VoltaicHD 2.0: Edit, Convert, Upload AVCHD / AVCHD Lite video

Shedworx‘ essential AVCHD tool VoltaicHD just took a healthy step forward in functionality with the recent release of VoltaicHD 2. Highlights of the new features in the update are the ability to preview AVCHD / AVCHD Lite clips, the ability to edit native AVCHD video and the ability to upload video to YouTube and output to presets like iPhone, iPod etc.

Native AVCHD / AVCHD Lite editing

Version 2 of VoltaicHD increases the scope of the app from simply being a tool to convert AVCHD format video footage to now include basic native editing of AVCHD footage. You can now preview AVCHD / AVCHD Lite video clips within the application and then set simple in and out points to define a section of raw AVCHD / AVCHD Lite video clips which can then be trimmed down and converted.

The interface is reminiscent of the new Quicktime X player that comes with the Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard. It’s very easy to set the position of the start and end as the position in seconds within the movie is shown in a little tooltip when sliding them around. My own criticism with it is the same that I have with the new Quicktime X player in that you can’t use the mouse to fine-tune the position of these points. That’s a little thing that I miss from the old Quicktime Pro player’s editing capabilities.

Overall though the ability to trim down clips before conversion is a massive timesaver, instead of having to convert a whole chunk of AVCHD footage you can just roughly trim down to the section you want and then convert only the bit you want. Definitely a great and helpful improvement!

Upload to YouTube, output to iPhone / iPod and AppleTV.

Along with the new preview / edit capability there is also the ability to convert and upload trimmed clips to YouTube directly from VoltaicHD 2.0. There are also preset output options for iPhone / iPod and AppleTV.

One of the things you’ll notice when you run VoltaicHD 2 compared to the previous version is the new drop-down menu options at the top of the window. From this menu you can select the specific option that you want, then combine that with a little bit of previewing and trimming in the clip details panel and you’re ready to go.

Both of these options make it really easy to get footage off your camera and online or onto your devices, take it with you or watch it on TV. Shedworx make another application called RevolverHD which enables you to create AVCHD DVDs that will work on most blu-ray players, however I find the ease of exporting video that’s ready to go onto my iPhone really convenient. As blu-ray players become more commonplace then I think I’ll use RevolverHD much more as a perfect way to send HD footage to my extended family.

Worth the upgrade cost for existing users?

It’s most definitely an upgrade I’d recommend for any VoltaicHD user, it’s worth noting that this is the first paid upgrade to Voltaic since it was released in July 2007. Don’t forget that VoltaicHD is available for both Mac OSX and Windows operating systems too.

If you’re an existing VoltaicHD user then you can upgrade to version 2 for only $9.99, or if you happen to have bought the previous version since July 2009 then you’re eligible for a free upgrade to VoltaicHD 2.0. First-time customers can buy VoltaicHD 2.0 for $39.99 which is still a great deal for a great bit of software!

Post-install notes of Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard

I thought I’d compile a few notes / points of interest of things I’ve noticed after installing Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard on my development Mac. I’m going to keep updating this page and adding things to it as I come across them.

I use the default install of Apache & PHP and install MySQL from the installer from MySQL.com, I guess I should custom build and install these but it’s easy enough to work with the defaults anyway.

PHP under Snow Leopard

PHP under Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard is version 5.3.0 and thankfully has the GD libraries enabled by default. Especially good for WordPress installs so that it can do image resizing for thumbnails etc.

I noticed I was getting an error relating to timezones on many of my sites, along the lines of:

Warning: strtotime() [function.strtotime]: It is not safe to rely on the system’s timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function.

The solution I used to this was just to restore the previous php.ini file, this showed in the /etc directory as ‘php.ini.default-5.2-previous’. Just rename it to ‘php.ini’ (replacing any existing php.ini file if it exists, it didn’t for me). You’ll then want to edit php.ini and look for the ‘date.timezone’ setting and put in your timezone info (PHP.net timezone page) and then restart Apache. Hopefully it should be fine after that.

I also started getting a lot of warnings on some of my development sites along the lines of:

PHP Deprecated: Assigning the return value of new by reference is deprecated in…

These are warnings about old deprecated PHP4 era code, recent versions of PHP5 enable these warnings, but you can switch these off by adding an additional error reporting element to your php.ini file in the error handling section:

error_reporting = E_ALL & ~E_DEPRECATED & ~E_NOTICE

Just add the E_DEPRECATED part and then restart Apache and the warnings should be gone.

Apache

The version of Apache is 2.2.11, the latest available from Apache.org is 2.2.13 so it’s fairly up to date. If you think this is an issue then check out the release notes for 2.2.13.

MySQL

MySQL isn’t installed by default in Snow Leopard so you need to install it yourself. I simply downloaded the latest 64 bit Intel version from MySQL.com, they only show version for Mac OS 10.5 at the moment but it worked fine for me. The installer provides a startup item to make MySQL run at boot time and also a System Preference to control it, it’s worth noting that this is only 32 bit so it will make System Preferences restart itself into 32 bit mode, not a big deal though.

