32 Replies Latest reply on Jul 10, 2009 10:48 AM by Ed.Macke

    AVCHD Conversion

    Ed.Macke Level 3

      I am currently shooting SD, but am researching moving to HD.

      So far, my research has concentrated on HDV, since that seems to be PRE7's preferred HD format. But truth be told, I'd rather use flash or HDD storage than the miniDV tapes that HDV requires.


      So let's say I went with  AVCHD. Not being a masochist, I don't want to edit AVCHD directly, so I started investigating AVCHD conversion programs. Based on 2 options presented by Steve in a January post:

      AVCHD Upshift. If I understand correctly, this will

      1. Transfer my AVCHD footage from my camera to my computer
      2. Optionally de-interlace 1080i footage
      3. Create a MPEG .m2t file for editing

      Voltaic HD. Again, it seems like it:

      1. Doesn't actually do a transfer from camcorder to harddrive
      2. (Optionally?) de-interlaces 1080i footage
      3. Creates an AVI file for editing

      Dang. As usual,  I ended up with more questions that when I started. And here's where I need help...

      1. Is MPEG .m2t the same thing as HDV?
      2. If a converter (e.g. Voltaic) doesn't actually transfer the files from camcorder to hard drive, how would I do that? PRE?
      3. What's the best way to split the AVCHD files by timecode? Would I use HDVSplit on the .m2t files created by AVCHD Upshift? What about the AVI files created by Voltaic HD... would I just run Scenealyzer against the huge AVI file?
      4. Is de-interlacing required/desired? Is the conversion tool the best place to do this, or should I leave it interlaced and let PRE handle it upon output? I'm assuming my final output would be BluRay, but so far nobody in my family has BluRay so I might be forced to (temporarily) create SD DVDs somehow...
      5. Given a choice between converting AVCHD to HDV(?) or AVI, which would PRE7 be happier with?
      6. What about quality? It seems like HDV is king. Some people say AVCHD is equivalent (or close or better), but it seems like AVCHD quality can vary more widely than HDV based on what camcorder you're using. Also, would converting AVCHD to HDV (or AVI) result in quality issues?

      I've also seen several interwebs posts saying AVCHD is more the consumer-targeted format, while HDV is more pro/prosumer-oriented. I don't care about that so much, but I would like to create the best videos I can with the least problems.


      Whew! Sorry for so many questions, but they all seem related. Let me know if you think they should be separate posts???

        • 1. Re: AVCHD Conversion
          Paul_LS Level 4

          I found Voltaic AVIs rather "clunky" (very large file size) and they were not handled much better than AVCHD files. On the other hand AVCHD Upshift generates HDV files that PE7 handles fine. Download the trial versions and give them a go.. you can download some AVCHD clips from the internet.


          I use the software that came with my camcorder to download the files to my hardrive and catalog them... as each AVCHD video file is individual there is no need to spilt by timecode.


          1. The .m2t is an MPEG2 transport stream (has some overhead data) so is a little different compared to a HDV MPEG2 program stream however it is handled fine by PE7.


          2. PRE or via the software that came with your camcorder.


          3. No need.. each file is generated individually when you stop/start the camcorder.


          4. No need to deinterlace unless you have a specific need for it... ie viewing video files on a computer.


          5. High bit rate HDV, the high bitrate maintains quality (as converted by AVCHD Upshift).


          6. Difficult to compare AVCHD to HDV... they have different compressions so you can not compare a given bit rate... for example a 16Mb/s AVCHD may be the same quality as a 25Mb/s HDV file. That said newer AVCHD camcorder have higher bit rates and so quality should be equivalent to or better than HDV.

          • 2. Re: AVCHD Conversion
            Paul_LS Level 4

            You could also try the free AVCHD Converter to convert the AVCHD clips to high definition 1920x1080 MPEG2. It can batch convert a bunch of AVCHD clips and is free...



            Import the clips, up the bit rate to 25000kbps and convert.


