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Importing AVCHD video into Mac OS X

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I've been cursing AVCHD ever since it started showing up in camcorders and still cameras that shoot video. I don't really understand why it exists. Although its file and folder specification claims to be compatible with Blu-ray, it doesn't seem likely that the majority of casual video shooters will choose to archive video content from cameras directly onto Blu-ray discs, and AVCHD's awkward multiple-folder storage structure makes it extremely difficult to work with in video editing workflows...

 

Full article on front page: http://wetpixel.com/i.php/full/avchd-hd-vi...ow-on-mac-os-x/

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Eric,

Whether you are talking of AVCHD intra or inter I am not sure but you are correct, this codec as well as the variations of many of the new codecs coming out are problematic when trying to edit natively. Don't waste your time, simply capture or transcode everything you shoot in Pro Res 422 and you will find it is a heaven sent. No issues at all and you will be working in 10bit. Granted, it creates larger files but no problems when editing. You can also export a pro res sequence to your desktop and import into Compressor for a SD DVD. If you want to put out to a HD tape you would need to duplicate the Pro Res sequence into a new sequence with the HDV settings using Easy Setup

Steve

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Steve - I am wasting my time by transcoding EVERYTHING upon import. This way, I can keep a master and transcode only the clips I want to use. I'm thinking about editing in the field, here.

 

Also, ProRes of any sort is way overkill from footage from little point & shoots that shoot AVCHD. ClipWrap is the way to go.

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Eric, just load up you know what and edit the raw clips as is . :notworthy:

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Wagsy,

That's what Eric is concerned about, having to edit in native AVCHD. It is just a pain and conforming in FC takes a long time. Will have to research Clip Wrap.

Steve

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I'm going to change Wagsy's title to "Edius Cheerleader". :notworthy:

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Hey I did not even say the word. :notworthy:

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Hey I did not even say the word. :notworthy:

 

You are so predictable. :)

 

Edius does look like it support AVCHD very well in native format, but that's not the discussion here.

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Eric,

I went to the Clip Wrap website. Very interesting. What have your experiences, plus and minuses been with it? Learning curve, workflow?

Steve

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Eric,

I went to the Clip Wrap website. Very interesting. What have your experiences, plus and minuses been with it? Learning curve, workflow?

Steve

 

I'd like to comment, if I may...

 

I purchased the CX550V about a month ago and I am waiting for my Stingray+ housing to bring it underwater. This delay gave me some time to practice with it and understand how to use it with FCE. The main difference with my previous camcorder, which was generating H.264 encoded mp4 movies is indeed 1) the AVCHD format and 2) the interlaced format.

 

1) From what I can see, ClipWrap does essentially what Log and Transfer does, that is unwrap the compressed video and store it as a series of frames (well actually fields, but I'll get to that in a second). It might indeed "not alter video samples" but definitely expands them quite a bit (1 min of a video I shot is ~160 MB once "unwrapped" whereas the whole clip of several minutes is about the same size in the AVCHD format). So if you wanted to save $50 and do a little bit of work, you could log and transfer, go to your scratch disk and get the .mov files there. The size would be essentially identical to the result of ClipWrap. AVCHD is not a "codec" but a file/folder structure PLUS a codec, which might well be H.264 for what we know...

There are some differences between the two though:

- in your video example and on the 1 min clip I generated with ClipWrap, QT says that the format is H.264, 1920x1080 (1888x1062). What are the last two figures? I dunno. But I just want to point out that the result of the Log and Transfer process of FCE is a mov file with Apple Intermediate Codec, 1920x1080, period.

- the ClipWrap video is clearly interlaced. Might not be visible in your video, but in the clip I shot, if I freeze the QT video, a clear "comb" effect is visible when there is significant motion from one field to the next. Not so in the mov files generated by Log and Transfer. Why? I dunno.

