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AVCHD Format Discussion
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Old February 20th, 2008, 07:18 AM   #1
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PC or Mac for editing AVCHD?

The majority of people here that edit professionally and/or just for personal use (the amauture, intermediate, etc) what kind of computers are you using. I just bought a Canon HG10 and was advised to use Corel Video Studio 11 Plus and /or Pinnacle. Than I noticed that my system is to slow. I have a 1.8ghz processor 2 gig of ram and 256mb nvida graphics card. I'm sure anyone of you will say not enough power and i couldn;t disagree with you. So now that places me in a new situation. I have this sick camera (b/c when I connect it to my 60" Pioneer Plasma via HDMI I can't believe how far Camcorders came. The resolution is incredible for a "home-movie". So I want to be able to make the movies look somewhat professional but I need a machine that can perform. I've never had a MAC or worked on one. Are they any goog for these type of applications? Will I freeze up? B/c the other option is to get a new PC. I was thinking if the new Dell XPS720 it has a 3.0 GHZ Intel Core 2 Quad Processor, 3 gigs of ram and 512mb nvidia graphic card. I would appreciate any input.
Thanks ,
T.M.
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Old February 21st, 2008, 01:18 PM   #2
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Hey Tom, I've got the HG10 just like you. Here are some thoughts. I've used a Mac since my freshman year in HS - that was 1985 - so 23 years. I started using PC's (running AT&T Unix) my sr. year in HS. What you get with a Mac is the operating system. That is what's golden. Apple has had more than 2 decades to perfect its graphical O/S and yes, it's traditionally been very stable. Other than that, the boxes are incredibly overpriced and overrated. In fact, now that they're using Intel CPU's, there's really nothing special to a Mac (other than its O/S) vis-a-vis a PC. The whole RISC vs. CISC debate with the Moto chips is now over as both PC's and Mac's are essentially running the same physical platform.

With that said, here's what I recommend if you're interested in editing your footage. First, get out of the AVC format as soon as possible. If you move to a more universal intermediate file format, then you can choose any of the most popular NLE's. I use Cineform's NEO HDV utility for this purpose (and to remove pulldown from the 24P footage from the HG10). $200, cheap, done deal.

The Intel Core 2 Duo chips right now are ridiculously good. The 45NM Wolfdales have already been released - got four of the 3GHz boxes sitting in front of me waiting to be put in new machines. These things are cheap compared to what you get and they overclock insanely well. I've read reports of people pushing these babies to 4GHz on air! If you go the intermediate route, you won't even need the power. I'm OC'ing a lolely 1.6GHz (E2140) Dual Core ~$70 for the CPU right now and have no problems whatsoever editing the Cineform intermediate .avi file in real time.

Place the chip of your choice in a decent motherboard that has the expansion capabilities you require, pick up some cheap SATA storage, cheap 2Gig DDR2 800MHz (PC-6400) RAM, load XP Pro SP2, and you're good to go. Comparing the cost outlay of this rig vs. a comparable Mac and there is no comparison.

FYI, I use Vegas Pro 8 and this may be able to still be had for a steal (I paid ~$190 six weeks ago).
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Old February 21st, 2008, 02:29 PM   #3
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Aaron - great answer...

...I think.
I have the same general questions as Mark - how will my computer config deal with these files, etc
Your answer sounds like you have this down, but as a rookie to this, I don't follow all that you say. Like.. I assume a Wolfdale is a fast new chip, but can/should I pull my 2Ghz Centrino 2 chip and drop in the new chip? Do I need both NEo utility and Vegas software?
Sorry -really new and trying to get educated, but not near your level of computer or vid processing expertise.
Would this be a forum to post exactly what I have now, what CC I'm planning to get, and to get specific a hardware/software recommendation in basic terms?
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Old February 21st, 2008, 02:55 PM   #4
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Dan, very logical questions! Yes, Wolfdale is Intel's trade name for the new dual core CPU's using the new 45nm silicon. As far as swapping CPU's, you have to verify CPU compatibility with your motherboard manufacturer. I don't follow your "Centrino" verbiage because that name has always been reserved for the laptop platform. These new CPU's are specific to desktop motherboards.

