Where are we with AVCHD on Mac as I consider a new camcorder?

Discussion in 'Apple' started by Ronald Epstein, Sep 6, 2010.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I have been stuck with the same camcorder since 2005.

     

    Sony HCR-1

     

    Don't get me wrong -- it's a great HD camcorder to this

    day. However, it's based on a tape system which is

    getting somewhat annoying. If I tape an hour of footage

    I have to transfer it in real-time to iMovie which takes
    another additional hour.

     

    ...plus really, 5 years later, the technology has really

    improved in camcorders.

     

    The hot Sony camcorder for this year is the Sony HDR-CX550V.

    I chose Sony because I already own hotshoe accessories for it.

     

    The problem is, it's an AVCHD camcorder.

     

    I spent the entire afternoon researching the Internet
    about AVCHD and iMovie. Have to say, I didn't find

    many (if any) totally favorable responses about the

    experience of transferring footage to iMovie software.

     

    There are people who say Final Cut Express is much

    better, but there's a rather steep learning curve with that

    software as well as price.

     

    So, I am looking to fellow members here who own an
    AVCHD camcorder and use it on their Mac.

     

    I know we talked about this before within this forum area

    and I am hoping some of you have become somewhat

    advanced in your experiences in dealing with AVCHD on

    the Mac.

     

    Really, all I want to do is take the footage and drop it

    on the Mac and avoid having to wait an hour for an hour's

    worth of footage just to be transferred.

     

    Look forward to reading your comments.
     
  2. Keith Plucker

    Keith Plucker Screenwriter
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    Although I have never used it, you might want to look at this product (if you haven't already).

    http://www.shedworx.com/voltaichd

     

    -Keith
     
  3. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Hi Keith!

     

    I know about that software. The only problem is,
    I need iMovie for its full editing features. Would

    rather not have to deal with a conversion process

    before being able to upload it to iMovie. The reason

    I am considering an AVCHD camcorder is because

    I want to cut the transfer time from camcorder to

    computer out completely.

     

    I cannot believe how difficult it is to get an answer

    to my question. I have posted on 3 different sites

    asking about AVCHD and iMovie. Nobody can give

    me a straight answer.

     

    Is anyone on this forum using an AVCHD camcorder

    and iMovie?

     

    Right now the Sony non-AVCHD tape system
    I use is a pain-in-the-ass because I have to
    transfer to iMovie in real time. An hour of
    footage takes an hour just to transfer to iMovie.

    The AVCHD camcorder interests me because
    I am hoping I can cut that transfer time out
    completely.
    Now, can I simply drag and drop clips from the AVCHD camcorder into iMovie? No waiting.
    No fuss.

    I understand iMovie changes the codec. It
    probably does it to the tape system I am using
    now. However, I am interested if because the
    files are AVCHD that the degradation would be
    WORSE over what I am getting with the tape
    system or it will remain the same.

    I just need a basic answer as to what my iMovie
    experience will be. I want to drag my clips to
    the software, edit and add titles/effects and then
    either burn to DVD or (more often) upload to YouTube
    in the H.264 format.

     
     
  4. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    No, you cannot drag and drop AVCHD to iMovie. You MUST use the import process. It's that simple. It works fine for me for what it is. You need to import it and then iMovie puts it into its own format. I did this for 2 years also being sure to keep a copy of the raw AVCHD file. It was kinda slow and a PITA but the files themselves are not markedly worse for wear at the end, tho I chose to do most of my work at the 'large' file size rather than in full HD.

     

    Now that I am learning premiere I am once again using those raw AVCHD files at near full speed. Once I put the ubergoober video card into the mac pro Premiere will be able to decode and play and mix multiple simultaneous avchd streams.

     

    If you want to natively edit with those files with no import process I recommend premiere. You will still need to export to some consumer viewable format tho.
     
  5. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    you can see examples of my imovie output here:

    http://www.vimeo.com/navesink/videos

     

    They are mixed in with my DSLR vids tho.

     

    One example:

     
  6. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Sam, Thank You.

     

    Need more precise answers, however.

     

    What is the AVCHD camcorder to iMovie conversion

    process like time wise? I realize this depends on the

    processor, but for the most part, is it a fairly fast

    conversion or does it take a lot of time?

     

    For tape based camcorders a 10 minute clip will

    take 10 minutes to transfer to iMovie.

     

    However, the selling point of AVCHD camcorders

    for me is whether I can bring that transfer time

    down completely.

     

    For the most part, is it easy working in iMovie

    with AVCHD?

     

    And what video camcorder do you own?

     

    Hope Apple upgrades iMovie '11 to better support

    AVCHD.
     
  7. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    It's faster than real time by about a factor of 2-3 I guess. It's longer if you tell it to apply the automatic image stabilization, but I never do.

     

    Don't count on native AVCHD support in iMovie any time soon. Could it happen? Sure but I doubt it.
     
  8. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I own a 2 generations old Sony 500V. You may recall this thread from my purchase:

    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/forum/thread/281272/thinking-about-the-new-sony-hd-camcorder-to-go-with-imovie-09

     

    It only shoots 1080i but that has turned out to not be a problem for me, I simply import at full size which essentially turns it into a progressive capture and output & upload at 720p / 540p max anyway. With premiere I may try making some full size 1080 vids but probably not.
     
  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Sam,

     

    I apologize to keep harping on this but this is
    a pretty big decision I need to make....soon.

     

    I went to Best Buy today in hopes of being able

    to see the camcorder, stick my memory card in

    it to take footage, then bring the card home to
    see how the AVCHD transfer works on iMovie.