 

2) The CX550V is not only a AVCHD camcorder, it is an interlaced one, which, at least in FCE, results in some interesting problems (discussed at length in a thread I started recently on Apple's FCE forum - threadID=2497894 "How to export/convert FCE movies into AVCHD format?"). For instance, it appears that even though the Log and Transfer files look fine in QT, FCE somehow knows that it comes from an interlaced camera and show the fields as offset in the canvas. If you then export your sequence using QuickTime conversion, the resulting movie will still show the interlacing (again only if your scene is very dynamic). Check out the above thread to read about possible solutions.

 

So in summary, I am not so sure ClipWrap is intended for FCE (or FCP) users, who have a similar tool built-in in their software. It would definitely be useful for people who simply want to be able to play their camcorder clips on a Mac without any thought of editing them...

 

My 2 cts.

Cheers,

X.

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X -

 

From what I can see, ClipWrap does essentially what Log and Transfer does, that is unwrap the compressed video and store it as a series of frames (well actually fields, but I'll get to that in a second)

 

ClipWrap absolutely does not store the video as a "series of frames," whatever that means -- and neither does Log & Transfer. ClipWrap takes the H.264 stream and re-wraps it without modification in a Quicktime MOV wrapper (unless you tell it to transcode).

 

AVCHD is not a "codec" but a file/folder structure PLUS a codec, which might well be H.264 for what we know...

 

No one claimed that AVCHD was a codec. ACVHD uses MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (AVC) in MTS-wrapped files (which is well known).

 

But I just want to point out that the result of the Log and Transfer process of FCE is a mov file with Apple Intermediate Codec, 1920x1080, period.

 

Log and Transfer with FCP doesn't use Apple Intermediate Codec unless you tell it to. I typically use Log & Transfer to transcode to ProRes 422 LT because I don't want to throw away too much information. And AIC is not a good codec -- isn't it 4:2:0? You'd be throwing away information with any camera that shoots 4:2:2 or higher.

 

the ClipWrap video is clearly interlaced. Might not be visible in your video, but in the clip I shot, if I freeze the QT video, a clear "comb" effect is visible when there is significant motion from one field to the next. Not so in the mov files generated by Log and Transfer. Why? I dunno.

 

Why? It's because the source video is interlaced. ClipWrap does not alter the source video unless you tell it to (and even then, it only offers a new target -- no de-interlacing seems to be supported).

 

Log & Transfer *always* transcodes, and you can tell it to de-interlace if you want it to.

 

I don't want to be harsh, but your post is full of misinformation. You need to do some serious reading on how this all works

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UW Explorer,

I am not a Clip Wrap user but will make sure I get it to research what and how it works. However, Eric is correct in that nothing I know of stores video as " A series of frames'. If that were so, your capture scratch folder would contain separate 'frames' rather the video files, totaling perhaps in the hundreds or even thousands of individual files for each clip. FCP, Premier Pro, Edius or any NLE stores clips of video and, yes, you can play each video frame by frame if you so desire or need to trim a clip, but they do not store captures as individual frames.

 

Eric is also correct in that AVCHD, whether it is intra or inter, is not a codec but a Format. While FCP will natively edit AVC Intra, it does not work well with inter. Only the more expensive cams shoot in AVC Intra (since you are using FCExpress, I will take the liberty to assume that you are shooting in the considerably less expensive AVCHD inter camcorders that sell for about $1400.) This is one of the reasons why it is always best to transcode upon Log and Transfer to the Pro Res codec of your choice. Eric uses Pro Res 422 LT and I use Pro Res 422 SD. It is a simple matter of choice. The LT codec allows for smaller file sizes with little loss of resolution and contrast. With Pro Res the editor does not need to go through any kind of 'conforming' which can really eat up editing bay time.

 

In the old days when FCP 1.0 came out, we were all shooting with Standard Definition cams like the Sony 1000, 900, 950, 2000 or one of the Canon GLs or XLs. These were all interlaced and the Animation and Apple Intermediate Codecs were in popular use. Don't know of anyone who uses them now though.

 

Also, deinterlacing interlaced footage can be a problem resulting in horrible artifacts so I would not recommend doing so. In addition, upon export, I can not understand why anyone would remotely want to export back to the AVCHD format. If you wanted to compress your final sequence for DVD creation it would be best to export as a self contained Pro Res sequence which you could then bring into Compressor to make either a downconverted SD DVD or one of the HD settings. If using HDV that has been transcoded to Pro Res and you wanted an HDV tape you would need to copy your Pro Res sequence into a new sequence with HDV settings.

