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Old June 6th, 2008, 10:49 AM   #1
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AVCHD Editing: Hurdles and Nightmares

I would love to be contradicted but my TEMPORARY findings are the following:

1/ Software coming with the camera are a joke:
I have been using Sony's and Pana.
Importing works, ok, but everything would do, including the Explorer or Finder, able to read the FlashMem Card

The so called 'Browser' offered by Sony for instance is DESPERATLY slow:Trimming one second at each end of a 7 sec clip would take kind of 20 sec to achieve. And then the Browser has to re-import the edited clip, reparse and calibrate it, etc: IT IS A JOKE !

2/ NLEs pretending that they 'support' AVCHD are indeed saying that , through several intermediate steps, you can, indeed, produce some final rendering. But nothing is really pratical here: you would spend 4 to 10 times the time editing your AVCHD clips that you did spend editing HDV. Reendering degradates the quality even when no mods are made. The process is at best sluggish, and more usually absolutely unnerving.

3/ AVCHD playback on computers is very demanding in ressources and it precludes the usage on th efield of lightwight portables.All this MIGHT be temporary ( although the intricaties of H264 combined with the transport stream design will not easily been solved - dedicated hardware or Hi-end chips are the only routes.

This situation is indeed VERY disastrous in absolute terms but can be managed through some workarounds

I must confess that i have (temporarily ??) opted for a bizarre workflow..that I am almost shamefull to expose:

I use TMPGExpress to create HDV encoded files ( on computer drive , of course) and then i use my traditionnal workflows ( PPro for sophistication, or Womble MPEG Wizard for quick and easy samples) This is an other case illustrating my signature "Future is Forward, though often Sideways..."

Impossible to notice any quality loss..I launch a batch of transcoding and then the speed of action is back here.

Finally you can create BDs in MPEG2 ok, or re-encode into AVC or VC1 if you need more space, or reencode in any format just easily.
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Old June 7th, 2008, 03:23 AM   #2
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I have the Canon HF100.

My workflow is simple as follows:

Using SDHC card reader, copy .MTS files to where NLE can find them.

I use Pinnacle Studio 11, it edits AVCHD natively (no transcoding to ANYTHING else needed) and when done editing I render to standard def DVD (if that is what I need to deliver), a BluRay compliant file on standard DVD that will play in a BluRay Player or PS3, a 1280x720p 60fps WMV file that looks SUPER on my computer monitors, MP4 files and other options I haven't tried yet.

The only thing I use the software that came with the cam is for the AVCHD file player supplied.
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Old June 7th, 2008, 06:54 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pierre Barberis View Post
I would love to be contradicted but my TEMPORARY findings are the following:

1/ Software coming with the camera are a joke:
I have been using Sony's and Pana.
Importing works, ok, but everything would do, including the Explorer or Finder, able to read the FlashMem Card

The so called 'Browser' offered by Sony for instance is DESPERATLY slow:Trimming one second at each end of a 7 sec clip would take kind of 20 sec to achieve. And then the Browser has to re-import the edited clip, reparse and calibrate it, etc: IT IS A JOKE !

2/ NLEs pretending that they 'support' AVCHD are indeed saying that , through several intermediate steps, you can, indeed, produce some final rendering. But nothing is really pratical here: you would spend 4 to 10 times the time editing your AVCHD clips that you did spend editing HDV. Reendering degradates the quality even when no mods are made. The process is at best sluggish, and more usually absolutely unnerving.

3/ AVCHD playback on computers is very demanding in ressources and it precludes the usage on th efield of lightwight portables.All this MIGHT be temporary ( although the intricaties of H264 combined with the transport stream design will not easily been solved - dedicated hardware or Hi-end chips are the only routes.
I think you are right, but why is everyone so hot to buy an AVCHD camcorder when HDV camcorders work better and offer higher video quality? Why are people buying AVCHD after they come here and read about how slow working with it is?

AVCHD requires nearly 8 times the computer power to edit natively. Realtime color correction, dissolves, wipes, 3D FX -- all in realtime with perfectly smooth 30fps playback. No rendering for anything? Somehow I doubt Pinnacle can do this this.

Until Avid and Apple and Adobe support true realtime native AVCHD editing -- aren't you working backwards. Buy a camcorder and be then forced to use one NLE? And, be forced to use a PC?!?

To edit non-natively requires hours of conversion time and more disk space. If one converts to HDV -- why not shoot HDV? Or, better FullHD MPEG-2.
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Old June 7th, 2008, 10:45 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Mullen View Post

AVCHD requires nearly 8 times the computer power to edit natively.
To edit non-natively requires hours of conversion time and more disk space.

