Working with AVCHD in Final Cut Pro

Final Cut Pro does not have native editing support for AVCHD footage. You can use the Log and Transfer window to transcode AVCHD footage to an Apple ProRes codec or the Apple Intermediate Codec during transfer.

After you have transferred your footage, you can edit using Apple ProRes or the Apple Intermediate Codec and output to the format of your choice.

Figure. Diagram showing the four stages of the transcoding workflow: shooting, ingesting, editing in an alternative codec, and finishing.

In the figure above, the media is transcoded to an Apple ProRes codec, but you can also use the Apple Intermediate Codec in a transcoding workflow.

Important: You cannot export footage back to the AVCHD format from Final Cut Pro.

Transferring AVCHD Footage

You can transfer AVCHD footage to your scratch disk using the Log and Transfer window in Final Cut Pro. During transfer, you can choose whether the Log and Transfer window transcodes your footage to an Apple ProRes codec or to the Apple Intermediate Codec. For more information about using the Log and Transfer window, see “Overview of Transferring File-Based Media” and “About the Log and Transfer Window” in the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual.

Important: Although it is possible to copy AVCHD files directly to your scratch disk, Final Cut Pro won’t recognize these files. You must use the Log and Transfer window to transfer and transcode AVCHD footage.

Restrictions When Working with AVCHD

The following restrictions apply when working with AVCHD footage:

  • AVCHD camcorders typically connect to computers via USB 2.0, not FireWire.

  • AVCHD support is available only on Intel-based Mac computers.

  • DVD-based AVCHD camcorders are not supported in Mac OS X Server v10.4 or earlier.

  • SD video recorded with AVCHD camcorders can’t be accessed in the Log and Transfer window.

  • AVCHD footage is not captured natively but is transcoded to an Apple ProRes codec or the Apple Intermediate Codec. You can choose the destination codec in the Log and Transfer window preferences. For more information, see Choosing an AVCHD Destination Codec.

  • When you choose to transfer AVCHD audio in the Logging area, audio is automatically mixed down to stereo.

  • It is not possible to delete clips on an AVCHD volume, even if read-and-write permissions on the volume are set to allow file deletion. This behavior is different from that of P2 volumes, where clip deletion is allowed when proper read-and-write permissions are set.

  • The Log and Transfer window shows only an average duration for AVCHD clips, especially clips longer than 1 minute. After clips are ingested, the correct duration is displayed in the Final Cut Pro Browser.

For more information about using the Log and Transfer window, see “Overview of Transferring File-Based Media” and “About the Log and Transfer Window” in the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual.

AVCHD Restrictions During Preview

Preview of AVCHD video in the Log and Transfer window is limited to forward playback at 100 percent speed. When you scrub with the playhead, video is not updated in the Preview area until you stop scrubbing. Also, as you enter or scrub to In and Out points, the playhead snaps to the closest I-frame in your footage, which may be slightly different from the precise timecode value you specified.

For more information about using the Log and Transfer window, see “Overview of Transferring File-Based Media” and “About the Log and Transfer Window” in the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual.

Choosing an AVCHD Destination Codec

Even simple AVCHD decoding for playback requires a lot of processing power. To reduce the processing demands on your computer, the Log and Transfer window transcodes your AVCHD footage to a less processor-intensive codec. The default destination codec is Apple ProRes 422, but you can also choose other Apple ProRes codecs or the Apple Intermediate Codec.

To choose the destination codec for AVCHD footage transferred in the Log and Transfer window
  1. In the Log and Transfer window, choose Preferences from the Action pop-up menu (with a gear icon) in the upper-right corner of the Browse area.

  2. In the dialog that appears, choose a destination codec for the AVCHD plug-in from the pop-up menu in the “Transcode to” column, then click OK.

For more information about using the Log and Transfer window, see “Overview of Transferring File-Based Media” and “About the Log and Transfer Window” in the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual.

Note: When ingesting AVCHD audio, the AVCHD plug-in is preset to ingest the audio as Matrix stereo. With some AVCHD camcorders, the audio may sound unbalanced when ingested as Matrix stereo. To correct the imbalance, select the AC-3 Audio decoder option in the AVCHD plug-in preferences, and choose Plain Stereo. Then reingest the AVCHD footage. It’s a good idea to ingest an initial AVCHD clip and check for this sound imbalance. You can then select the appropriate setting before ingesting the remainder of your AVCHD footage.

About Transcoded AVCHD Files and Disk Space

When you ingest AVCHD files using the Log and Transfer window, video is transcoded to either an Apple ProRes codec or the Apple Intermediate Codec. AVCHD has a much higher compression ratio than Apple ProRes, so the ingested files are significantly larger than the original files. For example, a 2-minute native AVCHD file is about 200–300 MB. After transcoding to the Apple ProRes 422 codec, the file size can be as large as 2 GB.

To create smaller files during transfer, transcode AVCHD files to Apple ProRes 422 (LT). For more information about the relative data rates and file sizes for these formats, see Working with Apple ProRes.

To see the size of the source file and an estimated size of the file after transcoding, you can display Source Size and Target Size columns in the Log and Transfer window. Control-click a column heading in the Browse area of the Log and Transfer window, then choose the column heading you want from the shortcut menu. You can also see the total free disk space available to you in the bottom-right corner of the Transfer Queue area in the Log and Transfer window.