 

Like I said before, I do not know Clip Wrap or what is so valuable about it since FCP will transcode AVC to Pro Res anyway. Maybe it works faster, I will have to find out.

Hope this, at least, clears up somethings.

Steve

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I went to the Clip Wrap website. Very interesting. What have your experiences, plus and minuses been with it? Learning curve, workflow?

Steve - I see two uses of ClipWrap (for me):

 

1. simplify archiving of personal video, for which transcoding would either be overkill (ProRes is huge) or detrimental (transcoding to another wrapped H.264 video for smaller files would destroy the video)

 

2. speed up in-the-field workflow for professional use

 

For example, I'm in Bangkok right now, and I've been toting a Sony CX550v (to learn the camera). It has 64GB of built-in flash. When I connect it to my computer via USB, it mounts as a volume. At this point, I can:

 

1. Log & Transfer using FCP. This requires transcode, which could potentially take a long time.

 

2. Copy the entire AVCHD folder structure to my hard disk to archive (Log & Transfer later)

 

3. Use ClipWrap to re-wrap all of the MTS files into Quicktime

 

Option 1 would make it so I can't use my camcorder until transcode is complete. It would also throw away my masters (creating new masters: the new ProRes files).

 

Options 1+2 combined would work, but working with folders is unwieldy. There is also no way I can preview (since I can't find a video player on the Mac that will play an AVCHD MTS file).

 

Option 3 is a good compromise. MTS files are wrapped in Quicktime, which means that I can quick preview each video and delete the videos that are clearly trash. Since they contain the original video streams, I treat them as original masters. I can also trim them in Quicktime 7 Pro. I will likely still transcode to ProRes using compressor or another program before editing, but in a pinch, I can directly edit in H.264.

 

Note that metadata information is lost when re-wrapping. For example, the original MTS files are created when the clips are recorded. If you re-wrap, the files get new file creation dates. I do a batch rename of the MTS files and encode the original creation date into the filename before re-wrapping in ClipWrap.

 

Tony Wu is using Aperture 3 to organize his video clips (and audio). He imports all of his H.264 MOV clips into Aperture, organizes them into virtual albums, and sets in and out points. Finally, batch exports of all the clips he wants to use in his production and transcodes them into ProRes for editing.

 

Mostly, ClipWrap improves my mobile workflow. At home, I have plenty of disk space and time, and doing a log & transfer and transcoding all of my clips isn't a big deal. But I hate the idea of archiving AVCHD folders, so I'd likely still always re-wrap my video into Quicktime MOV files.

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OK, I'm told that Final Cut Express doesn't support ProRes (which is why X says that Log & Transfer uses AIC).

 

[Final Cut Express 4.0.1] also includes AVCHD Easy Setups to support ingesting AVCHD footage using the Apple Intermediate Codec, meaning users no longer need to use the HDV-Apple Intermediate Codec Easy Setups when ingesting AVCHD footage.

 

Still, Log & Transfer in FCE *does* transcode into AIC, so my original reply stands.

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Thanks Eric for the Clipwrap summary. I emailed them for an NFR so I can take a look myself. In the field, it sounds like a worthwhile tool.

Hope you're having fun in Bangkok. The Wats there are just beautiful, so much to see and do. Be careful not to get robbed in the Red Light district.

Steve

 

PS. They just sent me an NFR of Clip Wrap which I will install in a couple of days.

Edited by steve

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Points taken :-) I confess my ignorance and will get back to my studies...

But to clarify: is ClipWrap generating files that have:

1- the same size as the originals on the camcorder?

2- similar size as the originals but not necessarily exactly the same?

3- systematically larger files than the originals?