     

    Unfortunately, there was no high-end camcorders

    on display and nobody willing to help me out. Hate

    Best Buy!

     

    Just kind of want to know if it is worth going from

    tape to flash memory. My main reason is cutting

    down on the overall camcorder->iMovie transfer

    time.

     

    So, just to kind of pick your brain some more:

     

    How is the overall iMovie experience with AVCHD?

     

    When you have a lot of footage to work with is the

    transfer to iMovie from camcorder fairly fast? Once

    you have it all in iMovie is it easy to edit and then

    burn? Any quality issues?

     

    Just need some assurance that it's okay to go

    ahead and buy this camcorder.

     

    Thanks so much
     
  10. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    You should be able to try out all the camcorders on your trip to B&H... I haven't looked at them recently. The Sony NEX-10 looks cool to me but is probably bigger than you want to lug with a DSLR also with you. It's 1080i which is good because it should minimize jello effect but bad because it's another processing step. The lack of progressive capture on my current camera hasn't been a problem since iMovie fixed the export bug that was causing me scanlines, that was about 2 years ago now.

     

    Anyway, import time isn't a consideration for me. I start the import process and then flip to something else until it's done. Import time is a 'cost of doing business' with digital. Getting all freaked out over the difference between a 10 minute and a 20 minute import has never made sense to me unless you are under constant deadline pressure. You simply do it and it's done. When you need to export you kick it off then do something else until that is done. If you make a decision what camera to use based on how fast you can get the data to and from the computer you are likely to be very disappointed with your selection. =)

     

    As for tape, I will never ever go back. It's not even up for consideration.

     

    iMovie is fine for the level of sophistication it brings. It met my needs for a long time but I want to try some more complex things that will never really be a part of a tool like this (timelapses, DSLR footage, color correction and film 'looks', serious green-screening, multiple overlays, etc) so it's time for me to move on to something more pro like. I considered both FCP and Premiere and ultimately chose Premiere cause I got it bundled in for nearly free (along with after effects) by buying it in the Production Premium package with Photoshop CS5. With educator discount I got the whole suite for less than a single FCP upgrade would cost, it was a no brainer.

     

    I'm still going to use iMovie for simple projects because I already have a pretty good idea how to do what I want to do with it quickly.
     
  11. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Well, unfortuantely, that is the biggest factor.

     

    When I do trade shows, I end up with an hour of footage for the day.

     

    An entire hour is wasted transferring footage real-time from the

    camcorder to iMovie before I can even begin editing the footage.

     

    An hour is a lot of wasted time when you have deadlines to meet

    and activities later that day.

     

    So, for me, the only reason I really want to move to AVCHD over

    tape is that I am hoping the AVCHD transfer process is considerably

    faster than the tape counterpart.

    .
     
  12. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Then I'm afraid my input isn't relevant here. No worries and good luck!
     
  13. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Oh, Sam, don't take your ball and go home.

     

    Your input has been very valuable here.

     

    You just stated that if I am looking for a camera

    to save time on transfer then I will be disappointed

    with my purchase.

     

    I disagree. That is the VERY reason I am looking

    to move from tape to flash drive. It's essential
    that I find a faster method of transferring my movies.

    And, I know I'm getting a very good camcorder for

    what I want. The Sony I selected is highly rated.

     

    But I appreciate the help you have provided. You

    are definitely steering me in the direction of AVCHD.
     
  14. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Honestly transfer speed is not even in the top ten why I won't use tape again but ok. I'll tell you what I can but I don't know how valuable it will be.
     
  15. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Sam,

     

    Most professionals won't use anything BUT tape.

     

    From all the research I have done, it is still the

    preferred format by professionals.

     
     
  16. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    /shrug if you say so. I use what works for me, not what people define as professional or whatever other silly tag. I don't live my life trying to live up to other peoples expectations or definitions, I've got work to do and a life to lead.
     
  17. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Okay, so I bought the Sony CX550v, and I have

    to tell you, it's a pretty awesome camcorder. It is

    considerably smaller and more lightweight than my

    HDC1 and it takes great footage in low light.

     

    As for iMovie? It works surprisingly well despite

    all my fears that it would not. Just plug the camcorder

    in the computer and iMovie starts the import.
     

    Is it faster than tape? Yes, but perhaps barely.

    There is a brief amount of time required for transfer

    and the conversion of AVCHD to Apple codec. Then

    the software has to create thumbnails of the images.

    For small amounts of footage the transfer process

    to iMovie is considerably fast. However, for huge

    chunks of footage, the process is slower -- considerably

    for the amount of time it takes for iMovie to create

    thumbnail images.

     

    Still, the process is much better than tape. You

    can select (via checkmarks) what scenes you wish

    to import from the camera and which to leave behind.

    Was very pleased that iMovie did not split the footage

    into small segments but retained the full length clip
    to choose from. It would have been hell to deal with

    if there were a million little clips to import.

     

    iMovie '09 is a lot of fun to edit footage with. The

    things you can do with it are almost unlimited including

    adding titles, transitions, etc.
     

    There is still the same wait involved when doing the

    final SHARE conversion at the end, but I had to go
    through the same process when dealing with tape so

    it did not bother me one bit.

     

    For all the paranoia I had about how MAC would
    deal with AVCHD, I am just delighted to see that none

    of what I had read is really a problem -- at least as far

    as working with HD footage for YouTube. Now had I

    created a DVD that may have presented its own problems

    but that is a project for another day.

     

    You can see my HD footage in the Cedia 2010 forum area.

     

     

    Thank you Sam Posten for your help and encouragement.
     

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