Cineform's NEO HDV software is a utility that converts the .mts/.m2ts files from your AVCHD cam into a "lossless" intermediate .avi (or .mov) file. It also eliminates the whole 24P in 60i mess so that you're editing on a true 24P timeline in your editor (may or may not be relevant to you).

Vegas Pro is Sony Creative Software's full featured NLE. This NLE was originally developed by Sonic Foundry in Madison, Wis presumably using the company's Sound Forge audio mastering software as inspiration. I've been using Sound Forge for 12 years, so the Vegas interface learning curve for me was pretty much non-existent. If you choose to convert your AVCHD footage into an intermediate, then you can choose practically any one of the popular NLE's, even ones that can't edit AVCHD files natively.

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Originally Posted by Dan Lewandowski View Post
Would this be a forum to post exactly what I have now, what CC I'm planning to get, and to get specific a hardware/software recommendation in basic terms?
Technically, there's a HD video editing forum here, but AVCHD is still like a red-headed stepchild so you might want to keep your questions here, LOL. I certainly won't hold it against ya...
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Old February 21st, 2008, 04:04 PM   #5
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Thanks Aaron

Oh oh. I do have a laptop with a Centrino Duo, 2Ghz, 2gB ram. Is this not good enough? I'm planning on getting the new Sony SR11.
And I likely will only need Vegas. Is an older cheaper version OK, like 7?
Thanks
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Old February 21st, 2008, 04:40 PM   #6
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Dan, I can't say whether your laptop is going to suffice or not. What I can do is tell you my experience and let you judge for yourself. I've got a Dual Core 1.6 (E2140) that I can OC to ~2.2GHz without much trouble, 2GB of DDR2 800 and a very zippy SATA disk subsystem.

When I merely playback unedited AVCHD clips in Vegas, both cores are basically pegged @ 98% - this is with ZERO edits. When I playback the same clips rendered to Cineform intermediate .avi's, I'm sitting at ~18%. This is under preview quality (auto mode, so small display window).

Regarding which version of Vegas, there are lite versions (e.g., Vegas Movie Studio Plat) that are less expensive but offer less features too. That's totally your call. Also, you have to watch which versions edit AVCHD files if you're sticking with the format. Personally, I wouldn't even try at this point, but that's my preference.
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Old February 21st, 2008, 05:11 PM   #7
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Vegas and AVCHD

Aaron - "wouldn't even try at this point"
Is that referring to getting anything less than Vegas 8 Pro or is that referring to trying to edit AVCHD vs an intermediate format?
If I need to convert to intermeditae format as you suggested earlier, I would get:
Cineform NEO HDV Utility - to convert AVCHD to intermediate format $200
Vegas Pro 8 - to edit the intermediate format ~$200
Maybe I will get the HG10...uh, no, I like black stealthy looking stuff..
Note - found a reputable, official Sony distributor, offering mid-late March
delivery of SR11 for $966, no tax, about $20 shipping. (not in NY/NJ either!)

Thanks for all the fast feedback - much appreciated!
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Old February 21st, 2008, 06:12 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Lewandowski View Post
Aaron - "wouldn't even try at this point"
Is that referring to getting anything less than Vegas 8 Pro or is that referring to trying to edit AVCHD vs an intermediate format?
The latter. Unfortunately, the B&H Photo upgrade deal is no longer - check the Vegas forum for the thread. So you're looking at ~$380 now. It's really too bad you missed this deal by a few weeks I surmise. But it still might be worth it because the full Vegas product includes the Cineform intermediate codec, so that might work for you. I highly doubt that the Movie Studio products come with that codec. Check Cineform's website for specific differences between the included codec in Vegas and their standalone products. Since you don't need pulldown removal (no 24P on SR11, right?), I'd bet you could easily get by with the included version, but check the differences just to make sure.
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Old February 21st, 2008, 06:13 PM   #9
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One side question for Aaron--

I like what you said about converting the .mts/.m2ts files from your AVCHD cam into a "lossless" intermediate .avi (or .mov) file (and pulling out the 24p in the process).

I was just curious, when you use NEO to do that conversion, what format do you convert to? Avi or mov? And if it's lossless, do the files get awkwardly large? I do realize that hard drives are cheap these days. I'm interested in using Premiere/After Effects to edit, so I'm just looking for the right intermediate format to work in.

