AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question

Started Jun 14, 2012 | Discussions
zoranT
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AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
Jun 14, 2012

why is the mpeg4 option in some cameras (new Sonys RX100) so 'crippled', low bit rate (15mbs) and weird format (1440 x something), compared to AVCHD? So, if it is preferable for editing, as stated in the manuals, why do they cripple it? 28mbs (AVCHD) vs 15 mbs makes a difference in IQ, I guess.

But, AVCHD files suck, they need extra 'treatment' and hinder the workflow – mts files are not recognized in Aperture or iPhoto, so needs conversion and manual copying from camera folder to computer etc. - absolutely annoying container format IMO.

So, is the difference in IQ relevant judging from Your experience (detail, movement rendering, artifacts etc.)? Thx.

Sony RX100
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Markr041
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to zoranT, Jun 14, 2012

"But, AVCHD files suck, they need extra 'treatment' and hinder the workflow – mts files are not recognized in Aperture or iPhoto, so needs conversion and manual copying from camera folder to computer etc. - absolutely annoying container format IMO."

No Apple sucks, for not natively supporting AVCHD files (what an amazingly Apple-centric viewpoint!). AVCHD is handled easily and natively by almost all Windows editors and by Windows 7 free media player. And, AVCHD is a much superior codec to MP4, and is a standard - used in bluray.

Maybe you should whine about Apple - why in the world do they not support this standard?

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Sean Nelson
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to zoranT, Jun 14, 2012

AVCHD is MPEG4. It's the same compression scheme. What's unique about AVCHD is that it allows only certain specific resolutions, frame rates and data rates so that consumer equipment such as BluRay players and televisions can be guaranteed to play it.

In addition to the standard formats, AVCHD also uses a folder structure which includes metadata about the movie. That's important because it breaks the time limit barrier which is a result of the maximum 2GB file size of FAT media like SD cards. The folder structure allows the movie to logically span several physical files on the media so that the length is, for most practical purposes, unlimited.

DVDs and BluRay discs have a very similar file and folder structure, yet you don't hear anyone complaining about them. The problem, IMHO, really lies not with AVCHD, but in the software that doesn't support it.

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zoranT
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to Markr041, Jun 14, 2012

Markr041 wrote:

"But, AVCHD files suck, they need extra 'treatment' and hinder the workflow – mts files are not recognized in Aperture or iPhoto, so needs conversion and manual copying from camera folder to computer etc. - absolutely annoying container format IMO."

No Apple sucks, for not natively supporting AVCHD files (what an amazingly Apple-centric viewpoint!). AVCHD is handled easily and natively by almost all Windows editors and by Windows 7 free media player. And, AVCHD is a much superior codec to MP4, and is a standard - used in bluray.

Maybe you should whine about Apple - why in the world do they not support this standard?

What kind of argument is that? Cameras should be independent of computer platforms. There are many Mac users, and I don t understand why Sony provides different compressions for these different platforms. As far as I understand, AVCHD is not a codec but a container format ?!! For me codec has to do with compression and encoding and decoding, not with the format, but I may be wrong here, or it is a matter of terms.

AVCHD is easily adapted in FCP X, I can work with it, but the format slows down the workflow, as written above.

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zoranT
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to Sean Nelson, Jun 14, 2012

Sean Nelson wrote:

AVCHD is MPEG4. It's the same compression scheme. What's unique about AVCHD is that it allows only certain specific resolutions, frame rates and data rates so that consumer equipment such as BluRay players and televisions can be guaranteed to play it.

In addition to the standard formats, AVCHD also uses a folder structure which includes metadata about the movie. That's important because it breaks the time limit barrier which is a result of the maximum 2GB file size of FAT media like SD cards. The folder structure allows the movie to logically span several physical files on the media so that the length is, for most practical purposes, unlimited.

DVDs and BluRay discs have a very similar file and folder structure, yet you don't hear anyone complaining about them. The problem, IMHO, really lies not with AVCHD, but in the software that doesn't support it.

I know, codec is mpeg4, but I also add that there is also no problem with MPEG as container (instead of AVCHD), but I wondered why they use a different compression rate for mpeg4.

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Markr041
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to zoranT, Jun 14, 2012

AVCHD is a standard, for bluray. A video industry standard.

