What is AVCHD

What is AVCHDAVCHD (Audio and Video Compression for High Definition) is a high-definition and standard-definition recording format for use in digital tapeless camcorders. The format is comparable to other handheld video camera recording formats, particularly TOD, and HDV.

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AVCHD (AVC-HD, AVC HD) video is recorded using the MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video compression codec. Audio is stored in either compressed form (Dolby AC-3), or uncompressed form (multichannel PCM). Aside from recorded audio and video, AVCHD includes features to improve media presentation: menu navigation, slide shows and subtitles. The menu navigation system is similar to DVD-video, allowing access to individual videos from a common intro screen. Slide shows are prepared from a sequence of AVC still frames, and can be accompanied by a background audio track. Subtitles are used in some camcorders to timestamp the recordings.

Audio, video, subtitle, and ancillary streams are multiplexed together into an MPEG-2 Transport stream. The MPEG-2 transport stream is stored on random-access media as binary files. (In general, the FAT32 filesystem is used for memory cards and HDDs, ISO9660 is used on optical-disc.)

At the file system level, the structure of AVCHD is derived from the Blu-ray Disc specification, but is not identical to it. In particular, known Canon and Panasonic implementations use old-fashioned "8.3" file naming convention, while Blu-ray discs utilize long filenames. Another difference is location of the BDMV folder, which contains media files. On a DVD-based camcorder the BDMV folder is placed at the root level, just like on a Blu-ray disc. On the HDD-based Canon HG10 camcorder the BDMV folder is located in the AVCHD folder, which is placed at the root level. Solid-state Panasonic and Canon camcorders nest the AVCHD folder inside the PRIVATE folder. Following a standard agreed upon by many still camera manufacturers, solid-state camcorders have a root-level DCIM folder for still images.

AVCHD recordings can be transferred to a computer by connecting the camcorder via the USB connection. Many camcorders can record to removable media like SDHC and Memory Stick cards or DVD discs, which can be directly read on a computer. Copying files from an AVCHD camcorder can be performed much faster than from a tape-based camcorder, because it does not have to be done in realtime.

Just as HDV-editing once demanded an expensive high-end PC, the system requirements for AVCHD editing software currently limits it to powerful machines. Compared to HDV, AVCHD video compression requires 2-4x the processing power, placing a greater burden on the computer memory and CPU. Older computers, even those that are capable of handling HDV, are often unacceptably slow for editing AVCHD, and can even struggle with smooth playback of AVCHD recordings. Improvements in multi-core computing and graphics processor acceleration is bringing AVCHD playback to mainstream desktops and laptops.


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