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Nov
25

Review of the Sony HDR-SR1 - The Practicalities of AVCHD

The Sony HDR-SR1 is the world's first high-definition, hard drive camcorder. It represents the start of a new era, and is a camera I've personally been waiting many years to see arrive.

When JVC introduced the Everio line of hard drive camcorders in late 2004, I figured it would only be a couple of months until they came up with a high definition version of the same. Prosumer high definition camcorders were already available at the time, so it seemed logical they would marry the two at the earliest opportunity.

The closest they came, was an optional hard drive attachment for the very sexy GY-HD100 . But Sony has caught up with JVC, and taken the lead in the consumer market, with this groundbreaking and reasonably priced camcorder.

I managed to get my hand on one of these when they were launched in the UK last month. I've now had a chance to put it through its paces...

(Please note this is not a full review of the HDR-SR1. You can find a comprehensive review here. Instead I focus on some of the practicalities of dealing with Sony's new file format AVCHD).

(contd)...

While the premise of this camera is excellent, dealing with Sony's AVC file format is very difficult. This will change in the months ahead, as leading software makers release updates to cope.

Sony has decided to use an H.264 based file format they call AVCHD, promoted in conjunction with Panasonic. I've been a fan of H264 ever since Apple started using it in Quicktime. It's a very efficient compression algorithm, yielding excellent picture quality and small file sizes.

Unfortunately, Sony's H264 isn't compatible with Apple's H264, and there is not a single major editing program that currently supports it. Even Sony's own 'Vegas' editing program will not be supporting the format until Spring 2007.


So what can you do with the footage?

The camera stores high definition footage on its internal hard drive as .m2ts files, one file for each clip you shoot. You can easily transfer these to your computer via USB - the camera shows up as an external hard drive on your computer, as you would hope and expect.

You can also use Sony's supplied software, available only for PC, to transfer footage, and this is an efficient way of importing lots of clips at once. The software organizes these clips into chronological folders, according to the date of each clip's shooting. A nice feature.

If you are on a Mac, you will need an Intel Mac and have Windows XP installed to do this. Nobody to my knowledge has got playback to work on a Mac yet other than running under Windows. And I've searched. I have a Mac Pro, and the only way I can play back the files is to boot into Windows XP using BootCamp, and install Sony's software. This works very well, but is not exactly ideal.


Playback of AVCHD files

To play back files smoothly you will need a very fast computer. Decoding H.264 high definition footage is extremely processor intensive. I tried it on Dell's latest entry level laptop as a yardstick, and the playback was slow and stuttery.

Sony's Picture Motion Browser software is used to browse your imported media files. To play back a clip in full screen, you highlight a clip, and click the slideshow button at top, which looks like a movie projection screen. This fires up the 'Player for AVCHD', a program I initially tried to open by itself without success. On the MacPro 'PC', playback was smooth and very impressive. You use the arrow buttons to move left and right through different clips, and hitting Enter acts as a pause control.

To playback .m2ts files in any other player requires some jumping of hoops, but is not very difficult. In basic terms you need an AVC decoder installed on your computer, and that done, you can play back the files in Windows Media Player, and other players that support DirectShow technology.


The 3 Steps to play back .M2TS files in Windows Media Player
(UPDATED MARCH 2007)

  1. Download and install a trial or full version of Cyberlink PowerDVD 7. If you decide to purchase it, you will need the Deluxe or Max version. **UPDATE** - Curiously (because of this post?) Cyberlink have removed the H264/AVCHD codec from their Cyberlink PowerDVD trial, even though the version number has stayed exactly the same. Until I'm told otherwise, here is a trial version of PowerDVD 7 with the original codec included (CL264DEC.ax).

  2. Rename the imported .M2TS files to have a .MPG extension

  3. Double click a file to view it

All this works because Cyberlink PowerDVD comes with an AVC DirectShow compatible decoder as part of the software package. Note that there are other files on the camera's hard drive, and you do not need to transfer these for playback. All the video information is stored in the .M2TS files.


Other Media Players
CoreAVC is a commercial AVC decoder costing $15 for a multi-core processor version. This codec claims to be the most efficient AVC software decoder, meaning you can get away with a less powerful computer for smooth playback. I have not been able to get it to work, but many others have.

Nero offers an AVC decoder and if you are a Nero enthusiast this might be a good option to try. I did not test it myself, but according to this benchmark, it is the slowest of the main players.

Elecard offers an AVC plugin for their DVD Player. I tested a trial version and the quality was below par. I did not test their MPG player which also has an AVC plugin.


Editing with AVCHD

There are three approaches to editing with AVCHD.

  1. The first is to use Sony's supplied software to convert the .m2ts files into mpeg-2 files, and then edit those. This is not ideal, because it lowers quality, and the quality of the converter itself is not great.

  2. The second approach is to capture the HDMI output of the camcorder with a capture card. Blackmagic Design are about to launch an HDMI capture card costing $249, and I am hoping to receive a review copy to put it through its paces. If it works, this would represent a very attractive option, since the quality should be very high indeed. It would also allow capture of live HDMI footage from the camera, without the quality lost when compressing the files for storage on the internal drive.

  3. The third and final approach is to use editing software that can deal with AVCHD directly. As indicated above, none of the major software packages currently allow this, but there is one lesser known option. The Cyberlink AVC decoder is a DirectShow filter, and in theory this means that any editor supporting DirectShow should be able to use that decoder to access the footage. TMPGEnc XPress is one, and it will happily edit .m2ts files, no renaming required, providing you have installed the AVC decoder as described above. It is a simple cuts only editor, albeit one with a wide array of export options. You will need to add each clip twice, once in the video browse dialog and once in the audio browse dialog to have audio. I successfully used it to edit two .m2ts files together and outputted the result in HDV format. The quality was impressive.