You can take an sd card from Sony camcorder that created AVCHD files, stick it in a Panasonic bluray player sd slot and play the video on your Samsung HDTV. All this is posible with standards (not just AVCHD, of course).

Why shouldn't Apple provide software that works with a standard? The answer is they should, so post on some Apple fanboy site that you must frequent - why doesn't Apple support standards that everyone else supports?

Yes AVCHD it is a form of MP4, but there are lots of variants - b-frames, CABAC compression, etc.

Video editing software should be useful for actual users of cameras; it is ridiculous to think that the video industry should decide on standards based on what Apple wants to support. AVCHD has been around a long time, so there is no excuse for Apple software not to support it, is there?

Lots of Windows editing programs handle AVCHD just fine. They want to serve users of cameras.

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Sean Nelson
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to zoranT, Jun 14, 2012

zoranT wrote:

I know, codec is mpeg4, but I also add that there is also no problem with MPEG as container (instead of AVCHD), but I wondered why they use a different compression rate for mpeg4.

I really couldn't say why camera manufacturers offer a lower bitrate for Mpeg4 compression. It certainly seems to be true of a lot of manufacturers, though. The reason AVCHD uses higher bitrates might have something to do with the fact that the standard dictates specifically what the maximum bitrates are.

I think that perhaps the camera manufacturers consider AVCHD to be the "premium" recording format and the MPEG4 support is kind of an "extra".

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zoranT
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to Sean Nelson, Jun 15, 2012

Sean Nelson wrote:

zoranT wrote:

I know, codec is mpeg4, but I also add that there is also no problem with MPEG as container (instead of AVCHD), but I wondered why they use a different compression rate for mpeg4.

I really couldn't say why camera manufacturers offer a lower bitrate for Mpeg4 compression. It certainly seems to be true of a lot of manufacturers, though. The reason AVCHD uses higher bitrates might have something to do with the fact that the standard dictates specifically what the maximum bitrates are.

I think that perhaps the camera manufacturers consider AVCHD to be the "premium" recording format and the MPEG4 support is kind of an "extra".

possible, but then in manuals Sony writes that the format is there for editing, so I guess the assume that most customers just want to view their recordings

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zoranT
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to Markr041, Jun 15, 2012

Video editing software should be useful for actual users of cameras; it is ridiculous to think that the video industry should decide on standards based on what Apple wants to support. AVCHD has been around a long time, so there is no excuse for Apple software not to support it, is there?

Lots of Windows editing programs handle AVCHD just fine. They want to serve users of cameras.

AVCHD is a more efficient container, as I wrote I can work OK with AVCHD in FCP X. I find it only disturbing that in manuals Sony writes that the mpeg format is there for editing, AVCHD for viewing, but then they give mpeg a lower bitrate - should be the other way around.

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Cy Cheze
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to zoranT, Jun 15, 2012

The MP4 format at 15mbps is offered as an alternative to people who haven't the processors to handle AVCHD. It's not "crippled," but simply "cripple friendly." It also offers rather good video.

Camera stability, subject mater, audio, and editing are more potent factors, so far as final quality go, than obsessing over high bitrates--particularly if 90% the online audience won't see it at more than 5mbps anyway.

There are pro videocams that export low compression codecs intended for direct import into FCPX, AVID, or Edius programs, but that is a different universe from the one of hand-held videocams or the RX100. It involves substantial investments and more (not less) complex workflows, but that > $50k additional gear investment also entails at LEAST a > $200k increase in "soft" costs for a project, thus making it relevant only to the commercial world.

Apple, not cameras, is the principle culprit, so far as resistance to AVCHD, perhaps mainly because Apple wanted iTunes and Apple TV to beat blu-ray. Streamed video may indeed dominate the market, and be fine for small screens. But I understand that the Apple support for AVCHD is increasing.

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caterpillar
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Why mp4 and AVCHD
In reply to zoranT, Jun 16, 2012

Mp4 and AVCHD are sort of variations of the same thing. AVCHD is more structured because the major manufacturers, Sony, Panasonic, etc agreed on this so that nobody will complain that their h.264 doesn't play with with the other brand's codec or implementation of the same thing. The other reason is that it also makes it easier for 3rd party software and NLE makers to make software that works with that standard. And that is why for 4 years I have no problem editing avchd. Maybe some do, but most don't, especially if you don't sport a MAC, who for some reason makes it difficult to edit it.

