Budget AVCHD editing in Windows: VoltaicHD for PC and Windows Movie Maker!

I've previously written about How to edit AVCHD footage on Mac OSX, at the time of writing that article there weren't many options for editing AVCHD footage on either Mac OSX or Windows operating systems. VoltaicHD is a great application that helped Mac OSX users in particular because at that time there was no way of editing AVCHD on Mac at all.

Many Mac users had purchased AVCHD cameras and were frustrated by the complete lack of software available for editing AVCHD on Mac and even Windows users had to wait quite a few months before Sony released a version of their Vegas software that supported AVCHD. 

Since then though, there are quite a few options for Mac users: Final Cut Studio and Final Cut Express offered mid to high end products for the Mac platform. Also Apple's own iMovie software had a complete revamp and amongst many new features was direct support for AVCHD based cameras, a perfect budget solution as the software was included free with any new Mac or as part of Apple's iLife suite for about £55 / $79.

However for Windows users, despite the availability of software like Sony Vegas, many people wanted a way to edit AVCHD without having to buy editing software that cost as much (or more!) than they spent on their cameras in the first place! There was no easy way to do this on a low budget, you could find articles on the web with instructions on how to use various applications or utilities to convert the AVCHD files into various formats, but nothing simple that would allow non-technical users to edit AVCHD footage. But now there is an easy solution.

VoltaicHD for PC & Windows Movie Maker: A low budget way to edit AVCHD!

The company that produced the VoltaicHD application for Mac OSX, Shedworx, has released a Windows version of VoltaicHD that is compatible with both Windows XP and Vista. You can convert your AVCHD footage into WMV or AVI format video which can then be used with Windows Movie Maker or other video editing application for Windows.

Windows Movie Maker is a video editing package that comes with both XP and Vista, and contrary to popular belief it is actually capable of working with HD video footage, but just not with native AVCHD footage. That's where VoltaicHD fits in, by converting the footage to WMV format you can edit the footage from your HD video camera using just Windows Movie Maker!

Tips for converting / editing AVCHD with Voltaic and Windows Movie Maker

There are a few minimum system requirements to run VoltaicHD for PC but any reasonably modern PC should be capable of processing the AVCHD files. It's worth noting of course that HD video is very intensive to work with and requires greater resources than editing conventional standard definition video footage. On a system with the minimum hardware requirements (as detailed below) it will take about 2 minutes to convert a 10 second AVCHD clip. It is obviously recommended to have as powerful a system as you can manage but even a slightly older machine should be capable of producing results - as long as you have a little patience and perspective! On the plus side the converted video files result in uncompressed HD video which can be played back more easily than the original AVCHD files on the minimum hardware spec machine.

Minimum Hardware requirements: At least 1GB of RAM, at least a 2Ghz P4 processor or equivalent processor and as much hard disk space as possible. AVCHD footage uses about 120Mb per minute of video footage, once this footage has been processed it uses about 500Mb per minute of video, so disk space is quickly used up. 

Minimum Software requirements: Either Windows XP SP2+ or Vista, Microsoft Movie Maker 2.1+ and Windows Media Player v11+.

VoltaicHD can convert AVCHD footage to either WMV or AVI formats, however WMV is the preferred format as it keeps the aspect ratio correct no matter the resolution of your source AVCHD footage. There is no loss in picture quality when converting the AVCHD footage to either WMV or AVI. However, the audio track is affected during conversion, AVCHD can use Dolby 5.1 surround sound but only Sony cameras use this, Panasonic, Canon and JVC use stereo only.  Any Dolby 5.1 sound is dropped back to stereo audio as this is all that Window Movie Maker supports.

Converting files using VoltaicHD for PC

You need set up the various preferences before using VoltaicHD for the first time, you can go back and change these preferences later by going to the Tools->Options menu option, or via the toolbar button.

Once you've got VoltaicHD installed on your system and Preferences all set up you are ready to go. Although it's worth keeping in mind some suggestions for converting your AVCHD clips:

Next, add some AVCHD files to the file list and press Start. The converted files are created in the same directory as the source files by default, or to the location you set in your Preferences.

Setting up and editing in Windows Movie Maker

You need to set up Movie Maker to the correct video format for your region, either PAL or NTSC, and also to widescreen (16:9). Go to Tools->Options and click on the Advanced tab. You should then see a section called Video properties where you can set the correct format (NTSC or PAL) and also the Aspect ratio to 16:9. There's no need to set the video format (NTSC or PAL) in VoltaicHD as this is auto-detected from the AVCHD clip.

You can now edit your HD footage just like you would with any other footage in Windows Movie Maker.

Exporting from Windows Movie Maker

VoltaicHD provides an export profile for Movie Maker 2.1 on Windows XP which ensures that the full HD resolution of your completed movie can be exported.