I have tried unsuccessfully to find another editing option including several open source and commercial video editors claiming to have DirectShow support. So far I have tested...

In conclusion, it seems that DirectShow compatible media players work well (e.g. Core Media Player), but DirectShow editors do not.

Do you have any tips for working with AVCHD?

I would be grateful if you would share any tips or experiences you have working with AVHCD and the Sony SR1 below. Your comments will also help other SR1 users. I will maintain this posting over time and add any new information I find.

UPDATE - Blackmagic have sent through their HDMI intensity card for review and I have begun putting it through its paces here.

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Comments

Hi!
Your diagnosis about HDR SR1 is very proffesional. I actually work on Mac. I've purchased Sony SR1 two days ago. I spent many times to try open /and edit of corse/ AVCHD on Mac. Only way I find is to open SD MPG-2 on FCP_HD. Quality isn't very impressive, but I could cut and paste any part of my "movies".
Transfer via USB is quick and simple.
Slawek Kosmynka

One more option to play the SR1 movies is to convert them to MPEG2 with Elecard Converter Studio or similar (full resolution and surround sound preserved). Then play them with a HD PC Tuner card (e.g. MyHD). The advantage is that those cards have Plasma and surround sound amplifier outputs and hardware decompression, so they work well on slow computers. Take an old one, put the card in and connect it to your HD flatscreen.

Just bought the SR1? and macbook pro and can't edit in SD or HD? How would I be able to atleast download and edit movies in my Mac ?

Or is it just better to download XP on the macbook pro and use the software from Sony?

I also have a MacBook Pro and an SR1. I shoot in SD, and use MPEG Streamclip (free; www.Squared5.com) to convert the audio to a format that iMovie can handle. This requires an MPEG-2 playback component for QuickTime ($20; Apple Online Store) to allow iMovie and Streamclip to work with the SD video from the SR1. I hope to see an upgrade to Final Cut Express/Pro and/or iMovie in the near future to allow AVCHD playback/editing. Hope this helps, Rob.

I downloaded the CoreAVC
TMPGEnc XPress and I still cannot convert the .m2ts files using TMPGEnc XPress. TMPGEnc XPress does not like the m2ts file? Was I suppost to get the Cyberlink AVC decoder ?

I also took back the Sony HDR-SR1 after finding out it was not compatible with Mac. Very cool camera, but Sony tries to keep you in their box of products. It worked.. I boxed it up it returned it to Circuit City.

Anyone know of a camera that comes close to the Sony HDR-SR1 in features and price that has fire wire and is totally Mac friendly?

I've been looking for a small HD videocam for use with my I-mac also. Any ideas?

Thanks in advance. LV

Hi,
You wrote "The Cyberlink AVC decoder is a DirectShow filter, and in theory this means that any editor supporting DirectShow should be able to use that decoder to access the footage. TMPGEnc XPress is one, and it will happily edit .m2ts files"

I have both of these installed and yet my TMPGEnc XPress does not recognise .m2ts files.
Did you install the decoder first and then TMPGEnc XPress, or how do you get TMPGEnc XPress to use that decoder?
Thanks,
Karl

I have just received the new Sony HDR-SR1 as a Christmas gift , It would seem that I am going to have to wait for user frendly editing software , in the mean time I am wondering if anyone has any ideas on being able to directly transfer the footage to a portable stogage device I don't want to have to hook up a PC to blow it to DVD each time thanks ken

Karl,

I did install the decoder before installing TMPGEnc Xpress.

Hope this helps.

Ken,

The camera appears like any external hard drive when accessed via USB, so what you describe would require some form of hard drive to hard drive transfer, without using a PC. To my knowledge, no product of this kind exists, although it should do and there's no reason in principle it can't.

Alx

We bought the HDR-SR1 from a Sony Centre.
When buying the product, we asked very carefully about which format was used for storing the captured video - and were told MPEG2. I don't think the guy was lying, as much as he had not got a clue.
AVC will, no doubt, be a big thing in 2008.
However, here in the back-end of 2006, it is next to useless.
I can confirm no luck editing with any of the Adobe, Ulead, Avid or (for a laugh) Microsoft products around.
What is really sad is that the latest 'Platinum' version of Sony's own VEGAS editing software also fails to see the files that the HDR-SR1 produces.
Not being able to get a deal in place on CODECs etc with rivals is one thing...
...but to be 7 versions into their own HD editing software and still not have an 'agreement' with themselves seems daft.
If I have completely missed the point - then please feel free to correct me and I will scoff humble pie with a large spoon...

...but Sony's latest HD editing software not being able to see Sony's own file format on Sony's own latest HD camcorder is just plain bonkers

What kind of idiots work there ?


(BTW: Just so you know, I rang a bunch of other Sony Centres and they all think Sony supply AVC editing software with the camera. Also Sony's own support line spent 30 minutes trying to suggest a way to make the HD footage captured by their camera useful in some way - but gave up and apologised. The charming Aimee, Tory and Emma who run Sony's PR team have not got a clue and - frankly - are not available to help more on account of being too busy packing to go snow-boarding in Aspen (or sumsuch))

OVERALL: Crappy show from one of the world's leading lights of the broadcast industry

It's clear now I feel that Sony's doing itself no favours with users on this camera. This has been the most commented story on my blog of all time, and hundreds of people are coming to it each day. I share everyone's frustration - I have a camera full of footage that I would dearly like to edit...

