A few weeks ago I was editing my first AVCHD project in FCPX (I’ve edited AVCHD projects in legacy versions of FCP, but not yet in FCPX), and I’ll be darned if I didn’t have a heck of a time finding definitive information about the proper procedure for importing AVCHD video into Final Cut Pro X. As many of you probably know, AVCHD is a proprietary video format developed by Sony and Panasonic that is used in a number of cameras (e.g. the Canon’s C100, Sony’s FS100, the Panasonic’ GH2 to name a few). What makes it such a pain to use is that cameras that use it create this complex file structure in which the video is buried. It’s not like what you see on a traditional DSLRS which have .MOV files you can copy over. It’s a drag.
In Final Cut 7, once you had the special AVCHD plugin installed, you could import AVCHD footage via Log and Transfer. Apparently in earlier versions of FCPX you couldn’t do this. So when I was on a shoot a couple of weeks ago with the C100, I got to a point where I needed to reformat one of the cards. All my footage was double-backed up, but I didn’t want to format the card until I was confident FCPX wouldn’t need the actual card to import.
The Definitive Answer
Thankfully, FCPX can import AVCHD footage from a hard drive, but you need to make sure you preserve the original file structure. Copy the whole card just as it is, onto your drive. Then from within the FCPX import window, navigate to the folder, and voila, you’ll see the video clips and be able to import then as normal (They’ll be converted to H.264 .MOV files and copied to the “Original Media” folder.) You’ll notice that you won’t have the option to uncheck “Copy Media to Events Folder.” That’s because FCPX reads the archive as if it were a card. That means in essence you will be duplicating your footage. This was a pain for me because typically I just reference footage, so as to conserve disk space. (Technically, I guess once imported I could delete the original folder since I’ll always have a back up anyway.
Here are the AVCHD .mts video files as they appear in the Finder. You cannot copy over just the MTS files.
Here are how those files look in the FCPX import window. Now you can see the videos.
You’ll notice that the names of the clips are just chronological numbering (e.g. Clip #1, Clip #2, etc.) When imported into FCPX, they are renamed internally based on the year and date (e.g. 2013-05-3).
But, I could bypass FCPX import conversion altogether…
Importing vs. Transcoding (or Rewrapping)
One benefit of importing this way is that FCPX will import all the metadata as well. Another benefit is that while’s it’s importing and converting the footage, you can start editing. This is great if you’re editing a project that has to be completed the same day you shot it. But if you do have more time on your hands, you might consider transcoding the footage using a program like ClipWrap. ClipWrap can either rewrap the footage with a codec FCPX recognizes (a faster process) or transcode it completely. Rewrapping or transcoding to a format like ProRes has it’s benefits too. Depending on your system, speed of your hard drives, etc, you may find editing ProRes footage faster and smoother than H.264 footage. Another benefit of transcoding first is that if you do prefer to use references to footage vs. copying to the Events folder, this method will allow that.
Have you edited AVCHD footage with FCPX? What other tips and suggestions can you offer?