It can be confusing and time consuming to organize and view AVCHD and MTS files on Mac OSX. Here we explain AVCHD, how it works on Mac OSX, and tell you how you can view and organize these files.

Viewing and organizing AVCHD / MTS files on Mac OSX

Overview

Mac OSX does not handle the AVCHD format or it’s internal MTS files very well, when it handles them at all.

Making matters worse, the AVCHD format is becoming a more ubiquitous video format by the day. More and more DSLR’s are offering 50/60fps 1080p video and even point and shoot cameras like the Panasonic Lumix LX7 are getting into the fray.

When you plug that camera into your Mac, and expect it to work like any other video file is when you run into the problems. AVCHD files are not supported on Mac OSX 10.7 Lion and below at all. OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion and above handle them in an unexpected and klunky way (more on this later). If you extract the MTS files from the AVCHD file, OSX doesn’t handle them at all, which means no Quicktime, iPhoto, or Aperture support either.

At some point, we expect Apple to resolve all of this with better support for this format. Between now and then, there are strategies you can employ to manage and view your files without pulling out your hair. We will tell you how to extract the MTS files, and how to view them with other programs like VLC or convert them to formats (like MP4) your current programs will understand.

What is AVCHD?

AVCHD (Advanced Video Coding High Definition) is a format for digital recording and playback of high-definition video developed jointly by Sony and Panasonic.

Originally created in 2006 for professional use, it began appearing in high end consumer camcorders in the late 2000’s and eventually DSLRs as a means to capture HD video. AVCHD is accepted as an excellent format for capture of high frame-rate video, and is almost identical to the format used internally on Blu-ray discs.

An AVCHD file is actually not a single video file, but a hierarchical file structure derived from the file structure you would find on a Blu-ray disc, containing multiple video clips.

It’s similar in that way to the internal structure of an iPhoto Library, which may be why Apple chose to handle it sort of like an iPhoto Library (more on that later).

AVCHD File Structure

Viewing AVCHD files in Finder

When you connect your video camera to your Mac via USB, or plug in your SD Card into your Mac, you will see some but not all of the files we described above. In particular, you will see a file PRIVATE/AVCHD, instead of a folder.

On OSX, the AVCHD folder is automatically viewed as a package (aka bundle). If you are not familiar with packages on OSX, a package is a file system folder that is normally displayed in the Finder as if it were a single file. A package can contain hundreds of other folders and files and such. An iPhoto Library is a package, for example. In addition, OSX further treats the BDMV folder as a package as well.

As with all packages, you can right-click (ctrl-click) on the package file, and choose ‘Show package contents’ to view what is inside these packages, and eventually make your way down to the MTS video files.

The Problems with OSX and AVCHD / MTS

The problems with AVCHD and MTS files on OSX are numerous. In short, it is dreadful to try to view, organize, and manage these files on OSX, because Apple does not provide adequate tools to do so.

Below is a summary of just a few.

Limited Quicktime Support for AVCHD
AVCHD packages cannot be renamed
AVCHD packages contain multiple videos
AVCHD packages are bloated
Extracting MTS files is tedious
No Quicktime Support for MTS Files

How to View and Organize AVCHD / MTS Files on OSX

In our view, the best course forward is to extract the MTS files.

This approach allows you to shed the bloat from the AVCHD files, as well as organize them how you would normally do so, whether that be by date, event, or otherwise.

Once you have extracted the MTS files, you can either losslessly wrap them in an MP4 container so you can view them through Quicktime, or use an alternate program to view them until Apple adds better support in the future.

Extracting MTS files Automatically


You can manually extract your MTS files using the ten step process mentioned above, but it doesn’t have to be that hard.

Silent Silent can automatically extract your MTS files, and even some of the CLIPINFO or other files if you want to retain them as well.

With Silent Sifter, every time you connect your camera, it will automatically import your AVCHD packages, extract the MTS files, and organize the MTS files in your output folder according to your preferred folder structure.

How to automatically import and extract MTS files with Silent Sifter

Viewing MTS Files with VLC


Although Quicktime does not support MTS files, the VLC Media Player application is an excellent alternative.

Just download and install VLC Media Player, and you will be able to double click any MTS file in Finder to view it in VLC.

Converting MTS files losslessly to MP4


If you aren’t afraid to use the Terminal, you can easily convert your MTS files into MP4s.

Once you have converted the MTS files into MP4s, you will be able to view them in Quicktime and most any other programe..

Best of all, this conversion is fast, lossless, and uses the freely available utility ffmpeg.

How to convert MTS files to MP4 with ffmpeg

Summary

Even though Apple doesn’t provide much support for AVCHD and MTS files, there are some applications that can help you utilize these files and stay organized at the same time.