AVCHD is highly compressed. It's not the best, but it's not the worst either. It is all a series of trade-offs as you will read later. Unbriddled raw video will eat up a 16gb sdhc in just mins! One might just get around 15-20min maybe even less if raw video footage is used. Not only that, you have to have a good data path and fast storage to swallow that huge data stream if you are shooting video raw. Look at the light compression of the Canon 7D and ask those who make videos with them how long of a shoot they can get in 16gb when the compression is lighter (I think 38-42mbit). It's not long. AVCHD can give me 1hr-20min with full 1080-60p, 28mbit/sec (for v2.0). Again, this is the compromise the group had to go through to achieve compatibility and a balance on IQ, duration, and storage requirements.

Now, mpeg4 is there is an implementation of the same root codec, except that it's goal is that it makes it easy to be used in video hosting sites like utube, without resorting to .flv formats. The data in mp4 is a bit easier to break down for streaming. This is why you don't hear of AVCHD streaming. It's not just that they are bigger hence will take forever to upload and download, but I suppose they aren't that great in making into packets. You may not see mp4 as practical, but in the youtube/vimeo generation where the final output need not be great, mpeg4 has its place.

So, why have 2 or 3 standards (mjpeg is another)? The reason is that you deal with AVCHD if you want higher bitrates (28mbit/sec for v2.0 plus 60p option), thus better quality. For those who intend to display their videos in 40"-52" or larger LED/LCDs, this is the way to go. Now, why limit it to 28mbit bitrates? Well, it may be arbitrary but then again the manuf thought that there is a need to balance a lot of other things/variables at play.

One of them is file size large. Higher bit rates afford higher quality video. But then again, your 16gb will soon fill up. Sure, prices are going down, but remember, storage sizes weren't that cheap then and if you bump it to high, it can still be costly keeping 32gb's.

Higher bitrate also means shorter recording time. Most will definitely complain if their 16gb SDHC can do just 15-20min. Then you will complain that its hard to find 32gb sdhc and even harder to find 64gb sdxc. Expensive too.

A 3rd offshoot of higher bitrate is power consumption. Again, even if the discrete chips are doing a great job at creating this files, they still will consume more power than lower bitrates for the same battery capacity.

There other reasons for why things are, but I'll stop here. I hope you don't shoot the messenger. I'm just saying it.

But for all their compromises, AVCHD and mp4 are here to stay. There's no point in bitching about it. To this day, those who have worked with AVI-mpeg2 (DVD quality) formats are still bitching about that standard, even as that also slowly fades into forgetfullness. Not any different with mpeg1 as a standard. So, I figure, best to work with what you have than trying to change the world. If any, it should be Apple who should be more accommodating. They could insist on their own standard. But that would mean they would have to start making their own videocameras! And I bet, their codec would just be a subset or a variation of the mpeg4 or AVCHD.

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BillHinge
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to Markr041, Jun 17, 2012

Markr041 wrote:

AVCHD is a standard, for bluray. A video industry standard.

You can take an sd card from Sony camcorder that created AVCHD files, stick it in a Panasonic bluray player sd slot and play the video on your Samsung HDTV. All this is posible with standards (not just AVCHD, of course).

Why shouldn't Apple provide software that works with a standard? The answer is they should, so post on some Apple fanboy site that you must frequent - why doesn't Apple support standards that everyone else supports?

Yes AVCHD it is a form of MP4, but there are lots of variants - b-frames, CABAC compression, etc.

Video editing software should be useful for actual users of cameras; it is ridiculous to think that the video industry should decide on standards based on what Apple wants to support. AVCHD has been around a long time, so there is no excuse for Apple software not to support it, is there?

Lots of Windows editing programs handle AVCHD just fine. They want to serve users of cameras.

There are two types of standard, de-jure and de-facto. De-jure are legally enforceable, De-facto are industry common (which doesn't say its good or bad) practise only. H.264 is a de-jure standard as ratified by the ITU (which is a branch of the UN), AVCHD is a de-facto standard. Apple support H.264. Part of my job is to be my companies IT standards rep and I have had several years of experience of working in the standards domain (not video). One issue that often crops up is that if you look you can often find a de-facto standard that suits your argument, it doesn't necessarily make it right (or wrong). Sometimes you can even get two de-facto standards that conflict with each other. The best supported de-facto standards are often 'down streamed' to being de-jure ratified. Standards are a very political subject, often more so that merely technical specs.

