Converting AVCHD to Vegas-friendly format

Guy S. wrote on 10/9/2012, 3:50 PM
I’m currently on Vegas 11 and will upgrade to 12 within the next few days. I shoot AVCHD with Panasonic GH1 & GH2 cameras and generally use 720-60p. Vegas handles this format well enough for quick projects but it doesn’t seem to be an optimal format for serious editing.

My timeline issues include low frame rate and/or low preview quality, loss of sync between video and VO track and, of course, the randomly regular application crashes. These things make editing a lot less fun, are an unneeded/unwanted/unloved distraction, and are largely due to editing AVCHD.

I’ve read numerous posts over the years and it seems to me that the folks having the best success with Vegas are using formats that are more edit-friendly – Sony HD-CAM vs. Canon DSLR .mov files, for example. I’ve tried Cineform, DNxHD, and .mxf (MPEG-2, HDCAM-EX) and of these I’ve had the best results with .mxf files. Timeline playback was stellar, even with the quality cranked up to Good Full and Vegas was absolutely stable.

I've found several threads here discussing workflows using Vegas scripts and Handbrake for transcoding to CODECS like Cineform, Matrox, Canopus HQ, AVID DNxHD and .mxf. I've avoided these workflows because they seemed cumbersome and transcoding is not accelerated.

I’ve tried Media Espresso and Adobe Media Encoder. Espresso is very fast with CUDA and something like 10x real time with Intel Quick Sync, but it doesn’t output a Vegas-friendly format. Media Encoder is easy to use and renders reasonably fast, but doesn’t output the .mxf format.

I’m wondering if there’s a new app or improved workflow that might meet my needs. Ideas?



videoITguy wrote on 10/9/2012, 4:23 PM
Guy S, you are absolutely right in coming to the conclusion that editing AVCHD in lengthy timelines is not what you want to do. You may want to investigate the new feature introduced in VegasPro12 that is built-in Proxy. This has been discussed at length in recent threads including the forum admin's great input. This feature has been built-in to take care of your request.

But to give full disclosure - this feature has also been discussed with regard to what would work even better- and you are on the right-track as mxf, Avid codec DNxHD, and cineform (my favorite choice) are the best of the best intermediates. Workflow can be and should be seamless.

To help you with this, invest in latest Vegasaur version compatible with VegasPro12 to get access to controlled proxy.
Guy S. wrote on 10/9/2012, 7:49 PM
Thanks for the proxy suggestion, I may at least try it since I plan on upgrading to V12 soon.

I suspect that I will still prefer to edit with full-res intermediates, however, and may give Cineform another look. Last time I tried Cineform the transcoding was not accelerated and I had to set the playback quality to Preview 1/2 in order to get a decent frame rate.

In terms of timeline performance, MXF seemed to work the best with Vegas. Why have you chosen Cineform, and do you have a particular workflow that you use with CF files?
videoITguy wrote on 10/9/2012, 8:17 PM
Glad you asked. Actually Cineform and MXF should play on the timeline as smooth as butter -in other words no halting frame steps. If you ever had other than that experience, then something was seriously wrong at the delployment level. That is the strongest selling point of using these proxies in high res.

Cineform is the best codec because it can work with Vegas at the 8bit level native to this NLE. It is a great compositor and that is exactly what half of the VegasPro app is -half compositor/half NLE.

You can transcode/proxy from AVCHD originals for your camera live-action shots, then bring into the composite level with multi-layers of other video streams possibly also in Cineform - then output to your desired render. Cineform will work well down to 5 gens away from original.

MXF works well but can only be used down 3 gens from original. MXF would be a great choice if you do extensive soundtracks that you want to output to synthetic 5.1 surround but that is another dimension altogether.
Rory Cooper wrote on 10/10/2012, 4:29 AM
VASST/NewBlue AVCHD Upshift = batch convert your AVCHD to high bitrate MPEG .m2t files

Run it in the background while you are working on other projects

I wish they would extend it to include other formats like AVCHD - Avid 1:1p and mov to etc
Guy S. wrote on 10/10/2012, 12:40 PM
Thanks, I'll check it out!

Have you noticed an improvement in timeline performance with this workflow compared to AVCHD?

I used Media Espresso to convert AVCHD to .m2t but for some reason the files performed poorly on the timeline - about the same as the source AVCHD files and not nearly as well as MPEG2 in the .mxf wrapper.

malowz wrote on 10/10/2012, 12:57 PM
as i mentioned in previous posts, i can't stop recommending Canopus HQ as intermediate codec.

its fast, stable, free. 32 and 64bits, VFW, directshow, and quicktime components.

i use a simple script to convert every event on timeline to a separated file in a new folder, and ready to edit.

works fine in my very cheap and old AMD quadcore. good thing is you got the best quality directly on timeline, you can delete the original files, and export/edit are very fast (no recompress) and very "economical" in memory use. the bad part is the files are around 4x-5x larger.
Guy S. wrote on 10/10/2012, 6:45 PM
I appreciate the recommendation. I used to edit with Premiere on Canopus hardware several years ago and Canopus was quite good.

I just finished experimenting with several different file types and found that XD CAM-EX worked quite well. I also had good success with Main Concept by modifying their Blu Ray preset. The files worked well on the timeline - I was able to get long dissolves+track motion+Pan/Crop at Good Full without dropping frames.

I used Vegas to render an AVCHD file to each format and these two used the CUDA cores and rendered faster than realtime.

I also tried using Vegas' Batch Render script and that worked, but the filenames did not match the original clips and that would be a problem for me.

I'm going to give MediaEspresso and Media Encoder another shot to see if either can create .m2t and .mp4 files comparable to what I did in Vegas. Their conversion process is fast and can keep the original file names.