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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 August 10th, 2009, 07:17 AM   #1
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AVCHD Bitrates for SD DVD's

Hi All

Currently all my clients need normal SD DVD's for their wedding videos but usually watch them on an HD TV coupled to a standard DVD player (BluRay hasn't taken off here at all)

At the moment I shoot with both cams on AVCHD at 13mbs and to "quicken" the workflow I use MainConcepts Transcoder 2.1 and simply transcode to an AVI file and edit that in Vegas then render out to PAL Widescreen MPEG2. (none of my clients have BluRay!!)

I tried an "intermediate" solution with Upshift and converted the MTS files to HDV M2t files at 50mbs and dropped the HD video onto the timeline and also rendered out to MPEG2.

Difference??? I certainly cannot see any but I don't own a 54" LCD TV so there might be a small resolution difference but I certainly doubt whether the client would see it!!!

As I only have a DuoCore machine it struggles hard with the MTS files in Vegas 8 and editing is painful!!!! Am I correct in assuming that if I shoot in say 6mbs it will be easier on the CPU??? If the 'puter can handle it, and I edit in native format but still render down to the same SD MPEG2 file would the 6mbs MTS file produce a better image than the transcoded 13mbs file ????

Thanks for any words of wisdom!!

Chris
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Old August 10th, 2009, 01:24 PM   #2
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You are currently acquiring the images at a fairly low data rate (13 mbs vs, for example, XDCam EX @ 35 mbs) in a highly compressed format. If your viewers are going to be watching an SD version (DVD) on large HDTV monitors, you are probably near the limits for getting acceptable image quality.
Cutting your acquisition data rate in half will reduce the demand on the system resources for editing, but I think you will be disappointed with the final DVD image on a big screen.
Transcoding the AVCHD to DV.avi (a less compressed format) for editing is probably a more reasonable solution than transcoding to HDV (another highly compressed format) if you are delivering on DVD.
The initial acquisition quality is key to a good final image. It effects everything downstream in the workflow.
Garbage in, garbage out!!!
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Old August 10th, 2009, 08:20 PM   #3
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Robert is right in advising you would likely be disappointed in how the final result from 6Mbps acquisition would look on a big screen TV. With the lower acquisition bitrate the first thing to go is detail in any motion whether it be camera motion or simply something moving in the background. When the Canon HF series first came out the big difference between the new 24Mbps and 17Mbps in my cameras that hit me between the eyes was in detail rendered in motion.

You definitely want the 13Mbps. Especially if folks there are using "upconverting" DVD players.

And if Upshift works OK but just takes some longer than MainConcepts Transcoder I would stick with Upshift for the benefit of having the HDV timeline from which you could render an HD computer format file such as HD WMV as well as the MPEG2 you need to deliver.

If Blu-ray has not caught on down under by now there is an excellent chance it may not at all. We are seeing the beginnings of digital delivery of movies here in the US with NetFlix, Amazon, and others offering digital downloads of movies. As I mentioned in other threads, folks are discovering the low cost and flexibility of media players and I, for one, will likely totally bypass Blu-ray using this technology.

Using Upshift to transcode to HDV leaves you an HD option in addition to your SD DVD product all from one timeline. While not immediately needed, I feel this will stand to serve you well in the near future.

Prediction: An HD TV, most likely LCD, is in your future (and maybe closer than you think). It doesn't have to be 52", a 42" is a respectable size and prices are coming down. You'll be able to tell a lot more about how your clients will view your work.

And prices of Intel Core i7 based computers is beginning to come down, too. So I think something "stouter" than your dual core is also in your future.
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Old August 10th, 2009, 11:28 PM   #4
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Hi Guys (and my friend Bruce too!!!)

I figured as much..I actually haven't even tried the "economy formats" so I stick with the highest!!!

Due to the tiny size of AVCHD I can afford to just dump card contents into the folder that I create on my "client drive" just in the unlikely event of them requesting an HD copy I have the MTS files there for editing/conversion.

