AVHD stands for Advanced Video Codec High Definition. It is high definition camcorder video format jointly developed by Panasonic and Sony for use in consumer camcorders.
High Definition in Small Spaces
AVCHD records video at a range of resolutions including 1080p, 1080i and 720p. Most AVCHD camcorders that advertise themselves as “Full HD” models will record HD video at a resolution of 1080i. The new AVCHD format records high-definition 1080i or 720p video to a DVD, a hard drive, or a flash memory card.
One of the benefits of the AVCHD format is the ability to burn high definition video to a standard DVD disc. That DVD disc can then be played in a Blu-ray disc player, allowing you to view your high definition video on an HDTV. So even if you don’t own a Blu-ray disc burner, you can still play back your high definition home movies on a Blu-ray disc player (or even a Sony PlayStation 3).
AVCHD video can also be burned directly to a blank Blu-ray disc or output to a TV via an HDMI cable or component outputs. It can also be transferred to and viewed on a computer.
What’s the Catch?
This all sounds good so far: We’ve got high-def video and high-quality sound in a format that doesn’t take up much space. But it does take more space than standard-definition video. According to Sony, the maximum amount of sound and video you’ll be able to fit on a single-layer DVD using the DCR-UX1 at the maximum quality setting is a meager 15 minutes. Standard-def DVD camcorders can hold around 20 minutes at their maximum quality. You’ll be able to increase that to an hour on the Sony HDR-UX1 by lowering the quality and using the recently announced double-layer 8cm DVD discs, but how well the quality holds up at the lower-quality settings remains to be seen.
Another wrinkle comes when you want to do something with the video: The new format is incompatible with existing high-definition camcorders and editing systems. At the moment, most software will be unable to read the discs or files that the new camcorders produce.
That limitation will ease, though: A number of video software companies have signed up to support the AVCHD format, including Adobe, Sonic, and Ulead. They will offer programs that support the new format (and will perhaps update their existing products to do the same), though none have released details about when this will happen. Sony Japan will include a basic video editing program with the new camcorders, and one hopes Sony US will do the same.
So for the first generation of products, the video editing choices are going to be limited; however, options will appear down the line.
Sony also claims that you’ll be able to watch footage recorded on an AVCHD camcorder to DVD on both Blu-ray Disc players and the forthcoming PlayStation 3. The discs won’t be compatible with older DVD players, though–most won’t have the processing power to decompress the MPEG-4 video. Both Panasonic and Sony are planning to license the technology, however; so we will probably see AVCHD-compatible DVD players from them and other manufacturers shortly.
One major advantage of the new format is that you won’t need an expensive Blu-ray Disc or HD DVD burner to use it: Because you can store the video on the same standard DVDs you already use, you can use the same DVD burner. All you’ll need is the new software to write the video out in the correct format and an AVCHD-compatible player.
Are All HD Camcorders AVCHD Camcorders?
No. Not all camcorder manufacturers use the AVCHD format. MOD and TOD are informal names of tapeless video formats used by JVC (MOD and TOD), Panasonic (MOD only) and Canon (MOD only) in some models of digital camcorders. MOD is used exclusively for standard definition video files, while TOD is used for high definition files.