AVCHD file spanning

AVCHD file spanning

The new AVCHD high definition video standard stores video as files rather than tapes. This is very handy for video/asset management, but runs into a problem with very long clips.

With tape based recording, you can just record for as long as the tape goes. For files, as they get large, they have to be split. This is due to underlying limitations with the file system where the clips are saved (i.e. the memory card or hard disk drive on the camera).

You will find that for large AVCHD clips, the camera will split the files at either the 2Gb or 4Gb mark. AVCHD clips are different to other older video standards in that they are very highly compressed. This is achieved by storing a full image (also known as a keyframe or I-frame) only once, then just storing changes from then on, for a large number of frames.

When a file is split there is no keyframe at the start of second (and subsequent) clips. VoltaicHD can convert these subsequent clips, but it may skip a couple of frames as it looks for the first I frame (or keyframe).

What is Interlacing?

What is Interlacing?

Today's AVCHD cameras can shoot in interlaced or progressive mode. NTSC modes are 60i for interlaced and 24p for progressive. The PAL equivalents are 50i and 25p. Early AVCHD cameras were interlaced only.

Interlacing is the practice of displaying a single frame of video as two 'half' frames. Each frame is split into alternating lines, so that the first frame displays lines 1,3,5 and so on, while the second frame of the pair displays lines 2,4,6 and so on.

For all of the gory detail on why interlacing came about, read this Wikipedia article.

If you look at a raw interlaced clip converted by VoltaicHD for Mac, you will see the interlacing on playback. If you look at a clip from the same camera taken in progressive mode (24p or 25p), there will be no interlacing.

When you look at the same clip under iMovie or Final Cut, you won't see the interlacing. This is because the editor uses a small preview window and you won't notice the interlacing. When scaling a clip down in size by more than 50%, the video player will just drop every second frame, so the interlacing disappears. The underlying clip is still interlaced.

When you export your completed movie from iMovie, it will be deinterlaced for you automatically. If you are using Final Cut you will need to apply the Effects->Video Filters->Video->Deinterlace filter manually to your sequence timeline.

New AVCHD cameras generally have a progressive scan mode (e.g. 24p on NTSC, 25p on PAL) which is more 'HD friendly'. New cameras from Panasonic have 50fps and 60fps progressive modes, which are great for action movies. As the HD workflows mature, these will most probably become the standard.

Moving on up to Final Cut Express

Moving on up to Final Cut Express

So you've got your new AVCHD camera and its been working just great with iMovie.

You've made a couple of nice home movies and been happy with what you have achieved so quickly. So now you want to try some of those fancy things you've seen on TV or other people's videos. Fade a few different music tracks in and out during your video? Do something cool with picture-in-picture effects? Welcome to Final Cut Express.

This guide will show you how I use Final Cut Express in 'easy' mode. Using Final Cut Express in this way is actually faster than using iMovie. It also opens up all of the cool effects and methods possible with Final Cut, when you are ready. I'm not even going to give you the overview of the FC workspace. We'll just jump right in and learn on the fly.

Give yourself half and hour with this tutorial and you'll be up and running with Final Cut Express.

Copy your clips off your camera - don't use the Apple converter!

Please see our article on Managing HD Video for our recommended approach for this.

We strongly recommend that you take control of your video asset management, rather than letting Apple dictate the approach.

Convert your clips using VoltaicHD

Take the event you have just imported from your camera and 'Send to Editor' from FlamingoHD.

Open FCE and set your defaults

Open Final Cut Express and open the Final Cut Express -> Easy Setup... option.

This is where you set the default properties for the timeline. Choose the correct HD option from the drops downs.

You only have 2 choices to make:

  • are you PAL or NTSC? PAL is 50i while NTSC is 60i
  • are your clips 1440x1080 or 1920x1080? This depends on you camera and the mode you shoot in

Create a new project

Go to File->New Project.

