AVCHD Lite – What is it (and why can’t I edit it in iMovie or Final Cut)? (updated)

After a few years of being available there are now many hard-disk based video cameras that use the AVCHD format for video, support for the format in video editing software is well supported now on both Mac OS X and Windows by apps like Final Cut Pro / Express, iMovie, Adobe Premiere, VoltaicHD and more. This all leads to a much simpler experience for users of AVCHD cameras than it was a couple of years ago.

AVCHD Lite – Throwing a spanner in the works?

Image of Panasonic Lumix camera that uses the AVCHD Lite format

More recent digital stills camera have started coming with the ability to shoot HD video, for many of the small compact cameras there became a need for high-quality efficient video format that could be used in small compact cameras with less capable hardware. The solution to this was a variant of the AVCHD format called AVCHD Lite.

The main differences between AVCHD Lite and the regular AVCHD: a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720p in AVCHD Lite compared to 1920 x 1080p in regular AVCHD and a less-intensive compression method – both of which make the format more suitable for less powerful camera hardware.

Why can’t I edit AVCHD Lite in iMovie or Final Cut?

AVCHD Lite throws a spanner in the works because many of the existing AVCHD editing packages are incapable of supporting it without an update to the software. At the time of writing none of Apple’s video editing applications such as iMovie, Final Cut Pro or Express support the AVCHD Lite format. Adobe’s Premiere and Premiere Elements applications also do not appear to support AVCHD Lite at this time.

The only solution for AVCHD Lite on Mac OS X at the moment is the one that saved many an early adopter like myself a couple of years or so ago when AVCHD cameras first came out – VoltaicHD by Shedworx. This is a $35 app that will convert your AVCHD Lite footage to the Apple Intermediate Codec format that can then be used in any of Apple’s video editing applications.

Some Handy Links / References…

Here’s a few links to some handy information about AVCHD Lite:


As of 04/06/09 iMovie now supports editing of AVCHD Lite files with the iMovie 8.0.3 update!

13 Replies to “AVCHD Lite – What is it (and why can’t I edit it in iMovie or Final Cut)? (updated)

  1. Anyway to convert AVCHD Lite to M2T format? My Avid Media Composer 5 can support M2T files very well, but it cannot work with AVCHD Lite MTS files come from my Lumix GH2K.
    Thank you!

  2. @Cyrus: Since Windows 7 came out there is now some native support for AVCHD in Windows, but you need to have either Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate in order to access it.

    You need to download Windows Live Movie Maker in order to do any editing with it but you should be able to preview AVCHD footage within Windows Media Player, as long as you have one of the previously mentioned versions of Windows 7.

    Hope that helps!

  3. Since it has been a couple of years since your original blog was written regarding AVCHD Lite has the "useability" improved for average joe PC users?

  4. @Doug: Sorry, I haven’t encountered that issue on any AVHCD device. I’d suggest checking the forums for that particular camera.

  5. Two spots have recently appeared on all images I am taking on my Lumix avchd lite.
    I have cleaned the external lense surface but no avail and suspect internal gremlins.
    Have you met this problem.
    Regards Doug

  6. As we know, although Apple has made it clear that iMovie 09’ is able to edit the AVCHD Lite video, but I hang out the video editing forums, questions like “I wasn’t able to import AVCHD Lite to iMovie…” come up from time to time. For those who have got into trouble when load the AVCHD Lite MTS video to iMovie 08’ (or even 09’), the following guide might be a trick to solve the problem. In order to have the AVCHD Lite video files generated by the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT1 work with iMovie, you can convert these footage to iMovie compatible formats like MOV or DV.

    For more information please refer to:

  7. Ive just confirmed that AVCHD Lite works with Apple Imovie '09. I use Panasonic GF1 micro 4/3 SLR. Make sure you get the latest updates from Apple for Imovie '09 or Final Cut.

  8. The latest version of Avidemux (which is free, open-source, and multi-platform) can edit, transcode, or losslessly remux AVCHD Lite .mts files from the DMC-ZS3/TZ7 into several different formats. However, the framerate must be manually changed to 29.97 before remuxing or transcoding.

  9. Thanks for the comment Dan, glad the article was helpful :)

    I took a quick look at your site, you've got some interesting stuff going on!

  10. Thanks for the concise info and extra links! I've been bashing my head against the wall trying to work out how to feed premiere my AVCHD Lite footage… looks like Voltaic will do the trick. I also blog on creative problem solving here: http://www.danimations.com.au/blog … drop by sometime!

  11. All the real work in Voltaic is done by the free software ffmpeg.

    HandBrake is a similar product that uses the same backend ffmpeg and is completely free and has more flexibility for the power user.

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