Shedworx’ State of the Union 2010

I’ve written a few times about the various apps that the guys over at Shedworx make and I’m always keen to see how their product range is developing and improving.

They published a blog post recently outlining their development plans for 2010 and their main focus for 2010 is on two areas: AVCHD workflow and Digital Asset Management. As such there’s some great improvements in store for their VoltaicHD and FlamingoHD applications.

VoltaicHD: End-to-end native AVCHD workflow

In their post they talk about how they’ve always been working towards having a completely native AVHCD workflow for VoltaicHD which started with the basic AVCHD editor that was added to VoltaichHD 2.

The next step in the process is adding native AVCHD output from Voltaic including trimming / joining files. So you’ll be able to import AVCHD footage from your camera, do some simple editing and then output an AVCHD format file without having to do any format conversion. The end result should fast output of great quality files.

One cool aspect of this for me is that I’ll be able to edit some AVCHD footage and then burn it as an AVCHD disk that can play on my PS3 using Shedworx’ other app RevolverHD.

VoltaicHD is available as both Mac and Windows apps.

FlamingoHD: Improved Asset Management

FlamingoHD is Shedworx’ youngest product but one that has proven to be very useful for managing media imported from AVCHD cameras.

The areas to be improved in 2010 include re-working the media views to provide a faster, easier way to navigate your library.

Improvements in managing your library and metadata. Support for simple editing of all supported media types is also a planned feature.

FlamingoHD is available as as Mac app.

Shedworx Forums

So, I’m looking forward to seeing the improved apps as they’re released. Don’t forget too that Shedworx have support Forums on their website so if you’re looking for help and support with their products then it should be first on your list of places to go:

Shedworx’ VoltaicHD app to add native preview / edit features

The Shedworx guys are always busy working away on improving their applications (VoltaicHD, FlamingoHD, RevolverHD) for working with AVCHD video. In a recent blog post on their site they highlighted the fact that Mac OSX 10.6 Snow Leopard doesn’t bring any changes in support for the AVCHD video format, basically OSX 10.6 still can’t natively open or edit AVCHD video so it needs to be converted in order to be edited within apps such as iMovie or Final Cut Pro.

This lack of native support has encouraged the Shedworx guys to bring some simple trimming and editing features into version 2 of VoltaicHD which will hopefully be out in October. This will be a really handy feature as it will allow some very quick editing of files without the need for conversion. It will be especially useful if you just want to grab a small section of a clip and convert that for editing in iMovie or Final Cut instead of having to convert the entire clip.

So far they’ve got basic trimming features working and have published a demo movie showing how it works, all in all it’s looking to make VoltaicHD an even handier application!

Update – VoltaicHD 2 released in October 2009

Shedworx have released version 2 of VoltaicHD adding new features such as preview of AVCHD / AVCHD Lite clips, native editing of AVCHD video and the ability to upload video to YouTube. I’ve written a post with an overview of VoltaicHD 2.

iMovie in the Cloud? More like head in the Clouds…

Every year when Macworld Expo in San Francisco draws near it sparks off a bunch of rumours about new products to be launched. I’ve already written a couple of posts (iPhone Shuffle, Mock Mini) in response to some of the rumours.

However, as obviously fake as the mockup of the rumoured Mac Mini update was nothing takes the dumb award like the rumour of an online version of iMovie! A few sites including Techcrunch have written about this rumour but there’s one simple reason which make it unlikely: Bandwidth.

Space Bandwidth – The final frontier

Broadband connections in the UK and US vary between about 2Mb – 20Mb, probably the average connection is about 8Mb1 and even then that is affected by the usual ‘distance from the exchange’ deterioration. Most broadband connections are asymmetric so the download speed is much faster than the upload speed regardless of whether it is a cable or ADSL connection. For the typical 8Mb connection the upload is likely to be less than 1Mb, probably more like 512Kb, so basically you get 1/16th upload speed compared to download. However, even as download speeds increase the upload speed often doesn’t increase at a similar rate, it can reduce to about 1/24th or 1/30th of the download speed.

A camel through the eye of a needle

A basic feature that an online version of iMovie would need to do is allow you to upload video files so you can edit them. It would presumably have to be capable of editing HD video too seeing as most consumer cameras, especially things like the Flip Mino HD,Kodak Zi6 etc are HD capable.

However, HD video footage is big, disk space per hour of footage is at least 6GB2 therefore a 1 minute clip would be at least 100MB in size. Uploading this file on an average (but perhaps generous) broadband connection with 512Kb upload speed would take around 30 minutes! On 256Kb upload that would be an hour!

When you look at those figures you can see the biggest weak spot of any kind of online editing system, especially HD.

iLife / iWork in the Cloud?

It is feasible that Apple could release some more advanced online tools to accompany their iLife / iWork suites, after all the MobileMe Mail and iCal apps are pretty good web-based tools. I think a more obvious choice would be for some kind of online version of iPhoto in the vein of Photoshop Express or Picnik (notwithstanding that full size raw images would present a challenge for uploading too, nothing like the challenge of video files though).

