How to Work with AVCHD Video and MTS Files – Izzy Video 252

AVCHD video can be confusing.

When you’re shooting video, you see on your camera that you have several different clips. But when you plug the card into your computer and look at the files, you can’t see the individual video clips.

If you dig deep, you’ll find mysterious MTS files, but when you try to open them in a video player, it doesn’t work.

How can you copy or move a single video clip? How can you open them in a video player without bringing them into your video editing software?

This video shows a tool called ClipWrap that I find useful for working with AVCHD video clips on a Mac. I hope you find this brief tour helpful.

35 thoughts on “How to Work with AVCHD Video and MTS Files – Izzy Video 252

  1. Izzy: I can understand doing a quick re-wrap of the dreaded MTS files for passing around or quick looks on a computer, but why would you transcode them for editing outside of FCPX? Why not just import into FCPX and select “create high quality media” or whatever that box is called and work on the footage right away while FCPX transcodes in the background?

    This seems like an unneeded workaround. Isn’t one of the advantages of FCPX that it can handle AVCHD clips right away while it transcodes in the background, and you don’t really need to wait around for some third party software to do the transcoding? I was stuck doing this for a couple of years before FCPX came along.

    I”m a little confused as to why you’d do this. Can you help me understand? Thanks, Bob

  2. I use clip wrap all the time. Unfortunately, even though I name each “reel” with a separate name, FCP X does not import the labeling properly, nor does Clip Wrap do Pro Res 444….the default important standard for FCP X.

    Say you have six cameras from a wedding and each has two or three cards full of video. If you try to name each camera and each card into an Event folder, it does not carry through into FCP X as folders and subfolders with the same names. I’d be very interested in seeing a really good work around for this problem


  3. I heard about ClipWrap last month and thought that it would allow me to avoid transcoding to much larger files but then I learned that Final Cut does not deal well with the wrapped files.

  4. The most significant advantage Clip Wrap offers in my opinion is the ability to rescue AVCHD footage when the the card structure is not preserved. FCX will not recognise your media card enabling the import of AVCHD (.MTS streams) with out the entire card structure in it’s original form. If for some reason the card structure is corrupted or not all the files are copied you are out of luck using FCX import function. Clip Wrap can read and transcode individual .MTS files without the card structure making very powerful for this purpose.

  5. Izzy,

    Thanks for this treatment of download AVCHD files. Is this pretty similar to what will be required to capture XAVC-S files? And what will the 4K file size require…for editing and for exporting? For exporting either as single clips or as completed programs? Can we even produce programs in the 4K format using FCPX?

    Thanks for doing such a good job of transmitting information so clearly.


  6. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone! :)

    Bob – great question. Why bother transcoding to Prores when FCPX can do it for you automatically in the background? Well, there are probably lots of reasons depending on an individual’s workflow and needs, but here’s a reason that I like (and I should probably make a video about this):

    Sometimes you might prefer to manage the clips yourself rather than have FCPX do it for you. When you let FCPX manage the media, it places it where it wants to so that it can be fully automatic. If you manage the clips yourself, then you can keep them where you want (in a project folder, for example).

    And because Prores edits easily, it helps to have them transcoded for FCPX in advance.

    Also, and this might be minor but it’s something I personally do — I like to archive the Prores versions of clips, just in case the Prores codec has a longer life than H.264. I suspect that it might, but who knows? Hard drive space is so cheap these days that I don’t worry about the file sizes very much. I prefer to have access to Prores clips in the future.

  7. Aje — Yes, many people wouldn’t bother doing all this ahead of time because FCPX can do it for them. ClipWrap is for the folks who have specific needs (like managing the clips before bringing them into FCPX).

  8. Many people are still using FCP7, too, where this will remain useful. VLC should play the MTS without issue, too.

    For Windows people, I have had horrendous issues playing MTS files in Premiere 5.5, and after some tests, I found that converting to the free Cineform video codec over DNxHD high res codec improves performance immensely. With straight MTS, after about 3 seconds, video would stutter to a halt. With DNxHD video would drop frames, but play through. With Cineform (which I had never used before), the files would play completely smooth – no dropped frames, no stutters. It was an awesome discovery.

  9. Still looking for a way to use Clip Wrap so that FCP will import a complete folder structure like this:

    Cam 1
    card 2

    Cam 1
    Card 2

    Cam 2
    card 2


    I just can’t get it to do this from a clip wrap output on a separate hard drive which has a single event folder name with these sub folders within it.

