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AVCHD vs. MP4: is MP4 easier to work with?  Camera recommendation?

7102 Views 10 Replies Latest reply: Sep 30, 2009 8:27 AM by Doug Mokaren RSS
Malcolm Hamilton Level 1 Level 1 (25 points)
Currently Being Moderated
Sep 28, 2009 10:31 AM
hi there,
I have to recommend a small HD camera to a friend. She wants something that's easy to carry around, and gets good visuals, 16x9 format. Whoever edits the stuff will want something other than AVCHD, in my opinion. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but I just shot a few hours with an AVCHD camera as my second unit, and it took (I don't want to exaggerate) I would say about nine hours to convert to QuickTime (via Voltaic).
Now, I'm coming from Avid... pretty new to FCP. Maybe AVCHD is handled faster and better with FCP? Maybe I can skip the Voltaic step?
I'd love to hear about this.
I would also love a recommendation for a camera for my friend, who'd leaving for Africa on Wednesday. The Flip Mino HD records 1280x720, H.264, MP4. Is it good? Easy to work with in FCP?

Thanks, Malcolm
MacBook Pro, Mac OS X (10.5.5), 4 GB RAM
  • Nick Holmes Level 7 Level 7 (29,805 points)
    The footage from AVCHD cameras should be converted to ProRes via Log and Transfer.
    You need an Intel Mac that supports ProRes and at least FCP 6.
    No need for Voltaic.

    The procedure is described here in detail:
    http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/FCP6HD_and_BroadcastFormats.pdf
    Read chapter 6.
    Mac Pro 8 Core/Mini/3ACDs, Mac OS X (10.5.8), FCP forum elitist
  • David S. Level 7 Level 7 (20,630 points)
    H.264 is not an editing format, and must be converted to one that is.

    There is pro res, pro res HQ, and AIC available for editing. Also true with AVCHD footage.

    For the rest, what Nick said.
    MacPro 2.26Ghz 8-core Nehalem 12 Gbs RAM, Mac OS X (10.5.7), GeForce GT 120 512 MBs RAM 30" ACD
  • Nick Holmes Level 7 Level 7 (29,805 points)
    AVCHD is MPEG 4.
    I have no experience with those little pocket sized cams. Mine are all huge beasts with swappable lenses.

    As to whether QuickTime is advantageous, that depends on the codec used. QT is a container and the video inside could be made with any one of a number of codecs. If your system does not have that codec, it won't play.
    Mac Pro 8 Core/Mini/3ACDs, Mac OS X (10.5.8), FCP forum elitist
  • wallybarthman Level 3 Level 3 (690 points)
    As one who owns two cameras, one that uses AVCHD and the other that uses h.264 stored inside of a .mov file here are some things to think about.

    In general, traditional video cameras use the AVCHD format. Cameras like Sony, Canon, and Panasonic are more and more using AVCHD over HDV.

    Digital cameras and small hand held cameras tend to use a self-contained file format like .mp4 or .mov.

    Even though they both may use the h.264 codec for compressing videos the way they do so is very different.

    AVCHD footage can be transcoded within Final Cut Pro via Log and Transfer.

    .mov or .mp4 files can be transcoded inside of Compressor or MPEG Streamclip for us in Final Cut (this is actually a little easier)

    Here's the bottom line - go with AVCHD. Yes, it's a royal pain in the butt, but the handheld cameras don't hold a candle to the quality of a traditional video camera. And the ones that do, like the Canon PowerShot SX1 (in my case) are great - but they're not good for shooting extended footage. Doing a quick clip? I love my PowerShot. But for shooting a 45 minute presentation? I'll take the slightly lower quality video and use my HF10. Either way the footage has to be converted from it's native format into an intermediate codec.

    In the end, either format has to be converted before you edit it. With AVCHD you can add logging data to your clips which is helpful in the editing process as well and chances are, you'll get a better camera.
    Mac Mini (2009), Mac Mini (2006), MacBook Black (2007), Mac OS X (10.6.1), FCS 3, FCE 4.0.1, Premiere/Encore CS4, AppleTV, Canon HF10, Canon PowerShot SX1
  • wallybarthman Level 3 Level 3 (690 points)
    Good choice. I was going to suggest the Canon HF S100.
    Mac Mini (2009), Mac Mini (2006), MacBook Black (2007), Mac OS X (10.6.1), FCS 3, FCE 4.0.1, Premiere/Encore CS4, AppleTV, Canon HF10, Canon PowerShot SX1
  • Doug Mokaren Calculating status...
    I've got a Sanyo HD2000 which does 1920x1080p and 1080i and all resolutions below. It makes a mp4 file that the log and transfer function in fcp doesn't recognize. In testing, I tried transcoding the mp4 to ProRes using QT pro and MPEG streamclip. MPEG streamclip took half the time that QT Pro did (3 vs 7 min). Both looked equally good. The file size from QT Pro was slightly smaller than the streamclip file, i.e. 900mb for QT, 1.2gb for Streamclip.
    g5, Mac OS X (10.4.11)

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