Originally Posted by Ungermann
I think that "a camcorder that plays well with Macs" and "transcoding into a format that is easy to edit" are not exactly similar concepts. Considering that you already have ClipWrap, could you clear my mind on these issues:
Can iMovie edit AVCHD (AVCHD 1.0 that is) natively? Can iMovie edit AVCHD 2.0 (Progressive, 3D) natively? Can iMovie natively edit AVCHD / AVCHD 2.0 re-wrapped into QuickTime container with Clipwrap? Why you do not use ClipWrap for regular, non-1080p60 AVCHD footage?
Similar questions about FCP 7 and FCP X if you familiar with them. AFAIK, FCP X can edit native AVCHD as well as rewrapped into QuickTime. FCP 7 can edit AVCHD rewrapped into QuickTime, not sure whether it would take 1080p60. AFAIK, FCP 7 cannot edit AVCHD natively without rewrapping.
I guess, formats friendly to "Mac" (whatever that means) would be primarily something in QuickTime container (I suppose MPEG-2, AVC and older stuff like H.263 should work). Outside of that, anything that can be converted into AIC or ProRes would work.
iMovie was designed to make it easy and smooth to edit even HD footage on a fairly wimpy computer (for lack of a better term). In order to do this smoothly and easily, it is necessary for iMovie to first transcode the footage from interframe encoding such as AVCHD, into intraframe encoding, like AIC (Apple Intermediate Codec). Interframe encoding uses information from other nearby frames (nearby in time) to reconstruct the frame being displayed, which means it is very efficiently compressed, but more difficult to edit. Intraframe encoding compresses each frame separately without using information from nearby frames. This takes up more space, but is much easier to decode on the fly and edit.
So, to answer your question, iMovie can not edit AVCHD natively, as it was not architecturally designed to do that. It probably could be re-designed to edit AVCHD successfully natively on the most powerful Mac desktops and laptops, but on the less powerful or older machines, it just wouldn't work and Apple would have a support nightmare. Apple likes to keep things simple, so even a wimpy low end Mac can edit HD footage, but the footage needs to be transcoded. Back when HD was commonly recorded on miniDV tapes in the HDV format, I could easily edit such footage in older versions of iMovie on a Mac which by today's standards would be a laughably underpowered machine. But in order for iMovie to make it a pleasant experience on a wimpy machine, the footage had to transcoded into AIC when imported into iMovie. This was not a problem, as the footage was being played back from a tape in real time on import, and on the computer I had then, it could do the transcoding in roughly realtime, so there wasn't really any issue.
More recent Macs can easily do the transcoding in faster than real time, but of course the AVCHD footage is not being read from a tape in real time, but is copying from a memory card much faster than real time.
ClipWrap can transcode AVCHD footage into AIC format just like iMovie can. If you are shooting 60i footage and using iMovie, there is no need to use ClipWrap at all. If you are shooting 60p footage and using iMovie, then you need ClipWrap (or an alternative) to transcode the 60p footage to AIC for iMovie to use, as the current version of iMovie can not transcode 60p footage to AIC, but ClipWrap can. Hopefully Apple will allow transcoding of 60p footage into AIC in a future version of iMovie, since 60p is becoming more popular. If you are shooting 60i footage and not using iMovie, ClipWrap might be useful, as it can encode into formats other than AIC.
I used various versions of FCP when it first came out, but that was many years ago. I switched to iMovie because of its simple interface, its cost (free with a Mac purchase), and because it did everything I needed to do. I have kept my eye on FCPX, as it is way more feature laden than iMovie, but has an iMovie like interface (something FCP users complained about bitterly when FCPX came out, but which I would like.) But I don't know enough about FCPX to answer your questions. I have heard that it can ingest 60p footage, but I don't know if it edits it natively or transcodes the footage. I believe that FCPX can transcode footage in the background while you are editing in it.
Going back to the original poster's question about a camcorder or digital camera to be used for HD video to be edited on the Mac and output to DVD quality, I would still recommend the following simple ideas:
1 Get a camcorder or camera that records in 1080 60i AVCHD (very common).
2 Import the footage into iMovie and iMovie will transcode the footage upon import (you don't need to know the details of what is happening.)
3 Edit the footage in iMovie.
4 Choose the appropriate output format - you can do this multiple times after editing a project.
5 If you use 1080 60p footage, then you will need to transcode the footage into AIC using ClipWrap, instead of having iMovie doing the transcode. iMovie can then directly edit the transcoded footage.
So in summary, by using transcoded footage, iMovie is responsive and pleasant to use, even on an older underpowered Mac. I think that computers would have to be considerably more powerful than they are now to make editing AVCHD natively practical and responsive on a lower end machine, so for the time being I expect that iMovie will continue to use transcoded footage. I'd love for Apple to prove me wrong though.