            One thing, if I recall it adds a search engine to your browser tool bar... however this can be removed using Add/Remove programs.

            • 3. Re: AVCHD Conversion
              Ed.Macke Level 3

              Exactly the info I was looking for. Thanks, Paul!!

              OK, so, riddle me this: assuming equivalent  camcorders, is there any advantage to a HDV workflow versus an AVCHD workflow (using Upshift to do the conversion prior to editing), other than probably(?) longer recording time?

              My primary goal has always been to make things as easy and trouble-free for PRE as possible, hence my initial attraction to HDV. But it sounds like Upshift puts AVCHD on an even playing field with HDV as far as that's concerned. For my remaining list of goals, it seems like AVCHD might have the advantage - and thus be the way to go for me.

              (Also, one thing that has me wondering is that I see many complaints on the forum that AVCHD is all but unusable in PRE... the usual advice is to make sure you have an uber-powerful editing machine... why isn't there more advice to just spend $80 on a conversion program... makes me wonder whether I'm missing something...).


              One other question: I know with a SD workflow, you have to capture your DV-AVI over Firewire to get the best quality (although I'm not 100% sure why). How do you physically connect your HD camcorder to your PC... is there any corresponding "gotcha" in the HD world?

              • 4. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                Paul_LS Level 4

                Well one thing with AVCHD Upshift, well not a real issue, is that it will keep the same frame resolution on conversion. PE7's 1080i HDV preset is for a 1440x1080i frame... this MPEG2 resolution is handled natively, so if you put a 1440x1080 clip on the PE7 timeline it will have no red line above it. However if your AVCHD resolution is 1920x1080, as most of the new AVCHD camcorders are, the MPEG2 frame size will be 1920x1080 so you will get a red line above the clip on the timeline. However, it will still play back easier than the raw AVCHD clip.

                • 5. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                  Ed.Macke Level 3

                  Oh boy.

                  So far I've had no interests in presets, as I really only had one choice (NTSC > DV > Standard).

                  So what happens if I select the NTSC > AVCHD > Full HD 1080i 30 preset (1920 x 1080i), then try to add assets that were converted by Upshift (m2t?). They would be the correct resolution (1920x1080i), right? But would it choke on the filetype because it was expected AVCHD instead of HDV?

                  What is the correlation is between a project preset and the files it will accept?

                  Seems like a pain to have to render 100% of every single clip I use. Less of a pain than editing AVCHD directly, I'm sure, but still... Seems like there should be a workaround...?

                  • 6. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                    Ed.Macke Level 3

                    Also, I get the feeling that there are "flavors" of AVCHD... I read posts about some products work with "Sony's AVCHD" but not "Panasonic's AVCHD", which.. what???

                    Do you know if Upshift works with all AVCHD.

                    With my luck, I'd get a $1000 camcorder, then find out it's not supported and be left trying to edit native AVCHD with PRE or trying to return the camcorder.

                    • 7. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                      the_wine_snob Level 9



                      Don't forget AVCHD Lite, and also the next 20 variations that will be introduced in time for the Holiday buying season!


                      Plus, though it does not affect you, think about the various CODEC's for the new DSLR cameras, that also shoot video. With the popularity of the Canon 5D MK II and the Nikon D-90, new ones cannot be far behind and each will likely have an "improved" CODEC, that just flat does not play nice with any NLE's on the market now.


                      I thought that last season was going to yield a bumper crop of new formats, but I don't think I've seen anything yet. I just hope that Paul_LS can keep up with it all, 'cause this old SD-only guy is totally lost. Still, I'm doing as you - reading and learning, because the time will come and I want to have some clue as to what is going on.


                      As I told the folk on Muvipix last year, about this time, "gird your loins," as there will be tons of HD questions on all sorts of formats and CODEC's. This year will probably be even more intense.


                      Good luck,



                      • 8. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                        Ed.Macke Level 3


                        Yeah, the whole HD thing seems to be even more of a snake's pit than good ol' SD.

