Yesterday, my kids were making a home movie to send to my mother in law. They’d made up some songs, which I’d recorded and were shooting the video to go with them. I suggested that they should edit the video in iMovie on my macbook pro. I figured that they should be able to cope fine with it – they’ve used macs at school to edit video and together with the “legendary” ease of use and “just works” approach of Apple software, it should be no problem. Sadly, they never got to try.
The camera I use is a Canon HG20. It has an inbuilt hard drive and records video in the AVCHD format. This is an HD video format for consumer grade cameras and is used widely in mainstream cameras by the main camera makers. I have the latest version of iMovie ’11, which claims to have support for the AVCHD format. However, apparently, this support is limited and selective. Unfortunately, I have a camera that produces unsupported files. After trying to import the files into iMovie, iMovie simply says there has been an error importing the files, and would I like to make an archive of the files – very helpful. According to the Apple site, the HG20 is supported by iMovie – they refer to a few limitations with this camera, but these relate to playback, not import.
So linux to the rescue. I do all my video editing in kdenlive, so the attempt at using iMovie was a bit of an experiment. With linux, I just connect my camera, and add the .MTS files to the project. From there, they can be dragged on to the time line and away you go. No fuss, no convoluted import process which does a conversion of the file to an intermediate codec causing a loss of quality.
What this demonstrates to me is the benefit that Linux has derived from using a modular software stack where it can. kdenlive can read and edit AVCHD files because ffmpeg can read them and the MLT framework integrates with ffmpeg to decode and encode video files. This allows kdenlive to simply use the raw .MTS files direct from the camera as a USB mass storage device. This simplicity means it is reliable and robust. There is no proprietary import process, resulting in the kind of frustration I suffered with iMovie.