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TUTORIAL: this is how you can manually create and import your FCPX / iMovie / Aperture-compliant AVCHD camera archives

You may already have run into the problem of having to import  AVCHD videos into  Final Cut Pro X (FCPX), iMovie or Aperture on your Mac. You may know that if you have the original(!) archive the way your camera has saved it into its memory card, you can easily do this. However, should you want to manually create a file archive you want to import to these apps (or add videos to existing archives), you'll soon realize there aren't tutorials explaining this at all. Sure, you can always remux MTS files to MOVs (all these apps directly read MOV files – you can even drag them into the apps!) with a decent MTS -> MOV remuxer like iVI (review; additional article on this kind of remuxing) but it's a time-consuming project, particularly if you have several of files to convert around - it's always better to import the original, non-remuxed AVCHD files now that all these apps support them.

As this problem is very-very-very common and, in user forums, generally no true solution is suggested (see for example THIS thread), I've decided to investigate the problem myself and come up with a decent solution. I've decided to do so because not only manual file addition isn't explained, but also even plain AVCHD import has been made unnecessarily complicated in several posts. For example, many people suggest you must create a virtual disk in Disk Tool, copy the AVCHD directory structure there, mount the disk so that you can import AVCHD videos to  FCPX / iMovie etc. It's absolutely unnecessary.

Note that this isn't an iOS, but a Mac (and, AVCHD archive management/addition-wise, even Windows-)specific article. Nevertheless, I'm a video pro and have been publishing iOS video articles here – so, let me publish a non-iOS-specific one in this series, particularly because it also adds information to older iOS articles like yesterday's Part I of my Interlacing bible series.

First, let's start with the basics: importing  AVCHD videos into FCPX / iMovie /  Aperture on your Mac, plain and simple, without unnecessary steps like the above-mentioned disk image creation.

1. Import AVCHD videos into FCPX / iMovie /  Aperture

If you don't want to manually add vides to the camera archives and only want to know how your AVCHD videos should be imported to these three apps, this section is for you. Let's start with  FCPX.

1.1 Import into FCPX

1, click the “Import from Camera” icon in the Clip pane, annotated below with a red rectangle:



or select File >  Import from Camera. You'll be shown this; click “Open Archive” at the bottom:



2, Now, navigate to the directory containing the PRIVATE or AVCHD directory (the latter is inside  PRIVATE in several (but not all – see the multiAVCHD tutorial below!) cases). The following screenshot shows navigating to a directory named “tobackup” , which, in addition to two other directories, has an AVCHD-compliant  PRIVATE directory in it:



(You can quickly see it's  AVCHD-compliant by it not being rendered as a folder. Should you, say, remove the file PRIVATE/AVCHD/BDMV/index.bdm (the main Blu-ray desrcriptor) from it, it would become un-importable and the whole “PRIVATE” would become rendered as a casual directory.)

3, Here, in this directory, without selecting anything, just click “Open”. The clips will be listed and you can select what you need:



The clips will immediately be imported and you can start working.

Side note: Incidentally, I could check out the individual (top) fields of the 1080i60 Sony RX100 video I've imported this way and didn't need to put it into a project (as opposed to the videos I've imported yesterday – see my Interlacing bible Part I), also setting its parameters. A screenshot showing this is HERE and HERE for the one- and two-field-case, respectively.)

1.2 Import into iMovie

Select File > Import > Camera Archive. You're presented this:



Select full-quality import (the bottom), unless you really don't want the best possible quality.

Now, navigate to the directory with the root of your AVCHD directory. iMovie will even tell you it recognizes a camera archive in there (see the annotation below):



Import all clips (or, if you switch the switch in the lower left corner, select the ones you need manually; this case is shown in the following shot):



After this, you only need to supply where, which event to import the clip(s) to.

1.3 Import into Aperture

Click the “Import” icon (second on the top left; see annotation below), navigate to the directory containing the root of your AVCHD archive (bottom center, also annotated), select the clips you want to import and click “Import Checked” (bottom right, also annotated):



Now, to the question of manually adding files to AVCHD archives.

2. Manually creating / adding files to AVCHD (camera) archives

Above, I've already mentioned [PRIVATE/]AVCHD/BDMV/index.bdm is the main AVCHD / Blu-ray descriptor, which, among other things, tells the AVCHD-capable apps what clips there are in the archive. This is why, for example, you can't just copy additional M(2)TS files to [PRIVATE/]AVCHD/BDMV/STREAM, not even if you name them properly (for example, if the last original file in the STREAM directory was "00007.MTS", you name your copied file "00008.MTS" and so on) – they simply won't be shown when trying to import the camera archive.

A quick glance into index.bdm reveals it's a binary file and, therefore, can't be edited manually – only via third-party apps. Of them, there are two very famous ones: bdedit and multiAVCHD. We'll need the latter (the former isn't able to add new files, albeit knows a lot of niceties like MTS demuxing.) Download and install it. Note that it'll work under CrossOver on the Mac just fine; I've made my screenshots below in this mode. (Note that, by default, the output files will be stored under ~/Library/Application Support/CrossOver/Bottles/multiAVCHD_4.1.exe/drive_c/multiAVCHD with CrossOver.)

First, click “Add video files” in the top left corner (annotated below). Add any number of files. In this example, I only add MTS ones; however, you could add even AVI's, MOV's etc. An example of adding several camera videos I've collected for my forthcoming Camera Connection Kit and iOS Compatibility bible (see their name in the “Compilation” group, after returning from “Add video files”):



Click “Start” in the bottom right (also annotated above). In the next dialog, select the (default) PS3 one (top left, annotated):



The AVCHD archive creation starts. When it ends, you'll be notified in the status row:

Note that multiAVCHD doesn't create a topmost "PRIVATE" directory. The three apps will import the files it creates nonetheless - you won't need to create the directory either.


Side note: THIS DBM editor has nothing to do with our index.bdm file – it's a database editor.

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Werner Ruotsalainen is an iOS and Java programming lecturer who is well-versed in programming, hacking, operating systems, and programming languages. Werner tries to generate unique articles on subjects not widely discussed. Some of his articles are highly technical and are intended for other programmers and coders.

Werner also is interested in photography and videography. He is a frequent contributor to not only mobile and computing publications, but also photo and video forums. He loves swimming, skiing, going to the gym, and using his iPads. English is one of several languages he speaks.