Play AVCHD discs on your computer

Posted by Flo in Tricks on December 23rd, 2008.
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If you buy a High Definition (HD) camera, there’s a big chance that the output format will be AVCHD. The only way to maintain this HD quality is to write it on a disc in this format, but you will need a compatible player (blu-ray) to play it on your television. The problem starts when you want to play these discs on you computer. If you search the web, you will find websites where they tell you that buying expansive software is the only way to view the movies on these discs on you computer. This is, however, not true. In this guide I will tell you how to play AVCHD discs on you computer legally for free.

What do you need?

  • A disc in the AVCHD format (duh)
  • A big-assed computer: quad-core and a big, BIG high-end graphics card. This is needed to play the movie smoothly. If you don’t have a quad core, make sure your computer at least has the power of the best Macbook pro’s around, although I don’t think that you will get a 100% smooth video experience that way.
  • A modern DVD reader or writer.
  • Windows Vista or Mac OSX, other OS’s will probably also work, but I haven’t tested those
  • VLC player <– ESSENTIAL! you can get it here. Get the latest version if you already have it installed.

Make sure you’ve got every ingredient stated above. If you don’t have sufficient processor power, you can as well stop with this guide and go searching for the software that’s with your cam, it sometimes has software that can read avchd files without needing a big ass computer. Not that Nero Burning Rom 9 and every other paid way to play these files need you to have a fast computer.

  1. First of all: install VLC player, make sure you install all default supported codecs, this will avoid problems later in this guide.
  2. Put the AVCHD disc in the DVD reader, and wait for the noises to stop. If you’re running windows Vista or the latest Mac OSX, it will recognise the contents.
  3. Now open VLC player, open the first drop down menu in the upper left corner and select  "Open Disc…".
  4. Now select the DVD drive that contains your AVCHD disc and press OK. It may be necessary in Vista to select advanced options in that menu, and remove dvd:// in front of your drive’s letter.
  5. If everything is working, you will probably get a few errors, dismiss them, and wait till the search has reached the STREAM folder. When the first real video file starts to play, and you will see your recorded video and hear your recorded sounds.
  6. Good job, you’ve played your first AVCHD disk on your computer. Doing it in this way has probably saved you about $90,-.

ALTERNATIVE WAY (usually the better way if you’ve got a slower processor then needed):

Do step one and 2 as above, but then manually navigate to the disc. Try and search for the STREAM folder and drag ‘n drop the first file in that folder in the VLC player, and press play. This is your first chapter, to view the second chapter, drag ‘n drop the second file, etc.


NOTE: If you don’t have sufficient fire power on your computer, there’s a very big chance that you will only see flashes of images and will only hear sound. The VLC player is also very likely to crash if you load the whole disc at once. You may also see broken video images (lines going through it), please notice that this is NOT because the data on your disc is corrupt, it’s just your computer being too slow.

NOTE 2: If your version of VLC is out of date, there’s a chance that you will only see a grey background, and will hear the sound for a while, but it can crash after that.

NOTE 3: If you can’t play the disc smoothly, it won’t mean that you can’t edit the files on the disc with your computer with your favorite movie editor. Playing an AVCHD file smoothly seems to be a lot more difficult than to edit it frame by frame.


5 Responses to “Play AVCHD discs on your computer”

  1. Eduard says:

    This should work, but I think you need a Blu-Ray drive to read the files on the AVCHD disk. Another way to play M2TS files is via WinDVD.

  2. Flo says:

    You don’t need a Blu-Ray drive if you use this trick on your computer, a normal DVD drive will do. If you are referring to the fact that you can’t see the files on Windows XP or lower, that’s true, but you may be able to play the disk anyway by just loading the disk in VLC, although I haven’t tried this yet.

  3. sean ahern says:

    Thanks for the tip. I burned a couple AVCHD discs (small content). My Corel VS X4 burns them fine and I can play them by opening the STREAM file, then clicking on each file and it opens in VLC (my default player). The problem is I have a Blu-Ray player in my HP (6core, 8GB, 1MB video card.I have a Samsung HD monitor Shouldn’t I be able to play the disc? or do I need a player like Win DVD?

  4. Flo says:

    Hi Sean,

    Blu ray players in computers are only data readers. So unfortunatley, to convert the data into visual info, you will need software. So yes, you will need a player, like you use WinDVD for DVD’s, to be able to actually play the disk.

    I hope this answers your question.

  5. bestautumnn says:

    Inorder to play avchd on dvd player, Avdshare video go.You can have a try.

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