Thanks for your tips!
-James
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Old February 21st, 2008, 06:18 PM   #10
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I choose .avi. Yes, the resulting file sizes are 3x-5x the size of the original in my experience so far. This hasn't been a big deal for me. You can always delete them and archive the original AVCHD files on HDD or my preference: DLT. Reconvert if necessary in the future. Conversion performance is entirely dependent on CPU power at this point. There aren't any chips today or even in the near future that will be waiting for really nice SATA-2 HDD's, esp. if configured in hardware accelerated RAID 0.
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Old February 21st, 2008, 06:18 PM   #11
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Most computers find just playing an AVCHD file a real challenge. Editing is even harder, even for a fast computer. You really have to define more precisely editing. IF you just mean cuts editing with no colour correction etc, then the software that comes with the Sony camcorders is sufficient and can create SD DVD's or AVCHD discs as backups on pretty much any computer. Not sure what comes with the Canon. IF you want to get more fancy then you will need a more powerful computer, and plenty of patience!!!! Using an intermediate file system like Cineform or the HQ file structure from Canopus will make editing much faster however they may take a long time to convert to this format!!!! On my dual core AMD 4200X2 it takes about 10 times realtime to convert to Canopus HQ. Then of course it is realtime editing with no problems. Vegas will work with the AVCHD files on the timeline but rendering will take some time. It's pay me now or pay me later!!! With my SR7 I find the easiest in fact is the Sony Browser software that comes with the camera to create a simple AVCHD or DVD. Simple menus can be created etc and you don't need to buy anything other than the camcorder. Pinnacle and Ulead/Corel also make editing software that is a little more sophisticated. You will need a new fast ( 3.0G +) dual core or quad core machine to manage editing, just like the Dell you mentioned. You have more choice of software on the PC than Mac so my choice would be a PC.

Ron Evans
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Old February 21st, 2008, 10:35 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron Evans View Post
Using an intermediate file system like Cineform or the HQ file structure from Canopus will make editing much faster however they may take a long time to convert to this format!!!! On my dual core AMD 4200X2 it takes about 10 times realtime to convert to Canopus HQ.
Ron, that is really poor performance relative to the Cineform intermediate. When I read this earlier this evening, it didn't sound right so I ran a quick little test. Again, I'm running a lolely Intel E2140 - basically a $70 throwaway CPU installed to get me by until the Wolfdale's were released, which they now have been.

AVCHD file specifics: .m2ts (MPEG-2 Transport Stream), 17:09 minutes, 1440x1080 (24PF in 60i), stereo audio @48K, 1.9GB

Set HDLink preferences to remove 3:2 pulldown and quality=High (film scan & film scan 2 definitely overkill for these cam's and what I'm doing per Cineform's own documentation).

Started 20:57:38, convert done 21:17:01; resulting file size = 8.08GB. So that's pretty close to realtime...

Just for kicks, I tried the film scan 2 setting on the same file. Started 22:14:14, convert done 22:36:03; resulting file size = 12.7GB.

Last edited by Aaron Courtney; February 21st, 2008 at 11:24 PM.
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 12:23 AM   #13
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This is all very educational - seems I have a lot to learn.
My apologies to Tom Marks if I have hijacked your thread. Thanks to Ron for letting me know I can at least do simple editing with the Sony supplied software. Aaron - I alwyas get addicted to this kind of stuff so I'm Googling what I am not familiar with in your comments to make sense of it all.
I assume a lot of the data conversion is walkaway processing time - hit "enter" and come back later. Does the aproach of using an older, slower computer to convert "offline" work if time isn't a key factor?
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 11:50 AM   #14
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Mac versus PC pricing?

Compare a similarly priced Dell to an Apple without adding factory RAM.

The Dell is more expensive.

Cheap PCs, are well, cheap PCs. You can buy a no name or build your own for far less than a Mac. But the OS sells.
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 01:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Lewandowski View Post
I assume a lot of the data conversion is walkaway processing time - hit "enter" and come back later. Does the aproach of using an older, slower computer to convert "offline" work if time isn't a key factor?
Batch convert is a nice feature about HDLink that is included with the NEO HDV product. You can select all of your clips, push the button, and walk away. I'm not sure if you can batch render to Cineform in Vegas Pro since I have never had a need to even try it. I would suggest you download a trial version of Vegas (or any other NLE you might want to use) and just try it out on your laptop.
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