  10. Izzy,
    do you have an up-to-date tutorial on selecting codecs? I still use FCP7.
    previously, you said to transcode clips to Intermediate, because that’s what FCP would like to see for editing.
    In this episode, you said Intermediate is for FCE and ProRes is for FCP… is ProRes for any FCP or for FCPX?
    my primary use is for 2 to 2½ hour classes, which upon transcoding cause files to be 61GB to 104GB in size, Intermediate… If I remember some time ago trying ProRes, the files were even bigger.
    What determines which codec you use?
    How can I balance, quality, size (economy), and time (transcoding/importing time)?

    1. Larry, Prores is a better, higher-quality codec than Apple Intermediate Codec. Prores comes with Final Cut Pro versions (including X). If you have FCP, then use Prores. AIC is really for Final Cut Express and iMovie.

      The difference in file sizes will depend a lot on how the frames in the video change. If there is little movement, then the files sizes will be smaller. The more things change, the bigger the file.

      Anyway, I hope that helps a bit…

  11. Is there a solution to this:?
    I have as my 2nd angle camera, SamsungHMX-Q10BN which creates MP4 files, however, it breaks them into 16 minute clips (about 2GB each). The problem I have is, it seems to drop some frames between clips. So if I try to glue the clips back together, so I can multicam edit with my 1st angle cam (Canon Vixia HF R10)which is AVCHD, I cannot sync the entire 2 hour video.
    So far my workaround is to multicam each 16 minute piece, each in a diff sequence, then later join those sequences together in yet another sequence. this does create some other problems down the line. One is problems with transitions between sequences. Another is trying to get to the audio editing of just one scene in the final sequence, won’t let me.
    Any suggestions?

  12. Larry, many times the camera manufacturer provides propriety software that you can use to “join” the clips when you import them. That would be the first place I’d look…

  13. Tim,

    Would the option ‘import folders as keywords collection’ in FCP X helpful in your situation (option is enabled when you select multiple folders)?

    Also, have your looked at scripting conversion using ClipWrap’s command-line interface:

    I’m also wondering a renaming tool (allowing renaming based on camera make etc and also prepending path components to the name) would be helpful – here’s the one I use:

  14. I found that all you need to do (if you have a mac) is to open the AVCHD file from your camera (Sony A7R) and pick your clips from that and open it in Quicktime and then just export as is. Do this for each file then import to FCPX. Works great for me. I find that the Quality of the AVCHD files are quite high. Enough to give room to play with color correction. Not exactly like RAW but still quite good. Plenty good for any WEB video and even for TV.

    Pete :)

  15. Question, if your camera is recording in AVCHD or H264, DNxHD would the original information still be there so if you upgrade to AppleProres 422 HQ you don’t loose any information? I thought that if you recorded in H264 that the information was lost at the point of recording. If thats the case why bother with AppleProRes 422 HQ? I can record to my Blackmagic from my HDMI and record directly to AppleProRes 422 HQ. Better would be to just record in uncompressed Quicktime. So far I get decent results but huge files in uncompressed Quicktime. Great results with AppleProRes 422 HQ. I can’t however record on my blackmagic Hyperdeck Shuttle in 29 fps. I can only do 30 fps. Arrg.

    Pete :)

  16. Izzy, what if you don’t transcode the AVCHD files for FCPX and you just go ahead and import and edit the AVCHD files “as is.” Does it negatively affect the quality of the edited video output in the end or is it “good enough” for web video?

    1. Yes, you can import “as is” into FCPX which is just fine. The real reason to use ClipWrap is if you want to handle the AVCHD files separately outside of FCPX. I almost always import AVCHD directly into FCPX without using ClipWrap.

  17. I saw the tutorial and went and bought clip wrap. Now you say that “I almost always import AVCHD directly into FCPX without using ClipWrap”. I have FCPX – so why did I buy clip wrap?

  18. Josh,

    There are a bunch of reasons to have it, but my main reason is that sometimes I want to retain video clips without having to use FCPX. So I can use ClipWrap to save the video files, then use my cataloging software (CatDV) to track them. I can do all of this without importing through FCPX.

    Of course, how you use it is up to you. :)

  19. I believe that the main point with ClipWrap is the resulting performance. Can FCP X deal with AVCHD natively? Yes. But, the performance on initial ingest is terrible.

    I received a batch of LTO tapes that contained over 2.2TB of AVCHD M2TS clips. The clips ranged from 8 minutes to over 40 minutes. If I try to import these clips as the are, I spend a lot of time with the spinning beach ball of death on my FCP X instance and can’t get to work as quickly as I should be able to. By using ClipWrap to simply rewrap the M2TS files (versus transcoding them), FCP X imports them with no SPBBOD and the clips are available to start working with almost immediately.