                        With SD, I kind of lucked into the ultimate PRE workflow (miniDV, Firewire, DV-AVI, decent PC) rather than by thoughtful research. After reading the problems of those who don't have the "ultimate workflow", I realize how lucky I was to get it right the first time.

                        With HD, it seems like the stakes are raised and the problems are exponential. So I'm trying to gather as much info as I can to make sure I get things right the first time.

                        That thing with the resolution (basically a HDV file at 1920x1080 instead of the 1440x1080 that's expected) worries me...

                        • 9. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                          Paul_LS Level 4

                          You can use 1920x1080 MPEG2 in either a 1440x1080 or 1920x1080 project. As you say it may be best to use the AVCHD project preset that matches the 1920x1080 frame size... then if you export at 1920x1080 you will maintain the higher quality.

                          The HDV standard is 1440x1080 with a PAR of 1.3333 that is why there is no 1920x1080 project preset for hi def MPEG2.

                          You hopefully should not need to render the clip as it will still not "eat up" resources like AVCHD. Best idea is to download the trial and have a play, however with the trial you are limited to just 10 seconds of video. It will give you an idea though.

                          • 10. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                            Steve Grisetti-JFIrXo Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                            Here's a piece of software that seems to produce Premiere Elements compatible hi-def:


                            A free converter that will convert AVCHD to Premiere Elements compatible hi-def MPEG2 is the Free AVCHD Converter, available from:



                            According tp Paul Scrivener, you should up the bit rate to 25000kb/s and convert, and it will export 1920x1080 MPEG2.


                            One downside is that, when you install it, it automatically downloads a search tool to your browser toolbar -- but it can easily be removed using Add/Remove Programs.

                            • 11. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                              Ed.Macke Level 3

                              Thanks, Paul.


                              I'm sorry if I'm being dense, but I still don't get what happens if I define the project as AVCHD > 1920x1080 and then try to add AVCHD  assets that have been "Upshifted". An Upshifted video will be 1920x1080 m2t file (correct?), so...


                              It seems like an AVCHD PRE project would have the right pixel dimensions (1920x1080) but be expecting the wrong file format (m2ts AVCHD).


                              While a HDV PRE project would have the wrong pixel dimensions (1440x1080) but be expecting the right file type (m2t).


                              So... what would happen if I defined a AVCHD project and added a correct dimension / wrong format Upshift file?


                              And what would happen if I defined a HDV project and added an incorrect dimension / correct format Upshift file?


                              If I understand correctly, and HDV project would accept the file, but constantly have to render it (red line over clips) due to the incorrect dimensions? Would that rendered file end up "stretched" (or compressed, not sure), or would it be OK?


                              Still not sure what an AVCHD project would do. Would it constantly have to render due to the incorrect format?


                              And what would be a better rendering... the HDV converting the pixel dimensions, or the AVCHD project converting the file type?


                              Your trial idea is good, but the problem is that if I get an AVCHD camcorder, and can't find a suitable conversion/workflow, I'd be stuck trying to natively edit AVCHD - which would not be good! I'd have to return the camcorder. I know an HDV camcorder would work. But I like the idea of the AVCHD workflow, so I'm leaning that way but definitely nervous


                              Thanks so much for your patience!!

                              • 12. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                Ed.Macke Level 3



                                Yeah, I had seen that somewhere else, too (maybe in your FAQ post, don't remember).


                                My work has their website blocked as a "spyware/malware" site, so I'll have to remember to check from home...

                                • 13. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                  rtprtp Level 1



                                  Thanks for starting this post. I am going through the same thing, deciding between HDV and AVCHD Camcorder. Got my eye on the Panasonic HVC-150. I think the best advice is to download the converters, then find some AVCHD footage on the internet and play with them in Pre7. If I find any I'll let you know, and please do likewise. Maybe we can work through this AVCHD mystery togther.


                                  Best, Stan

                                  • 14. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                    Ed.Macke Level 3

                                    Yeah, I'm sure we're not the only ones looking at the HD world and trying to figure out which path to take.


