Updated 08/11/2012Home » Video Glossary » AVCHD


Advanced Video Codec High Definition (AVCHD) is a new high definition recording format introduced by Sony and Panasonic. It can use various storage media, including 8 cm (3") recordable DVD discs, as well as hard disk, and SD and Memory Stick Pro memory cards, and is being positioned to compete with handheld video camera recording formats like HDV and MiniDV.

Video and Audio Formats

For video compression, AVCHD uses the MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (AVC) standard, supporting a variety of standard, high definition, and stereoscopic (3D) video resolutions. For audio compression, supports both Dolby AC-3 (Dolby Digital) and uncompressed linear PCM audio. Stereo and multichannel surround (5.1) are both supported.

Special Features

Aside from recorded audio and video, AVCHD includes features to improve media presentation: menu navigation, slide shows and subtitles. The menu navigation system is similar to DVD-video, allowing access to individual videos from a common intro screen. Slide shows are prepared from a sequence of AVC still frames, and can be accompanied by a background audio track. Subtitles are used in some camcorders to timestamp the recordings.

Compatibility with Blu-ray

AVCHD has been designed to be compatible with Blu-ray Disc format and can be authored without re-encoding on Blu-ray discs or DVDs, though not all Blu-ray Disc players are compatible with AVCHD video authored on DVD media, a format known as AVCHD disc.

AVCHD Video Playback

Recorded AVCHD video can be played back in a variety of ways:

  • Direct playback video can be played on a television set from a camcorder through HDMI or component-video cable.
  • AVCHD disc AVCHD video, recorded onto DVD can be played on most Blu-ray Disc players or on a PlayStation 3 gaming console.
  • Blu-ray disc AVCHD video, recorded onto Blu-ray disc can be played on most Blu-ray Disc players.
  • AVCHD memory card AVCHD video, recorded on an SDHC or Memory Stick card can be played on select Blu-ray Disc players, HDTV sets, on a PlayStation 3 gaming console and on some other set-top media players.
  • USB playback video files, recorded on an external storage device like a hard disk drive or a USB stick can be played on select Blu-ray Disc players, HDTV sets, PlayStation 3 gaming console, set-top media players and from a computer.
  • Computer playback any media and target format that is supported by a particular computer hardware and software can be watched on a computer monitor or TV set. Presently, the open-source VLC media player will play AVCHD video files, as well as a wide variety of additional formats, and is freely available for most modern operating systems (including Linux, Mac OS X, MS Windows) and some mobile platforms. On both Mac OS and MS Windows systems, the default media players from Apple (QuickTime) will not play AVCHD natively, additional (free) software is required. Some Windows 7 editions are able to import and play AVCHD video natively, having files with extensions M2TS, MTS and M2T pre-registered in the system. (Windows 7 starter edition does not support AVCHD files itself, and a third-party player must be installed.) In editions of Windows 7 which do support AVCHD files, Windows Media Player is able to index content of these files, while Windows Explorer is able to create thumbnails for each clip. Windows 7 does not support importing of AVCHD video metadata such as thumbnail images, playlists, and clip index files. Joining AVCHD video files during the import is not supported either.