Edit 1080/50p and burn a disk


I shoot all my clips only in the 1080/50p mode as it gives amazingly good video, and this can be played directly from the cam on an HDTV.  However, I always like to edit my movies, and my Mac can handle 1080/50p quite well, and I think any recent Mac should too.  I have a mid-2008 iMac with 24in screen, 2.8 GHz Core 2 Duo, 4Gb SDRAM, running Snow Leopard 10.6.4.  The graphics card is a ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro that was standard with that model. The description that follows refers to PAL models which have 50p video, but the same procedure is valid for NTSC models with 60p.

Editing with iMovie and burning to a DVD-R disk using Toast

The steps I use for editing the 1080/50p on my Mac and burning a Blu-Ray quality movie to a DVD-R that can be played via a Blu-Ray player on an HDTV are shown below.

  1. 1.Download and install the free software program by Alan Somers called Rewrap2M4V from:


or it can be downloaded here (471KB): Rewrap2M4V.app.zip

Note added Dec 2012:  There are three alternative free software programs for rewrapping the mts files which may offer advantages over the one given above.  These are:

Media Converter:






Of these, the one rated highest in user reviews is Media Converter, which is the one I now prefer to use myself.

2. Copy your AVCHD folder from the SD card onto your hard disk, then drag the mts files from the "Stream" folder onto the Rewrap2M4V icon, and they will be rewrapped as M4V files (almost instantly, with no transcoding).  I have found it best to only do up to about 7 mts clips at one time.  Sometimes, if I try to do more than that, the application may stall.  It isn't a real problem, but what happens is that you may get a file that is incompletely converted and the Rewrap2M4V application will remain open.  To overcome that, you simply close the application and put the incomplete M4V file in the trash, then repeat the conversion on the original mts file.

  1. 3.These M4V files can be directly imported into iMovie for editing, BUT first it is very important to change the iMovie '09 internal preferences so as to preserve the 50fps progressive.  If you don't do that, iMovie will convert your 50fps down to 25fps.  To set the preferences within iMovie '09, as described on one of the Apple forums, you need to access the hidden plist files in iMovie.

  1. 4.First download and install PListEditPro from:  


or it can be downloaded here (5.3MB): PlistEdit Pro.app.zip

Make sure that you have quit iMovie, then:

Look in the /Users/(your name)/Library/Preferences folder for the com.apple.imovie8.plist file (or simply search with Find for that file)  

Copy the com.apple.imovie8.plist file and name it com.apple.imovie8.25fps.plist

Look at the "More info" for the com.apple.imovie8.plist file, and where it says "open with", check that is says "PlistEditPro (default)"

Double click on the com.apple.imovie8.plist file, and a new window with a list of files will come up.

Scroll down through that list of files to find "videoFrameRate" (near the bottom)

This will show "Number:  25" (assuming you have previously set up your iMovie for PAL and not NSTC; for NSTC it will show 30)

Change this value from 25 to 50 (for NSTC you would change from 30 to 60)

Do File > Save and close.

You have now changed iMovie so that when it imports a video clip it will retain 50fps.  (However, because you now have two different Plist files, you can simply change back to the original 25fps setting if you ever need to, by renaming the files, since iMovie will only use the file that is called "com.apple.imovie8.plist".)


The procedure above is also valid for iMovie ’11, except that the file which needs to be changed is called “com.apple.iMovieApp.plist” instead of “com.apple.iMovie8.plist”.  However, the change that needs to be made in the com.apple.iMovieApp.plist file is to the “lastKnownFrameRate”, where the “Number” will be shown as 25 (for PAL), and this needs to be changed to 50 (for PAL).   Also, in iMovie ’11, a small yellow label with the number 50 (60 for NSTC) will appear at the front of each clip after importing it into iMovie.

