Avid Media Composer

For a long time, Media Composer was the only professional choice. Now though, the competition is far more stiff. Brands like Adobe and Apple make the marketplace diverse and offer strong challengers for AVID.

Media Composer was a great editor to learn on because it forced the user to know what what media they were using and required them to tell the program, not the other way around. Sure it was rigid, but it forced a better understanding of codecs, resolution and containers. Now, however, with version 8.5, it’s far more flexible, with easier media import and support. It’s a favorite amongst seasoned film editors and production houses because of its workflow capabilities across large teams, but the program still has shadows of its rigid past.

Choices in Video Editing Software

It’s easy to get caught up thinking that the product everyone is talking about or using is right for you, but it’s always best to research what’s out there and assess your own needs. You want to choose what fits your work and editing style. There is a big misconception out there when it comes to editing software: If it’s foreign to the user or causes the user to struggle, it must not be good. Both Media Composer and Final Cut Pro X get this treatment because they are different than most programs currently. But just because a program you’re used to using seems easier, it's not necessarily a better program than the others; it’s just different.

Many choose what they know because sometimes learning new programs can be difficult, but choosing the right tool for the job can save money and time. Plus, knowing multiple editing platforms will expand your knowledge and knowhow, increasing your value and the productions you create.

If you’re not new to Media Composer, then you’ll really like the new improvements in 8.5. You might be a bit frustrated at first because things have been moved around and reorganized. However, they’ve been updated for the better and increase the program’s usability and functionality.

New to 8.5

The biggest change to Media Composer is through the new menu simplification. With this update, there are now more intuitive menu categories. Some changes go deep, like the changes to menu options Output and Special to Timeline and Composer. The change was to give a better name for the choices within that category. Choices within menus have also been changed to be better related to their main menu category, offering a more intuitive user experience.

The biggest change to Media Composer is through the new menu simplification.

How you import media has also been updated to be simply import/media instead of import/AMA/media. The way the process works isn’t much different, but what they’re labled has changed. The appearance of slip edits is also new, now showing tick marks that indicate the full length of the clip you are slipping.

The timeline has also seen some improvement. You can now add both audio and video tracks by just moving video into an empty space in the timeline, much like other editors. A new Quick Find and Filter field is now available in the effects palette for simplifying the search for a given effect. Lastly, the maximum audio tracks has been increased almost threefold from 24 to 64.

There are new ways to customize your work area for more viewable workflow and organization. Add a custom column in a bin with the ability to place that custom column in any position you’d like. Change the color of your timeline or project, plus select the font of your choice. 

Because of the added number of audio tracks, you might need to simplify the tracks you’re viewing in your mixer to show only the tracks you want. Keeping with the simplification of the mixer and functioning the same as hiding tracks, you are also able to hide sections of a track by using the disclosure triangles.

AVID offers a comprehensive list of new features and how to access them. For the complete list of what’s new in Media Composer visit AVID’s website. 

Subscribe or buy?

AVID has made a smart move with Media Composer. Instead of choosing a path of subscription-only like Adobe has with Creative Cloud or sticking with a purchase-only option like Final Cut Pro X, AVID Media Composer has both a buy and a lease option. The subscription ranges from  $35 to $75 a month depending the duration of your commitment. If you wish to purchase a perpetual licence it’ll cost you $1,300.

If your budget allows for a monthly operational cost, then leasing the product might be best. However, if you have a capital budget to purchase, then purchasing outright might be a better fit. If you’re an individual, then it depends on what you intend to do with it. A monthly cost would allow you pay for the time you need and not for the time you don’t, but in that case you would be paying the highest monthly subscription rate. Assess what fits best for you and weigh the pros and cons.

The Experience

We started with downloading of the software, and that was no big deal. Installing it wasn't hard either; however it is not an intuitive activation process. It seems harder than it needs to be. This is just a one-time frustration, so once you're done, so is the hassle.

Next, upon loading Media Composer, it notified us that it required us to have an older video driver to work fully. Media Composer required we install outdated drivers for the GPU acceleration to work properly. A simple Google search found them, but it was an added step. This, as well, should be one-time problem.

If you’re new to Media Composer and have used other editors, some of your knowledge will help you, but some old habits may make it difficult to accept how Media Composer does things. Not everything in Media Composer is done in their own unique way, but as the first non-linear editor, its legacy can be both a strength and weakness. Once you get the hang of how AVID works, it’s a very robust video editing software.

A big strength to Media Composer is keyboard only editing. It gives you the ability to ditch the mouse and only use keystrokes for operation. This might seem hard at first, but it can really accelerate the editing process.

Lastly, The interface is not slick at all. If you’re used to seeing Final Cut or Premiere, then the basic aesthetic of Avid might be jarring. However, the improvements in 8.5 letting you change colors and fonts allow for more customization to what works best for you.

Recommendation

Should you consider buying or leasing Media Composer? Let’s start with if it’s a good program; yes it is. Next, is it a good value? When compared to the marketplace, it’s the most expensive, but it offers big workflow features that its competition doesn’t, making it invaluable to bigger projects. It’s not for everyone, but no software is. If you need access to the workflow features unique to Media Composer, we can easily recommend it.

Avid
www.avid.com/

PRICE:

Subscription: Starts at $35 per month
Perpetual Licence: $1,300

Summary:

Overall, Avid Media Composer 8 is a great editor. It isn’t limited in what it can do, and some of the biggest movies ever were edited with it. Media Composer can allow for fast editing and offers some unique tools.

Recommended Users:

  • Independent filmmakers
  • Documentarians
  • Corporate filmmakers
  • Commercial producers
  • Journalists
  • Post-production specialists

STRENGTHS:

  • Improved menu design
  • Buy and lease options
  • Strong team workflow

WEAKNESSES:

  • More expensive than its competition
  • Unattractive interface

TECH SPECS:

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

WINDOWS
System: Avid-qualified Windows-based computer
OS: 64-bit OS: Windows 10 (Professional and Enterprise), Windows 8.1 (Professional and Enterprise) or Windows 7 Professional (Service Pack 1)
RAM: 8 GB minimum, 16 GB (or more) recommended 24 GB (or more) recommended when working with UHD, large projects, or in an interplay environment

COMPATIBILITY
Windows OS Compatibility Grid  *PCs with more than 48 cores (including hyperthreading) are not supported at this time

MAC
System:  Avid-qualified Apple computer
OS: Mac OS X 10.9.5 or 10.10.x or 10.11.x (with Media Composer 8.5)
RAM:  8 GB minimum, 16 GB (or more) recommended 24 GB (or more) recommended when working with UHD, large projects, or in an interplay environment

When Chris Monlux was in middle school he wore a size 13 shoe. He was a bit hopeful; his real size is only 11 ½. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.

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