4- none of the above

My estimate based on a couple of uses was that 3 applies. And since as a FCE user, I have only access to log and transfer in AIC (which multiplies AVCHD clip sizes by a factor 5-10 from my limited experience), I was just relaying my impression that ClipWrap was not doing a very different job than log and transfer. I understand that I was wrong for many other unrelated reasons.

 

Now another question raised by the later comments is the limitation of FCE in terms of color encoding. Here again I err on the edge of a minefield, as I barely understand what I am talking about... Feel free to shoot me down.

The CX550 has (maybe other Sony camcorders as well) a x.v color option that is supposed to increase the color palette. Are you saying that FCE will disregard this information or degrade it when importing? Is this a reason why I may consider upgrading to FCP (with other reasons I have heard about)?

Thanks for your time.

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Very interesting thread!

 

Eric, I'm finding ClipWrap to be very fast at processing a rewrap of AVCHD MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (AVC) footage. The trial version converts clips up to one minute in duration, and the results are just fine. A good tool for fast rewrap of AVCHD cam footage when working in the field and backing up clips (so long as original metadata isn't an issue, which for me it usually isn't).

 

You are quite correct that interlaced AVCHD MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (AVC) footage will be converted to interlaced Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) clips in Final Cut Express, as well as in iMovie. The HDR-CX550V shoots AVCHD MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (AVC) as 1080/60i, so it's definitely going to come out as interlaced AIC footage. In Final Cut Pro, while there is an option in the Log and Transfer function to convert AVCHD MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (AVC) footage to AIC during ingest, this would definitely not be the codec of choice given the much higher quality of Pro Res 422 (LT). (Pro Res 422 and Pro Res 422 (HQ) are really overkill for AVCHD cam footage unless doing heavy-duty compositing, etc.)

 

But AIC is all you get with Final Cut Express and iMovie. Uwxplorer, this is one very good reason to consider upgrading! The rewrapped H.264 clips from ClipWrap are close to the same file size as the original MTS files. One 14 second test clip started as a 43MB MTS file and was rewrapped to a 46MB file, with the additional size likely due to the addition of the QuickTime wrapper. The data rate of the rewrapped file is 24.92 Mbit/s which is consistent with the listed spec of HDR-CX550V 1080/60i footage. The data rate of the Pro Res 422 (LT) conversion of the same 14 second clip is 97.71 Mbit/sec with a file size of 177MB.

 

For beginning filmmakers the most important thing in my view is to get started editing--with whatever editing program works for getting started! And Final Cut Express and iMovie are good Apple programs for getting started. But they are limited by their use of Apple Intermediate Codec. So, uwxplorer you may wish to consider upgrading to Final Cut Pro if you are highly motivated to tackle the learning curve, which you appear to be.

 

Keep on editing!

 

- Mary Lynn

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I am not converted to FCP just yet, but might to ClipWrap!

I have been thinking about all this and here is my question: you are saying that ClipWrap does not do any codec conversion at all. Thus, this gives me the opportunity to import (rather than Log and Transfer) the footage in FCE. So far, still no conversion. I understand however that if I edit my sequence, rendering by FCE will generate some intermediate AIC video (or not?). I can eventually export it in whatever format, but the damage will have been done anyhow by the AIC intermediate encoding (or not?).

Now suppose rhetorically that my video is outstanding but I realize that FCE must have affected the color of the initial footage and that it would be worth to rework the whole thing in FCP in order to benefit from its better intermediate formats. Is this something that can be done starting from an FCE project based uniquely on ClipWrap-processed clips?

Thanks for your time.

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Uwxplorer, if you use the rewrap setting in ClipWrap it will wrap the original MTS files in a QuickTime wrapper. Then you import the wrapped files into your editing program and check them out.

 

You should probably try some tests using the trial version first and see how your FCE handles the rewrapped footage. You can process files up to 1 minute in duration. Try it and see what you think of the results. Then see what other FCE users are saying about it, and post about your experiences with it. Hopefully there are other editors on this forum who can let you know what their experiences are with ClipWrap and FCE!

 

-Mary Lynn

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Uwxplorer, if you use the rewrap setting in ClipWrap it will wrap the original MTS files in a QuickTime wrapper. Then you import the wrapped files into your editing program and check them out.

