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Old May 14th, 2008, 09:40 PM   #1
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Software for the Mac: Is there a "middle gound?"

Hello All,

I recently purchased a Canon HF100 and have been researching the daylights out of working with AVCHD source material on a Mac. One thing that is becoming apparent to me is that there seems to be a lack of a “middle ground” when dealing with ACVHD footage on the Mac. To be candid about it, several of the Windows folks seem to be fairly content with the combination of Vegas Pro along with codecs and tools from CineFrom. I’m simply trying to determine if there’s some software combination on the Mac that falls in line at roughly the same place (and cost).

From what I can tell on the Mac, it seems like you have iMovie, FCE, and FCP/FCS. iMovie and FCE appear to be “married” to Apple’s AIC. It seems like you have to plunk down $1,300 for FCS just to work with an intermediate codec other than AIC (or natively in AVCHD if you have the horsepower).

And now the questions:

Am I correct that FCE is tied exclusively to AIC? It doesn’t support working with footage in other formats, does it?

I’ve seen mention that FCE is limited to working with footage at 1440 x 1080. [**] Is this actually a limitation of FCE itself or a limitation of how AIC is currently implemented? That’s obviously one and the same concern if FCE is tied exclusively to AIC. If it’s not, however...

If FCP/FCS is indeed the only option for working with anything other than AIC, then I suppose ProRes 422 would eliminate the need to pursue any other intermediate formats. Agree?

How does ProRes 422 compare to AIC in terms of file sizes? Is it more efficient than the 10x that’s usually associated with AIC? How about its appetite for CPU? Would an iMac with a 2.4 GHz Core2 Duo be sufficient?

FWIW - I know Premiere exists (again) for the Mac, but I’ve honestly found very little mention of it. I can only assume there’s some reason for this so I’ve more or less discounted it from consideration.

[**] Side Question: Does iMovie ’08 have the same 1440 x 1080 resolution limit as FCE? I’ve seen people mention outputting 1920 x 1080 from iMovie but I was thinking this may actually be a rendered “upsizing” from 1440. If both apps are utilizing AIC out of the box, then it’s confusing to me why FCE would be limited to 1440 while iMovie ’08 is not.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 10:18 AM   #2
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None of apps mentioned in your post will work with AVCHD natively.

It's either AIC or prores if you have an Intel Mac.

Premiere CS3 doesn't support AVCHD ingest.

Once you ingest AVCHD into iMovie, FCE4 or FCS2, it will show at 1920x1080. That is a preset.

And pro res created substantially larger files than AIC.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 03:33 PM   #3
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Thank you for the input David.

A short while ago, I found and downloaded the FCP 6 document "Working with High Definition and Broadcast Formats" from Apple. In there it sates that AIC has a maximum frame size of 1440 x 1080. So it looks like that answer is official. I guess 1920 x 1080 output would be a rendered up-sizing for anything that was ingested as AIC.
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Old May 15th, 2008, 09:18 PM   #4
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Do the Aiptek cameras use AVCHD, or is .mov totally different?
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Old May 18th, 2008, 12:25 AM   #5
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AIC's Downrezzing of 1920x1080i AVCHD Files

Hello Bill,

This is only my second post in this very useful forum. I've checked with FCP6's manual and yes, Apple's AIC specs seem to limit the image size to 1440x1080. With the availability of new consumer AVCHD camcorders which can output 1920x1080 images, I am wondering if the gain in image size and the resulting higher data bit rates (up to 17mbps now for the Canons and probably 24mbps for Panasonic professional cams in the near future) would be wasted on all the Mac's AIC-based NLEs such as FCP6, FCE4 and iMovie'08?

Then, what Mac workflow would be best if you want to keep the advantage in size and bit rate of the newer AVCHD files? I've also checked FCP6's technical specs from Apple website and could not find anywhere if AVCHD files are supported.

Your comments are truly appreciated.

Wacharapong
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Old May 19th, 2008, 11:08 PM   #6
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Well for what it's worth, I stopped by the Apple store tonight armed with an SDHC card from my HF100 and a SDHC card reader. Low and behold the employee that offered assistance was a video enthusiast and the let me play around with a couple of my clips and FCP for about 10 minutes. The machine I was on was a 2.66 GHz Core2 Duo iMac with 2 GB of RAM.