Rename the default sequence (Sequence 1) to something meaningful to you. This is the name that the exported movie will be given.

Note that you can create many sequences within a FCE project. We'll only be creating one.

Once it is created, save (and name) your Project.

Import your clips

Go to File->Import->Folder...

This will load all of your clips from the folder into a 'Bin' in the FCE Browser.

Click on the down arrow next to the newly created Bin (i.e. Folder in the Browser) to look at the clip names. It should look something like this.

Do the 'rough cut'

This is where you preview all of your raw clips and either throw them out, or set in and out points (and sometimes creating sub-clips). The in and out points define the start and stop point of the clip that will be added to the timeline.

Some important short-cut keys for moving around in your clip:

  • Go to start of clip: Home key
  • Go to end of clip: End key
  • Start/stop playing: Spacebar
  • Back a frame: Left Arrow
  • Forward a frame: Right Arrow
  • Set in point: I
  • Set out point: O

A lot of the speed in editing under Final Cut comes from using the keyboard to control things rather than the mouse. Get used to these keys and your editing will be much quicker.

To do your rough cut:

  • double-click on the first clip in the list. This will open it in the Canvas window.
  • Start playing the clip (Space bar)
  • As you hit the start of the footage you want in your movie, press I
  • As you hit the end of the footage you want in your movie, press O

If you want to create a new sub-clip, set the in and out points that you want (as above), then press Apple-U. The new clip will be created below the original one. This is what you do if you have many sub-clips that you want to use from an original clip.

Build up the timeline

Once all of your clips are ready, add them to the sequence timeline.

Select all the clips and drag them to the timeline below. It should end up looking something like this:

This method of adding clips does not include any transitions. You can add them later as required.

Add pre/post slugs

Pre and Post slugs give you your fade in and fade out effects, if you want them.

Go to the Effects tab in the Browser and go to Video Generators, Slug.

Drag a slug down onto the timeline. Once the slug is on the timeline, select all the clips and drag them back to join onto the slug.

Add titles

Titles in Final Cut are done using the Text Video Generator. This is on the Effects tab in the browser, just below the Slug.

Add a Text element to the timeline just like you did with the slug. This time though, you want to add it above the clips you want the title to appear on. You are now working with video layers. This is where the power of editing with a real editing suite comes into play. Goodbye iMovie forever!

To edit the properties of the newly added Lower Third, double click on it, then go to the Viewer window and select the Controls Tab. You will see all the settings that you can play around with along with the two lines of text that can be displayed.


Now you've got a Full HD edited movie ready to go. Being HD, you want to watch it on a HDTV right?

You have a few options:

  • Blu-ray payer: use RevolverHD to convert your QuickTime movie into AVCHD and put it on a DVD which will play in compatible Blu-ray players.
  • AppleTV: if you have one of these you can publish to it. Note that AppleTV only goes up to 720p, so you movie will be degraded to half the resolution of full HD.

There you have it. If you follow these steps for your first few movies, you will have saved about 20 hours worth of reading manuals and watching the tutorial videos and wondering why its so hard.

Next steps:

  • read the Final Cut Express User Guide. Its a pretty good starting point for new features
  • look on YouTube. You will find plenty of short 'how to' guides.

RevolverHD for Mac User Guide

Table of Contents

Setting Preferences
Creating a Camera Archive
Exporting for TV Playback
Burning a High Definition DVD
Required QuickTime Export Format


Welcome to the RevolverHD User Guide. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about RevolverHD.

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You install RevolverHD by dragging it from the disk image to your Applications folder. We recommend also keeping it in your Dock.

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You activate RevolverHD by purchasing an Activation Key. Once you have completed payment via the Shedworx Store (using Paypal), the Activation Key is emailed to your supplied email address immediately. Your key is also displayed on the screen when you click on the 'Return to Systemic' link displayed on the PayPal confirmation screen.

