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


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#1 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 06 2010 - 07:34 AM

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.


Ronald J Epstein
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#2 of 17 Keith Plucker

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Posted September 06 2010 - 02:40 PM

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


As far as I'm concerned, it's a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. - Hunter S. Thompson, 1958, from cover letter he wrote for a newspaper job.


#3 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 06 2010 - 11:55 PM

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.


 


Ronald J Epstein
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#4 of 17 Sam Posten

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Posted September 07 2010 - 04:29 AM

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.


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#5 of 17 Sam Posten

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Posted September 07 2010 - 04:32 AM

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:

http://www.vimeo.com/10319859


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#6 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 07 2010 - 04:34 AM

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.

Ronald J Epstein
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#7 of 17 Sam Posten

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Posted September 07 2010 - 04:37 AM

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.


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#8 of 17 Sam Posten

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Posted September 07 2010 - 04:47 AM

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

http://www.hometheat...-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.


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#9 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 07 2010 - 05:01 AM

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


Ronald J Epstein
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#10 of 17 Sam Posten

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Posted September 07 2010 - 06:28 AM

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.


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#11 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 07 2010 - 06:48 AM

 

 

  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.

 

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.

.


Ronald J Epstein
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#12 of 17 Sam Posten

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Posted September 07 2010 - 11:08 AM

Then I'm afraid my input isn't relevant here. No worries and good luck!

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#13 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 07 2010 - 11:34 AM

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.


Ronald J Epstein
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#14 of 17 Sam Posten

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Posted September 07 2010 - 12:52 PM

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.


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#15 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 07 2010 - 12:55 PM

Sam,

 

Most professionals won't use anything BUT tape.

 

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

preferred format by professionals.

 


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#16 of 17 Sam Posten

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Posted September 08 2010 - 01:27 AM

/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.


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#17 of 17 Ronald Epstein

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Posted September 23 2010 - 10:11 PM

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.


Ronald J Epstein
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