AVCHD Format Specifications

AVCHD is an HD video format that uses Advanced Video Coding (AVC) compression (also known as MPEG-4 part 10 or H.264).

Storage Medium

AVCHD camcorders record on a variety of file-based media, including 80 mm DVDs (also known as miniDVDs), hard disks, and flash memory (such as Secure Digital cards).

Video Standard

The AVCHD specification was jointly developed by Sony and Panasonic. AVCHD allows for HD recording (1080i, 1080p, and 720p) and SD recording (480i and 576i).

Aspect Ratio

AVCHD records HD video with an aspect ratio of 16:9. SD video can be recorded with either a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio.

Frame Dimensions, Number of Lines, and Resolution

AVCHD supports three HD video resolutions:

  • 1920 x 1080: This format is sometimes called Full HD because it contains the full 1920 horizontal pixels of the 1080-line HD format.
  • 1440 x 1080: This is a horizontally subsampled image with 1080 lines.
  • 1280 x 720: This is a full-resolution 720p format.

SD NTSC- and PAL-compatible formats are also defined in the AVCHD specification:

  • 720 x 480 at 60i

  • 720 x 576 at 50i

Important: The SD AVCHD formats are not supported by Final Cut Pro.

Frame Rate

The specified AVCHD frame rates are:

  • NTSC-compatible frame rate: 29.97 fps (1080i60, 720p60)
  • PAL-compatible frame rate: 25 fps (1080i50, 720p50)
  • Film-compatible frame rate: 23.98 fps (1080p24, 720p24)
Scanning Method

AVCHD can record either interlaced or progressive scan images:

  • 1080 lines: Interlaced (1080i) or progressive (1080p)
  • 720 lines: Progressive
Color Recording Method

The AVCHD color sample ratio is 4:2:0, with 8 bits per sample.

Data Rate

The amount of storage space required by AVCHD footage depends on the quality setting chosen on the camcorder. Most camcorders support several quality levels, although these quality levels have different names and bit rates on different camcorders. When variable bit rate (VBR) encoding is used, complex and rapidly changing video requires more data, shortening recording time. Therefore, stated variable bit rates are an average.

Sony Camcorder AVCHD Quality Levels

This table lists the bit rates for different quality-level settings on Sony AVCHD camcorders. Sony camcorders use variable bit rate (VBR) encoding at every quality level.

Format name
Bit rate
XP (highest quality)
15 Mbps (VBR)
HQ (high quality)
9 Mbps (VBR)
SP (standard quality)
7 Mbps (VBR)
LP (long play)
5 Mbps (VBR)
Panasonic Camcorder AVCHD Quality Levels

This table lists the bit rates for different quality-level settings on Panasonic AVCHD camcorders. Depending on the quality-level setting, Panasonic camcorders use either constant bit rate (CBR) or variable bit rate (VBR) encoding.

Format name
Bit rate
PH
21 Mbps (VBR)
HA
17 Mbps (VBR)
HF
13 Mbps (CBR)
HG
13 Mbps (VBR)
HN
9 Mbps (VBR)
HE
6 Mbps (VBR)
Audio

AVCHD audio can be recorded in 5.1-channel surround sound with Dolby Digital (AC-3) compression or up to 7.1-channel surround sound (uncompressed). Some cameras, such as the Panasonic HDC-SD5, use a two-channel built-in microphone.