Apple have always been very forward thinking, declaring the floppy drive dead with the launch of the original iMac and declaring 2005 the year of HD with the launch of iMovie HD and Final Cut Express HD. However, I just can’t see that Apple are going to be so forward thinking in regards to improvements in broadband speeds that they will make iMovie into a web app!

It will be interesting to see what is announced on Monday 5th January, I’m very much doubting that I will be eating my words here! I’m still hanging out for the iPhone Shuffle though ;)

1. These speeds are a guesstimate but I imagine they’re not far from the truth.
2. One hour of HD footage in AVCHD format is 6Gb, sizes can increase to 100’s of Gbs for other formats, bit rates etc.

Budget AVCHD editing in Windows: VoltaicHD for PC and Windows Movie Maker!

I’ve previously written about How to edit AVCHD footage on Mac OSX, at the time of writing that article there weren’t many options for editing AVCHD footage on either Mac OSX or Windows operating systems. VoltaicHD is a great application that helped Mac OSX users in particular because at that time there was no way of editing AVCHD on Mac at all.

Many Mac users had purchased AVCHD cameras and were frustrated by the complete lack of software available for editing AVCHD on Mac and even Windows users had to wait quite a few months before Sony released a version of their Vegas software that supported AVCHD.

Since then though, there are quite a few options for Mac users: Final Cut Studio and Final Cut Express offered mid to high end products for the Mac platform. Also Apple’s own iMovie software had a complete revamp and amongst many new features was direct support for AVCHD based cameras, a perfect budget solution as the software was included free with any new Mac or as part of Apple’s iLife suite for about £55 / $79.

However for Windows users, despite the availability of software like Sony Vegas, many people wanted a way to edit AVCHD without having to buy editing software that cost as much (or more!) than they spent on their cameras in the first place! There was no easy way to do this on a low budget, you could find articles on the web with instructions on how to use various applications or utilities to convert the AVCHD files into various formats, but nothing simple that would allow non-technical users to edit AVCHD footage. But now there is an easy solution.

VoltaicHD for PC & Windows Movie Maker: A low budget way to edit AVCHD!

The company that produced the VoltaicHD application for Mac OSX, Shedworx, has released a Windows version of VoltaicHD that is compatible with both Windows XP and Vista. You can convert your AVCHD footage into WMV or AVI format video which can then be used with Windows Movie Maker or other video editing application for Windows.

Windows Movie Maker is a video editing package that comes with both XP and Vista, and contrary to popular belief it is actually capable of working with HD video footage, but just not with native AVCHD footage. That’s where VoltaicHD fits in, by converting the footage to WMV format you can edit the footage from your HD video camera using just Windows Movie Maker!

Tips for converting / editing AVCHD with Voltaic and Windows Movie Maker

There are a few minimum system requirements to run VoltaicHD for PC but any reasonably modern PC should be capable of processing the AVCHD files. It’s worth noting of course that HD video is very intensive to work with and requires greater resources than editing conventional standard definition video footage. On a system with the minimum hardware requirements (as detailed below) it will take about 2 minutes to convert a 10 second AVCHD clip. It is obviously recommended to have as powerful a system as you can manage but even a slightly older machine should be capable of producing results – as long as you have a little patience and perspective! On the plus side the converted video files result in uncompressed HD video which can be played back more easily than the original AVCHD files on the minimum hardware spec machine.

Minimum Hardware requirements: At least 1GB of RAM, at least a 2Ghz P4 processor or equivalent processor and as much hard disk space as possible. AVCHD footage uses about 120Mb per minute of video footage, once this footage has been processed it uses about 500Mb per minute of video, so disk space is quickly used up.

Minimum Software requirements: Either Windows XP SP2+ or Vista, Microsoft Movie Maker 2.1+ and Windows Media Player v11+.

VoltaicHD can convert AVCHD footage to either WMV or AVI formats, however WMV is the preferred format as it keeps the aspect ratio correct no matter the resolution of your source AVCHD footage. There is no loss in picture quality when converting the AVCHD footage to either WMV or AVI. However, the audio track is affected during conversion, AVCHD can use Dolby 5.1 surround sound but only Sony cameras use this, Panasonic, Canon and JVC use stereo only. Any Dolby 5.1 sound is dropped back to stereo audio as this is all that Window Movie Maker supports.

Converting files using VoltaicHD for PC

You need set up the various preferences before using VoltaicHD for the first time, you can go back and change these preferences later by going to the Tools->Options menu option, or via the toolbar button.

  • Scratch file location: VoltaicHD creates temporary files during conversion, you can set where these should be created to a location of your choice. If you are converting large files from an external storage location, and want to preserve disk space on the machine running the conversions, you should set this location to be on the external storage device.
  • Output Directory: You can set where the final converted final files will be placed.
  • Extract 5.1ch Audio: The audio track from your movie can be extracted during the conversion process.
  • Output Format: WMV format is the recommended format for your converted clips.