Booting 64 bit

There’s been a fair bit of discussion about Snow Leopard and it being 64 bit. By default Snow Leopard boots into 32 bit mode, however this doesn’t make that big a difference as 64 bit apps will run in 64 bit and access all the memory available on your system. One thing to note though is that the original unibody MacBook (which I have!) can’t startup in 64 bit mode, I’m not sure if that’s a big deal or not though really.

If you want to get into a really in depth examination of Snow Leopard’s 64 bit capabilities then check out John Siracusa of Ars Technica’s comprehensive review, beware though, it’s a lengthy read but it’s a great overview of the new technologies that are under the surface in Mac OSX 10.6.

Flash plugin out of date

The Flash plugin needs updated as the version that comes in Snow Leopard is an old version (10.0.23.1) which has some security vulnerabilities, just go to http://www.adobe.com/go/getflashplayer and download the latest version. There’s been quite a bit of coverage of this online, the gist of it is summed up in this post over on Daring Fireball. Basically the most up to date version of the Flash plugin was probably released after Snow Leopard’s final release version’s features were frozen, so basically Snow Leopard overwrites the newer version with an older version upon install.

It’s easily fixed by downloading the latest version, although I don’t know why Adobe don’t make the autoupdate feature of the Flash plugin a bit more aggressive. I can’t think of the last time I saw any prompts to update it, you can actually adjust the autoupdate settings via the Flash Player Settings Manager page on the Adobe website (which you probably never knew existed!).

Quick Look from Print progress dialog

I’m not totally sure this is a new feature to Snow Leopard, I may just have never noticed it before! If you hit space or double-click on a print job in the print progress you get a Quick Look preview of your document, even if it’s not new it’s quite a handy feature!

