What is the AVCHD Video Format?

Jointly developed by Panasonic and Sony Corporation the AVCHD video format is one of the standards for consumer high-definition camcorders and video editing software.

Let's take a look at this format with a few tips on how to use it...!

What is AVCHD Video?

It is a video format for the recording and playback of high-definition video.

It features tapeless capture that records to your video camera's flash memory, on board a hard disk drive or directly to optical discs such as Blu-ray or DVD.

This format supports all major high-definition display resolutions including 720p, 1080i and 1080p.

This format is highly compressed and is recorded using H.264 video compression. This is a type of MPEG-4 format that replaced the older MPEG-2 format that was used originally for DVD and HDV.  

The file structure of this HD format is derived from the Blu-ray disc specification which includes features to greatly improve media presentation such as:

  • Better menu navigation
  • Support for slide shows
  • Subtitles and…
  • The ability to selectively choose the audio/language tracks.

Sony and Panasonic, who utilize this HD format exclusively in their digital video cameras, first developed the format in 2006. All the major HD camcorder manufacturers, including…

  • Canon
  • Hitachi and
  • JVC...

Now provide products that support this video format.

What Are the Advantages of This Video Format?

*Smaller File Sizes...

Smaller file sizes are one of the big advantages of this format.

It permits HD video to have an efficient reduction in the size of the video data file being recorded while maintaining the high picture quality of HD video.

Moving video footage from a AVCHD camcorder to your computer is faster due to the smaller file size.

For example... it is able to record about one hour of high definition video on a 4 GB SDHC flash memory card which can then be moved directly into your video editing software with no conversion needed.

*AVCHD Video Can Be Recorded to a Variety of Storage Media…

AVCHD camcorders and video devices can record to:

  • Flash memory cards

  • Optical media such as DVD and Blu-ray

*Format Can Be Directly Read by HDTV Other HD Display Devices…

This type of HD video can be recorded to removable media like SDHC and memory stick cards and then be directly read on a computer (with a card reader attached) or an HDTV with a MicroSD slot.

This of course makes viewing your HD footage as easy as just popping in the flash memory card from the camcorder or video device and turning on your HDTV or computer.

Also, the HD video can be played from the camcorder directly to an HDTV through the HDMI connection or Component Video cable.

This type of HD video can also be captured directly to your video editing software by connecting the camcorder or video device to the computer via a USB or FireWire connection.

*Small, Compact and Efficient Camcorders and Digital Cameras...

Another advantage of HD camcorders and digital cameras in general... Is that because there is no tape transport...

Capturing and Editing AVCHD Video Footage...

Here are some of the video editing software manufacturers that offer native support for AVCHD:

  • Adobe Premiere Pro CS4
  • Adobe Premiere Elements (as of 7.0)
  • Apple Final Cut Express and Studio
  • Blender
  • CyberLink PowerDirector
  • iMovie HD
  • Avid
  • Pinnacle Studio
  • MAGIX Pro
  • Sony Vegas
  • Movie Maker (Windows 7

All of the software manufacturers above offer native support for AVCHD editing but do require powerful video editing computers to properly run the HD editing programs.

Just as HDV editing once demanded an expensive high-end computer system... The requirements for video editing software that can edit this type of video format limits it to the more powerful machines.

Compared to HDV... video editing this format requires 2x to 4x the processing power which in turn places a greater burden on the computer memory and CPU usage.

Older computers, even those that were capable of handling HDV editing, are often too slow for editing this type of format. 

They will struggle with smooth playback of AVCHD video recordings and will have long rendering times.

For you Windows users… If you edit on a PC and are using the Windows 7 operating system or above it will import and play this video format natively having files with the extensions M2TS, MTS and M2T pre-registered in the system.

Windows Media Player 12 will be able to index content of these files, while Windows Explorer will be able to create thumbnails for each clip.

Authoring your completed video to high-definition optical discs should be fairly easy since the structure of this video format is derived from the Blu-ray Disc specification and it has been designed to be easily compatible with the Blu-ray Disc format.

As I said at the top...  The AVCHD format is now one of the standard formats for HD camcorders, so if you're using it choose your video editing computer and video editing software carefully.

And remember... You will need some computer "horsepower" to capture and easily edit these highly compressed video files successfully!

Have fun...!  Dan (Editor)

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