Hey Bruce, I need a financial break first!!! QuadCore CPU's are 3 x the price of Duos and then it's more ram and a whopping great video card and a copy of 7i !!!!
As already mentioned it's pretty hard to tell the difference between DVD's created from the converted HDV files and the AVI files. It all looks awesome to me after coming from 4:3 SD footage from last year that most HDTV's will try and stretch!!!
PS: I took your advice and grabbed a Pelican 910 case for the SD Cards..it's coming from the USA!!! They want double the price locally!!!!

The comments are very much appreciated!!!

Chris
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Old August 11th, 2009, 02:15 AM   #5
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Bruce does have a real good point about "futureproofing" your projects.
In the earlier days of HDV I shot a couple of big projects as HDV, but captured & edited the footage as DV since my system was marginal for HD editing and they were destined for DVD anyway. I have come to regret doing that.
Having HD masters of those projects would be extremely useful now.
You never know until it is too late.
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Old August 11th, 2009, 02:55 AM   #6
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Hi Robert

I have got to know Bruce quite well even though he is on the other side of the world and his advice always makes sense so I take it seriously!!!
Since AVCHD doesn't have to be captured and is pretty compact (I can usually handle a wedding on 2 x 8GB cards (one in each camera) Storing 16GB of card data is a cinch!!

There is a pretty good chance that IF the client came back at a later stage and wanted an HD version, my computer by then would have been upgraded so I would more than likely be able to edit the AVCHD data directly and produce a BluRay (or whatever is popular)

It would be crazy not to keep such compact video!!! I often need to update/change my sample DVD's and to have the content of half a dozen weddings at my fingertips to produce a new demo would also be a huge asset!!!

It also means that keeping backups for the client as original footage takes up far less space!!

On the SD AVI issue my DuoCore actually transcodes the MTS files faster than realtime so getting ready-to-use footage in SD is quicker than doing a firewire tape capture too!!!

Thanks for all the suggestions guys...I have such a small window with wedding bookings that I had to buy new cameras, sell the old ones and get up to speed in a very short time and all help is very much appreciated!!

Chris
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Old August 11th, 2009, 06:10 AM   #7
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Chris,
Would it be possible to edit the pjoject as AVCHD in Vegas and save that for the future.
Then convert to .AVI for rendering to MPEG2 for output to DVD?

Ben
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Old August 11th, 2009, 08:08 AM   #8
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Hi Ben

Absolutely yes!! Vegas 8.0c upwards will import the Panasonic MTS files with no issues BUT my current DuoCore 2.2GHz machine just about dies!!!! I have heard of some people struggling along with DuoCores but Bruce says the minimum should be QuadCore !!! Due to the high compression the CPU has to work hard!!!

For now I have no-one asking for BluRay so I really don't want to spend hours editing HD "just in case"

My issue is workflow rather than getting the ultimate quality!! In season I shooting two weddings a weekend and have to have these delivered and out of my hair before the next two come up the following weekend. As you can imagine it would be quite a feat in HD purely due to much longer render times. I guess I will approach the problem when it arises which, from the look of things, will be a while yet and CPU's could quite easily be running 16 cores in a few years and editing HD will be as fast as SD

Chris
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Old August 11th, 2009, 08:18 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben Longden View Post
Chris,
Would it be possible to edit the pjoject as AVCHD in Vegas and save that for the future.
Then convert to .AVI for rendering to MPEG2 for output to DVD?

Ben
Ben,

I have been editing AVCHD files from my HF-100 natively with Sony Vegas. At first, I was using my Q8200 3.0ghz (OC'd) 4gb ram desktop. I had no problems editing the avchd files.

Then I tried it with my 3-year old DELL 1505 2.ghz core 2 duo 3gb 667 ram 160gb HD notebook, with a slow ati radeon x1400 mobile gpu. I was surprised, that it can handle it well too. A bit longer and I have to make the preview smaller and lesser quality but editing was possible. Of course, the more filters and layers, the longer it will take to render. But the point is, it is possible.

