Time To Kill AVCHD (and Tanbee Converter)

Prescript added post hoc: Thanks to Jeff and Jimmer (see comments) for useful tips on solving the AVCHD problems, including this Panasonic white paper. I found this Panasonic white paper about AVCHD and iMovie too.

Sony and Panasonic invented a video format called “AVCHD” and I would like now to proclaim it dead. I remember years ago hearing about great new cameras that were “functionally obsolescent” for Mac users. The way they stored video footage required a whole separate conversion process (pre-editing) that was painful.

Last night I recorded an evening “Christmas carol flash mob” using 5 different cameras to compare how they’d handle low light. The winner was my Panasonic Lumix, a neat little camera and video camera combo which happens to use AVCHD. Sadly, I’ve spent 5 hours and $40 of software trying to get the footage into a usable format, and to no avail. In an act of desperation I purchased the Tanbee AVCHD Video Converter. I should have known better since I couldn’t find a single review or rating for it.

Tanbee, like AVCHD (for a Mac user anyway) can best be described as “ass.” The trial provided an obnoxious watermark, the $40 version one crashed, and after waiting 3.5 hours for a file to convert… all I got was audio and slow motion footage that didn’t match. I can only imagine that Tanbee has put its technical resources not in product development but SEO strategy (to ensure no ratings were available on the first few pages of Google).

Tanbee Software: Another Wasted $40
  • The software was impossibly slow.
  • The trial version produced a watermark in the center of the frame.
  • The converted footage had slow-motion video with normal audio (not matching)
  • It crashed several times. I had to re-register it each time.
  • Even the interface is stupid. It says press the + key to start, but not the big + key in the center. The little one on the left.

Sadly, the industry continues using AVCHD, which I can only assume is bearable for PC users. See a recent Kodak review that the AVCHD software may cause “editing and playing headaches.” I’d say that was being kind.

Again- I’m imagining there are Vegas, Pinnacle and other PC users who are happy with AVCHD, but I’d love to know if an Apple/Mac user has found a way to make this format even remotely functional. Failing that, watch my “boogerofnalts” eBay account for the listing of a perfectly working Panasonic DMC-ZS3.

10 Replies to “Time To Kill AVCHD (and Tanbee Converter)”

  1. I’ve got an iMac (Snow Leopard) and a Panasonic AG-HMC40 that uses AVCHD and it works fine for me. I just pull out the memory card from teh camera and pop it into the slot on my iMac. It shows up as an external drive on my desktop and I just copy over the file structure on the card to my Mac. You have to get the full file structure from the card. There will be a folder called “Private” on the card. I copy that then log and transfer that with Final Cut Pro. Works pretty slick for me. So, I’m actually pretty happy with the AVCHD format.

  2. I can’t speak for Apple but..

    My Sony HDRSR11 records in AVCHD and I would have agreed with you after my first attempt at using it. I use Adobe CS4 and it handles it pretty well. But you have to resist the urge to record in the highest res available. The higher res, the higher compression rate and the more processor muscle needed to down convert it.

    Before I knew better I bought a converter from NewBlueFX called AVCHD Upshift that worked so poorly that I got my money back (called my credit card company and cancel the transaction).

    Now I know that there was no reason to even try to use a converter. I use Premiere Pro CS4 and After Effects do pretty good with the raw file and Adobe Media Encoder will down convert to .264, AVI, MPG4 and ANYTHING else with no sweat what so ever.

    Since most online HD video maxes out at some version of 720p there is no reason to record in 1080p or I for that matter. At least in my case, my browser and internet connection choke on anything larger so it might as well not exist to me.

    One more thing. AVCHD as well as AVI or H.264 or Flash etc..are all containers for the raw video. They are all compression algorithms and need to be decompressed to be used. The problem is how much PC power you have to do the job.

    So I guess what I’m saying is for correct PC with the right software AVCHD is serviceable.

  3. In 2008 when I was creating web video of breaking news events for the Philadelphia Inquirer, we’d have to edit and publish content shot with Sony HD camcorders within a couple hours of shooting. For our workflow, we’d just drag-and-drop transfer the raw video files from the camera to the Mac, pop the files open in MPEG Streamclip (A terrific free program that would also join timecode gaps for us), convert to Apple Intermediate or Animation or whatever FCP compatible editing encoding we wanted (and perform a deinterlace at the same time if necessary) and then we’d be off to the races.

  4. *shrug* I like avchd. Throw out your macs and get pc’s and stop your bitching. Pretty much every video app on the pc edits it naively just fine and has for years. I got my first HD camera 3 1/2 years ago and have been using avchd ever since 🙂

  5. Apple/Mac fail. Like Urgo says, pretty much any major video editing program available for the PC can handle AVCHD just fine. I can’t understand why so many people consider Macs to be superior for video when Apple refuses to play nice with certain formats. Apparently Jobs thinks the world needs to conform to him rather than supporting extant technology.

    In the future, you should really ask for help before you throw money away on crapware. This is not the first time you’ve done so.

  6. I’ve got a PC, and MP4 footage from my flip camera drop frames constantly in Vegas Movie Studio 9. I have to convert the footage to MPEG2 before I can even edit it. PC’s ain’t perfect either.

  7. Wow- sounds like it’s time to dust off these PCs. I just find them painful, with their blue screens of death, slow speed, virus magnets. ANd the worst part? The virus utilities and MS Office windows that are always nagging.

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