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Preprocessing AVCHD Media for Editing

When it comes to video editing, there are some important decisions to be made before ingesting media.  You may find that you will save time in pre-processing your media ahead of time.  This is especially true if your camera shoots in an AVCHD format, or similar equivalent.

Convert_AVCHD.png

Seasoned video editors will agree that this workflow applies to most video editing systems including; Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere, or Final Cut Pro.  However, there are some exceptions to this theory, because transcoding your media ahead of time, does require extra time.

What is AVCHD?
AVCHD is a popular video container that contains highly compressed media.  The quality of AVCHD is surprisingly good when you consider the amount of compression used. 

AVCHD has become very popular amongst consumers / prosumers because of its high quality video image and small file size.  Only problem is, it's very difficult to edit with.

Since AVCHD is a highly compressed format, it requires extra processing power if you want to edit the media.  Therefore you may need to convert (transcode) your AVCHD media to a different format that provide full frame compression.  This will make the media much easier to edit with.  

Examples of some full frame media types include:

Unfortunately, there is quite a price jump in the cost of a camera that does not shoot in the AVCHD format.  Look to spend upwards of $4000.00 to $8000.00 for a video camera that does not shoot in the AVCHD (or similar) format. 

However, don't worry.  If you have the time, you can save yourself a lot of stress by converting your AVCHD media to a full frame compression type before you begin editing.

Should you always convert AVCHD media?
I’ll be blunt,  the only reason to keep your media within an AVCHD format container would be if you do not have the time to convert the media. As an example, a news organization where video editing is done in a time sensitive matter would qualify as a good example of not having time to transcode the media ahead of time.

Critics of my opinion will argue that converting AVCHD media to a full frame compression format will increase the file size.  However, with the low cost of large external hard drives, I don't feel that is a valid reason for keeping your media inside an AVCHD container.

What is an .mts file?
In some cases, the AVCHD container may contain .mts files.  These .mts files contain the high definition media.  Unfortunately, .mts are not easily playable without third party software.  If you need to directly play an .mts file, try VLC player. 

AVCHD_file_container.png

If you’ve tried working with an AVCHD container that has .mts files, you will immediately notice the following drawbacks.

Final Cut Pro X: Extremely slow processing times when importing .mts media.

Adobe Premiere: Provides immediate access to .mts files, but with a very annoying audio conforming process that decreases system performance until finished.

conforming process.png

Avid Media Composer: It is unable to directly import or link to .mts files.  You must transcode the media ahead of time.

Avid AMA Link Error.png

So with that being said, transcoding your media into a friendlier video format will provide the following advantages.

  • faster import times
  • improved playback performance (i.e, multicam playback)
  • more real-time effects
  • faster render times
  • faster export  times
  • cross editing platform compatibility
  • better for archival storage

There are many third party software products that convert AVCHD media and/or .mts files into a different format.  For this article, I successfully tested some conversion software called Brosoft.

Brorsoft_Conversion_Software.png

In the above example, I successfully converted five .mts files from within an AVCHD container into a single Apple ProRes 422 QuickTime movie.  Converting 10 GB of media took approximately 1 hour to convert using a Mac Book Pro Retina.

Once the conversion process was finished, all three software editing packages (Adobe Premiere, Avid Media Composer, and Final Cut Pro X) had a much easier time dealing with the ProRes media.

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