Tag Archives: Apple Intermediate Codec

Converting individual .MTS AVCHD files on Mac OS X

I have deleted much of this original post since it was not that useful.

Until Final Cut Pro X, Apple did not support AVCHD file formats well. Importing an AVCHD file involved a time consuming and file expanding conversion from AVCHD to either Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) or ProRes codec.  The files are often 3 to 5x larger than their originals. The only benefit was the editing was faster than if the files were still in AVCHD format. And you had to import from the original camera folders – the whole package – you could not import individual .mts files.

Since FCP cannot import individual MTS files (not part of the original file folder layout), I came up with some alternatives.


If you have a very fast Internet connection, just drag the .mts file directly from the camera and upload to Youtube.  When the upload is finished and processing at Youtube is finished, you can use Youtube’s new editing tools to trim your video.


  • Your files are going be encoded (in the camera) at data rates of 17 to 24 Mbps, which means they will be large. If you have a long video or a slow Internet connection, this may not be the preferred method.

Option 2 – Converting to MP4

Use SmartConverter (free version is okay for this) to extract the MP4 video stream that is hidden inside the AVCHD stream.  The conversion will take seconds or tens of seconds – its fast! – and the file will appear in Movies\SmartConverter.  No transcode has taken place – what you have in your MP4 file is the original bits hidden in the AVCHD file. You can edit the MP4 file but rendering is really slow.

Option 3 – Use FCP7 to Log and Transfer

Standard feature of FCP. Requires the original full camera folder layout. Does not work with individual .mts files.

Option 3A – Use iMovie 8 or newer

Import the files and convert them to huge AIC files. Does not work with individual MTS files.

Option 4 – NEED to convert a single MTS file

Use VoltaicHD from Shedworx.com if you need to convert individual MTS files.

Option 4 A:

Use SmartConverter to convert the .mts to a .mp4 or mov file containing h.264.

Open clip in QT7 Pro (doesn’t seem to work in QT X). Trim as needed. Export to ProRes 422 (LT).

Import clip into FCP and add titles, transitions, overlays, etc, as needed.

Export to Elgato Turbo.264 HD device for fastest conversion to an mp4 file for upload.

Option 4B – Use Turbo.264 HD

You can now use the Turbo.264 HD software to import directly from the camera (AVCHD), and you can mark some editing/trim locations. Turbo.264 HD will import, cut as desired, then re-assemble the pieces into your desired .mp4 output file. See the instruction manual for details.

If you do not have a quad core processor and you do a lot of conversions of video to 720p (in particular) or 1080p, Turbo.264 HD is a great product. It really does speed up the conversion process quite a bit. You can also batch up a whole set of files to convert, then walk away while it does all the work. Keep in mind that the maximum mp4 output bit rate is limited 10 Mbps. That’s fine for 720p but not so good for much 1080p video.

Why not use the famous MPEG Streamclip? Every time I tried to output through the Turbo 264 device, the file ended up with the wrong dimensions.

Bottom line – its possible to work with individual .MTS files. Would be nice of Apple and others had direct AVCHD support without doing file conversions or FCP X, which was late to the game. I do not have FCP X and do not plan to install on my notebook as it is not compatible with my FCP7 projects.

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