                                    My overall feeling with  HD and PRE is that HDV is the definitely the easiest and safest route to go. But that means you're stuck with tape (not that it's horrible) and  it really limits your choices of camcorders.


                                    On the other hand, AVCHD seems to be fairly unusable unless you convert it first. But the conversion process seems dicey: AVCHD is a different pixel ratio, each manufacturer seems to have a slightly different AVCHD file format that is incompatible with each other, and if conversion isn't possible you're left with an usuable workflow. On the other other hand, if you can work out the AVCHD kinks, it seems like it might be worth it in terms of camera and media choice.


                                    I think the idea of finding some sample AVCHD footage is fantastic. It'd be the "acid test".


                                    I wonder, though, how much the AVCHD file formats differ between manufacturers, and between models from the manufacturers. In other words, if I find sample footage shot by a Panasonic HVC-150 and it works with my setup, can I be assured that AVCHD footage created by a Sony HDR-TG5V would work, as well???

                                    • 15. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                      rtprtp Level 1

                                      Hi Ed,


                                      You and I are def in the same boat, and I agree with everything you're saying, and have the same questions. The best bet would be to get AVCHD footage from the camera I am considering buying, and if it works, I'm taking out my charge card! Let's definitely stay in touch on this!


                                      Thanks, Stan

                                      • 16. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                        Paul_LS Level 4

                                        If you use MPEG2 in an AVCHD project there are no limitations... AVCHD is not edited natively by PE7 anyway... so a AVCHD clip put onto the timeline and rendered will be converted to MPEG2 and this is the rendered file that you edit on the AVCHD timeline. So it is better to match your frame size to the project size. If the video is different from the project size it will be scaled on input/export and this can impact quality.


                                        You can use 1920x1080 MPEG2 in a 1440i project... the actual frame resolution for a 1440x1080 (1.333 PAR) project is 1920x1080 square pixels. So the you should be able to use a 1920x1080 video in a 1440x1080i project and export as 1920x1080 without quality impact... but I am not 100% sure. Obviously if you export at the project default of 1440x1080 then there will be some quality impact.

                                        • 17. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                          Paul_LS Level 4

                                          Regarding the AVCHD format... I have edited AVCHD from a number of sources/camcorders in PE7 and have had no real issues. the performance varies dependant on teh frame size (1920 or 1440) or if the audio is 5.1 surround sound or stereo... but I have been able to edit all formats. That said... PE7 will not edit the new AVCHD Lite that is being used in still cameras to replace the MJPEG video codec. Also if the video is described as MP4 (as used by some cheaper camcorders)  then all bets are off. However AVCHD by Panasonic, Sony, and Canon all work fine in PE7.

                                          • 18. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                            rtprtp Level 1

                                            So Paul,


                                            Am I correct to assume that you are using some conversion software and taking the AVCHD files into MPEG2 then editing?



                                            • 19. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                              rtprtp Level 1



                                              Hi All,


                                              I downloaded a sample AVCHD file and converted using the


                                              converter and it took a long time to convert but it edits easily in PL7, which is encouraging.

                                              A few questions when converting the footage that was 1480 x 1080?

                                              - what size should I convert to?

                                              - what video bitrate?


                                              Any ideas on how to speed up the conversion?


                                              Thanks all! This is very encouraging!



                                              • 20. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                Ed.Macke Level 3


                                                Good work! A couple of questions:

                                                • Where did you find the AVCHD file?
                                                • Can you give a time estimate for conversion, e.g. "a 30-second clip took 2 minutes"
                                                • Are you saying the original footage was 1480x1080? I would have expected it to be 1920x1080 or 1440x1080.
                                                • 21. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                  Ed.Macke Level 3

                                                  That *is* encouraging.


                                                  I seem to see a lot of advice on these boards that says if you're going to do AVCHD you'd better plan on having a quad-core, etc. etc. But you're saying you haven't had any real issues....


                                                  Maybe like Stan said it might not be a bad idea to get some sample AVCHD footage and play around.

