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AVCHD Format Discussion
Inexpensive High Definition H.264 encoding to DVD, Hard Disc or SD Card.


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Old January 31st, 2009, 11:51 AM   #1
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AVCHD/AVC H.264 Editing

Greetings all!

I figured this would be an appropriate thread to ask these questions. Maybe answers have been posted already, and if so could you point me to them:

I'm trying to figure out what's the best tool for editing AVCHD and/or AVC h.264. I'm a Premiere Pro user, but I keep hearing that Premiere - and Windows in general aren't properly equipped to handle these formats. I've also heard that there are plugins or other tools that can add or enhance this functionality.

I've heard that Edius can handle pretty much anything you throw at it - including AVCHD/AVC h.264. I have a Powershot TX1 - cool toy, does 720/30p and records MJPEG .AVI files, which Premiere HATES, but Edius handles with ease.

I need some clarity on which is the best editing tool or plugin for editing this format. I'd like to download some footage - both AVCHD and AVC h.264 and try itout for myself. This would greatly help in determining which camera I buy in the very near future.

Thanks,
Colin
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Old January 31st, 2009, 12:35 PM   #2
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Sony Vegas handles the AVCHD files coming from my Canon HG20 just fine - I've got a quad-core desktop, but the thing about Vegas is that you can decrease the quality of preview playback on the fly if you need to view it more smoothly. Rendering out is pretty quick too.
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Old January 31st, 2009, 12:53 PM   #3
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In Edius the way to go is is to use the AVCHDtoHQ converter (free download) and then edit with the HQ codec. This provides fluid performance. Recently Grass Valley (the owners of Edius) released a card called FireCoder Blu which uses hardware to speed up encoding for output to HD or SD. You will get more informed comment from early adopters on the Edius forum.
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Old January 31st, 2009, 01:38 PM   #4
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Hi Colin and welcome to this forum devoted to AVCHD.

There are about a dozen AVCHD editing programs on the market for the PC ranging in price from $50 to over $1000, offering a very wide range of functions and features.

The "best tool" available can only be selected after you better explain your needs, your level of expertise, your desired outputs (BluRay, web, AVCHD disks, etc.) and most critically, your computer hardware. AVCHD is especially demanding of computer resources for AVCHD editing.

Here is a good starting point for getting up to speed:

AVCHD - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Larry

P.S. I too own a Canon TX-1 for pocket HD movies along with a lot of other photo and video gear and AVCHD editing software. Considering how small the TX-1 is, it is an amazing camera.
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Old February 1st, 2009, 01:22 AM   #5
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AVCHD framerates.

When editing AVCHD files how do you go about mixing framerates?

eg: If you are working on a 30p project, will dropping a 60p clip onto the timeline automatically make that clip play in slow motion? What about if I drop that same 60p clip into a 25p project. Will that make it play even slower, or is it just not possible/compatible?

Having only ever worked with DV at 50i, (or 25p - same thing, basically) I can't get my head around this idea. It's like now there is just too much choice and confision!!
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Old February 1st, 2009, 04:22 PM   #6
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Most NLE's will adjust video clips to the project settings. No 60P is not slower than 30P the action takes place in the same time, there are just twice as many frames recorded in 60P as for 30P so the motion is a lot smoother. The more frames per second the smoother the motion. IF you put a 60P clip in a 30P project you will just loose some of the smoothness of the 60P clip as half the motion information will be discarded in some way to interpolate to 30P.
Interlace video(50i or 60i) has the temporal motion of the faster frame rates of 50P or 60P but only half the vertical resolution is recorded in each field. Consequently 50i is not the same as 25p and neither is 60i the same as 30P. A frame is made up of two fields but unfortunately the consecutive fields in interlace video do not come from the same frame!!!!

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Old February 1st, 2009, 05:58 PM   #7
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Thanls Ron.

I know that 50i and 25p are not the same thing, when I said they are are the same I meant I dont have to treat them any differently in my editing workflow.

