AVCHD Editing Comes to the Mac

[I wrote the following short article for TidBITS. Although the updates are for Final Cut Studio, what’s important from an iMovie-user’s standpoint is that AVCHD is now supported in some fashion; I imagine the next version of iMovie HD (whenever it appears) will also be able to import AVCHD footage.]

Apple has released updates for the Final Cut Studio 2 suite of video production applications via Software Update and as stand-alone installers; the latter require that you sign in using your Apple ID and your Final Cut Studio 2 serial number. Most of the updates cover bug fixes and improve stability, but a few items are notable. Pro Applications Update 2007-01 (an 8.1 MB download) patches the underlying frameworks and shared components of Final Cut Studio 2 (the package also seems to be specific to those applications).

Final Cut Pro 6.0.1 (a 37.5 MB download) adds support for importing AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition), a video format introduced last year that is designed to be saved to random-access storage devices such as hard disks, solid-state memory, and MiniDVD discs (versus MiniDV tapes, the media of choice for many consumer camcorders as well as cameras that record to the high-definition HDV format). Although a few AVCHD camcorders are currently available, editing the footage has been limited under Windows and nonexistent on the Mac.
Apple’s release notes indicate a few caveats with AVCHD footage, namely that as it’s imported, the video is transcoded into either Apple ProRes 422 or Apple Intermediate Codec; that could require up to 10 times the size of the native AVCDH file of available hard disk space. (The inclusion of AVCHD also potentially means the format could be supported in the next version of iMovie HD.)

Motion 3.0.1 (a 19.4 MB download) fixes a number of known issues with 32-bit float projects, rendering of intersecting 3D groups, and improves performance. Soundtrack Pro 2.0.1 (a 74.5 MB download) improves stability and performance and updates the Delay Designer surround effect plug-in. Compressor 3.0.1 (a 93.3 MB download) adds the capability to export music in 256 Kbps AAC format used by iTunes Plus, to set poster frames, and other fixes. Color 1.0.1 (an 8.3 MB download) improves stability, metadata support from Final Cut Pro, and single-display mode, as well as floating-point processing on Macs with Nvidia graphics cards.

Lastly, unrelated to Final Cut Studio 2, Apple released SuperDrive Firmware Update 2.1 (a 12 MB download), which provides unspecified fixes but notes improved readability of certain CD media. The installer adds an application (SuperDrive Update 2.1.app) in your Utilities folder that must be run separately. Also note that the application starts the update process at launch, which is bad form; it should behave like most updaters, where the user initiates the process (for example, to make sure the drive isn’t in use, I would imagine). The updater also requires a restart of the Mac to take effect.

  1. There’s an app called Voltaic that will convert AVCHD footage into HD video for use in iMovie / Final Cut. It’s only $30 too!


  2. none of those apps actually edit avchd. They import (and transcode) it. What you are then editing is not the original format. In regards voltaic, it is best to try it out before buying despite the price tag. I’m glad I did because it didn’t work on 3 of 4 files, and I am not really sure what it did with the 4th file. In anycase the outcome was NOT the same as importing to iMovie ’08. Also you might note that Voltaic is on the list of companies violating the ffmpeg license. ffmpeg is an opensource project that Voltaic makes use of in it’s conversion process.


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