If one converts to HDV -- why not shoot HDV? Or, better FullHD MPEG-2.
I share your view .

I made the move to AVCHD ONLY because of the FORM-FACTOR of the TG1.
Whenever its possible, i still use my HC!1or FX7, of course!

If some manufacturer would come with a VERY handy HDV i would go for it.
I remember my first DV cam had the same formfactor (size and weight) than the TG1 . It was probably a Panasonic (?) I Climbed the Himalayas with it.

No doubt you could do better these days. But supporting 25 MB/s is not sustainable by todays SDHC cards.. If it was, or when it will be, the massive bombardment of Sony and Pana marketing will probably have deteriorated MPEG2 image to an irrecoverable point. Its a real maneuver by these big names to force the general public into new gear, even if to day its an almost dead-end path.

People MUST know ! And resist !
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Old June 7th, 2008, 10:53 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Steve Mullen View Post
I think you are right, but why is everyone so hot to buy an AVCHD camcorder when HDV camcorders work better and offer higher video quality?
I don't agree with some of your assumptions Steve. First off, IMO, the Sony SR12 does indeed offer higher quality than the HDV consumer counterparts. I've had the HV10, still have the HV20 and found in A/B tests that the SR12 offers at least the same picture quality, but actually produces less overall noise. In fact, I'd take the overall picture quality of the SR12 over the FX7. Yes my FX7 could produce a somewhat sharper picture, but it could not produce the low noise levels (in good & medium light) that the SR12 does. To my eyes there's nothing that looks more professional than a really low-noise picture. I also think the SR12 also offers some of the best color I've ever seen in a Sony consumer HD unit.

People also prefer AVCHD because once you've looked at your footage from the camcorder via the really slick menu systems and instant access to any scene, HDV looks kind of antiquated. There is nothing like seeing all my picons on a 60" plasma and having instant access to any scene. When you've become accustomed to that, it's really hard to go back to tape.

I would never have done this however if I truly didn't believe that AVCHD, in the best of the cams in that format, were at least the equal of its HDV counterpart.

Now, as for editing, you are correct. In this area it's hard to argue that AVCHD lags HDV in terms of ease of editing and the requirements it places on the computer. It really depends on what you use the AVCHD camera for. For me it's pure pleasure with no professional implications. I've rarely edited my own 'fun footage' over the years and so for me the instant access far far outweighs the current lagging of editing tools. These will catch up however, you can bank on it.

Once Edius Pro comes up with their AVCHD solution (and they will), I might then consider editing my own pleasure footage. So for work AVCHD would not be my first choice. For pleasure it most certainly is...especially with the kind of picture quality I'm seeing on a big screen plasma.
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Old June 7th, 2008, 11:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pierre Barberis View Post
2/ NLEs pretending that they 'support' AVCHD are indeed saying that , through several intermediate steps, you can, indeed, produce some final rendering. But nothing is really pratical here: you would spend 4 to 10 times the time editing your AVCHD clips that you did spend editing HDV. Reendering degradates the quality even when no mods are made. The process is at best sluggish, and more usually absolutely unnerving.

3/ AVCHD playback on computers is very demanding in ressources and it precludes the usage on th efield of lightwight portables.All this MIGHT be temporary ( although the intricaties of H264 combined with the transport stream design will not easily been solved - dedicated hardware or Hi-end chips are the only routes.
Depends on the NLE. I've had excellent results with Sony Vegas 8 Pro with a Canon HG10. Workflow is drag and drop the clip to the timeline - direct from the camera if you really wanted to.

I agree that AVCHD is computationally intensive for decompression, however, it is entirely usable on a modern laptop. I can successfully edit in the field on a MacBook or MacBook Pro either running MacOS or Vista (via Boot Camp). The performance is bound to improve over time, though I expect this will be through the brute force of multi-core CPUs and perhaps decoder optimisations rather than specialised silicon.
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Old June 7th, 2008, 12:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Steve Mullen View Post
I think you are right, but why is everyone so hot to buy an AVCHD camcorder when HDV camcorders work better and offer higher video quality? Why are people buying AVCHD after they come here and read about how slow working with it is?
For me, it's the form factor, lack of the mechanical tape mechanical tape mechanism, and secondarily the ease of browsing and organizing the clips.

