No AVCHD support in Snow Leopard

This morning we received our Snow Leopard DVD from our friends at Apple.

It turns out that, as rumoured, the shipped version of Snow Leopard is build 10A432, which was released to developers about 2 weeks ago.

The big news for us is that Snow Leopard does not support AVCHD video. Quicktime won't open the movies and it certainly won't export to AVCHD.

What does this mean?

It seems that Apple is treating AVCHD like most of the Pro video formats. That is, they rely on a 'Log and Transfer' approach where all codecs are converted into a common, editor-friendly format for editing. For iMovie and Final Cut Express this is Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) and for Final Cut Pro it is the ProRes codec family.

At Shedworx, this lack of AVCHD support in OSX means that we will now focus heavily on some simple native AVCHD editor capabilities. We already have trimming working and will have this (and some other new features) out under VoltaicHD version 2.0 in October.

We will roll out the AVCHD native previewer and trimming functions into RevolverHD and FlamingoHD shortly after releasing VoltaicHD for the Mac.

RevolverHD version 1.3.1 released

RevolverHD 1.3.1 has been released and includes the following improvements:

- Added support to generate AVCREC disk structures.
- Added support for Casio files.
- Added Deactivation process.
- Greater support for Hauppage files.

A new web site for ShedWorx

We're finally up with a new-look website for ShedWorx!

We have gone with a new layout that is way less cluttered and more like the "Apple style".

Users can still create accounts and log in to post comments on blogs.

We have also switched on Forums for the site. We hope that this will provide a place for people to ask questions about ShedWorx products and HD movie editing/management in general. We will keep an eye on the product forums and answer questions where we can.

For those who are interested, we're using Drupal6, running on one of our hosted Linux servers in Perth, Western Australia.

RevolverHD released with AVCHD Lite and Camera Archive support


We have just released RevolverHD for Mac with two new key features.

Firstly, we have added the ability to create Camera Archives which can be imported into iMovie or Final Cut. This feature allows you to take any of your original AVCHD movie files and create a disk image. This disk image will be recognised by iMovie and Final Cut as an AVCHD camera and can be imported into your editor.

Unlike the built-in Apple feature, you can select any valid AVCHD movie files and create a Camera Archive. You are no longer limited to just archiving all content from your camera at once.

The second feature in this release is support for AVCHD Lite. You can create AVCHD DVDs containing AVCHD Lite content which will play back on a supported Blu-ray player. AVCHD Lite Camera Archives won't be of any use yet as iMovie and Final Cut do not yet support AVCHD Lite. You will need VoltaicHD to take care of that :)

AVCHD Lite and that 50p format

In our development of AVCHD Lite support for all ShedWorx products, we've come across a potentially confusing area in regard to the video format used in the new Panasonic Lumix AVCHD Lite cameras.

The AVCHD Lite format for these cameras is quoted as '50p recording' but with a disclaimer that the CCD records at 25fps.

Some users might be led to believe that the 50p format (60p for NTSC) will give them 50 frames per second. This is not the case. 50p is a signal setting stating that AVCHD Lite from these cameras will play back at 50 fields per second, from a captured video of 25 frames per second.

How does this work? Well, they provide a 50p output signal by repeating each frame's display twice.

Why would they do this? We can only assume that the 50p signal may look better on some displays (this was not that case in our tests). As an example, in non-digital cinemas, the films are provided as 24 frames per second but the projectors run at 48 cycles per second to reduce flicker.

We can tell you that there are 25 frames per second in the H.264 video stream within a AVCHD Lite video.

For now, we are converting AVCHD Lite to 25fps output (both WMV on the PC and AIC on the Mac). We have tested this approach by taking our converted AIC footage, editing in Final Cut Express, then exporting to AppleTV for playback. We've then examined the video quality by:
- playing back direct from our Panasonic DMC-FT1 via HDMI to the HDTV (Sony Bravia 46")
- copying the raw AVCHD Lite files to a PS3 and playing back
- playing back the Final Cut edited movie through an AppleTV

We have seen no noticeable difference between any of these playback options, making us confident that going from 50p to an (effective) 25p signal, still preserving the 25 frames per second that was recorded, has no effect on video quality.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT1 first impressions


We don't normally do camera reviews here at ShedWorx, but the new camera that we've been playing around with this week really deserves a special mention. This is the most impressive camera that we have seen since we fired up our very first AVCHD camera - the Sony HDC-SR1 way back in November 2006.

The Panasonic DMC-FT1 showed up during the week and this little camera is remarkable. 1280x720p AVCHD Lite video along with 12MP still shooting. Its got 4x optical zoom and - its waterproof and shockproof!

What more could you want! This camera does everything and fits into your pocket!

Ease of use

The camera has a very cool feature (the first time I've seen it in a small camera) where it has the usual still shooting shutter release at the top, but it has a red record button on the back. In the past, you would have been forced to switch from still image to movie mode.

Even using this for just one day, this feature is great. You can be taking still images and just hit the red button and you're recording HD video.

Zooming is via a horizontal slider which I found a bit annoying compared to the usual rocker control that most cameras have.

Editing

Start up iMovie, plug in the camera and the usual stuff happens. You get the preview screen, then Import All and away it goes. The next thing you see is ERROR across all clips. iMovie09 does not support AVCHD Lite.

So, lets try that again with FlamingoHD. Fire up FlamingoHD, plug in the camera and you get the Import screen. Import All and its done, complete with Filmstrip previews (coming to you in v1.0 very soon). FlamingoHD also imported all of the still images from the camera.

Set up a Project and Send to Editor and you will soon be ready to edit.

I edited my first clips in Final Cut Express, and everything was how you would expect it. Just create a project, import from the folder created by FlamingoHD and you're ready to go.

Once editing was done I exported (using QuickTime Conversion) to AppleTV format (which is 1280x720p, H.264 video).

Video Quality

Our playback tests were done using an AppleTV, connected to a Sony Bravia X-series 46" HDTV. The AppleTV connects to a shared iTunes library on one of our iMacs over wireless.

Now I'm not going to tell you that this little camera shoots the same quality as the top of the range AVCHD cameras. The colour blends are a bit severe, low light performance isn't so good, but for general outdoor, well-lit situations the picture is excellent.

The biggest difference I noticed between the FT1 and my usual camera - the excellent Canon HF11 - was not picture quality, but stability. When the camera was completely still, in good light, you can't tell the difference in picture quality. The Canon HF11 really comes into its own with its stablising technology (OIS). The little FT1 has no such feature, so the footage is often only as good as the steadiness of your hand.

Apart from that, the final results were excellent. The quality is more than enough for those on-the-go moments where you haven't got the big video camera with you.

Samples

We'll post up a sample to our Sample Videos page soon. We'll also put up some cool underwater clips in late May.

Conclusion

This is the camera that I will be taking everywhere with me. I'll still take the "big" Canon HF-11 for more serious events, but having a little HD video camera that takes excellent still images also, is a wonderful thing.

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