Thats a shame, I thought 60p could be used like overcranking to get smooth slow motion.
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Old February 1st, 2009, 10:34 PM   #8
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Editing AVCHD on Windows and Premiere CS4

Colin,
I'm editing AVCHD on Adobe Premiere CS4 on Windows Vista. Installing the professional version of CoreAVC decoder helped lots ($14.95 to buy) since it makes Windows Media Player capable of playing the original AVCHD .MTS files for easy preview and smoothed my AVCHD playbacks in Premiere. My workflow is using Windows to copy the .MTS files out of my Canon HG21's hard drive folder onto my local PC. Premiere CS4 will attach directly to the original .MTS files, no transcoding needed, since CS4 version supports AVCHD now, although be sure to update it with the latest Adobe patches as new tweaks released recently improve AVCHD and other issues. I do not find using the Pixela ImageMixer software that came with my Canon camera to be useful. You do need to install Pixela in order for Windows recognize and read the camera's hard drive, since the needed device drivers aren't native in the current Vista version. Pixela installs the USB drivers; when you attach the USB 2.0 cable from camera to PC then Pixela will auto start, but just close it down and use Windows to copy the files from camera hard drive to PC hard drive, as I find this much faster and easier.
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 12:31 AM   #9
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Good info! Thanks!

First of all, thanks for the warm welcome Larry, and to everyone else also.

I prefer to edit with Premiere and I recently upgraded to CS4, so I take some comfort there. I'm working with Vista (Ultimate 32) mostly on a laptop (3GHz Core2 Duo Extreme, 4GB RAM). I'm doing mainly post and also motion gfx. Footage comes to me from P2 and XDCAM EX, and those mainly off HVX200s and EX1s or 3s. We do alot of music video with those here in Jamaica. There are a couple of RED ONEs, but that's another topic.

The main reason for the dilemma is getting (another) ultracompact camcorder for guerrilla-style, run&gun docu-type stuff. I love my TX1 dearly, but the audio can't cut the mustard in some cases. Since posting here, I've done a bit more research on both AVCHD and H.264, and also on camcorders. What has my interest piqued right now is the Sanyo Xacti HD2000 (due out next month - Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000 camcorder review). Aside from having an external mic jack and capturing 1080/60p, it makes H.264 (.MP4) files, and I've heard more positive with this as opposed to AVCHD - thanks to Jonathan for that AVCHD info however. Very useful.

As I narrow things down in my research (here and elsewhere), I'll be glad to post what I find, although everyone so far seems very knowledgeable in this area.

Side note: Larry, Sanyo is touting their new Xactis as "Dual Cameras" - both photo and video. Strange to me since I've had my TX1 for over a year now and it's always done that. That fact may make my next question even stranger... what codec does it record .AVI files in? I see them as MJPEG files, how is that different (if at all) from AVCHD?
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 08:57 AM   #10
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Colin,

The TX-1 avi files are MJPEG compression, a method developed in the early 1990s, relying only on compression of individual frames of the video. It is essentially JPEG image compression on a frame by frame basis, takes relatively little computing power, comparatively large and fast storage requirements, and simplicity in both compressing and decompressing. Each frame of the video is complete just as in movie film, and MJPEG is comparatively easy to edit for this reason.

AVCHD and other variants of mpeg (as opposed to MJPEG) compression add an additional, important element, which is to compare frame by frame and find only changing elements of the stream of video. They achieve much greater compression by allowing this changing 'motion' component to be highly compressed as "difference frames". An AVCHD file contains "groups of pictures" (called GOPs), each of which has a reference full frame followed by smaller 'difference' frames. The space saving is substantial compared to MJPEG, but requires much more processing both in the camcorder to construct the file, and then again in the computer or set-top player to decompress it for playback as whole frames. The files are considerably smaller, and require less speed in the recording device compared to MJPEG. The distinction I have just made is often summarized by saying that MJPEG only uses INTRAFRAME compression whereas mpeg (1,2,4,h.264, etc.) uses both INTRAFRAME as well as INTERFRAME compression.


I will check out the new Sanyo. The last model I looked at was weak in the low light area, but did very nice looking HD outdoors.