It is necessary to have Perian installed on your Mac for the audio in the M4V files.  It is a free software program and the latest version can be download from: http://perian.org/.   Many people may already have Perian installed as it is very commonly used, and so they may not realise that it is needed for this particular purpose as it operates in the background automatically.  As iMovie has not be designed to handle 5.1 surround sound it converts the 5.1 sound to stereo.   However, speaking for myself, I don't find that to be a problem as the stereo sound is very good and I don't need the surround sound.  An advantage with stereo too is that if you set the cam to stereo instead of to 5.1 surround sound, then when you take the video it is less affected by any wind noise.

5. Import your 1080/50p files as M4P files directly into iMovie.  iMovie will automatically convert these into Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) at 50fps.  Because AVCHD is a very compressed format, the AIC files will be much larger, but that is not a problem (provided of course your that hard disk is not too full).  You can go ahead and edit your clips as normally and create an iMovie project.

6. To export your movie project from iMovie, I have found that the choice of format and settings depends very much on the final destination for your movie.

(a) For the highest quality 1080/50p to play on a computer (I use the free "Movist" application on my Mac as it plays the files very smoothly) you need to do Share > Export using QuickTime > Movie to MPEG-4, then select the appropriate Options.  Choose: File Format > MP4, Video Format > H.264, Data Rate > 28,000 kbits/sec (or change this as required), Image Size > 1920 x 1080 HD, Frame Rate > Current (to preserve the 50fps), Key Frames > Automatic.  For the “Video Options” choose: Compressor Quality > Faster Encode (or you can choose Best Quality, but this will take much longer to encode, and the improvement may not be very noticeable).  This movie file will be large because it is a much less compressed format than the original AVCHD.  I have tried other settings but I did not find any improvement in viewing quality when viewed on my 24in iMac.

(b) For a file suitable to burn to a DVD-R disk for playing on a Blu-Ray player using Toast 10 Titanium with the Blu-Ray plug-in, it is necessary to convert first the file from progressive to interlaced, because 1080/50p is incompatible (unless using Toast 11 - see note below).  To create a suitable file from the ".mp4" file that has already exported from iMovie as described in (a) above, I use "MPEG Streamclip", v1.9.2, which is also free and can be downloaded from:  http://www.squared5.com/svideo/mpeg-streamclip-mac.html

The settings for MPEG Streamclip are: export via Apple MPEG4 Compressor, 1920x1080 (HDTV 1080i), leave frame rate blank (keeps the existing frame rate) and check "frame blending", set "quality" to 50%, check interlaced scaling, Upper field first, Rotation: No.  This is best for smooth motion.

7. The resulting file can be used to burn to a DVD-R using Toast which will be playable in a BR player.

Important Note about Toast:  If using Toast 11, it is not necessary to go through step (b) above, since the updated Toast software can directly handle the .mp4 1080/50p progressive file.  If using Toast 11, simply omit step 6 (b) and go directly to step 7 below, bearing in mind that the interface for Toast 11 is slightly different from the previous version but the process is just the same.

To burn the file, open Toast and select the "Blu-Ray Video" option

Change the pull-down menu selection at the bottom RHS from "BD-R" to "DVD"

Drag the 1080/50i file onto the Toast window, and it will load and show the details of the file

Under "Options" at the left side, leave Encoding on the "auto" (default) setting

Press the red button and it will prompt for a blank DVD-R disk to be inserted into your Mac disk drive

Then proceed with the prompts  (It will take quite some time to encode to the AVCHD file structure and then burn your disk; a DVD-R disk will hold about 1/2 an hour of BR quality movie.)

Note:  I have tried several options and settings for exporting from iMovie and burning to disk, with the aim of getting the best result on my HDTV.  I have a mid-2009, 42in Philips LCD HDTV which is connected by HDMI cable (it is important to use HDMI for best quality) to a Panasonic DMP-BD60 Blu-Ray player.  I found that with certain settings, although the picture was generally very good, and the movement was very smooth, in some scenes there was a somewhat noticeable "shimmering" effect which I did not like.  I eventually settled on the above settings which did not give that effect.  However, you may need to adjust your own settings to get the best result on your HDTV/Blu-Ray player setup.  It is complicated by the fact that different HDTVs have different characteristics, and even the user settings on the HDTV may have an effect too.

