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Testing for this article has been in process for over three months. In this comparison review I take a look at three different video editing software packages and will give you my thoughts and experiences with each. My goal is to help you find the best software for editing high-definition AVCHD video files. The three software packages I tested all run on the PC platform - Pinnacle Studio Version 12 Plus, Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9 Platinum Edition, and Corel's VideoStudio Pro X2) . Each of the software packages retail for less than $100 and with discounts can be found for even less.
Before jumping into the review I wanted to explain what AVCHD is and why the industry is moving this way.
AVCHD video is a format that flash memory and hard drive based HD camcorders use to store video. Video is captured using MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) video compression and is quickly becoming popular due to the smaller files sizes. Until this year, the video quality of AVCHD camcorders were considered to be a notch below that of HDV camcorders as HDV camcorders record video to Mini DV tapes using a higher date rate (25 Mbps vs 17 Mbps). This year Canon and others have introduced new AVCHD camcorder models that can record video at up to 24Mbps, basically matching the quality of the HDV format.
With both formats now offering equally stunning quality what are the advantages / disadvantages of the AVCHD format?
Advantages of the AVCHD format
AVCHD allows the recording of high-definition video onto tapeless media such as flash memory or hard-drives (HDD). Each start/stop of the camcorder creates a new AVCHD video clip and all clips can quickly be transferred to your PC using a standard USB 2.0 cable. Unlike tape, which needs to be transferred to your PC in real time (1 hour of video takes 1 hour to transfer), AVCHD can be dragged and dropped very quickly - where 1 hour of video takes just minutes to transfer to the PC.
Disadvantages of the AVCHD format
Until this year any speed advantage that you gained using AVCHD to transfer data to your PC was lost in editing, since most video editing packages either lacked support for AVCHD editing or had to down-convert first during the render process. While AVCHD support in editing software has improved, there are still inconveniences that can make it a challenge if you don't use the right software or know the right output (render) settings.
Of course not everyone desires to ever edit their video and for those that don't, the convenience of an HDV camcorder cannot be stressed enough. Capturing your video memories directly to inexpensive Mini DV tapes make it easy to view, share and archive.
In this review I look at three software packages under $100 that allow you to edit your RAW AVCHD video clips. The goal is to help you find video editing software that will allow you to create professional results with the least amount of effort and frustration. I have broken this review into three sections: Capture, Edit, and Render (output). In each section I provide a video demonstration using each of the three software packages in order to demonstrate what might normally take pages for me to write and for you to read.
Okay, let's get the ball rolling by comparing the process of getting video from your camcorder into your PC using each of the three software packages.