What Are MTS Files?

By Noah Christman

If you have ever recorded video with a digital video camera and then attempted to transfer the files from the camera to your computer, there is a strong chance that you have encountered and used an .MTS file. The .MTS file type is a video file that allows digital video cameras to record high-definition video directly onto optical discs, hard drives and flash memory cards, making it simple to quickly capture and transfer video of anything you want.

History of the .MTS File

Developed jointly by two major digital video companies in 2006, .MTS is a file type used to capture and record high-definition video in both consumer- and professional-level digital video cameras, and is now used as the file type of choice on a wide variety of digital video camera brands. As an acronym for "MPEG Transport Stream," the .MTS video file is sometimes called "AVCHD" or "Advanced Video Codec High Definition," which refers to the file format and folder structure in its entirety.

Video File Size

The fact that the file type can record high-definition video without taking up large amounts of storage space --- requiring only approximately 10 gigabytes per hour of video footage as opposed to several times that for other types of video files --- is one of the strongest advantages in using a digital video camera that produces .MTS files.

High-Definition Resolutions

While the file type was specifically created to support high-definition video, including 720p, 1080i, and 1080p resolutions, differences between digital video camera models may only allow recording to one or two of those resolutions. For example, many basic, consumer-level digital video cameras will allow the user to film in a maximum resolution of 720p, equivalent to the resolution of many high-definition television channels. Newer cameras, or those with more features, allow the user to film in higher resolutions, including 1080i and 1080p, equivalent to the resolution of high-definition Blu-ray discs.

Using .MTS Files

There are a wide variety of software programs on the market that can take advantage of .MTS files for both video editing and viewing purposes. Software such as VideoLAN VLC media player exists on Mac OS, Windows and Linux, and is the simplest way to directly view video shot and recorded in a .MTS file. For editing, the choices are much broader, as practically every major video editor, such as Apple's Final Cut and iMovie, Sony's Vegas, Adobe's Premiere, along with numerous smaller brands, can fully utilize the file type. In addition, many digital video cameras are packaged with basic software that allows users to easily transfer these files to their computer. However, unlike many file types that can be viewed and used simply by opening them, .MTS files reside within a specific folder structure that is often required for the file to be used. This highly structured system of folders tells the appropriate software on the computer exactly what the file contains and how to best utilize it. Fortunately, most video editing and viewing software allows the user to bypass this complex folder structure by importing the .MTS file directly into the program. When attempting to copy .MTS files directly to the desktop, though, it is important to retain the folder structure in which they are contained. By copying the main folder, rather than just the individual .MTS files, the transition to video editing or viewing software in the future will become much smoother.