Friday, February 20, 2009

Toast and AVCHD files

I’ve recently started moving from tape based recording to flash based, first purchasing a Panasonic AVCHD camcorder, and now a Canon HF-100. I’ll admit to being nervous; tape is a great archive medium, and - it turns out - much easier to transfer and deal with than AVCHD files.

When the first consumer HD tape-based camcorders appeared on the market, most of them used the DV tape format, but used a different compressor (MPEG2) to get the video onto the tape (the tape actually records a digital file.) This format was called HDV.

As manufacturers have moved away from tape towards hard drive and flash based cameras, they’ve adopted a new compressor that is much more efficient, and can handle higher resolutions. This compressor is called AVCHD. It takes advantage of more horsepower available, producing files that are much smaller than HDV. The downside is that it’s not a great compressor for online editing.

Turns out that it’s a little more complicated to use video from AVCHD cameras on a Mac. You can’t just open the edit using the AVCHD. Both iMovie and Final Cut require that you transcode to another compressor.
FInal Cut (both Express 4 and Pro) now have a Log and Transfer function. Hook the camera up and it “sees” the contents of the cameras

Final Cut will only see the AVCHD files if they are in the file structure the camera creates. BUT, it doesn’t have to be in the camera...if your camera records on removable flash, you can stick the flash card into a reader and connect through USB, and Final Cut will see it okay. OR, you can copy the entire file structure to a DVD (or Bluray if you have it.)

There’s two negatives to Final Cut:
It only works on Intel Macs
files must be in the AVCHD file structure

There are a couple of alternatives, one is VoltaicHD from Sledgeworks. This utility will work with the AVCHD files regardless of the file structure, so it makes archiving - and later reconverting - AVCHD files. It also runs on non-Intel Macs.

The other tool - which I only just discovered can do this - is Toast 10. The latest version of this disc burning utility includes a converter that can import and convert AVCHD files.