I've had a note from Black Magic Design to say they will be sending over their HDMI capture card for a review soon, and I look forward to giving it the once over when they do.

In the meantime, if anyone hears of any software packages introducing support for AVCHD, please let others know through this page.

I just bought one of these too. I agreee, there should be some way of editing it and it's annoying. I also miss the jog control of the Panasonic DV cam I had. I bought a HDD camcorder so I didn't need to transfer in real time. Obviously this makes backup a cinch and extremely quick.

I don't understand Sony's decision making here:

1. No IEEE1394 (a Sony/Apple technology). My Panasonic camcorder had it (obviously paid Sony and Apple for it, yet Sony don't use their own technology, instead paying Panasonic for HDMI???!!!). Why not use it? Answer (cynical) no DRM support?

2. No editing support. Well documented here so I won't add to it.

3. It says in the book, you cannot record from HDMI(DRM???). So what's the point of it?

How do you record to external sources in HD with surround sound (a big selling point plastered all over Sony's marketing) if 1, 2 and 3 apply as above? If the HDMI thing is due to DRM, why would I not want the option of turning DRM off on my own footage? Is it not my perrogative to allow others to plagiarise it or not?

I think Sony may well be committing Hari Kari here.

I too have the SR1 and a Mac Pro. I found that the Sony software would not install in Parallels Virtual XP but works fine with Bootcamp. I purchased a Blackmagic Intensity Card to import into the Mac with HDMI but it will not recognize any drivers except Final Cut Pro. Since I only have FC Express, it's a dead cat right now. Blackmagic claims it will work with their Decklink driver, but that driver won't recognize the Intensity card. I'm sure this will all be sorted out in '07 but not yet. The camera itself is great and watching the video on the computer or an HDMI TV is spectacular compared to SD.

Comments about Sony's "attitude". As an ex Sony employee, I don't find this too surprising. The company has different product groups designing different products and promotes them to act independently for parallel development threads. Takes some time for things to come together there.

I just bought the camera - primarily for a point and shoot experience. I, like everyone, will be anxiously awaiting an editor. In the meantime - I am looking for a good way to save and play the clips. Can I save them on a DVD+R as AVHCD files and play them on a blu-ray player. I really don't need a blu-ray (or HD DVD) player - but if either or both could play the AVHCD files off a DVD... I might just buy one now.

Anyone have anyluck with this?

I took my SR1 back to the store where I had purchased it, and when I explained to the associate that editing of this format is not possible and it is practically useless (for the time being). He graciously thanked me for bringing it to his attention, as he had no clue. I left him scratching and shaking his head. I must say though, the video quality was fantastic.

Having purchased the SR1 a few weeks ago I am over the moon with it. I downloaded 40 mins of HD format footage to my PC in 4 minutes! I downconverted to mpeg2 high quality using the Sony supplied software in 30 mins, imported them to Ulead VideoStudio9 and with another 30mins had a standard def format DVD which played back in 5.1 sound and a very good picture on my LCD TV in progressive mode. Ulead are proposing to support the AVC/H.264 format this March (2007). Until then I will back up my Hi-Def files onto a DVD (40 mins of footage at XP Hi-Def quality was about 3.9 GB in total). I love the way that each time you capture, a new file is created, as pulling all these files (chapters) into Ulead makes editing a breeze. My PC spec is a dual core AMD FX60 (2.8GHZ) with 2 gig of Ram and 600 Gig hard drive. Video cards are ATi 1800 GTO 256 Mb x 2 in Crossfire set up.

To answer a previous question...you can burn to DVD-R not +R. Also, I amn contemplating purchasing a Macbook (not Pro, but the black 13") and am hoping that when software is available for this format that I will be able to use it with Bootcamp and the like and not need any sort of cards to maintain video quality. Any ideas?

@James Biscoglia.
Pretty sure I read somewhere that if you use the burn-direct-to-disc button, or whatever it's called, you can burn the hd direct to dvd+r, and play it on a blu-ray player.

HELP!, I bought the Macbook, installed Windows XP and then installed the AVHCD software. The HD video will not play. I don not know what to do. Is this software not meant to go on Windows XP or could it be that it just wont agree witht the Mac?

Christian - I'm assuming you installed under Bootcamp. If so, it should work, but I've not tested on a Macbook, only a MacPro tower. HD requires a lot of horsepower to run. Anyone else have this experience? Alx

I've had the camera for about six weeks now and I agree - Video quality is great but Sony did a bad job of providing the necessary tools to edit. As a Mac user, I currently use MPEG Streamclip to convert my SD video files. I sure wish there was a way to edit the HD files but I guess we will have to wait.

Nice blog entry....

I too bought one of these all full of big ideas and plans of shooting and editing super HD video. The store where I bought it (in Singapore) assured me it was Mac compatible. What, oh what was I thinking?

Yes, the image quality is stupendous. However, except for watching on the camcorder itself, the footage I have shot is useless to me (I cannot edit it, at least, based on my own wasted time fuddling with multiple codecs and downloads and from what I have read here, I am not alone).

If you have a Mac, do not buy one of these. At least not until there are viable editing options available for Macs. As for me, I am putting mine away for a year, out of site and out of mind. Maybe next year I'll be overjoyed when it works with Mac apps.

Sony. I should have known better.

I'll add to the comments above. I've just bought this camera after a very long decision process. I too have a MacBook Pro and a Windows Media PC hooked up to an old standard def tv.

The camera is great as a camera. I love the features, the manual ring is great (much better than anything on the HC3 dv model).