    ClipWrap made the 2.2TB of files available to me in under 20 minutes (mostly because of copying the files from the original location to the ingest array). Importing them into FCP X then took seconds and I was ready to work.

  20. I’ve found several ways (free and cheap) to handle problems with AVCHD files. First, Handbrake (free) can convert .MTS files. Second, so can Smart Converter Pro ($20). But, with either method, you’re left with a bunch of separate files (and if you’re recording a longer performance, you need to piece them back together).

    Add another problem: I had an AVCHD file that was improperly saved from the camera (didn’t grab the enclosing folder with the other bits, just the AVCHD package). FCP X wouldn’t read it. But Quicktime does (the free version that comes with OSX) and, once you select the clip, you can export the whole clip as one .MOV file.

    It takes forever, but it’s simple and free.

  21. Can you use this app to link a separate .AC3 audio file and a h264 .MOV video file (OR a avchd video file) into a wrapped and converted .MP4 file container???

  22. Thanks for the tips Izzy!

    Lots of comments from people wondering why they should use clipWrap. I personally don’t care for the AVCHD container in my workflow. I realize there are lots of different people and workflows, etc. One way isn’t necessarily correct or better…just different. I wanted to share some of the reasons that I find ClipWrap to be extremely helpful and why I thought it was worth the $50.

    1- Sometimes (yes, I’m an idiot), I accidentally leave my camera recording. I may not realize this until after I’ve copied the AVCHD container to my computer. Then I realize it, but I have no way of deleting that particular .MTS file (that may be several GB’s) from the container. Disk space is cheap, but I’m a bit OCD. Plus, I have all of my files copied 4 times, so it gets inflated very quickly. I also use CrashPlan, so copying any extra files slows down the copy time to copy files I care about. One work around for this problem, is to copy the AVCHD container back to a card, put it in my video camera, delete the file and then copy it back. What a pain. I also found a tool years ago, that actually lets you remove files from the container, and when you save it, it rebuilds the AVCHD container. However, I can’t remember the tool, and it is/was only available on windows.

    2- Sometimes (yes, I’m an idiot), I import the AVCHD container and forget to delete it from the card and add more scenes to it without realizing it. Now I have double copies of some of the clips. This adds clutter and confusion and I’m left with no easy way to deal with the issue. See issue #1 about why having clips you want to remove from an AVCHD container pose a problem.

    3- Organizing files. Sometimes it is nice to name the file differently than 0001.mts.

    4- I often record events with other people. The ol’ dad on the sideline of a sporting event, or a multi-family vacation to the family cabin. I find myself wanting to digest video from other folks’ cameras. However, they may not have the same workflow, and their AVCHD container may have 4 years of video in it. ClipWrap is a nice tool to be able to pluck the files I want and maintain the original files and not disturb other video clips in their container. I also don’t want their other clips on my system. See #1 for how painful it is to remove unwanted clips from an AVCHD container.

    5- I have a buddy who uses Premiere. Premiere will work natively with .MTS files. FCPX will only work with .MTS natively IF it is in a valid AVCHD container. My buddy copies the .MTS files directly to his computer. If I need to use one of his clips, I’m stuck.

    1. 6- Sometimes I shoot across multiple days. I like to organize my clips in a folder structure by event/date. If I have an AVCHD container that spans multiple events/dates, it can be a pain to manage and know what is in that particular container.

      7- FCPX has a great way to identify clips you don’t want. I’d like to push that down to the original file as well. If the clip bad for whatever reason, I can clean that up in the original source as well. Simple housekeeping.

  23. Thanks for the great vid, Izzy. Thanks for the great comment, Mark.

    After watching the video and reading all the comments, I’m still left wondering if ClipWrap’s Rewrap “(Source Format)” costs one generation of video. I understand it doesn’t change the compression from .h264, but does it decompress the original mts .h264 video and then recompress it to the Rewrapped .h264 video? In other words, is there ANY loss in video quality to do the ClipWrap’s “Rewrap (Source Format)” for any reason?

    Thanks much!

    1. The more updated app called “EditReady” is what I use currently. It can either transcode or rewrap. If you rewrap, then you don’t lose the quality.

      Also if you transcode to ProRes, while the quality reduction might technically be there, I’ve never noticed it. And I doubt most people would.

      Hope that helps…

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