One potential drawback to using a camcorder that records to AVCHD format is the time it takes to transcode the footage during the iMovie import process. Even on a fast Mac, it can take a while to convert AVCHD to Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC), which iMovie uses internally for editing HD video.
But what if you don’t have time for that step? For example, let’s say you’re traveling and your camcorder’s memory card or internal hard disk fills up. In the world of digital still cameras, you offload the memory card’s contents to your Mac’s hard drive, erase the card, and continue shooting. If you’ve filled up a 4 GB card, however, just importing the footage into iMovie can take a long time. You can certainly copy the .MTS (MPEG Transport Stream) files from the device, since it mounts on your Mac desktop as if it were any other volume, and then wipe the memory and continue shooting. But then you’re left with raw files that iMovie won’t import.
The solution in this case is to use Voltaic from Mac1080HD, a utility that converts the .MTS files to AIC-formatted QuickTime (.mov) files. Voltaic lets you convert the files at your leisure, or from a different volume (since you may not have room on your laptop’s hard drive for all the converted footage, which increases in size from the highly compressed AVCHD format). Drop the files onto the Voltaic application icon and leave it alone; go shoot some video while it’s processing, since your camcorder will be free.
For some people, though, the biggest appeal of Voltaic is that it adds the capability to process AVCHD on non-Intel Macs. Currently, iMovie and Final Cut require an Intel processor to handle AVCHD. Voltaic is a universal application and runs on both Intel and PowerPC processors.
Voltaic costs $30; a free demo mode will convert 10 files of up to 20 MB in size. It’s available as a 4.2 MB download.