                                                  • 22. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                    rtprtp Level 1



                                                    Got the samples at http://www.avchdclips.com/


                                                    I do have a quad core Alienware M17 Laptop.


                                                    Let me know if you find any more footage.


                                                    Best, Stan

                                                    • 23. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                      Paul_LS Level 4

                                                      I am editing AVCHD directly on my Q6600 quad core in PE7.


                                                      If you are converting to 1920x1080 MPEG2 in AVCHD Converter V1.0  be sure to up the bit rate to 25000kb/s.

                                                      • 24. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                        Ed.Macke Level 3
                                                        I am editing AVCHD directly on my Q6600 quad core in PE7.


                                                        I'm using a dual core Dell w/ 2GB memory, so my experience might be different...

                                                        • 25. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                          rtprtp Level 1

                                                          Paul, a couple of questions:


                                                          I downloaded a sample AVCHD file that is 1440 x 1080 (couldn't find a 1920 x 1080 yet)


                                                          When I use the Koyote converter i have a choice of 1920x1080 or the next one down is 1280x720.


                                                          Which one should I choose?


                                                          Also, I took the bit rate up to 25000 and the converter crashes. The default is 9000. Is that ok, or should I play around with something else?


                                                          Thanks, Stan

                                                          • 26. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                            Paul_LS Level 4

                                                            1920x1080 at 25000 Kbps should be fine. It should work at this... 9000 is too low.

                                                            • 27. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                              rtprtp Level 1

                                                              HI Ed,


                                                              I am still not sold on AVCHD. I downloaded some clips. They take forever to convert to mpeg. Even though I have a pretty powerful quad core and they edit pretty somethly after converting, things can get a little sticky at times. I am starting to lean towards the purchase of an HDV cam, then work my way up to AVCHD.



                                                              • 28. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                                Ed.Macke Level 3

                                                                There are many things I like about AVCHD: the form factor (hard drive or flash memory), each start/stop being a separate file (no timecode splits required), transferring files at Firewire speeds (not real-time).

                                                                On the other hand, the good thing about HDV: it works. I don't like a fragile workflow!

                                                                So, Stan, two questions:

                                                                1) When you say "things can get a little sticky"... what do you mean? Problems with the transcoding? Problems in PRE?

                                                                2) When you say "forever to convert"... what do you mean. For example, how long were your AVCHD clips and how long did it take to convert to MPEG?

                                                                I wonder it the Upshift product would fare better. I think they have a free trial but it only does 10 second clips... that's too small of a sample to see if there's problems IMO.

                                                                • 29. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                                  rtprtp Level 1

                                                                  Hi Ed,


                                                                  Sorry to take so long to get back to you. My computer has been crashing while making Quicktime HD for YouTube. That will be a new discussion.


                                                                  To answer your questions:


                                                                  - It takes about 5 minutes for 1 minute of an AVCHD file to convert to mpeg. a good source for footage is http://www.vimeo.com/#welcome.


                                                                  I am going to start a new thread to continue our AVCHD vs. HDV discussion right now.


                                                                  Peace, Stan

                                                                  • 30. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                                    Ed.Macke Level 3

                                                                    It takes about 5 minutes for 1 minute of an AVCHD file to convert to mpeg

                                                                    That certainly removes one of the advantages of AVCHD, doesn't it? With HDV, file transfer is real time (a 30 minute tape takes 30 minutes to transfer).

                                                                    That same 30 minute footage in AVCHD might take 2 minutes to transfer the files, but then it would take 150 minutes to transcode.


                                                                    • 31. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                                      rtprtp Level 1

                                                                      Ed, I forget...have you edited HDV? Have you doen it in PE7?



                                                                      • 32. Re: AVCHD Conversion
                                                                        Ed.Macke Level 3


                                                                        No, I'm still in the SD world. Now that HD - and to some extent BluRay - are becoming more popular, I'm doing research in preparation for getting a new HD camcorder.

                                                                        Step 1: Determine which format works best with PRE.