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December 2014
Issue: April 1, 2012

Review: Avid Media Composer 6

By: Greg Kiernan
PRODUCT: Avid Media Composer 6

WEBSITE: www.avid.com

PRICING: Pricing for V.6 starts at $2,499. Upgrade pricing starts at $299. Academic V.6 starts at $295 for schools and students. Final Cut Pro users (excluding Final Cut Pro X) can purchase Media Composer for $1,499.

- tabbed bins
- the ability to re-link AMA files en masse
- Red Epic, Arri Alexa and AVCHD support

Like most Avid, editors I was waiting impatiently for the 6.0 release. Dreams of 64-bit architecture were spinning in my head: background rendering, super fast transcoding, more AMA features and a new title tool were my constant smile-inducing dreams. Then came the reality...which wasn’t bad either.

UNDER THE HOOD

The first thing I noticed when opening the app is that it looked familiar. Very familiar. Sure there were new shaded lines in the bins, but the initial appearance was that of the same editor we know and love. Phew! Then I got into the interface more. One of the best features in the new interface is tabbed bins. I was never a fan of super-bins, but I love tabbed bins. I can easily group similar bins and have one-click access to any of them instantly, saving tons of screen real estate. I can now save those bin layouts and recall them with a simple click or keystroke when mapped to the keyboard with the new Workspace Views. Workspace Views even links to timeline settings as long as they’re named the same (something I’ve been wanting for some time as I’ve always been a workspace fan). 

Probably the biggest visual change, other than the bin look, is the redesigned audio tool. With it, you can monitor individual tracks within your sequence as you work, meaning you no longer have to switch to direct out mode in order to see which track has the better record. You can also change the mode from stereo to mono, direct, or four other surround sets. The one disadvantage of the new tool is that it’s essentially not re-sizeable, which is fine on a two-monitor set-up, but can take over an inordinate amount of screen real estate on a single monitor or laptop set-up when you’re looking at more than eight tracks. Resizing the window won’t dynamically shrink it, meaning it almost has to live full-sized.



MULTIPLE FORMATS

AMA is more robust, with better re-linking (more on that shortly), as well as Red Epic, Arri Alexa and AVCHD inclusion. Also in the “cool” column is the integration of Apple ProRes. No more issues getting it in the system, and you can export to it as well. A huge plus for those who are bringing FCP 7 projects into Media Composer.

On the subject of exporting, another nice thing is being able to export settings. That’s right, no more sharing of screen shots between editors. With the total architecture rebuild, Avid has added XML to the project settings, meaning you can export the setting used to export files for Client A and bring them into a second user’s settings. 

One feature not really mentioned in all Avid’s marketing material is probably one of the best features to date. That being the ability to re-link AMA files en masse. In the past, you had to point to each file and re-link your shots one by one. Now, using the “re-link to AMA files” command, you can point the app to the first shot in your list and it will re-link all your clips until it can’t see a clip in the same file path, behaving much like batch re-importing clips. This feature alone saves tons of time in long, file -based projects that have been moved around, and is one of my favorites by far.

In keeping with the push for a more open, and affordable I/O, Media Composer is compatible with a variety of hardware set-ups: AJA, Blackmagic, Matrox, Bluefish and MOTU. Speaking in terms of affordability, Avid has made significant reductions price-wise and in a move to capitalize on the FCP X uproar, even has a cross-grade discount from FCP. 

THERE’S MORE

Then there are things you can’t see but have been waiting for, like 64-bit architecture. What does that actually mean to the end user? Faster transcodes? Yes. Faster rendering? Absolutely! Background rendering? Alas, no. It’s one of the things I would have hoped would make it into the release but, much to my consternation, didn’t. Nor did a new title tool (a request from many an editor for many a year), though it now functions as a separate app launched through Media Composer. But overall, the 64-bit overhaul gives the app a more robust feel. 

While stereo editing isn’t something I’ve yet delved into, the new tool-set seems like it’s at a point where it can be used cognitively. Projects can be set to the way you want to work ­— over/under, side by side, right or left eyes, or even full — and the spacial alignment can be set easily. You can even create stereo clips and subclips from media within a bin. Even better, you cannot only adjust the vergence point from the effect pallet, but in Title Tool, Matte and 3D Warp as well.

An interesting new feature in 6 is the Avid Marketplace. Integrated into the editor, Marketplace allows you to browse or purchase stock footage, video and audio plug-ins, software and hardware options, training materials, and more, right from within the app. You can even access user guides and other documentation without having to scrum through Avid’s Website.

FINAL THOUGHTS

All in all, I highly recommend this new build. Its 64-bit architecture makes it faster and more robust: the redesigned interface makes it easier to organize and work with a larger number of bins, and the improved AMA features make it a must. Now if only we could get a new title tool...

Greg Kiernan is a Senior Editor at Framerunner (www.framerunner.com) in New York.