I created a new project and imported one 12 second clip and one 31 second clip via the log and transfer window. After the import, the clips and the sequence all showed as ProRes 422 at 1920 x 1080. I dragged both clips to the timeline and was able to play them in the viewer without any issue. I was also able to scrub the play head back and forth through the footage with only the slightest detectable amount of lag. My 31 second clip was about 51 MB on the SDHC card and was 565 MB in ProRes 422 format after import. Overall, the machine seemed to handle these rudimentary tasks just fine.

So it seems to me that FCP is the only means of dealing with AVCHD footage at 1920 x 1080. Combine that with my eligibility for Apple's educational discount and FCS is starting to look tempting.
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Old May 20th, 2008, 01:25 PM   #7
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1920x1080 AVCHD

Thanks Bill, this seems to confirm that there actually is no "middle ground" in editing on the Mac platform at least for the time being. You either have to go all the way to FCP6 generating a 4:2:2 color sampling and 10 bit depth plus around 11x file size just to do some simple editing like cutting, reordering, transitioning etc. your footage. Or you can stick with iMovie'08 or FCE4 and compromise your raw footage by scaling down to 1440x1080.

Some other codecs e.g. the one used by Sanyo Xacti HD1000 are even more troublesome to edit on the Mac platform. These consumer file-based video formats were obviously designed with the need for instant gratification and techno-bragging crowds in mind. The true aesthetic quality was taking a back seat. It's the job of computer software and hardware and the true videophiles to catch up.

Sigh!
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Old May 25th, 2008, 10:09 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Wacharapong Chiowanich View Post
Thanks Bill, this seems to confirm that there actually is no "middle ground" in editing on the Mac platform at least for the time being.
I think you mean that there are no NATIVE AVCHD editing tools using Apple products.

The codecs that Apple supports for editing must be implemented to support real-time editing. So HDV, AIC, DV, ProRes are all able to be edited without the need for rending. Someday, Apple may add AVCHD to this list.

But this doesn't mean you cannot edit your Canon video at 1920x1080 in real-time. iMovie 08 works perfectly with AVCHD. Simply plug in your camera, choose the clips you want in the iMovie 08 importer, and import. Then, you edit in real-time.

The only limitation with iMovie 08 is that you'll be editing 24p as "60i with 3-2 pulldown." For this reason, I suggest 30p if you want progressive video.

PS1: to see the quality of FullHD to HD or SD -- go to:

http://www.vimeo.com/user364340/videos

PS2: I liked iMovie 08 so much I wrote an eBook about it: the

"DVC Guide to iMovie 08 Editing"

It fully covers AVCHD editing as well making NTSC/PAL DVDs, AVCHD optical discs, and Bluray discs.

To learn more, go to my website (below).
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Old May 26th, 2008, 10:37 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Wacharapong Chiowanich View Post
You either have to go all the way to FCP6 generating a 4:2:2 color sampling and 10 bit depth
My understanding is that AVCHD isn't 4:2:2, although pro res is.

But there is no color information added to the convert.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 10:54 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Steve Mullen View Post
But this doesn't mean you cannot edit your Canon video at 1920x1080 in real-time. iMovie 08 works perfectly with AVCHD. Simply plug in your camera, choose the clips you want in the iMovie 08 importer, and import. Then, you edit in real-time.
So does iMovie 08 work with the AVCHD footage at 1920 x 1080 throughout the editing process or not? If you compare it to what is known about FCE, there are two different conclusions one could draw:

A) Since iMovie ’08 relies on AIC it must have the same limitations as FCE. It downsizes 1920 x 1080 footage to 1440 x 1080. Any output that is supposedly 1920 x 1080 is probably therefore a “rendered” upsizing of the 1440 x 1080 AIC working format.