All going well you should end up with a movie playable at 1080/50p on a computer, and a Blu-Ray quality movie on a DVD-R disk that will play on your Blu-Ray player and look great on your HDTV.

Simple Editing with MPEG Streamclip

For basic editing of the rewrapped m4v files it is easier and quicker to use MPEG Streamclip directly rather than iMovie.  This is because no conversion to Apple Intermediate Codec is needed.  This kind of simple editing is basically what the software called "HD Writer AE 2.1" that comes with the camcorder does, except that it only works on Windows PCs(!) and not on Apple Macs.  However, since MPEG Streamclip is free (donations to its author would be welcome though) Mac users need not feel left out. :-)

MPEG Streamclip allows trimming of the ends of clips, deleting sections within clips, and joining together of clips.   However, if more complex editing than this is needed, such as adding titles, adding soundtracks, adding effects and making adjustments to clips, then the method described in part 1 above using iMovie should be followed.

To edit with MPEG Streamclip:

1. Open the m4v clip in the movie window.

2. To trim the beginning of a clip, from the "Edit” pulldown menu, set the "In" point at time 0, move the playback bar to the point at which you want the clip to start, and set this as the "Out" point.  Then do "Trim" from the “Edit” menu.

3. To trim the end of a clip, use the same procedure but set the end of the clip as the "Out" point.

4. To delete a section of the clip, set the "In" point at the beginning of the unwanted section, and the "Out" point at the end of the unwated section, then do "Cut".

5. To join two clips, open the clip in the window and then do "Select All" from the Edit menu, then do "Copy", then close that clip.

6. Open the next clip in the window and do "Paste" and the first clip will be joined to the second clip.

Exporting from MPEG Streamclip:

The edited file needs to be saved at suitable quality as follows:

1. To save the edited file at the same bitrate and quality as the original, from the “File” menu choose “Save as”, then “MP4”.  The file will be very quickly saved at the same bitrate and quality as the original clips.

However, if it is necessary to adjust the movie output to a different file size and/or quality, do the following:

1. From the "File" pulldown menu, choose "Export to MPEG-4”, then choose H.264 compression with default settings:  50% quality, MPEG-4 AAC sound, Frame size 1920 x 1080 (unscaled), and deselect "Interlaced Scaling".

2. Click on the "Make Mp4" button at the bottom of the window.

The exporting process will take some time.  The resulting Mp4 movie will retain the full resolution, 50fps progressive and have a similar bitrate to the original clips.  By adjusting the "Quality" setting up or down from 50%, the bitrate can be increased or decreased as required, thus making the file size of the movie larger or smaller.

The resulting 1080/50p Mp4 file is best for playing on computers or for the web.  To be viewed on an HDTV via a Blu-Ray player, it will be necessary to convert the file and burn it to a DVD-R disk using Toast, starting at the section 6(b) of the procedure described in part 1 above.

Update January 2014

The latest version of iMovie (v10.0.1) is a major redesign of the software which likens it to Final Cut, except that unfortunately it has been “dumbed down”, presumably in the interests of simplicity.  Certain controls are missing, and most importantly, it is no longer possible to export movies at 60fps (or 50fps for PAL).  As a result, it is necessary to continue to use the earlier versions of iMovie if you wish to export at the higher frame rate.  Fortunately, the earlier versions of iMovie are still available for free from Apple and they can be downloaded here: http://support.apple.com/downloads/#imovie.

Both iMovie versions 8 and 9 will run on OSX 10.9 (Mavericks).

Sharpening of Movies

It may be desirable to apply sharpening if the exported movie does not appear sharp enough.  To do this, when you have finished editing the movie and are ready to export it, go to the top menu Share> Export using Quicktime> Options.   Select Filters> Amount of Sharpening> 3.  I’ve found from tests that a setting of 3 provides an amount of sharpening in the final exported movie which is optimum for my purposes, but you can adjust this as required.

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