I'm looking at shooting in HD most of the time and using the Sony software on my PC to downconvert to MPEG2 and then Streamclip on the Mac to demux the audio down to two channels so that simple editing in iMovie works.

I know that I have the HD rushes so if I want anything (and assuming that hard disks keep getting cheaper!) one day I'll be able to edit these. For now SD looks pretty good (better than most other cameras I've tried) and most of the people I'd share the home footage with won't know the difference. Frankly, the most interesting bits will be put on YouTube for the grandparents so HD wouldn't mean squat.

As far as the difference between tape and HDD, it couldn't be more different. HDD is 1000 times more convenient. Never worrying about accidentally erasing valuable footage. Instant review without loosing your place on a tape. All in all the process of getting useable clips onto my mac still takes less time than real-time capture of DV footage from a tape.

Finally, this is a great blog posting on this camera: if there is one place to discuss this camera, I haven't found it yet!

UPDATE FROM AUTHOR...

My continued thanks to everyone who's taken the time to comment on this post. It's steadily becoming a small treasure trove of information about the SR1.

It's reassuring to know that others out there are equally as excited / frustrated / impressed / patient about this camera. It really is a great bit of kit, and one day our patience will all be rewarded ;-)

I do have some news to share... the wife tells me that a review package containing the Blackmagic Intensity HDMI card has arrived at our home, and as soon as I get back from my travels in Eastern Europe I will put it through its paces.

I can't wait.

With all the people reading this post, I'd like to take the opportunity to make a small plug and let you in on a little secret.

WorldTV.com (this site) will soon be launching a rather awesome 2nd generation web video product. While everyone else out there is talking about Joost, our little outfit has been quietly and stealthily working on something very cool indeed. And your hard working author has been planning all this for over 10 years.

I pretty much guarantee that anyone into the SR1 will get a kick out of this exciting new service, and I'd like to offer anyone who's been patient enough to read this far... the opportunity to get in on an uber exclusive and secret beta test.

(ED - This is old info now - please simply register at http://worldtv.com/beta)

Thanks to this blog I think I can breathe easier for a while in that I was totally frustated with all my attempts to work with AVCHD files either dowmloaded from test sites or directly from HDR-SR1 Sony cameras. I was shopping for an HD camera but with a file format which could be edited in reasonable consumer tools and later viewed in their full resolution, no downconvertion.
Neither of the local tech stores were able to view or edit the AVCHD files from the Sony cam. I even posted in the Roxio (Videowave) forum with no success. I now see that I was not alone, but shared misery is no comfort. Thus, I did not buy any HD cam yet...
Since for now it appears that AVCHD is not available in usable, editable form for us regulars, can someone direct me to where I can find answers to download the other format, HDV files, into a PC, do basic edit such as cuts, titling, maybe transitions and then be able to load the edited file back into the HD cam in order to view them in true HDTV ? Videowave does not recognize the Sony HD cams for upload, Premier Elements 3 is in investigation. Thanks.

FROM THE AUTHOR

Melachrino, I always recommend to people the excellent Ulead VideoStudio. Both the current Pro and Plus versions (version 10) can handle HDV files and overall it is a great and very friendly piece of editing software. I have tried quite a few editing software packages over the years and I always come back to Videostudio when FCP or Avid is overkill. I'm using it right now on my travels on a fairly low end Dell laptop to edit (converted) HD files from the SR1 and it's working very well.

I purchased the SR1 and I think it's a great camera. I have a 60'' Sony SXRD TV and the picture quality is Amazing! But,...I too am a MacBook Pro user...and with a upcoming trip to New Zealand in April, I'm petrified that it will take several months if not over a year before I can edit any of the footage in FCE (this is for my Honeymoon, and while my wife-to-be knows that I can't edit right away, I don't know if I could get her to wait a year or more before I can do anything with with the footage). Any chances of a Blackmagic Intensity in a PCMCIA card?

FROM THE AUTHOR

I'll ask my contact at Black Magic for you and let you know.

How bad do you want it?!

Has anyone heard about this new Ulead Moviemaker 6 version that will support AVHCD? Does anyone know if that works on Windows XP on macbook. I still can't get the video to show on the Sony software on Windows XP on my Macbook?

FROM THE AUTHOR

I discovered today that Cyberlink have quietly removed the H264/AVC decoder from their PowerDVD trial.

I have decided to host the original file here (until I'm told otherwise - see link above) and apologize to any readers who have tried this approach in recent times without success.

I don't know how long it has been since they did this, but it's curious to say the least.

Nero 7 can access AVCHD/M2TS files and convert to other formats. I converted to MPEG-4 and used on a Mac with Final Cut Express.

FROM THE AUTHOR

I checked with Blackmagic and they do not unfortunately have plans for a PMCIA version of the Intensity HDMI capture card.

My first impressions of the card incidentally can be found here.

Hi I have tried your conversion using Cyberlink PowerDVD 7 but I use Procoder 2 and setup a HD m2p output works very well then can use them in Premiere pro2.
I had tried using neros new version but it left random artifacts in the video (not good)
One wierd thing I found was that the trial version of PowerDVD seem to be able to play the renamed m2ts > mpg files, but the new 7.2 seems not to be able to play them but still works in Procoder.
Has anyone else found this camera to be very slow at focusing and low light performance is horrible.

ED - The issue regarding the newer version of PowerDVD not playing the files is probably due to the removal of the codec from later versions (I've written about this above). As for the focussing and low light problems you speak of, I've not felt they are any worse than other cameras! Am still very happy with mine.

Thanks for the info.