I do a lot of backcountry travel, and I've always wanted to bring video with me, but it just hasn't been practical until the current crop of AVCHC cams, at least if size, weight, and reliability are concerns. Also, I've had problems in the past with dropouts in DV tapes in outdoor dusty/windy environments. Unless you have a defective SD card, dropouts should now be a thing of the past.
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Old June 7th, 2008, 08:22 PM   #8
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Put me in the "what are you guys talking about?" camp...

I'm VERY satisfied with the video quality from my SR11 and even the earlier CX7 when processed properly (it's not THAT difficult, but I've seen lots of footage that was obviously botched in edit!!), and I'm sorry, but it's perceptably better than the HDV cams I've owned, or I'd still be using tape.

Add to that the furiously fast importing and drag and drop to the timeline on Vegas, and I'm sync'd and editing before I would have dumped even one tape from a multicam shoot... for me the workflow is an absolute no-brainer once I took time to work it out!! Maybe if I used a Mac I'd feel differently, but it'll catch up...

Yes, I have to lower the preview resolution to get smooth playback, it's not that big a deal, still plenty adequate for cutting, and looks fine. Higher resolution previews could use some tweaking of the code, and that's obvious, but it'll come. On a dual core 6000+, I'm quite happy with the speed and capabilities now... CC is instant, transitions are a bit sluggish, but it's doable.

HDV was a PITA initially too, with slow processing/display and processor intensive issues... AVCHD is on the same curve, and I have no doubt it will only improve. Sure rendering takes time, but I'm off doing something else after completing an edit anyway!! Did I mention I got to start editing 2/3-3/4 faster for a multicam shoot depending on the # of cams?

I hated the idea initially (yes, I thought it was insane not having tape, but I wanted a CX7 for a pocket cam, and it turned into an instant favorite... the SR11 is a winner as well).

Put the PQ of the SR11/12 in something just a tad larger with a bigger lens for better light gathering and decent manual control, and maybe a couple configurations (how about one with a tape option... for old times sake?) and you'd have a category killer. I'd ditch the FX7 for that and get an older HC for accessing archive tapes!

Eliminating dropout potential is a bonus, as is the durability of the completely solid state cams (I'm still a bit leery of the HDD, but I'm OK with it...). There are LOTS of good reasons for people to go this way, and when the editing becomes a bit more refined, tape could quickly disappear IMO.

The last missing piece is BR burners and players at affordable prices.
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Old June 8th, 2008, 12:18 AM   #9
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I was somewhat playing devils advocate because I do think folks are being swayed by the marketing AND articles that keep claiming HDV is dead.

The SR12 may be equal to HDV -- but where are the manual controls? Where's progressive? Where's the real viewfinder? Where's the colored peaking? Where's the Expanded Focus that works while you shoot?

Form factor IS important -- but a Canon camcorder with NO VF? What's the point of hiking with a camcorder on nice day and then not being able to see what you are shooting. How can you frame and focus when the sun wipes out the LCD?

Getting rid of a tape transport sounds good, but I've never had transport problem, but I have had flash cards lose EVERYTHING. And, my tapes are on my shelf -- my stills exist on HD drives all over the place. I've got no time to burn to BD -- even if Apple sold one. And the cost is huge compared to MiniDV tapes I can buy anywhere.

Yes the thumnails are neat, but I have that on my JVC HD7 that shoots 30Mbps MPEG-2. So it edits EZ. And, I've got full manual controls!

I'm still not seeing anyone answer -- can you do this: Realtime color correction, dissolves, wipes, 3D FX -- all in realtime with perfectly smooth 30fps playback. No rendering for anything? Somehow I doubt Pinnacle or Vegas can do this this with NATIVE AVCHD.

Please understand I'm not opposed to AVCHD. I would kill for the coming Panasonic AG-150. An LCD with waveform monitor. Real VF and real manual controls. And, it uses 21Mbps AVCHD. In other words -- I would choose the camcorder first. Then I'd find a way to edit.

It seems people have been sold AVCHD first. And, once they choose it they get a very restricted set of really awful camcorders. In 1980 my first camcorder offered ALL manual controls. The new AVCHD Canon's don't even have a cruddy little focus wheel.

So maybe I should gave asked -- how are folks actually able to shoot with these camcorders.
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Old June 8th, 2008, 02:55 AM   #10
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CX7 - use the touch screen, not great, but the auto settings are usually spot on. No space on such a small form factor for "real" controls, but it fits in your pocket and gets great image quality.

SR11/12 - has a control wheel, zebras, nice 3.2" LCD AND a VF if you need it, focus is fast and accurate in decent light, peaking probably wouldn't be of much use in low light anyway, touch screen is usable too...