Once you’ve got VoltaicHD installed on your system and Preferences all set up you are ready to go. Although it’s worth keeping in mind some suggestions for converting your AVCHD clips:

  • Make sure to copy all clips from your camera onto your hard drive before converting. It’s not worth risking trying to convert footage straight from your camera as it can be problematic.
  • Keep a VoltaicHD shortcut on your Desktop, this makes it easy to just drag AVCHD clips onto it ready for conversion, or just to open up the application ;)
  • Try closing down any unnecessary programs during the conversion process. Converting AVCHD footage is very processor / memory intensive so freeing up resources on your computer helps a lot.
  • Watch out when converting large AVCHD files if using a FAT32 formatted drive as the converted files may result in files larger than the 2Gb limitation of FAT32 will allow.

Next, add some AVCHD files to the file list and press Start. The converted files are created in the same directory as the source files by default, or to the location you set in your Preferences.

Setting up and editing in Windows Movie Maker

You need to set up Movie Maker to the correct video format for your region, either PAL or NTSC, and also to widescreen (16:9). Go to Tools->Options and click on the Advanced tab. You should then see a section called Video properties where you can set the correct format (NTSC or PAL) and also the Aspect ratio to 16:9. There’s no need to set the video format (NTSC or PAL) in VoltaicHD as this is auto-detected from the AVCHD clip.

You can now edit your HD footage just like you would with any other footage in Windows Movie Maker.

Exporting from Windows Movie Maker

VoltaicHD provides an export profile for Movie Maker 2.1 on Windows XP which ensures that the full HD resolution of your completed movie can be exported.

To Export from Movie Maker, select the File->Save Movie menu option. This starts the Save Movie Wizard. Use the following settings:

  • Movie Location: My Computer
  • Choose a name for your exported movie
  • Movie Setting: select Other, then VoltaicHD 1080 from the drop down.
  • Note: Select VoltaicHD 1080 PAL or NTSC, based on the format you are using.

If you are using Movie Maker in Windows Vista, then VoltaicHD provides an export profile to ensure that the full HD resolution of your completed movie can be exported. If your movies are in 1440×1080 resolution you will also need to manually apply an Effect to your clips to retain the full 16:9 aspect or Widescreen mode. Once your clips are in your storyboard or timeline, right click each of the clips and select “Effect”. On the next window under “Available Effects” scroll down and click on “VoltaicHD Widescreen” then select “Add >>". Then select OK. The preview window should now be showing your clip in widescreen mode.

To Export from Movie Maker, select the File->Publish Movie menu option. This starts the Save Movie Wizard. Use the following settings:

  • Movie Location: My Computer
  • Choose a name for your exported movie
  • Movie Setting: select Other, then VoltaicHD 1080 from the drop down.
  • Note: Select VoltaicHD 1080 PAL or NTSC, based on the format you are using.

Movie Maker will then create your HD movie! All thanks to VoltaicHD for PC!

Playing back your HD footage

If you want to watch your HD footage on something other than your PC then you can watch on XBox, PS3 or any Blu-ray player. You’ll need something like Nero to burn a blu-ray DVD (AVCREC format).

The makers of VoltaicHD for PC make some software called RevolverHD which can create blu-ray compatible DVDs. However, there’s currently only a Mac version available, so if you happen to have access to a Mac then you can use that. If you’d like a PC version of RevolverHD then get in touch with the guys at Shedworx and let them know.

Happy editing :)

Update – VoltaicHD 2 released in October 2009

Shedworx have released version 2 of VoltaicHD adding new features such as preview of AVCHD / AVCHD Lite clips, native editing of AVCHD video and the ability to upload video to YouTube. I’ve written a post with an overview of VoltaicHD 2.

Burn Blu-ray compatible and AVCHD DVDs using RevolverHD for Mac

You’ve got a spanky new HD TV, you’ve been editing your HD footage on your Mac. But how do you get your HD footage on it without buying a blu-ray burner and a blu-ray player?

The answer: Burn Blu-ray compatible DVDs using RevolverHD for Mac OSX and play your HD footage from a regular DVD disc.

RevolverHD for Mac – Make blu-ray DVDs

RevolverHD (another product from the makers of VoltaicHD) which helps you play your edited HD footage from iMovie08 / iMovieHD / Final Cut Express on the Playstation3. It can also create Blu-ray compatible AVCHD DVDs using the unedited AVCHD clips directly from your camera.

You can download the demo version which will give you 3 test exports or burns. There’s an easy to follow user guide which will take you step by step through the process for iMovie08, iMovieHD and Final Cut Express.

Make blue-ray DVDs, even on non-Intel Macs

Like it’s companion product VoltaicHD, RevolverHD will work on both Intel and PowerPC Macs on both OSX 10.4 and 10.5 which is good news if you’ve got an older Mac without an Intel processor. Don’t forget though that the conversion process used by RevolverHD is pretty intensive so using your old G3 iMac isn’t going to be very fast, although it should be possible!

It’s also worth noting that AVCHD DVDs may not work on some blu-ray players, check out the RevolverHD FAQ for more details.

I’ve done some test discs which have successfully played back on a friend’s Playstation 3 so it certainly seems to do the job!