Just to clarify, can you simply drag AVCHD files from the camera to your computer to archive them for future editing? Another way to put it: Does the file transfer software that comes with the camera modify the files in any way?

ED - Yes you can - the file transfer software does not modify the files in any way, it only provides a mechanism for tracking which files you have transferred.

Yes. Works with Mac and FCP! - But its a long proces:
1. Capture AVC-HD footage
2. Drag to your old PC and use Elecard Studio Pro. (Free Demo works but PC only)
http://www.elecard.com/products/products-pc/consumer/converter-studio/
to convert from AVC-HD to HDV2 - using preset
(careful, it is not working correctly in Parallels on mac. Really need a PC to do this part)
3. Copy files to Mac
4. Use Streamclip http://www.squared5.com/ to Demux the Audio to AIFF.
(drop one clip at a time - so far) - you then have the exported AIFF sound for each clip.
5. Drop the video and audio files into Final Cut Pro, start editing.
Looks like 100% 1080i quality with excellent sound.
Whew!

See my podcast coming soon.
Tech Wizard
http://web.mac.com/bankman2/iWeb/Site/Podcast/Podcast.html

hey i'm new to the new whole camera scene and don't understand alot of the lingo used, i myself have a sony hdr-sr1 camera and was wondering if you could recomend the simplest converter to use so i can edit my hd footage using a intel mac g5 computer?

Main Concept MPEG Pro HD 2.0

Will edit H2.64 in conjunction with Adobe Premiere Pro

PLUS it only re-renders edited clips, not the whole sequence over and over each time an edit is made and rendered. Very cool.

http://www.mainconcept.com/site/index.php?id=7850

Bruce

Thank you everyone SO much for your posts here on the SR1 and Mac combatibility. My wife and I were about to purchase the SR1 and a Mac but reading these posts, I'm not sure that's a good combo anymore (VERY disappointed). Thankfully, you might have saved us time/money/frustration by reading your thoughts. Here's our dilema: we really want a camcorder and a computer (soon). If not the SR1 then what? We're still pretty high on the Mac. We have a baby and want to record all the things that only new parents seem to care about ;) Can anyone suggest a camcorder (HD) we should look into. To be honest, I don't want to give up on the SR1 but don't know if it's worth purchasing anyway. Thoughts?

I thought we had everything figured out :(

thanks again, and in advance

First Footage from HDR-SR1 (Medium Quality setting)
using above Windows to Mac conversion process.

520mb download!

http://web.mac.com/bankman2/iWeb/Site2/MiamiLeMans1.html

Additionally, I expect the release of Final Cut Pro 6.0 in 2 weeks at NAB to support AVC-HD for drag and drop native editing!

Thanks to this site i can now edit all my fullHD movies. Install "PowerDVD" and "TMPGEnc XPress" on your PC and it works! I can now even import HD footage into blender, a 3D rendering SW. TMPGEnc XPress realy rocks an so i have bought the license. TMPGEnc XPress has a batch option where you can get all your *.m2ts files processed at once. And that in almost any format. I have a Toshiba notebook T200 core duo 2 with 2GB ram. Thanks for the detailed info! ... Robert

i am a mac owner, and an HDR-SR1 owner.

i hate myself.

No one has referenced the competing Panasonic model HDC- SD1, maybe being a Sony review and all, but it's a 3 ccd camera for just over $1000!

Sorry to those waiting for Final Cut Pro 6.0, but our camera is not listed as being compatible. Along with a fellow Linux user, I was able to convert some of my avchd clips to mpeg4 on my MacBook Pro. See this thread:
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=9692071
It is free, but requires a fair bit of command-line usage and compiling. Plus, the conversion process takes up a LOT of disk space.

Possible file converter?

Here is a converter that converts HDR-SR1 AVCHD to other formats. Available in (3) versions. The HD version is the one to use.


Elecard Converter Studio
Elecard Converter Studio is a program for movie files conversion to AVC/H.264 and MPEG-2 formats at high-speed with high picture quality. The feature of folder batch encoding makes this application a helpful tool for quick processing of many movie files for video libraries and movie archives. Also owners of AVCHD Camcorders might find it a useful product which allows them to convert the footage from their cameras into format supported by their favorite editing software.

There are three product editions available: Elecard Converter Studio, Elecard Converter Studio Pro, and Elecard Converter Studio ProHD. Pro and ProHD editions provide aditional funcitonality as compared to the standard version of Elecard Converter Studio. (See the section «Compare editions»).

http://elecard.com/products/products-pc/consumer/converter-studio/

Just to let you guys know, i spoke to an informant of mine at apple and he says that our camera itself is not compatible, but the codec is.
I now have Final Cut Studio 2 with FCP 6 and our files open in it as long as you rename the file extention to '.m2t'.
Hope this helped as it worked on my top-spec iMac 24in

ED - Can someone else confirm whether this works? It seems all too simple (but would be amazing if true). Regretfully I'm a long way from my workstation for the next 3 weeks.

Try Avid Xpress or Avid Liquid....they should be able able to edit H.264 natively.

Very interesting about the Sony HDR-SR1. These are the sorts of things that (Market Watchers) Hedge Fund Managers look for. Sony does not seem to be attached to it's customers. Sell a Camera without editing software? Someone needs their head examined. Time to put a little pressure on the big boys. "sell, sell, sell." Should have been available on day 1 for both PC and MAC. Get a clue Sony......

J.C.
thestreet.com

In regards to Elecard Converter Studio, I've downloaded the demo, but I can't seem to convert the files. Any help on how to do this (if the program works, I'll end up purchasing it).