Having said that FCP X allows you to import and edit AVCHD with no loss of quality through an internal model and allows you to export in whatever format you wish. I don't understand what the issue is. Aperture now allows you to view .MTS files and if you install the panasonic AVCHD quicktime plugin you can get quicktime to open mts files.
https://eww.pass.panasonic.co.jp/pro-av/support/dload/avccam_impt/agree_e.htm
(yes it does work with avchd).

If you compare the bit rate etc from a FCP X export you will find that it is superior to even a hacked GH2 firmware MTS file (and to my eyes looks cleaner)

There is absolutely nothing stopping you writing your own Apple App to edit AVCHD if you feel strongly about it, you may even have identified a gap in the market? (if you could find an open source windows code base why not port it to OS X)

For what its worth I prefer to use GH2 AVCHD 1080p over MPEG (GH2 supports both) and I have no problem with support on an Apple platform.

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Markr041
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to BillHinge, Jun 18, 2012

"If you compare the bit rate etc from a FCP X export you will find that it is superior to even a hacked GH2 firmware MTS file (and to my eyes looks cleaner)."

I am sorry, I do not understand what you are saying here - there is no way a re-processed video can be "cleaner" than the original however high the bitrate is compared to the original. If you export a 108030p video shot at, say, 28Mbps using FCP X at 1,000 Mbps it will not be any cleaner or sharper than the original, or if it does it is not becasue the bitrate is higher. Or am I not understanding what you are saying?

The fact is 108060p AVCHD will play in its original form right out of Sony and Panasonic current camcorders on current Sony and Panasonic bluray players and TV's. And some Windows programs not only handle these clips fine, they can edit them with no re-compression whatsoever.

In any case, it was the OP complaining about Sony and Panasonic making files that he said Apple could not handle, and we all said, complain to Apple. If Apple in fact does easily handle these AVCHD files, then the OP needs re-education.

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BillHinge
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to Markr041, Jun 18, 2012

Markr041 wrote:

"If you compare the bit rate etc from a FCP X export you will find that it is superior to even a hacked GH2 firmware MTS file (and to my eyes looks cleaner)."

I am sorry, I do not understand what you are saying here - there is no way a re-processed video can be "cleaner" than the original however high the bitrate is compared to the original. If you export a 108030p video shot at, say, 28Mbps using FCP X at 1,000 Mbps it will not be any cleaner or sharper than the original, or if it does it is not becasue the bitrate is higher. Or am I not understanding what you are saying?

The fact is 108060p AVCHD will play in its original form right out of Sony and Panasonic current camcorders on current Sony and Panasonic bluray players and TV's. And some Windows programs not only handle these clips fine, they can edit them with no re-compression whatsoever.

In any case, it was the OP complaining about Sony and Panasonic making files that he said Apple could not handle, and we all said, complain to Apple. If Apple in fact does easily handle these AVCHD files, then the OP needs re-education.

Hi Mark

I don't have a beef with anyone here, I was just trying to put the record straight on 'standards' which are an often misunderstood concept.

I know transcoding to a higher spec model doesn't add detail or quality, but in certain circumstances it is demonstratably a beneficial move. My main use of video is in planetary astronomy. For example you can attach a camera to a telescope and take say 3 minutes of video. By using suitable (but mathematically intensive floating point routines) many single frames of mediocre quality can be processed into a high quality image.

By up sampling video into proresHQ a cleaner but not more detailed image is produced (less processing artefacts). This is really a torture test for video quality so by analogy I was inferring that it may be beneficial to upsample for ordinary processing. Any processing will result in the loss of some information, so essentially you lose less (not add more).

If you look at pro astronomy software for processing still images you will see that they support taking raw or tiff inputs and converting to 32 or even 64 bit FITS files to avoid processing errors. Its analogous to Dan Margulis old photoshop debates of 10 or so years ago, is it better to process an 8 bit original as an 8 bit or convert to 16bit when doing multiple manipulations?

I have tried and it does work to my eyes, some will believe others won't but I'm not trying to convert anyone

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Markr041
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Re: AVCHD vs. mpeg4 – Question
In reply to BillHinge, Jun 18, 2012

Thanks for the clarification. Sounds interesting, and I am glad I asked!

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