What you're missing is that because these cams are compact and easy to carry, you actually DO shoot with them, because they aren't sitting back at home in a case...

Are they "perfect"? no... are they amazingly good for the $ and would ANY of them in "auto" smoke the image quality on your 1980 "manual" camcorder?? most likely... Are they "bleeding edge", with what that entails for the user? Yes, but so was HDV a couple years ago.

"really awful camcorders"?? I guess that depends on your perspective...
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Old June 8th, 2008, 04:58 AM   #11
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Ciao Steve,

why are you speaking about "real viewfinder" about sr11/12? ...we are speaking about commercial camcorder and that camera has to be compared to an HDV camera as canon HV20/30...so, in this case, i can round you the same question "has the HV30 a real viewfinder?"

off course manual tuning of HV30 (that is the best 'economic' recognized HDV camera in term of video quality) is more complete than the sr11...(but not too much, since for example the manual focus is better usable in SR11...or other things as Dave told above)

about the intrinsic quality of the format, Ken told already everything. I can add that some friends of mine prefer sr11 in low light than HV30, since its grain is more fine and there are not any dominant color...

off course an AVC video require more times to be managed since h264 is more complex algoritm to be decoded (in fact it is able to generate the same quality of mpeg2 with lower bitrate..).
But a q6600+ 2x2gb+2x500gb+2900pro 1gb+P5kE it is a very good example of performance/cost system to be able to edit without any problem HD content (both HDV and AVCHD). In Italy that system costs "only" about 700 eur.

The path of "intermediation" in .AVI is faster than you think both for AVCHD and HDV. Here it is the optimum chain:

DgAVCIndex (free)-> avisynth (free)-> virtualdub+intermediate codec (cineform, dvcprohd, blackmagic, huffyuv for a completely loseless or AVC loseless that is free and its space requirement is the same of 'lossy' cineform fillm scan preset and the half of huffyuv...) and so you only need disk space (but a 750gb cost, for example, is "trascurable" today...).

Furthermore, by the named chain above, you can really FRAMESERVE your AVCHD or HDV footage to any program that support avisynth plugin, directly, without any kind of AVI transcoding...

Quote:
...Please understand I'm not opposed to AVCHD. I would kill for the coming Panasonic AG-150. An LCD with waveform monitor. Real VF and real manual controls. And, it uses 21Mbps AVCHD. In other words -- I would choose the camcorder first. Then I'd find a way to edit...
I agree but that camera will be collocated in another range of price...

however pinnacle and Edius 4.6 AVCHD NLE work really fine. And you can add "typical" effect as prodad for example and in the new Pinnacle studio 12 you will be able to use magic bullets presets...try it ;)

ciao!
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Old June 8th, 2008, 06:02 AM   #12
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C"really awful camcorders"?? I guess that depends on your perspective...
My perspective is that I think the idea of carrying around a camcorder in case something happens is a bit crazy. I don't need it to fit in a pocket. Any camcorder that small light simply CANNOT be held steady and keep a perfect widescreen framing.

On the other hand, Sony and Canon mid-priced ($3500) cameras are too big and heavy. Once upon a time -- there were 3lb medium sized camcorders that were perfect. They cost $2000-$2500. Panasonic EX1, for example. They had room for real switches. They had focus and zoom rings.

You could shoot in AUTO, but you had independent control of focus, exposure, and shutter-speed. (Something the SR12 cannot do without using menus.) They had 1/2-inch or bigger VF that tilted-up. (Can the SR12's VF do this?)

I prefer AUTO, but I'm not convinced I can trust it. And, having to dig into menus and try to read settings on a screen washed-out by light, seems really risky. That's what I call "awful."


You may be right that the SR12 is a better camera, but why does everyone seem to be buying Canon? Five things come to mind:

1) with all VFs being so tiny and non-tiltable folks may feel they'll never use one. So not having one isn't a big loss.

2) They want 25p, 30p, or even 24p. Sony offers progressive on all its other camcorders, why not the SR12? I don't care, but it seems many do!

3) When I read the Canon manual I see a product oriented to photographers. Many modes and settings.

4) If they are going to depend on AF -- they see Canon's IR focus as supporting better AF than the Sony offers. And, reviews seem to confirm the Sony AF is not swift. This is really critical when the LCD is washed-out.

5) They see that as SD cards rapidly fall in cost -- they can use SD cards just like tape. HDD disk camcorders allow you to shoot hours of video with NO protection. And, if tiny is good -- then why not go with tiny cards? I've got an HDD camcorder and why cheap SD cards seem so neat.