Just wanted to pass this along to all you frustrated AVCHD users. Nero 7 Premium includes Nero Vision which allows people to edit, yes EDIT, avchd files. While the editor lacks a host of features, it does allow for simple editing. But mainly it will allow you to convert your footage into most formats (AVI, MPEG and such). This will help if you want to edit your HD content in VEGAS, Premiere and such. I hope this helps relieve some of those headaches. I know it has for me!

Ed - Thanks for passing this useful info on.

I just tried modifying the file extension to .m2t and opening with Final Cut Express 3.5.1. Nothing doing....

OK...so Nero Vision can view and edit AVCHD...cool. But, can we convert it to a format that will retain all of the HD information so it can be edited on FCE?

I have been sent by Panasonic their new SD1 for testing (I run a post house).

Nero 7 opens the files, and can convert them to anything.

Its the only thing that seems to work, though its clunky, slow at decoding, crashes and is a load of toss.....
but at least you can create any format you want now!
Hopefully QT will support this codec soon and then we'll all be able to stop messing about. Why do Manufacturers release cameras and then not bundle a simple program that will export at least uncompressed TIFFs or an AVI!?!?
The mind boggles.

I tried Sony Vegas 7 on a fast PC.
Edit and convert movie.
Then render the final movie in format: "Main concept MPG2 encoder" 1440x1080.
Play it with Power DVD (last version) or Quick Time (on a mac).
You could be able to further editing with FCP.
I hope in a future compatible version of FCP and iMovie with m2ts files! :-)

I have 2 sony hdr sr1's and use them primarily in SD format due to the rediculous m2ts delimma that sony created. Unfortunately customer support was not supportive at all and only could suggest rediculous alternative solutions and would not take responsibility for the m2ts AVCHD problem. I want to use Premiere Pro because I know it and have spent a significant amount of money on it and should be able to Sony!!! I shouldn't have to switch products from a major industry standard such as Premiere to something I don't like just to handle this alien format. Granted the cameras are great overall but they're virtually useless if you can't edit them, at least for me they are. So, I tried Elecard and it worked, it converted the m2ts to MPEG HD format that Premiere can recognize and use. I was able to import it and edit it, and render it to MPEG 2DVD format, however, I've not gone any further with it yet. It just sucks to have to convert, very time consuming. DOES ANYONE KNOW OF A WAY, MAYBE A PRESET I CAN GET SOMEWHERE FOR PREMIERE SO THAT I CAN BRING IT STRAIGHT IN WITHOUT HAVING TO GO THROUGH THE LABOROUS/TIME CONSUMING TASK OF CONVERTING???? I have just built a smoking computer, ASUS top of the line board, 2 gig Corsair 1333 mhz RAM, 10,000 RPM SATA HD, Core 2 Duo E6700 processor, but conversion is still too long.

I love premiere, but I hope that Adobe realizes if I HAVE TO purchase Sony Vegas to edit because Premiere doesn’t support .m2ts format from Sony’s camera, I’ll not be purchase Sony products anymore. I hope they realize that real soon, because I’ve waited about as long as I can bare to wait, and so have thousands of other consumers. It sucks that Sony has to be so Propietary but oh well. I believe Sony Vegas finally edits m2ts natively now, I'm about to research it a bit more.

I just got off the phone with Premiere and version CS3 according to the tech rep there will not support m2ts natively either, so no sign of Premiere ever supporting it or even a plug in, the tech guy was rude and acted as if it was my fault for not researching it more, so I guess I'll have to go all sony if I don't want to have to endure the laborous task of conversion just to use my favorite editing program, maybe.

Hi - did I hear someone say that if the M2TS files are burnt directly to DVD-R that they'll play on a blu-ray player (ie PS3)? So in effect I can drag them to my iMac, burn them as data to a dvd-r and they'll play fine? The ability to edit would be great - but if it's not going to happen for awhile then at least being able to get the files off the camera and have the ability to view them unedited would be nice.

Thanks for everyone's advice above - it's nice to see everyone trying to help and being mature at the same time.

Jeff

I see that a new update for Final Cut Pro 6.0 (part of the Final Cut Studio 2 package) is now available that supports AVCHD through the Log and Transfer interface. I have FCP 5.0 and now will have to get the upgrade. The link to the free download for the update is below and if anyone uses it, please let me know how it works out prior to my dropping $500 for the upgrade. Thanks - http://www.apple.com/support/downloads/finalcutpro601.html

ED - Good find Bob! Anyone out there who's tried this yet?

I have the HDR SR7e, purchased outa Japan in June 2007. Camera is great, I looked at the SR1 to start with, found the other models in the process, I use Premier Pro and Pinnacle Liquid, neither work with the m2ts file format.
I thank all the previous posters, learnt a lot, wished I had of read the posts before I purchased, all the tech support here in Australia has been mis-leading and useless.
I have captured in real time from the camera using the Pinnacle Liquid 5.5 breakout box, image quality is maintained although not up to HD quality.
Thanks to the comments posted here, I will be waiting a while before I upgrade hardware for editing in HD. Thanks a bunch, saved me money if not the time spent trying to find a solution to the problem.

A further update: Long discussions with Avid executives in Australia have confirmed the following: Pinnacle Studio 11 does support AVCHD format in native form, Avid Liquid 8 upgrade will support the m2ts format and also be Vista compliant. There is no forecast date for this release, the current Version 7.2 does not support AVCHD. The sourse informed that this format was originally target at the low end consumer market, it has been picked up by a number of Software developers and now is regarded as something the sharp end want as a format.

