Toyota, AVCHD, and you

This missus got a new car this week. It’s a 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Pretty nice.

The rear-seat entertainment system has a Blu-ray player that’s also got an SD card slot. No more discs! Hooray! Great for kids!

It’s 2016, so you’d think you’d just be able to copy a couple of video files to an SD card, shove it in the slot, and be done. But you’d be wrong.

The SD slot in this Blu-ray player is unbelievably stupid. It doesn’t recognize mkv containers, mp4 files…nothin’. The only thing it can handle are “AVCHD videos”. In other words – dumps of Blu-ray disc images. Incredibly helpful.

Toyota (maybe Lexus too) sort of assumes that you’re a computer whiz, comfortable transcoding videos, familiar with the Blu-ray file structure, and able to author discs like it’s no big deal.

I was not any of those things when I started this process. Now I am.

After days of trial and error and burning though a half-dozen different authoring tools (Nero Video has been broken for three years BTW), I’ve found one that works.

The only bad part is that it costs money. It’s called ConvertXtoVideo, and it’s $40 (or free with a piracy discount).

Anyhoo, once you’ve got it, here’s how to use it:

Make your AVCHD settings look like this:

Enter the size of your SD card in megabytes. My card was 64GB but I went with 63000 just to be safe.

Select a theme for your menu. These microscopic thumbnails are all that you’ll get, and most of them are hideous. The “classic” theme is simple and good. Hover over the settings if you’re not sure what they do.

Give your “disc” a name and put it in the box on the right. (This will appear at the top of your on-screen menu.)

Click the first button in the toolbar to add your videos to the queue.

Select an output format from the dropdown on the bottom-right corner. I went with “AVCHD 720p (for USB key)” because full HD isn’t suuuper important on a 9″ screen. Note – this means that *all* of your videos will be upscaled (or downscaled) to 720p.

Speaking of quality, keep an eye on these gauges. They’ll tell you how much video quality you’re sacrificing every time you add another file. Keep it in the green and you should be fine.

Select individual videos and use the up/down arrows in the toolbar to order them however you’d like. This is the order in which they’ll appear in the on-screen menu.

Click the ‘Start’ button and wait a few hours.

You’ll sit through a lot of this:

Eventually you’ll be presented with a fully populated directory called “AVCHD”.

On your blank SD card, create a directory called “PRIVATE” in the root. Move the “AVCHD” directory into “PRIVATE” (not just its contents – move the whole directory).

Eject the SD card, lock it to avoid any accidental formats, and walk over to your car. You’re done, amigo.

If Google brought you here and this helped you, I’m glad. Please leave a comment to make me feel better about myself and all the time I sunk into this.