More on converting AVCHD for editing

This afternoon I downloaded and tried out the Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9.0b trial version. Vegas is unique in that it is able to edit AVCHD directly, without conversion.

But as I learned, you’ll probably need a dual core processor.

The process was slow on my 3.2 ghz single CPU PC with 1.5 GB of RAM and running Windows XP.  Vegas quickly imported the clips from the camera, and arranging them on the time line was quick and easy. BUT – all videos stuttered when I tried to play them without using the “render to preview” step.

By the time I started doing rendering so I could watch in real time, the whole process had bogged down. Converting to other formats was not real fast on the 3.2 Ghz machine, either.

Seems to me that if your system really can not handle true AVCHD editing, then you are best off doing a conversion to another editable format.

On the Mac, I’m likely to stick with Voltaic HD 2.x for both transcoding and elimating the 24p pulldown frames. Voltaic HD is also available for Windows. I have not tried the Windows version yet, but the idea is the same – it should transcode from AVCHD in to (probably) an .AVI file that you can use in your favorite HD capable video editor. (Note – not all video editors can handle 24p – you’ve been warned.

Now that Voltaic HD 2.02 properly converts AVCHD to AIC and removes 24p pulldown frames – I will probably just use that. Sure, there is a transcoding step from AVCHD to the AIC format. But it is darned hard to see any meaningful loss except for a very slight softening of the colors. Since my destination is eventually to MPEG4 files that I play on my HDTV any image losses in the AIC transcoding are irrelevant.

More info on AVCHD and also 24p is available in other posts on this web site. In other posts, I describe how you can use iMovie and the free program JES Deinterlacer to process hv20/hv30 24p, or AVCHD with 24p video frames.

For now, I’m likely to use Voltaic. It is not real fast but it does produce the best results for when you want to be picky about images.

Handbrake – converting AVCHD to MPEG4

I wrote in the past about dealing with AVCHD and 24p editing on the Mac OS X.

I just installed the latest version of HandBrake, the free video converter for Mac and it easily converted AVCHD directly to mpeg4 video files. Unfortunately, it does not know what to do with the 2:3 pulldown removal required for the 24p on my HG10. Still, if you’ve got 30p or 60i video in AVCHD and want to go direct to MPEG4, this would be a good solution.

Unfortunately, Quicktime doesn’t know what to do with the resulting mpeg4 file, but other programs, like VLC and MPEG Streamclip, played the mpeg4 file just fine. Go figure.

Update: I have been experimenting with Voltaic HD 2.0.2, which now correctly processes the 24p AVCHD files from my Canon HG10. I have successfully transcoded from AVCHD with 24p pulldown removal to AIC, Photo JPEG and uncompressed 4:2:2 and more.

  • Uncompressed 4:2:2, not surprisingly, gives the best result. But an 82 Mb 40 second input file becomes a 3.7 GB uncompressed file! The most noticeable change is enhanced saturated color in the 4:2:2 color scheme versus AIC and Photo JPEG – and some improvements in subtle color graduations that leave compression artificacts in AIC and Photo JPEG. But the huge file size makes this unusable.
  • It is very hard to tell much difference between AIC and Photo JPEG. They can pretty much be considered equivalent. The Photo JPEG codec definitely softened the colors while the AIC codec seemed to have a slight softening.  The quality, otherwise, is basically identical – however, the Photo JPEG version is about 1/3d smaller than the AIC file.
  • I  downloaded and used the free Avid DVxHD code. Transcoding to this codec produced results similar to uncompressed but with an 800 MB output file instead of 3.7 GB. Still, that is a ten times file expansion. I also used the AVID DV100 codec which produced a 446 MB file with better color than AIC but the compression issues seemed no better. The Avid Meridien codec produced slightly larger – but all AVID codecs had better color.
  • Conversion to HDV did not work, even though the original AVCHD is in 1440×1080. This appears to be a bug in Voltaic HD and this is supposedly a feature of Voltaic.
  • I also have an XDCAM 35 Mbps variable bit rate codec (1440×1080/24p) that I believe came with FCP version 5.x. Unfortunately, like HDV, this did not produce a proper output file. If it had, the file size would have been smaller than AIC and provided better compression and color than AIC.
  • The

At this point, for working with AVCHD/24p files that require pulldown removal, the highest quality will come from using Voltaic HD to transcode and do pulldown removal in one step (versus 2-transcode steps required in the iMovie–>AIC –> JES Deinterlace to inverse telecine –> AIC). As to which codec to use? I’ll probably stick to AIC.