ALX - Thanks Ian - useful info

Voltaic, an OS X converter for most common varieties of AVCHD, is available from www.mac1080hd.com for $30US. It's a drag-and-drop app - just drop M2T files on it, and it starts converting them to AIC Quicktime files. These can be brought into iMovie HD and FCE 3.5x without being transcoded on import.

I've been using it for a few days, and though it does tend to crash when asked to process more than a few files at a time, the developers are actively improving the application, and it does produce excellent-quality files.

Most importantly, Voltaic allows Mac users to completely eliminate booting to Windows for AVCHD support - the camera mounts as an external hard drive, and the video files can be dragged wherever you like, and converted from there. No need to boot to Windows for Sony's import software, etc.

ALX - Nice tip! Thank you.

Alx:
In following your suggestion to use TMPGEnc XPress after installing Cyberlink PowerDVD, I can load the .mts file in video browser, but not the audio browser. Says it's a video file and there is no audio (which of course there is). Any suggestions? Thanks, Fred

P.S. the video quality after encoding to mpeg-2 was outstanding. Just need to get the audio working.

Hi. I installed Cyberlink PowerDVD 7 trial to get the decoder. Then I installed TMPGEnc Xpress trial to get H.264 encoder. Everything worked fine, there was no problem opening m2ts files from my Sony camcoder in TMPGEnc Xpress. BUT,

I had to reinstall my Windows 2000. I installed both of the products trial, but I am not able to open m2ts file in TMPGEnc Xpress now. I get error "Cannot open the file path\name.m2ts"

I am still able to play m2ts files in PowerDVD. TMPGEnc Xpress just got crazy.

I googled to find a solution, but no luck. Can anybody help or had the same problem himself?

Thanks

Sony now sells an FZ1800 notebook for US$1,999 or less. It has a Core 2 Duo T7300 2GHZ processor, an NVIDIA 8400 GT GPU graphics card, 1 GB video ram, 2 GB RAM, and a Blu Ray reader / burner.

Has anyone here used this model, or something with similar attributes, to edit or play back AVCHD files? Is it potent enough to run the AVCH compliant versions of Pinnacle, Nero, or Ulead edit softwares smoothly? Does it hang, freeze, or crash when trying to playback a semi-completed project in review mode?

The combination of a small notebook with a Blu Ray might be more efficient than building a monster desktop and still find oneself without a portable playback device that connects to a big HDTV via HDMI. It may also be more versatile than a dedicated Blu Ray player, which would cost another $500 or so.

Some reviews say the FZ1800 gets hot when in operation. Can this threaten its longevity?

Thanks for any comments.

This is a great thread. Thank you for the posts. Here are my issues:

1. I can't load the Sonic udf for my Sony HDR-SR7. This is likely because I used to have Roxio installed on my computer I gave up. If anyone has similar problems, please let me know.

2. I like Ulead but you can't view the m2ts files in their native format without converting them. As a result, I am left with the Cyberlink trick detailed in this forum.

If anyone knows of any other software that can view m2ts files in their native format, pleast post.

Thanks.

Hi,
Someone has already mentioned the $30 Voltaic app that will convert AVCHD footage into HD video (Find it at http://mac1080hd.com/ ).

It's worth noting that Final Cut Pro 6.0.1 will only convert AVCHD on Intel based Macs, so PPC users are stuck. But Voltaic will happily work on both Intel and PPC processors. The Intel only limitation of FCP isn't that apparent but there is an Apple tech note that's worth reading - http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=305997

Just discovered freeware to play back native AVCHD files fine, provided your computer has a decent processor speed and (more important) are fairly up to date graphics card.

It's Quick Time Alternative (not Quick Time) and is available at various download sites. First you have to uninstall any existing Quick Time. The Alternative includes Classic Media Player. Use it to browse for "all files" in a particular directory. It will play files with an MTS or M2TS extension.

Alx - I wouldn't typically recommend people replace system components such as QuickTime, but if you're brave...

Purchased imovie08 which imports the native AVCHD files direct from the camcorder. You cannot import the images into this mac program any way.

Upon conversion to the Apple Quicktime format you loose the 5.1 Dolby as the audio is downgraded to stereo. The image quality is also very disappointing.

i have the hdr-sr1, however i some how deleted the sofware from my pc..is there any site were i can download the drivewrs for free?

Great thread, learnt a lot.

I got the Sony SR7e Harddisk avchd and first tried the latest Magix Video deluxe 2008 Plus that supposedly edits avchd and outputs in any HD format including BlueRay, HD-DVD and WMV. What a disappointment! Avoid Magix!
To get started you need to activate several codecs including mpg4 for which you have to pay some (few) dollars. Then avhcd compatibility works like this:
- import the .m2ts files
- they need to get converted into mpg2. That process takes about 3x realtime footage!
- editing is nearly impossible since playback is very choppy (1 to 2 pics / second!) and you can forget scrubbing. (working on a 3.4GHz one core processor).

Drop Magix from your vocabulary.

Hi - absolute life saving thread but is there an update please.

I got stuck today and needed fotage quickly for the company website. i used the trial elecard converter studio to convert to mpeg2 and then SuperC to convert to .mov to use on the mac - it worked but there must be an easier way by now?

Download a trial of MPEG PRO™ HD 3 and the .m2ts test file I have came straight into Premiere Pro 3 (PC). The trial naturally has limits, but works well! (exporting a bit slow on my non hardcore laptop)

Fantastic informative page Alx, many thanks for your time & good efforts.