B) When you import 1920 x 1080 footage into FCE, the clip properties still show it as 1920 x 1080. It is only when FCE actually works on the footage in some form, that it appears to downsize (when rendering) to 1440 x 1080. This would imply that FCE’s resolution limit is with the application itself and not necessarily AIC. Then iMovie ’08 (being a different application) may not have the same factors limiting resolution.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 12:58 AM   #11
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there are two different conclusions one could draw:
FCE is a version of FCP. It shares no code with either version of iMovie. And, iM 08 shares no code with iM 06.

iMovie is somewhat "open timeline" and can use several different codecs -- including MPEG-2 although many don't know this. It does not rely on AIC -- although AIC is the HD codec most folks have. Since I have FCP -- I often use ProRes 422 for exports.

So (B) is the correct answer.

AVCHD can be imported as either 1920x1080 or 960x540. Your choice.

Use FULL if you plan to export and burn a AVCHD or BD. Otherwise, LARGE is fine.

Of course, you must use exactly the correct export process to get good output from iMovie 08.
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Old May 27th, 2008, 06:19 AM   #12
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Steve, a couple of questions. The last time I was in an Apple store (about a week ago), I was told that the latest version of IMovie no longer supports timeline editing and just utilizes storyboard. I had asked the salesguy since I was tinkering around and just couldn't find anyway to convert to timeline editing. Can you confirm this?

The other question I have, is that it appears from some of the posts that although you can import 1920X1080 AVCHD in to IMovie, your final export is not a true 1920X1080 AVCHD. In other words import does not equal export. Is that correct or am I missing something?
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Old May 27th, 2008, 11:30 AM   #13
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iMovie'08 and AVCHD

Steve, not long after iMovie'08 had been launched, the reviewer for one of the well-known U.S. computer magazines said in his review article that iMovie'08 actually analyzed or modified only one of the two fields in the editing process for 1080/60i AVCHD footage in order to make both the preview and rendering more responsive (either during the ingest and transcoding to AIC or once it's already in the AIC, not being clear). Your statement in the previous post that said 24p editing required a pulldown and 30p footage would therefore simplify matters just reminded me of that review. So, my question is does iMovie'08 really skip one of the interlaced fields in the editing process? If so, how could the rendered files or export from the application's "storyboard" not be compromised?

Wacharapong
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Old May 27th, 2008, 12:38 PM   #14
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You cannot export AVCHD from any of Apple's apps.

And yes, iMovie 08 is no longer timeline based.

Actually, I think it works better than iMovie 06 and it was authored by Randy Ubillos
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Old May 29th, 2008, 11:15 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Wacharapong Chiowanich View Post
So, my question is does iMovie'08 really skip one of the interlaced fields in the editing process? If so, how could the rendered files or export from the application's "storyboard" not be compromised?
If you import 1920x1080, you work with 1920x540. Is this a compromise?

Yes and no. You must accept AVCHD camcorders do NOT really record 1920x1080. If they did, no one would spend $6000 to $12000 on a Sony 1920x1080 camcorder. Check the resolutions tests. You really don't get much more than ABOUT 650x650.

Which why Apple claims 960x540 is all you need. I feel that a better number is 1280x720 because everyone accepts it IS real HD. So, by exporting 1920x1080 as 1280x720 one gets 3 benefits:

1) 1920 is scaled down to 1280 while 540 is upscaled to 720. Nice trade.

2) The reason iM 08 drops frames is to get progressive video. By exporting 720p one stays in progressive.

3) It's very unlikely you'll ever see the difference. I edited the same 1920x1080 clips in FCP and iMovie and then burned them to HD DVD. I could see no difference and I've been doing this for decades.

To see the quality of FullHD to HD or SD -- go to:

http://www.vimeo.com/user364340/videos

PS1: why use iM 08? Because I can work several times faster than I can with FCP. iM 08's CC and Ken Burns FX are really fast to use. Events and Skimming are revolutionary. And, I simply got tired of scrolling back and forth through Timelines.

And, iM 06 has gone from a simple application that did nothing to one that does a lot, but using a bunch of tacked on functions. If you want to do complex work -- go with FCE. Then you can use any NLE.

PS2: "You cannot export AVCHD from any of Apple's apps." No, but my book covers several ways you can export to applications that burn AVCHD and BD discs.
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