Larry

P.S. The comment by Adrian regarding frames versus fields on the link you provided is, exactly as you stated Colin, incorrect. I submitted my own comment on that site to confirm your correct statement.
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 11:38 AM   #11
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Thanks again Larry,
After your explanation, I feel a bit sheepish about my nice new powerful laptop! I will say that Windows Media Player handles playback the MJPEG .AVIs just fine, but Premiere Pro CS4 totally chokes on them! Edius 5 handles them alot better but still not perfect. Jonathan pointed out a codec he installed that gave him better performance with AVCHD. Could there be something like this for MJPEG? For H.264 also (even though this format behaves the best of the 3)?

I've been checking out all the specs on the new Sanyo, but I'd love to hear the opinions of others here and especially you, Larry, since you clearly have a broad and deep knowledge and experience in this area.

Re: Adrian's comment on that Sanyo review. I though it a bit odd what he was saying, so I decided to research a bit and clarify, since he genuinely seemed to want to contribute. I just prefer to see the correct info out there!

Colin
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Old February 2nd, 2009, 11:23 PM   #12
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Colin,

Regarding your laptop MJPEG performance:

MJPEG from HD sources requires a huge I/O data transfer rate compared to AVCHD, since TX-1 MJPEG has over twice the speed of AVCHD. 4GB holds around 13 minutes of MJPEG and 30 minutes of AVCHD.

Thus, you need fast disks and a fast bus, both of which are less so on laptops compared to desktops.

You can improve things with more RAM, faster hard drive, and using maximum performance settings on your laptop power / speed / performance control panel.

You may find that playing the MJPEG a second or subsequent time fixes the stuttering. This indicates that RAM caching has overcome the disk and / or bus bottleneck.

Some software handles MJPEG badly. It is an older and much less common format and not likely to have modern codecs. I stopped buying Premiere upgrades since they run poorly on machines here also.

I need to learn more about the new Sanyo before offering further comments. The prior Sanyo was very inferior to the small Canon AVCHD camcorders, but this may no longer be true.

Larry
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Old February 4th, 2009, 09:07 AM   #13
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A Prize?!?

Slightly off topic Larry, but related to the comment you left on the review of the new Sanyo Xacti, another industry professional commented supporting our explanation of fields/frames. However, I subsequently was notified that Adrian - who made the erroneous comment - was awarded a prize for his comment!

Win an Intempo InSession iPod speaker dock

How's THAT for justice!

Colin
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Old February 4th, 2009, 10:13 AM   #14
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Colin,

This is a sign of the Internet era, now that anyone and everyone can publish "facts" as they perceive them and regard them as accurate or scientific or both.

I especially liked the most recent comment on that website which states:

_________________________________

"This website discredits itself for awarding a prize to tecno-babble which is boldy and erroneously described as "science". Clearly neither Adrian, the prize winner, nor this website judge has the technical background for understanding video. Adrian has it entirely wrong!
Posted by Scott, United States"
_________________________________


Larry

BTW, I have yet to find any video samples from the new Sanyo despite looking pretty aggresively.
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Old February 5th, 2009, 06:35 AM   #15
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Larry,
I'm also looking aggressively for HD2000 footage as well. I've found some from the HD100 and HD1010, which I've played around with in Premiere and Edius, and they both seem to handle them fairly well. Certainly better than MJPEG .avi files. Haven't found any AVCHD files to throw at them as yet to make a comparison. If anyone has links to some I'll gladly grab them! Anything I find myself I will surely post here.

On that other matter, Stuart Miles replied to our "cries for justice" and retracted the prize, and he was gracious about it:

-----------
"Basically we screwed up. I could blame the intern but as we don't have one that wouldn't be fair. We try to be as open and honest on Pocket-lint and unfortunately we occasionally get things wrong.

What's great is that there are plenty of people who have sprung to help our readers fine the right answer.

Thank you for your help and support in making Pocket-lint strive to be better.

Stuart "
-----------

Adrian was not awarded the prize after all, and the wheels of justice grind slowly on! ;-)

Colin
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