The Mac-age: I've Seen the Deal-Stopper, and Its Name is Video

It’s no secret that I have been considering going all-Apple, which at this point would only require that I dump my HP desktop for an iMac or more likely one of the forthcoming new Mac Pros.  All of my other important gear is already Apple.  Until last night, things were looking good.

I’ve concluded that routine computing (email, Google Reader, web browsing, Facebook, and word processing) works very well on a Mac.  In fact, in many ways I like the vibe and feel of OS X better than that of Windows 7.  I was surprised by how much I like Safari.  I still haven’t installed Firefox (fading) or Chrome (rising) on my Mac Mini.  Add the superior handling of audio-video content via Front Row and Plex, and it was starting to look like I might soon get my official Apple fan-boy card.

Prior to last night, the only things left to check out were video editing (which I do a fair amount of, for home movies and the occasional short film), and music creation (which I used to do all the time, haven’t done much lately, but may do more thanks to the reunion of my friend’s band (yes, that’s a hint of things to come)).  Given the conventional wisdom that Macs are so much better for creative work, I didn’t expect a problem.

Boy, was I wrong.

I bought Final Cut Express (called FCE by those in the know), and installed it on my Mac Mini.  The program has that odd Apple organizational structure all over it, but there’s no denying that it is a powerful tool.  So I concluded it would be just a matter of learning my way around it.  If I can figure out Photoshop, no software can defeat me.

And then I tried to import some AVCHD files.  You know, those HD files that just about every HD camera in the known universe uses.  No go.  Can’t do.

Seriously?  I thought Steve Jobs’ General Order #1 was to make things easy for the consumer?  Isn’t that why Apple keeps competing apps out of the App Store?

I understand and sometimes even agree with Apple’s app-control policies (for example, I’m glad Apple tries to keep certain family unfriendly content out of the App Store).  But Apple is simply not going to change the entire home video industry by limiting AVCHD compatibility.

Someone is going to tell me how you can import AVCHD files into FCE, if you do it directly from the camera or maybe if you copy over the entire file structure from the camera.  Well guess what?  That’s not how I do it.  I copy all of the video files into production folders on my network storage and then pick and choose from there.  This works just fine for Windows applications (though I remain worried that Corel is going to screw up Video Studio Editor, which is my Windows app of choice; and I have to point out that VSE doesn’t like QuickTime files either).  I don’t know the background of this frustrating incompatibility, but Corel and Apple need to face the fact that (a) most video cameras record in AVCHD and (b) all iPhones record in QuickTime (.mov).  All of these things need to play well together.

Someone else is going to tell me about these programs that will convert the AVCHD files to MP4, which FCE can import.  Why?  Why in the world should that be necessary?  Furthermore, I tried one.  It took forever to convert the files (remember my theme that time is a precious commodity), and the quality of the converted video was close to horrible and far from HD.

So, until further notice, my all-Apple plan is on hold.  I’m not going to pay a fortune for a Mac Pro only to make tasks harder.

What a shame.  I was looking forward to getting my fan-boy card.

6 thoughts on “The Mac-age: I've Seen the Deal-Stopper, and Its Name is Video

  1. Of course, buying Final Cut Express is like buying Photoshop Elements. It's VERY limited and, while I get your overall point, if you really do want to edit for quality, break down and get Final Cut Pro or, even better, Adobe Premier. Frankly, iMovie can suffice if you aren't going to go for a more robust editor.As for music, there's no comparison. All of the most used music software titles – Pro Tools, Digital Performer, etc – work better on the Mac platform. I don't know a music professional who opts for PC over Mac in that regard.

  2. The problem with FCP or Primier is the dollars. Very expensive. I have been pretty happy with VSE in Windows (save for the QT file-related crashes), so I figured the more expensive (than VSE) FCE would be enough for me. And I think it would if not for the AVCHD thing.Yeah, I'm certain I'd like the Mac music production stuff a lot. If I end up writing a lot again, that will definitely be a plus in the Mac column.I just cannot comprehend why Apple wouldn't want more file compatibility in its video apps, particularly give the extent to which AVCHD has become, for better or worse, the norm.

  3. If you can't afford Final Cut Pro then try iMovie. You can download the older version from the Apple website, which I think if the better of the two. It has worked well for pretty much anything I have needed to create.

  4. I have iMovie with my Mac Mini, and I think it would work fine for me. The reason I bought FCE is I thought I read that it fully supported AVCHD files, which of course I now know it doesn't. One option would be to find a camera that records in a format that will fully import into FCE (my video camera is old, and I want to move to a flash card system for easy file handling), but I don't know of any models I'd consider (Pan, Sony, Canon, etc.) that do that.

  5. First of all, thanks for the heads up on that guy. He does very helpful videos, and I've subscribed to him in YT.In that clip, he's importing directly from the camera, which I don't want to do. I take my video clips and move them onto my network production folders. From there I grab the ones I want when I need them. He was adding a folder, but it was a folder located on his camera. I want to do that with a folder on my network that has the raw .mts files in it. That is apparently a no-go in FCE.

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