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We just purchased an iMac yesterday to view our travel videos. The thing is, all the videos we have stored on our external Hard Drive are in the .MTS file format (AVCHD). The thing is, the Mac or QuickTime won't recognize them. Are there any good / free file converters so we can convert the video files to .MOV as that seems to be the common file format for Macs.

I read on-line that you can fool your computer into thinking that it is reading the video file straight from the Camcorder instead of from an external Hard Drive but you have to reorganize the storage or hierarchy of the videos. Apparently this can take up a lot of memory though - maybe up to 10 times the size of the original video file size? Is it a viable solution?

What's the best / most straight-forward / preferably free way to get the videos into a usable format?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Try VideoLan. It is free and should handle most kinds of video formats.

The method for recognising AVCHD format is with regard to Apple Video applications, and not QuickTime. Those applications have the reader for that format. But you're only interested in viewing them so I suggested VideoLan.

Also there is a QuickTime plugin which recognises many formats, but I have never tried it with AVCHD or MTS formats. It is called Perian. Please note that it is no longer supported in the form of updates but it is still offered on the official site.

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QuickTime Player

QuickTime Player supports AVCHD files. The clips need to be converted first and must be mounted via a camera or external device. See OS X Mountain Lion: About AVCHD files and QuickTime Player for the specific details.

Watch with VLC

As others have suggested, VideoLAN Client (VLC) is capable of watching your MTS files without needing conversion.

Convert with Handbrake

Handbrake is an open source tool that can transcode video, including MTS to MPEG4. As Scott Earle suggests, it provides a graphical interface for the underlying ffmpeg tool that performs the conversion.

Convert with ffmpeg

If you want to use your MTS files in iMovie or other tools, consider converting them to MPEG4 first.

The open source tool ffmpeg can convert AVCHD/MTS files to a wide range of formats.

The simplest way of installing ffmpeg onto your computer is through the homebrew project. To install brew, launch Terminal.app and issue the command:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/Homebrew/homebrew/go/install)"

With brew successfully installed, you can now install ffmpeg:

brew install ffmpeg

There are numerous tutorials for converting video formats with ffmpeg. A couple are linked below.

The final command will approximate:

ffmpeg -i 00031.MTS -b:v 4000k 00031.MP4
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1  
What about Handbrake? Much nicer than diving into Terminal –  Scott Earle Jul 4 at 11:50
    
Thanks Scott. I have updated the answer to include Handbrake. I did not know it too could convert from MTS. –  Graham Miln Jul 4 at 12:04
1  
I think Handbrake is itself a wrapper for ffmpeg, among other things :) –  Scott Earle Jul 4 at 12:05

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