Of course, it may be that for years Canon recorded better video than did Sony. :)

"DgAVCIndex (free)-> avisynth (free)-> virtualdub+intermediate codec (cineform, dvcprohd, blackmagic, huffyuv for a completely loseless or AVC loseless that is free and its space requirement is the same of 'lossy' cineform fillm scan preset and the half of huffyuv..."

You've got to be kidding! Cineform costs almost as much as your camcorder. This process is better than HDV?

And, sorry Pinnacle is not exactly a professional NLE. It's a $99 NLE that only runs on PCs at a time when folks are switching to Macs.

What's frustrating is that our old camcorders cost about $2000. That's a perfectly reasonable price to get a good camcorder. The joke is that HD AVC recording chipsets are now ready for cell phones. So, isn't this a better option for those who want cheap and light? If the Japanese keep this up, Apple will make their camcorders seem as old as a Walkman.
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Old June 8th, 2008, 08:10 AM   #13
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Steve i can't understand why do you think that SR11/12 has to the "perfect" camera...i can buy a new SR11 camera at 800/850 eur in Italy...and I can buy an HV30 at the same price.
They have both pro and con.
They are not professional. they are not perfect.

Why people, usually, prefer HDV to AVCHD? Lack of informations...
No real reason, today, to prefer HV30 to SR11. Or, better, HV30, today, is not more the "uncomparable Queen" of economic HD, beacuse there are really valid alternative as, for example, SR11.
To do an example, many people (in italy) think that AVCHD is full of artficats, that is not good in low light and that is shuttering in fast motion scenes...but do you know the funniest thing? that are metropolitan legend! they believe it without any proofs...maybe someone in some limit conditions founded that problems and so, as always happen, the lack of information did the rest...

What about progressive? i'm happy that sony has not introduced it in its SR11. A good and valid progressive COSTS. Introducing progressive in these commercial low price camcorder as HV30 or Pana SD9 it is only marketing movement..Ask people about progressive of HV30 if they are satisfied, especially with fast motion footage...

About the avisynth path. Do you think i'm kidding you? your problem.
And obviously you don't have any idea of what i'm speaking about (lack of information...).
You don't know what are you losing, since that 'path' could be really useful and powerful also with HDV content, in particular about deinterlacing plugin(to do an example)...since you can manage a really high quality 50p from 50i...
I can provide you any clip you want...

About cineform: i mentioned it, but not only. There are valid semiloseless and completely loseless codec that i mentioned that are valid too...

About solid memory and tape. The solid memory is the future...16 gb SDHC are cheap now and they can be used many times...while a tape for HDV usually is used one time (long gop could give trouble to be recorder if the tape is not 'perfect'). About system filing...you can transfer all "raw" clip inside an home HDD...and if you want to be safer, a RAID1 is cheaper for everyone...

ciao!
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Old June 8th, 2008, 09:07 AM   #14
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[And, sorry Pinnacle is not exactly a professional NLE. It's a $99 NLE that only runs on PCs at a time when folks are switching to Macs.]

Can't agree with you Steve. I am not switching to a Mac ( that's really a PC in a Mac box). My PC runs fine , has always run fine and has a very large selection of programs for it!!!! To add to the differences I hate 24p the stuttering makes my old eyes hurt and its nothing like film, even the stuff I have from my film days over 40years ago. In all these discussions we seem to want every camera to do everything for a very low price. It isn't going to happen. I bought my SR11 so that I could have a backup cam that I didn't need to change tapes on in support of my FX1 and do family service as well. In this regard it works just great. In good light it produces better images than the FX1 as seen on my 42" Plasma from the HDMI outputs of the SR11. Does it have some problems..sure what do you expect from a $1300Can camera? IT has problems maintaining focus( I mean encoder focus, image softens) on fast moving closeups like closeups of dancers moving fast across the screen, it doesn't have independent gain control so I can't set gain at 9db and aperture at F5.6 for instance to get more depth of field, the aperture control is not shockless so adjustments go in steps I could go on but this is a little pointless because for the money this is the best picture I have from any of the cameras I own. Editing is a little more of a problem than HDV or DV but I am sure that will improve. Get a fast computer with lots of hard drive space and use intermediate file format like Cineform or Edius HQ just like lots people do for HDV anyway.

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Old June 8th, 2008, 09:55 AM   #15
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What is the Panasonic AG-150 you would kill for?

Hi Steve,
Thanks for your opinions,very articulate.
My question to you is :
What is the Panasonic AG-150 you would kill for?
When i Google it, i find only batteries...
Could you post some URL ? Thanks in advance.
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