In short, yes, you can edit avchd directly using Sony Vegas (8.0c). I have the proxy route to take if in case things get tough. Either way, the files are smaller. It used to be in the days of SD/DV and HDV that I have to deal with very large files (13gb/hour x 5 tapes). Now, I can do a project like a wedding using only 16gb!!! Compare that to about 70gb of project files with HDV or DV!

Now, because of the small size of avchd, I don't have to erase the raw footage when I am done with it. I can archive it together with the .veg files, audio files, and other stuff. Before, it takes about 85-100gb per project. Now I see only half or even less of that.

In time, i7 will become more affordable. In a month, we'll probably see i5's w/c are cheaper but as fast as the i7s for the most common tasks. AVCHD editing will go the way of HDV w/c was difficult at first, but now easily handled by most core 2 duos.

There is one thing I notice though. Most seem to be having problems with avchd and C2Ds. I wonder why I am not experiencing the worst of it all. Right now, as I type with my old 3-year old Dell, I wonder why it can play avchd without a stutter using videolan in its fullness of 15" LCD screen in 1620 x 1050 rez while others are stumbling :-O

If you can pull it off like my notebook can (w/c is not a quad), then YES, you can use avchd directly and edit it. Once the NLEs all get their act together, and quads step up to the plate at a lower cost, editing avchd editing will be as common as SD or HDV editing.
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Old August 13th, 2009, 12:01 PM   #10
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Some thoughts

I have a Mac and do it the Mac way: AVCHD is transcoded into AIC or ProRes (or, using NeoScene, into Cineform), which is then easily edited, but takes up much more space than original AVCHD. I edit in full HD, then transfer into DVD Studio Pro, build DVD menus, etc, and from there, I let DVDSP transcode into SD MPEG-2 and build all the VIDEO_TS necessary files for ordinary, SD DVD delivery. I archive all original AVCHD files, and I also export the final movie as MPEG-4 in full HD. This way, standard DVDs are built with maximum possible image quality, and original HD stuff is kept for future delivery on Blu-ray.

For my home videos, I actually encode the final video into Blu-ray compatible AVCHD (using Toast Titanium), which is much more frugal with space, so I can squeeze one hour of Blu-ray video on a single dual-layer DVD-R. That way, I don't need a Blu-ray burner; I can burn Blu-ray discs on ordinary DVD-DLs that cost $0.50 each, and they play back in full HD on any Blu-ray player.

In windows world, most popular NLEs can do the same workflow (Vegas, Pinnacle, Premiere, etc). The most important part is initially transcoding AVCHD into something less compressed and more easily editable. This saves enormous amount of time during editing. These intermediate files can be tossed away after the project is finished, but they help significantly.

As for the future of Blu-ray, I have no doubt it is bright. There is no way that digital downloads would gain any meaningful market share any time soon. The bandwidth requirements for practical use are prohibitive for 98% of the HD-viewing population of the world. The players can be had for $150 US and TVs for as little as $500 (42"). As soon as the Great Depression of 21st century is over, the adoption rate will resume and by next year's Christmas, your business will mostly be producing Blu-ray DVDs (and most likely, very soon, Blu-ray discs themselves; DVD-Rs went from $15 each to $1 each in 4 years).
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Old August 15th, 2009, 02:05 AM   #11
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Chris, like you, I'm running off a computer that is now considered low on the system requirements scale.

Have you looked into Cineform Neo Scene? You can convert your AVCHD to high quality AVI, that is almost lossless, but most importantly, your system will be able to handle these files and keep the quality.

The only drawback is that they take way more hard drive space. But this way you CAN deliver higher quality DVD's to your clients.
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Old August 15th, 2009, 08:02 AM   #12
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Hi Ronald

Thanks for that..I'll give it a trial run. The easiest so far workwise is still to use the Panasonic Transcoder and transcode to SD Widescreen.

I also tried a suggestion to drop the MTS file into Vegas and render out to an AVI using the Lagarith Lossless Codec. The files are massive (nearly 2GB a minute) but when I import the AVI back into Vegas it behaves worse than the original MTS file (which plays seamlessly as long as you don't add any transitions!!) The Lagarith file stutters and burbs like crazy and that's before any editing!!!

Chris
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