Import MTS video clips to iMovie

My parents have a digital camcorder. A week long vacation with said camcorder, my parents, and their only grandchild produces a fair amount of raw footage. Before we headed back home after the vacation I wisely snapped up all the footage from their camera hoping to eventually run it through iMovie.

Turns out their camcorder stores its clips in MTS/AVCHD format, and I didn’t grab all the fluff^Wnecessary files. As a result iMovie ‘11 cannot import the MTS video clips.

I spent the better part of last night trying to figure out how to convert the MTS into something iMovie would import. While there are commercial tools that appear to do what I needed, I was sure I could get the same result using freely available tools. And sure enough ffmpeg - the swiss army knife of open source video handling - gets the job done.

After reading a bunch of threads and forum posts I finally found these settings to convert from MTS to MOV files that I could import into iMovie ‘11 without significant loss of quality:

ffmpeg -i input.mts -b 185M

That -b flag took me forever to find and I finally spotted it in this thread.

I am not a video buff, so I am sure the above can be optimized, but it worked, and I am posting it here primarily so I know I can find it again.

Updated december 5, 2012:

So I recently retried what I wrote above. Turns out the version of ffmpeg that I currently have on my machine (ffmpeg version 1.0) needs some slightly different hand waving on the command line:

ffmpeg -i input.mts -strict -2