If you are like any other consumer out there who has recently purchased an HD, high-definition camcorder, most of you may have encountered some difficulty downloading and editing your HD video files. Most of the latest camcorders, especially those that record to either SD, SDHC, or Hard-Drive media, are encoded in AVCHD format. Until recently, many of the comsumer versions of editing software applications did not support AVCHD, but now there are a few that are starting to support it and can import AVCHD files directly from popular camcorders. Some can even open and edit AVCHD files already copied to a hard disk.
I recently purchased both the Canon HG-10, which is a high-definition hard-drive camcorder, as well as the Panasonic HDC-SD9, which is a high-definition camcorder available in Japan and records to SD and SDHC memory. Of course, the Canon camara came with Corel software for use with the AVCHD files and the Panasonic camera came with a program offered by Panasonic, and it was in Japanese only. So, I did some experimenting trying to find the right solution to edit AVCHD files on my computer. After trying Corel, iMovie, Sony Vegas 8, and Nero, I tried Pinnacle's Studio 11 Ultimate software.
The level at which these various software platforms support AVCHD files at this point differs. I have to say that honesly, if you are looking for a program that will support importing, and editing of any AVCHD file, Pinnacle Studio 11 Ultimate is the way to go for under $500.
Just to give you a little more info, I am running Windows Vista Ultimate on a dual-core, 4GB machine with a NVidia 8800GTX video card, so I shouldnt have any probelms editing files, right? Wrong! Especially with Sony's Vegas 8. It would accept and open the files that I downloaded first to my computer, however, the preview playback was incredibly choppy and the final export of the converted movie (converted to .mov), was awful, choppy, and missing frames. Sony says support for Panasonic AVCHD is in the works but apparently the problem is that Sony currenty only supports video files taken from its line of camcorders. As a side note, this is the reason that I refuse to purchase Sony products, this is typical and I wish I had not wasted the $99 on the software.
When I opened the AVCHD files into Pinnacle (both files from the Canon and from the Panasonic), I had a wonderful experience and it played back perfectly, exported perfectly, etc…. Couldnt be more happy with it…
The bottom line is that you can use $100 consumer software to work with HD formats — but make sure you have the new versions, and check for the latest updates. The developers are still working to catch up to the new formats (like AVCHD), and to new ways of accessing formats..
All that being said, here is a run down of some of the more popular consumer video editing applications that are starting to support AVCHD files.
- Pinnacle Studio 11 Ultimate version provides an end-to-end HD video editing workflow, including native HDV and AVCHD editing ($99). It did the best job of working with AVCHD videos on my system — opening, playing, editing, and exporting with good response. Studio could browse quickly though the AVCHD folder structure, view thumbnails of the clip files, and then click to preview the clips. The interface was very responsive, dragging the slider to scan though the clip, playing fast forward and reverse modes at 2, 4, and 10X speeds, and even resizing the application window while playing video. It also has a handy full-screen playback mode.
- Apple iMovie '08 supports standard and high definition video, including DV, HDV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and now AVCHD ($79). However, Apple currently lists only a few AVCHD camcorders as tested and supported. AVCHD support also requires an Intel-based Mac.Corel Ulead
- VideoStudio 11 Plus version supports HD formats including AVCHD and MPEG-2 HD ($129). It would not open individual AVCHD files, but it could import clips from a folder. VideoStudio was a bit sluggish when dealing with AVCHD files. It took seconds to switch between the editing steps.
- Sony Vegas Studio 8 Platinum supports HD video, including HDV capture and editing ($119). It also supports AVCHD import and edit, but only from Sony camcorders.
- CyberLink PowerDirector 6 supports high-definition video editing, with the HDV format for capture, editing, and export back to tape ($89).
- Nero Vision 4 supports HDV and AVCHD editing (part of the Nero 7 Ultra Edition Enhanced suite, $79). It processed HDV files after renaming to .MPG, and played and scanned though AVCHD files.
Here is a good resource for AVCHD information:
AVCHD Information – www.avchd-info.org