Ed

btw guys.. further to the above, my laptop really isn't up to the job. So I need to get a tower PC that is. I'm not after real time everything, just the same editing response as when I edit regular standard def DV media on this laptop. There were some powerful systems I saw at Broadcast Live a couple of weeks ago but cant afford £3,000, plus really I dont need such a high spec for the amount I'll use it.

So, what spec should I go for.. can anyone help me out here?

Just to share my learning outcome to those who have the same problem on Sony HDD SR7 that could not view or edit m2ts files with other applications (of course, the one that Sony CD offer is like a basic version and any one who use the Video editing tools before would not use it). If you export m2ts files to MPG using Sony browser then you loose the HD quality but it will let you import the file to Vegas pro. However, I think that is contradict to why paid for HD Video camera the first place and to get reduced quality video?

Here is the solutions:
For m2ts file viewing: Use Power DVD7
For Editing: Use Ulead Video Studio 11 pLus must also run the UVS latest Power Patch.

That is all you need. I did try the Sony Vegas Pro 8.0a and 8.0b and still could not import any m2ts files from the HD (in PC) to Vegas 8.0b. Many files format are not supported. So, Sony Vegas Pro 8.0b is of useless to me.

Just to share my learning outcome to those who have the same problem on Sony HDD SR7 that could not view or edit m2ts files with other applications (of course, the one that Sony CD offer is like a basic version and any one who use the Video editing tools before would not use it). If you export m2ts files to MPG using Sony browser then you loose the HD quality but it will let you import the file to Vegas pro. However, I think that is contradict to why paid for HD Video camera the first place and to get reduced quality video?

Here is the solutions:
For m2ts file viewing: Use Power DVD7
For Editing: Use Ulead Video Studio 11 pLus must also run the UVS latest Power Patch.

That is all you need. I did try the Sony Vegas Pro 8.0a and 8.0b and still could not import any m2ts files from the HD (in PC) to Vegas 8.0b. Many files format are not supported. So, Sony Vegas Pro 8.0b is of useless to me.

Ulead Video Studio 11 pLus doesnt work with Mac. Isn´t there any video editing program that can handle AVCHD for Mac?

Final cut express will handle AVCHD files...all which is great news for HDRSR1 owners, have been able to finally cut video, export to DVD once finished and backup as a *mov file to external HDD until the M2TS files are recognised and played back on MAC...can someone with an intelligence greater than mine please write a program for mac uses to playback M2TS files....

I seem to have solved this editing m2ts files using Video Studio 11 Plus and upgrading to the free Power Pack. Now, I want the same HD quality as the original m2ts files but require files that are easy to edit in the VS 11 Plus Power Pack.

1 Import the m2ts files using the Sony Software onto your Hard Drive.
2. Launch VS and import one m2ts at a time into the timeline. Do not edit anything.
3. Share - Create File - select HDV - select HDV 1080i -50i
4. This file will be MPEG format with full HD.
5. Bring all the files back into VS and edit them.. they will be much easier to edit than the m2ts files.
6. Render your finished project the same as in step 3, HDV 1080i -50i
You will not have lost any HD quality and the files size is the same.
Plays beautifully through Windows Media Player 11 on my HD LCD TV from the PC. There is NO loss of quality compared with the origianl m2ts played from the camera to the TV in HDMI.
A bit of a pain rendering each file to HDV MPEG but you do not need any other program but VS 11 Plus with Power Pack.
You can make SD DVD from the edited files or keep the files ready to create Blueray.

Everyone is talking about .m2ts files. I have the files save to DVD as data. I copied these files to my hard drive.

Is there anyway to convert the .mts file to mpeg file so I can burn these to DVD? I don't mind the lower quaility of the file.

Thank you?

Have just downloaded trial of latest Magix software. What else do I need to process - view, edit and play AVCHD file format. My camcorder is a HDR-CX7. Information and solution greatly appreciated

i have purchase an HDR-UX7E FOR A PROFFESIONAL Qulity vedio recording which provides me with the satisfactory result, but getting it transfer to a computer in avchd format have the difficulties ,also software progrms is such a time consuming matter that takes most of the joy out. note: i believe recording in sd standard is suitable for this camera for fast processing.
Sony corp. needs to provide customers a download option for a fast efficient avchd decoder & better software programs so we could it to make the entire job easier , smooth,fun & time sonsuming.
with all thanks
sincerley yours
Forouzandeh

i have sony hdr-tg3 1080 full hd handycam.
great camera; photos great; video great; freeze frame picture creation great; but playing avchd format very poor. if i view on camera, or use hdm1 cable direct from camera to tv, video footage flows between files. but when i use the sony avchd player, or cyberlink power dvd, post conversion, the only way to view is a slideshow which is NOT seemless between files. ie video/stop/black frame/video/repeat.
how do i view a seemless linked footage, w/o using the camera/tv to view directly off the memory stick.
i want to erase the sticks and re-use them.
any thoughts received with thanks.

Does this camera work with final cut pro?

ALX - Yes. It was a while back that I did it but I believe I installed Perian and was then able to bring footage in through the Log and Capture window and work with it.

I am the proud owner of a Sony HDR-SR1. Searching the internet for help to solve my tragic problem - empty my completely full 30G camcorder - and processing the data.

I did succeed to begin with, but now that the camera is full I do not get contact with it from my computer. I know I did all the installment of drivers etc right, but my computer will not even see the external disk nor will the camera. The camera says check the connected device...and I get a blinking transfer symbol with a slash over.

I would very much appreciate any help or directions to where I could get help. I have film of flooding in Beijing, unique film from Tibet just before it was closed etc.

Thank you! :-)

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