5 Replies Latest reply: Feb 3, 2010 8:39 PM by pedroconti
Trog Level 3 Level 3 (800 points)
I was just hoping to start a discussion about the rather poor current situation with AVCHD support in its raw form (e.g. .MTS files).

I should start by saying that all of Apple's software, pro and iMovie, can import this format just fine; its really the lack of previewing and cataloguing that is so frustrating.

Fairly recently I purchased a Cannon Vixia HF20 and, like many, had the rude awakening of the difficulty of even previewing .MTS files on my MacPro. Quicktime Pro wants nothing to do with them. Fortunately there are some alternative players out there that play them flawlessly. Personally, I would suggest the free application Movist.

Here's the issue from what I see. An MXP encoded .MTS file that is about 30 seconds long is somewhere on the order of 85MB, while when imported (and transcoded to AIC codec) into iMovie or FCE it is hundreds of MB larger. To store files that you aren't certain will be edited with something like FCE you are forced to preview with 3rd party software, and unless you maintain the camera's (ridiculous) directory structure Apple's software won't even recognize that it is a movie file.

So, Movist, Toast's Video Player, iMovie and others… can preview and play .MTS files but Quicktime cannot. Furthermore, Final Cut Express (FCE) and iMovie don't even recognize them as movie files when they are nothing more than H264 video with AC3 audio in some other wrapper. Perhaps there is a technical reason that I don't understand, but if those other applications can preview them, including Apple's own iMovie, it comes off as rather lazy and/or irresponsible not have the premiere media player (QT Pro) able to handle them. No? And why would FCE or iMovie require the cryptic folder structure to recognize them for import? Its just illogical mechanics from the company that usually excels at making software logical.

Mac Pro dual 2.66 GHz, Mac OS X (10.6.2)
  • Trog Level 3 Level 3 (800 points)
    I'm hoping people more than amateur knowledge, such as myself, my comment on the software Clipwrap.

    It really is a wonderful solution to the frustrating issues I posted above. Quite simply, from what I understand, it takes the .MTS contents and rewraps them into a Quicktime wrapper without any transcoding of the video. The audio codec does appear to change to PCM rather than AC3, but it still takes very little time for these conversions. NOTHING like the time required for HD transcoding.

    If I plan to store a lot of raw video, I will certainly be paying the $50 for Clipwrap so that I can just catalogue the video as QT .mov, H264 files.

    But, it got me thinking about how simple that seems. Surely there must be a free solution for just changing the wrapper to a QT compatible one.

    Searching around on these forums, I found this post which showed one shell command for the open source ffmpeg application could change the wrapper from the .MTS to .m4v.
    For example, this one command in ffmpeg should produce the same file that Clipwrap does:

    ffmpeg -i your.MTS -vcodec copy -acodec pcm_s16le -ar 44100 -ab 256 -ac 2 your.m4v

    And it works! But… the quality for some reason isn't the same as the output from Clipwrap. It stutters in QT and scrubbing slowly through it I can see artifacts in the output video.

    I don't understand what else Clipwrap is doing, and what ffmpeg is doing wrong. The video is supposedly untouched by both programs. So, what it comes down to is this:

    1. I don't understand why this video can be played with several open source free players but not Apple's players

    2. The formal solution to the problem right now is either A. transcode all your raw video (terrible) B. Store it in the cryptic camera folder structure without any way to annotate the files (still bad) C. pay for 3rd party software to change the wrapper to fit Apple's players. Why can't something in QT or at least the expensive professional video software (i.e. FCE, FCP) do this already?
  • Jeremy Hansen Level 4 Level 4 (1,900 points)
    Hi folks.

    I don't really deal with AVCHD from a camera, but I do use HDV and the situation is similar. HDV is a wrapper of mpeg2 transport streams. ClipWrap is indeed very useful for taking mpeg TS and wrapping it into HDV for editing. Well worth the money.

    Going the other way is not so easy, for instance if you had an HDV movie and wanted to play it on a PS3. I discovered that mp4box can do this, by extracting the raw video stream from a movie file. The problem is, mp4box is command line only.

    I wrote an Applescript wrapper for it, which is not exactly graceful but it works. I can send it to you if you want to try it with AVCHD files. You have to install the libpng library, found here:


    So I drop a movie on it, the Applescript alerts me about the contents, and I type the track ID number of the video. It extracts the video in its native format.

    I don't know if this helps at all, but mp4box has many options dealing with H.264. You may want to look through this page:

    and see if there are any relevant commands. If so, mp4box is a free CLI app. If you don't like typing commands, then Applescript can make a droplet. If I can write one, anyone can. The last programming I did was in Applesoft basic.

    In the end though, Clipwrap is completely worth the money, especially if nothing else works.

  • Trog Level 3 Level 3 (800 points)
    Thanks Jeremy.

    mp4box looks very interesting - I'll check it out.

    For the record, I hope I didn't come off sounding like Clipwrap is a rip-off. I've already bought it and think it is fantastic for what it does. Just a little confused and disappointed that it is necessary.
  • pedroconti Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    After buying a Canon Vixia 21 camera and facing difficulties to edit its movies in my PC, I bought a Macbook believing the much-touted Apple video performance. What a disappointment! I can't even watch MTS movies in my new shiny toy. Having made several tests back and forth between Apple & PC, I came to the conclusion that Windows 7 is much better for that purpose. Furthermore, the problem apparently is not one of hardware but proper software implementation. In short:

    (a) The Macbook won't even play the **** thing, although you can use external software (like the freeware Videolan) for that. As to editing, you have to go through a very convoluted process (described above) just to be able to import the files, not to mention the horrendous size.

    (b) Most players for the PC recognize MTS, but they tend to stutter because they take up almost 100% of processing power. Windows 7's own Media Player, however, plays the very same files with top quality consuming less than 10% of processor capacity (I own a 5-year-old 3.0GHz dual core). Apparently it has native support for MTS and that makes all the difference.

    (c) As to editing, so far the best option I've found is Sony Vegas HD in the PC. It is slow and tiresome, but at least it does the job. I was told Edius can do it better, but haven't tried it yet.
  • pedroconti Level 1 Level 1 (0 points)
    Having installed Windows 7 in a new partition in my brand new Macbook and also tried several of the tools mentioned above, I have the following to report:

    1. Clipwrap works. There is no significant change in the size of the resulting file and it can be played with Quicktime or edited with iMovie. However, in both cases the performance is still too sluggish to be feasible.

    2. The best player for OSX - in fact, the only one that was able to play a full-resolution MTS file without stuttering - is indeed Movist.

    3. VoltaicHD converts a MTS file to a more friendly format for iMovie, which improves the situation somewhat, but the resulting files are huge (6 to 8 times bigger than the original).

    4. Windows 7 (64-bit) in the Macbook, in my opinion, performs better than OSX in several aspects. In fact, I got a performance rating of 6.4 against a theoretical maximum of 7.9 (which proves that the Macbook is indeed a great piece of hardware).

    5. Concerning MTS/AVHCD, the situation may change, but so far it seems Windows has the lead. Several players handle MTS without stuttering in my Windows partition in the Macbook, although still using close to 100% of its processing power. The same applies to editing with Sony Vegas, which now seems bearable, although still sluggish.

    6. The remarkable exception is still Windows Media Player, which plays MTS flawlessly at 1900x1200 resolution without a hitch using less than 10% processing capacity. Let's hope other developers - particularly Apple - catch up and offer us updated versions of their software with native support for MTS/AVCHD.