That’s my thoughts / experiences so far, I’ll add more to it as I come across things of interest. Anybody noticed any other new features / issues? Drop a comment if you want and I’ll maybe add it to the notes.

~~~~~

 

AVCHD Lite – What is it (and why can’t I edit it in iMovie or Final Cut)? (updated)

After a few years of being available there are now many hard-disk based video cameras that use the AVCHD format for video, support for the format in video editing software is well supported now on both Mac OS X and Windows by apps like Final Cut Pro / Express, iMovie, Adobe Premiere, VoltaicHD and more. This all leads to a much simpler experience for users of AVCHD cameras than it was a couple of years ago.

AVCHD Lite – Throwing a spanner in the works?

Image of Panasonic Lumix camera that uses the AVCHD Lite format

More recent digital stills camera have started coming with the ability to shoot HD video, for many of the small compact cameras there became a need for high-quality efficient video format that could be used in small compact cameras with less capable hardware. The solution to this was a variant of the AVCHD format called AVCHD Lite.

The main differences between AVCHD Lite and the regular AVCHD: a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720p in AVCHD Lite compared to 1920 x 1080p in regular AVCHD and a less-intensive compression method – both of which make the format more suitable for less powerful camera hardware.

Why can’t I edit AVCHD Lite in iMovie or Final Cut?

AVCHD Lite throws a spanner in the works because many of the existing AVCHD editing packages are incapable of supporting it without an update to the software. At the time of writing none of Apple’s video editing applications such as iMovie, Final Cut Pro or Express support the AVCHD Lite format. Adobe’s Premiere and Premiere Elements applications also do not appear to support AVCHD Lite at this time.

The only solution for AVCHD Lite on Mac OS X at the moment is the one that saved many an early adopter like myself a couple of years or so ago when AVCHD cameras first came out – VoltaicHD by Shedworx. This is a $35 app that will convert your AVCHD Lite footage to the Apple Intermediate Codec format that can then be used in any of Apple’s video editing applications.

Some Handy Links / References…

Here’s a few links to some handy information about AVCHD Lite:

Update:

As of 04/06/09 iMovie now supports editing of AVCHD Lite files with the iMovie 8.0.3 update!

How to edit AVCHD footage on Mac OSX? Final Cut Pro 6.0.1 and Voltaic to the rescue!

I’ve written a few times recently about the difficulties people have had editing video footage in the AVCHD format that is used by the new generation of Disc-based HD Cameras such as Sony’s HDR-SR7 and HDR-SR8. The main issue when I first wrote about it was that there wasn’t really *any* software available to edit the footage regardless of whether you were using a Mac OSX or Windows based system. Although the cameras had been out since mid 2006 the first fully capable software for editing the footage only became available with the recent release of Sony’s Vegas 7 editing software for Windows.

Ok, so you can edit AVCHD on Windows, but how do you edit AVCHD on Mac OSX?

So things were looking up at least for the Windows using owners of AVCHD capable camcorders, things weren’t looking nearly so bright for those of us wanting to edit AVCHD footage on Apple Mac OSX. Fortunately there are at least a couple of options now for Mac OSX systems. The first option was a bit of a surprise, albeit a very pleasant one!

Final Cut Pro 6.0.1 update adds AVCHD transfer capabilities

Apple’s own Final Cut Studio 2 suite had a minor update for Final Cut Pro to version 6.0.1 which added the capability to transfer the AVCHD footage. The reason why this update was a little bit of a surprise is that Apple were not listed on the Official AVCHD Consortium website, at least not until recently. The transfer process converts the AVCHD footage into either Apple’s new ProRes 422 codec or the Apple Intermediate codec. One very important point to keep in mind here though is that the AVCHD transfer on Mac OSX only works on Intel processor based Macs!

Apple has posted a few technote articles regarding working with AVCHD in Final Cut Pro which are worth reading, here’s a few key points to keep in mind:

  • AVCHD support is available only on Intel-based Macintosh computers.
  • DVD-based AVCHD camcorders are not currently supported in Mac OS X.
  • Standard definition video recorded with AVCHD camcorders cannot be accessed in the Log and Transfer window.
  • AVCHD footage is transcoded to the Apple ProRes 422 codec or Apple Intermediate Codec.
  • When you choose to transfer AVCHD audio in the Logging area, audio is automatically mixed down to stereo.
  • AVCHD files are transfered as entire files from beginning to end.

You can find further information in the following Apple technote, Technote 305997: About transferring AVCHD footage.

VoltaicHD from Shedworx.com

Final Cut Studio is a great solution for editing AVCHD footage on Mac OSX, however, if you don’t have Final Cut Studio and can’t afford the £849 to buy it, or if you’ve got Final Cut Studio but you’re using a PowerPC based system (in case you missed the two references above, AVCHD support in FCP is only available on Intel processor based machines!) then there is an alternative – VoltaicHD.

VoltaicHD is a $30 utility that converts AVCHD footage into HDV 1080i Apple Intermediate Codec format Quicktime movies. The Voltaic website sums up it’s purpose clearly: "VoltaicHD converts your HD movie clips into a Mac-friendly format, ready for editing in iMovie HD and Final Cut Express HD". This shouldn’t be taken as a limitation, the converted footage can be used on any video editing application.

The purchase price of $34.99 is a lot less than the cost of Final Cut Pro and the advantage of working with both Intel and PowerPC based Macs is also pretty awesome. It’s a pretty new application but it is at least past the version 1.0 mark and is fairly stable, although the Voltaic FAQ page does list a few common technical issues that they are working on.

It’s worth reading through the VoltaicHD FAQ as they answer quite a lot of common questions about the issues encountered converting AVCHD footage using Voltaic. Some of the questions answered are:

  • How long does the conversion take?
  • How big are the output files?
  • What is the output format
  • Is there any quality loss in the conversion?

The VoltaicHD development blog is well worth reading as it gives the background to the past and future development of VoltaicHD. There are also some screencasts which are very useful, and finally there is a demo version of Voltaic available to download so you can try it out before paying any money for a licence. The only limitations in the demo are that it will only convert a single file less than 20mb and a limit of up to 10 conversions. However, for $35 buying a licence isn’t going to break the bank!

So which is best, Final Cut Pro or Voltaic?

Well, at the moment I can’t say, I haven’t tried either of these options at the time of writing. I have just purchased Final Cut Studio so I am now in a position to do a bit of a comparision between these two applications, I’ve had a fair bit of footage sitting waiting for the time that I would be able to edit it without having to resort to a Windows PC running Vegas 7! ;)

I’ll hopefully post a bit of a comparison once I get a chance to try both applications out.

But what about Adobe Premiere Pro CS3? Doesn’t it edit AVCHD?

Although Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 has now returned to the Mac platform neither the Mac or Windows versions supports the AVCHD format. There were quite a few rumours and unofficial statements by Adobe employees that indicated that it may have support for AVCHD but I have had it confirmed that there is definitely no support for it in Premiere Pro CS3, although it does look likely that it wil be in the next version. Perhaps there will be an incremental update to bring some kind of compatibility there in the way that Apple have added it to Final Cut Pro? Until that happens Voltaic is the best option for Premiere Pro CS3 Mac users.

Update #1 – Sony HDR-SR1 / SR7 Apple Tech Support Article

Someone posted a link in a comment below to an Apple tech Support article called “iMovie ?08 and Sony HDR-SR1 and HDR-SR7 compatibility” which is worth reading if you’re using one of those cameras, especially if you’re using a G5 processor based system rather than an Intel processor. It just goes to show that Voltaic is definitely a very useful application for those on non-intel, older machines who want to work with AVCHD footage.

Update #2 – VoltaicHD now on Windows! Convert AVCHD for use in Windows Movie Maker

You can now get VoltaicHD for Windows, so if you’re a PC user looking for an easy way to edit AVCHD footage and use it in Windows Movie Maker then go check out VoltaicHD for PC or read my more recent post Budget AVCHD editing in Windows: VoltaicHD for PC & Windows Movie Maker!

Update #3 – Burn Blu-ray compatible and AVCHD DVDs using RevolverHD for Mac

Once you’ve edited your HD footage then what do you do with it? Well, if you want to put it onto an blu-ray compatible DVD then now there’s an easy way! Find out more about RevolverHD.

Update #4 – 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.

~Rick