Working with AVCHD and MTS files

vixia_avchdVideo Editors: By now we’ve all experienced problems with converting those pesky .MTS files to a file type that iMovie or Final Cut Pro will recognize. So, what’s the deal? Why can’t those sophisticated programs read .MTS files and what is the relationship between .MTS and AVCHD??

AVCHD stands for Advanced Video Codec High Definition. It’s a high-definition video format developed by Panasonic and Sony for use in consumer camcorders. AVCHD is a form of video compression that allows the large data files created by HD video recording to be captured and saved on the internal hard drive of the camera and flash memory cards.

MTS (MPEG-2 Transport Stream ) files are just a part of that AVCHD information. It is used for multiplexing audio, video and other streams. The file itself is not an editable file, it’s a “container file” and is missing some information that those editing programs need. You might have luck playing a container file on VLC player or maybe even Windows Media Player, but when it comes time to edit that video, you won’t be able to import it into an editing software.

When you finish shooting and plug your camera into the computer, usually you would go directly into iMovie or FCP to import. Those programs digitize the AVCHD files into something else. Like huge .mov files.  But sometimes you don’t have time to sit down with iMovie and import directly from the camera so you make a copy of the files to deal with later.

I highly recommend copying the entire AVCHD folder from your video camera onto an external hard drive. This is going to eliminate a sometimes lengthy re encoding process.

But what if you only have the .MTS file and there is no way to go back and find that entire AVCHD folder? Is there anything that can be done?

The glorious Internet will provide a ton of  “free conversion software” that will lead you Toaston an endless hyperlinked trail of plugins and downloads. Other programs might require you to know something about file conversion. I wouldn’t mess with those too much unless you know the program and can trust it. In the lab, we use Roxio Toast Titanium (costs about $80.00 but free if you come to the lab). It’s as simple as dropping the files into the Toast conversion tab and clicking the big red button to get editable MP4 files. Keep in mind this process can take time depending on how much video you’ve shot.

But wait, you followed my advice and you DID copy the entire AVCHD folder and iMovie and FCP still won’t recognize the folder. What gives?!

Here’s what you need to do:

iMovie: the AVCHD folder needs to be on a separate drive like an external hard drive or jump drive. Open iMovie and click the camera button just like a regular import. It should read the hard drive like a camera or “device”.

FPCX: Go to File>Import from Camera> Open Archive button on the bottom of the import screen. From there you will be able to open the AVCHD folder. The hard drive and folder will then show up under “Cameras”, ready for import.

FCP7: Go to File> Log and Transfer. When the Log and Transfer window pops up, press the folder button on the top left hand side. This will allow you to select the AVCHD folder. The videos will pop up in the list for importing!

3 thoughts on “Working with AVCHD and MTS files

  1. I have Sony camera HDR-XR500VE.
    My mistake is that I copied only .mts files from camera to HD in PC and then delete all files in camera.
    I would like to play video from camera because it is the best picture on TV direct playing from camera.
    When I copy .mts to camera, there is no possibility to play it.
    Could you help me how to create from .mts files to camera suitable avchd format?
    Is it possible at all?


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