my iMovie Events folder as .MOV files. Which I then immediately move it out of iMovie folders to another folder, just so that when I start iMovie'09 next time, it doesn't need to generate all those thumbnails! (And I deleted the thumbnails, hoping it will reduce space that it has taken up? Does this effectively reduce?) Then later on, I thought I could simply copy .MOV files to a thumbdrive and share with friends, oh man, I was wrong. It didn't work on windows laptop.

    Dilemma #3:
    How do you manage and backup your AVCHD videos? Considering my laptop is only 256GB, with my recent 2 wks trip, alarmingly, it has consumed a whole lot of space and now I am left with only approximately 20GB space. I have already deleted the thumbnails generated but.... Doesn't seem to help.

    So........... Now, I am determined to restart this whole workflow of first transferring it out from the camera, using the advice of gurus here. Please help with my 3 dilemmas (that is giving me a big time headache and I stumbled into here by chance)! Thanks a million.

    Sidetrack. For Sony NEX-6, should I use AVCHD 50i/24Mbps/FX, instead of 50i/17Mbps/FH - any big difference in the quality?

  2. floh macrumors 6502

    Nov 28, 2011
    Stuttgart, Germany
    First of all:

    1. AVCHD is a good container to record to for camcorders. It is a terrible codec to manage on any operating system. :(

    2. AVCHD is just a container, like .mov or .avi, whereas the main thing about the quality and playability of the videos is the codec used inside. For more info on this, I made this video:

    Well, if you want to edit the videos, you should import them into your editing software, just like you did with iMovie. Then edit them and export them out in a codec that other people can view. On import, iMovie will convert them to "ProRes" files, which are very good quality but huge in size and will not play back on a standard Windows system without special players.

    If you don't want to edit the videos, but want to show the clips "as they are" to your Windows-friends, you can convert the container for example with this little tool I programmed. Just select the .MTS files in the STREAM folder of your AVCHD data and for example ".mp4" as output container. This will retain the quality and size exactly, but lose all the metadata. Should be okay for playback though. You might run into trouble with very long clips, since they spread over multiple .MTS files...

    As stated in the video I linked to, an ideal codec and container for playback on most modern systems is "H.264" in an ".mp4" container. Your AVCHD files are already H.264, they are just in a strange AVCHD container. So to just show the clips, you can convert them with my tool. If you want to export from iMovie, be sure to pick "H.264" as output codec. If you already have videos (e.g. the files imported into iMovie you mentioned) and want them to play back anywhere, I can highly recommend the pretty awesome Handbrake to do the conversion. Again, H.264 in an .mp4 container.

    Hm. Short answer: It's terrible.

    Slightly longer answer: Get a newer editing software. If you want to spend any money, consider buying for example Adobe Premiere Elements, which will do the importing and switching the container for you while retaining the original video stream in its full quality. Final Cut Pro X will do the same, but is more expensive.

    Even longer answer: iMovie (and older versions of Final Cut) will on import convert all your footage into a "ProRes" codec, which is editing friendly but very, very big as you already noticed. To just do a few cuts here and there and make a holiday movie, the conversion is probably not needed, but these programs can not handle a different format natively for editing. Without spending money on software, I would recommend to copy the AVCHD folder as is from the original card to an external backup drive. This is a real backup. Then you could buy a dedicated external drive for editing (make it Firewire, not USB, if possible), where you can import and convert all your footage to. It will speed up your editing enormously (the hard drive is the bottleneck on many systems) and not clutter your internal drive, which you might need for other things.

    Well, I would say go and try it. The original AVCHD files will be a little bigger, but the converted iMovie files will be the same size. I would expect that you see a difference in sharpness whenever there is big motion in your scene, for example moving the camera wildly or filming through wind-blown leaves. But the difference is not huge. I usually pick the better quality settings for those really cool artsy shots and the slightly lesser quality if I go on a long trip and want my cards to last through it all. :)

    Good luck,


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