If you do not receive your key within 5 minutes, it is probably in your SPAM folder.

Once you receive your Activation Key, open RevolverHD and go to the RevolverHD->Activate menu option. Enter your key into the text field and click 'Activate'. RevolverHD then communicates with the ShedWorx activation server to activate itself.

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Setting Preferences

RevolverHD allows you to set a number of preferences. You should set up your preferences before using RevolverHD for the first time.

Preferences can be reviewed at any time by using the menu options or Apple,

Scratch file location

This allows you to specify where the temporary files are placed during each conversion. If you are converting large files from an external storage location, and want to preserve disk space on the machine running the conversions, you should set this location to be on the external storage device.

Output Location

This allows you to specify where the converted files are placed when creating a Camera Archive or exporting for TV playback.

This area is also used to set up the disk image when burning a disk. It needs to have about 3x the project size available before burning.

Disk type

This option controls the type of DVD that Revolver burns. Options are:

  • AVCHD DVD - regular high definition AVCHD DVD which will play on most Blu-ray players
  • AVCREC DVD - AVCREC format DVD which is mainly for AVCREC HD recorders
  • Data DVD - AVCHD files are just copied straight to a DVD with no AVCHD file structure

TV Type

This option controls the type of output created from the TV Export function. Options are:

  • Panasonic TV -
  • Playstation3 -
  • Regular -

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Creating a Camera Archive

If you would like to take a group of AVCHD video files and store them for later use with iMovie or Final Cut, you can create a Camera Archive. This archive can then be easily imported into iMovie or Final Cut (using Log and Transfer) at a later date.

To create a Camera Archive, simply add the required AVCHD video files to RevolverHD and click on "Camera Archive". RevolverHD then creates a camera archive in the Output Location, as specified in Preferences.

To load the archive into iMovie go to the File menu ->Import->Camera Archive... and select the Camera Archive folder that you require.

To load the archive into Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro, open Log and Transfer, click on the Add Volume button on the top left and select the Camera Archive folder that was created using RevolverHD. This will load all the AVCHD movies into the preview list and you can continue as per normal for a transfer session.

If you want to save the archive to DVD for backup and storage, just use the File Utility to burn a DVD using the archive folder.

Exporting for TV Playback

Many new High Definition TVs now include software to playback AVCHD movies without the need for a Blu-ray player or Playstation3. Revolver's TV PLayback function export AVCHD movies in a format that most HD TVs can play.

To use this function, add AVCHD movies to Revolver as per usual, then click TV Playback. Revolver will then create a folder structure under the Output Location specified in your Preferences.

Once the export is complete, take the folders that Revolver created and copy them to the top level of a removable USB drive. You can now plug this drive straight into a compatible HD TV and watch your movies in full high definition without any conversion taking place.

Burning a High Definition DVD

RevolverHD supports the burning of both AVCHD and AVCREC high definition DVDs. AVCHD DVDs will play on most Blu-ray players (including the Playstation3). AVCREC DVDs are only supported on newer Blu-ray players and HD recorders coming out of Japan. The main use of AVCREC DVDs is on newer high definition hard disk recorders that are Blu-ray compliant.

If you have some AVCHD clips straight from your camera that you want to watch on a high definition TV, here's what you do.

  1. Open RevolverHD and add the required MTS or m2ts files
  2. Set your Preference to Blu-ray DVDs (AVCHD)
  3. Burn

This will give you a DVD that will play on most Blu-ray players (we haven't found a player that doesn't work yet).

Required Quicktime Export Format

In order for RevolverHD to deal with QuickTime exports from iMovie and Final Cut, the movie must be exported
with the correct format. This helps preserve the quality of your final export as well as making the process as
quick as possible.

The required settings can be chosen when doing a Quicktime Export, and are as follows;

  • H.264 Video
  • Linear PCM Audio (16bit, 48kHz, 2 Channels)

Here are the screens you will see when setting these formats.

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