To Export from Movie Maker, select the File->Save Movie menu option. This starts the Save Movie Wizard. Use the following settings:

If you are using Movie Maker in Windows Vista, then VoltaicHD provides an export profile to ensure that the full HD resolution of your completed movie can be exported. If your movies are in 1440x1080 resolution you will also need to manually apply an Effect to your clips to retain the full 16:9 aspect or Widescreen mode. Once your clips are in your storyboard or timeline, right click each of the clips and select "Effect". On the next window under "Available Effects" scroll down and click on "VoltaicHD Widescreen" then select "Add >>". Then select OK. The preview window should now be showing your clip in widescreen mode.

To Export from Movie Maker, select the File->Publish Movie menu option. This starts the Save Movie Wizard. Use the following settings:

Movie Maker will then create your HD movie! All thanks to VoltaicHD for PC!

Playing back your HD footage

If you want to watch your HD footage on something other than your PC then you can watch on XBox, PS3 or any Blu-ray player. You'll need something like Nero to burn a blu-ray DVD (AVCREC format).

The makers of VoltaicHD for PC make some software called RevolverHD which can create blu-ray compatible DVDs. However, there's currently only a Mac version available, so if you happen to have access to a Mac then you can use that. If you'd like a PC version of RevolverHD then get in touch with the guys at Shedworx and let them know.

Happy editing :)

Update - VoltaicHD 2 released in October 2009

Shedworx have released version 2 of VoltaicHD adding new features such as preview of AVCHD / AVCHD Lite clips, native editing of AVCHD video and the ability to upload video to YouTube. I've written a post with an overview of VoltaicHD 2.


Meta

Tags: avchd,hd,video editing,windows,xp,vista,windows movie maker,voltaichd,revolverhd,blu-ray,popular

Originally published on 2008-11-07 01:33:37 by Rick Curran

Last edited on 2008-11-07 01:34:39 by Rick Curran

Permalink: http://suburbia.org.uk/blog/2008/11/07/013337.html

Visitor Comments:

Left by Rajesh on 2009-01-12 23:03:17 #

Thank you for Good article.

I have the following configuration of my PC (XP pro SP2)

Pentium 4 HT 2.4GHz
1.5GB RAM
160GB HDD

Currently it is taking huge time (approx. 35 mins for 2 mins AVCHD video). Can we improve the performance by adding a graphics card? if so, then:
Which graphics card is appropirate?
What could be the expected gain in performance?

Left by Rob on 2009-03-09 05:18:18 #

It has taken over 36 hours to convert and post process 1 hour (or about 4GB) of AVCHD footage on a Pentium Xeon 2ghz with 6GB memory and a very fast 1TB hard drive!
Is there any way to speed this up???

Left by Rick Curran on 2009-03-09 05:42:37 #

@Rob Not sure if there's any performance tweak I can suggest, it is very intensive dong that conversion. The VoltaicHD website suggests that it take about 12 times the actual length of the clip to convert, so what you are experiencing does sound like an overly long time to convert. Check the Voltaic FAQ for more info:

http://shedworx.com/voltaichd-faq-pc#1

Drop them a line and I'm sure they'll be keen to figure out what's going on!

Left by Timmy on 2009-05-22 00:52:44 #

Pentium Xeon? Isn't that a server processsor?

Left by Dave on 2009-09-30 11:35:57 #

Once I have converted my AVCHD video into WMV will I be able to save the files to an external hard drive for storage.
Thanks
Dave

Left by Rick Curran on 2009-10-01 03:17:10 #

@Dave - Yep, you can save your files to an external hard drive for storage once they are converted. You can set the output directory within VoltaicHD and have the files exported directly to an external hard drive too.

Left by James Anderson on 2009-12-30 05:43:50 #

Once I have converted my AVCHD clips into WMV and have burned them to a DVD, can it (DVD) be then viewed on a PS3 (on an HDTV) or WMV being microsoft, is playback only possible on Xbox? If playback is possible on PS3, are there any settings which must be made to accommodate the WMV format?
Appreciate the time and effort.

Left by Rick Curran on 2010-01-07 05:14:29 #

@James - The playstation 3 can definitely read DVDs with HD footage on them, however they may not play back in WMV format. The Playstation manual states that some WMV files are supported though as far as I can see:

Types of files that can be played on the PS3

Another option is to put raw AVCHD clips on DVD as the Playstation 3 will play them natively too. There is another app from Shedworx called RevolverHD that can be used for making DVDs but it's Mac-only at the moment. But burning a data DVD with the raw .mts avchd video should work on the Playstation 3.

Hope that's helpful!

Left by Chris Butler on 2010-05-27 12:07:04 #

I need to convert my MTS files to AVI so I can edit them in Adobe Premiere CS3 but i want to make sure that VoltaicHD converts them whilst maintaining the 16:9 aspect ratio. I dont want a bunch of 4:3 AVI files - I want a PAL widescreen DVD.

Left by Radovich on 2010-07-12 07:10:38 #

I haven't used VoltaicHD, but i get this information that this "software" needs more time than we converting the same video with third-party software like ifunia video converter.

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