 

So far so good.

 

You should probably try some tests using the trial version first and see how your FCE handles the rewrapped footage. You can process files up to 1 minute in duration. Try it and see what you think of the results. Then see what other FCE users are saying about it, and post about your experiences with it. Hopefully there are other editors on this forum who can let you know what their experiences are with ClipWrap and FCE!

 

-Mary Lynn

 

I have tested it (and this was the basis of my erroneous conclusion that it did not do much differently from Log and Import).

My question is not so much how it would perform with FCE. That seems fine. The question is rather a FCE to FCP conversion one. It's kind of theoretical because I don't suppose many people (if any) will have first used CW in conjunction with FCE and later try to reexport their FCE sequences using FCP.

However, I think the question is related to the above discussion, since it was mentioned that the AIC conversion of FCE encodes color in a 4:2:0 scheme contrary to some (if not all) of the FCP codecs. So if I have CW-converted clips preserving the color space of my original footage, I know some of it will be lost when editing in FCE (due to its use of AIC when rendering).

My question is: will I be able to recover this information if I reedit the sequence in FCP? The starting material would still be the CW-converted clips Probably not a yes/no answer, if I apply some filters to some of the clips, for instance, as this would have to be re-rendered in FCP, but intuitively, it seems that the answer should be a qualified yes.

Thanks,

X.

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X, if you subsequently want to work in FCP with your clips processed by ClipWrap, you'll need to import the original ClipWrap-processed files into FCP. What you work on in FCE will be converted to AIC in FCE, so you don't want to use video edited in FCE if you move over to FCP if you can avoid it.

 

Not sure if you can export an XML file from FCE that contains the editing info from the sequences you create in FCE to be able to reassemble (and reconnect) your edited sequences in FCP or not--you'll need to research this!

 

And one caveat regarding using ClipWrap is that those ClipWrap processed files will no longer be transferable via the Log & Transfer function in either FCE or FCP. So if you think you may want to use Log & Transfer on that footage at any point in the future, make sure to archive a copy (or copies for redundancy) of the original AVCHD cam file folder retaining the original folder/file structure unaltered.

 

Hope this helps!

 

- Mary Lynn

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X

 

Unless you need ClipWrap for reasons such as Eric outlined, you may be better making an archieve of the originals via disc image, etc., then bring into FCE and edit away and not get too hung up on the Color Space and the rest. Space for video storage is fairly inexpensive in the grand scheme of things at this point in time, 1.5 Terrabytes is under $100, you will be able to save many hours of video fairly easily, AIC is about 50 Gigs per hour, ProRes (varies on version) assume about 75 Gigs an hour for ProRes that is more than adequate for most things.

 

I am not saying there will not be differences between things and you will get better quality with different workflows, but very often it may be somewhat more academic then things to get too caught up in. For instance text in a DV timeline is something to avoid. Inadvertantly shifting fields is another thing to avoid. But otherwise the biggest part of the battle is getting the thing as best as you can when shooting then get editing happening.

 

Not sure where your footage will wind up, but if you are not doing this commercially (and even more so broadcast commercially) do not miss the forest through the trees. If something needs to be changed latter on, you can do it relatively easily or is otherwise worth the time (In other words you get the Studio later on and however you did the project in FCE really has a practical impact on the results as compared to a full workflow in Final Cut Studio. Reediting/reconforming etc. is part of the turf.) If your intent is to try to really knock things out of the ballpark, get the Final Cut Studio with all of its bells & whistles, plus a good monitoring system and storage, to do the work. Even then alot could be overkill anyway. Again I am not trying to say you should not be concerned about various color space and the rest, it will have times where there are advantages, but be careful of missing the forest though the trees. I have shot with many cameras and worked with many cameras in editing and when dealing with things the lesser cameras have produced better results.

 

But I have attended the San Diego Undersea Film Exhibition and watched many movies shot with HDV cameras that look wonderful on the big screen because the footage was shot well and put together with good stories.

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I agree with Drew. An entertaining, well-produced video done in iMovie trumps no production at all!

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