Avid-certified editor Tony Ruthnam takes a look at the new features of Avid Media Composer 7 to see how the software suite compares with its predecessors and peers Avid Media Composer (MC) has been a staple in the post production field for years. A stable and mature non-linear editing system, over time it has formed […]
Avid Media Composer (MC) has been a staple in the post production field for years. A stable and mature non-linear editing system, over time it has formed the backbone of many a post-production house across the globe. However, with the advent of such tools as Final Cut Pro, the more recent FCP X and Adobe Premiere, MCs approach has started feeling daunting, cumbersome and outdated especially to a younger generation of filmmakers and editors with a more drag-and-drop approach to editing.
An increasing number of clients these days demand faster turnaround times to match their ever shrinking budgets, as a result of which the appeal of drop anything onto the timeline and start cutting of other non-linear editors (NLEs) has increased substantially. With ultra-HD adoption around the corner, we are moving steadily towards greater-than-HD file-based formats, which due to an increase in pixel count have led to tape based media becoming less relevant.
With camera manufactures launching a new model every other day, modern NLEs are required to support the various formats from the get-go, whilst handling the cameras metadata efficiently. The roles of editors have also changed significantly. The current shift is towards the one-man band type approach. A single operator is often required to ingest, media-manage, offline edit, sound mix, grade and output from within the same system. The latest release of Media Composer 7 addresses all of these and more.
Lets start this review with some of the biggest changes in MC 7 the FrameFlex: With the jury still out on 4K monitoring solutions and given that most broadcast programming still happens in HD FrameFlex allows users and owners to take a more wait-and- see approach in order to transition more smoothly and easily into greater-than-HD formats.
The new feature allows you to start working straightaway with the high-res media whilst not having to go through the additional step of generating offline copies, transcoded generally at a lower resolution. In the past couple of versions of MC, if your material was shot on a RED at 4K or higher, you could bring it straight into the edit without having to transcode or convert. However, you were fairly limited in your colour and resizing options.
Enter FrameFlex, a new feature that allows you to choose what area of the frame and aspect ratio you want use as your HD extraction, all camera metadata is maintained and can be modified should you desire to do so. With Media Composers new Look UP Tables (LUT) colour management, you can now apply LUTs directly onto clips in a non-destructive manner for accurate colour monitoring and LUTs can be applied on a single clip or several with a few mouse clicks.
If you are doing the grade in another system such as Baselight or Resolve, you can remove the LUTs and send the material across just as easily. There are several presets already available within the system with support for user generated LUTs as well as 1D, 3D LUTs and CDLs.
Speaking of colour correction and grading, Avids Symphony has now been integrated within MC in the same manner as scriptsync or phrasefind and can be activated without having to install additional software.
Another big feature of MC 7 is AMA Managed Media. Media Composer has always relied on its amazing media management features and toolset. Avids databases are second to none. In previous versions of the software, the metadata of AMA linked clips were never tracked. As long as you were still linked to the media within the relevant bins in your project, all was well. Break the link and all the goodness disappeared. This is no longer the case. The Media Tool, when brought up now, also includes all native and non-native AMA media along with the relevant metadata.
Avid has also included a new feature called Dynamic Media Folders. Coupled with the new consolidate and transcode background services, it really ties into the idea of the one-man band multi-tasking user.
The concept is simple. Set up a dynamic folder on your system (literally a folder on your system), and configure the actions youd like MC to take, such as transcoding to a particular format, consolidating or copying all media to a particular location and so on. Once youre done, drop all the media youd like to use into the folder and carry on editing while Avid does all the grunt work in the background.
It frees the user up to concentrate on the creative and editing tasks whilst the system handles the grunt work in the background. All this can be done while MC is running or even when it is closed. This leads to significantly reduced down time as you are up and running with editing as soon as the source media is made available to you and Avid optimised media is made available to you in the background without having to interrupt the editing process. Do note though, with MC having moved to a 64-bit architecture and with these background services, MC is now more RAM hungry than ever. To really take advantage of this feature, you probably should consider bumping up your RAM to at least 16 GB, if not higher.
Audio tools in MC 7 have a few new additions as well. Clip-based gain adjustments are a welcome addition, a feature borrowed heavily from Avids Protools systems. Now you can directly adjust a clips gain in timeline through a small slider in the lower left hand corner of the clip a la Protools. The audio mixer has been reworked to allow you to decide what needs to be displayed and, more importantly, what doesnt need to be displayed. Users with limited screen real-estate such as on laptops will be thrilled as they can now view more of the User Interface (UI) by hiding the faders. Waveforms are now cached, allowing for significantly reduced loading on the timeline, especially on longer sequences.
There are also quite a few cosmetic and under-the-hood changes in the latest version. Bin views are now easily accessible at the bottom of each bin rather than from within a drop down menu. You now have the ability to colour code your AMA clips, so that you know at a glance what is native and what might, perhaps, require transcoding on your timeline. Quicktime clips with alpha are now supported via AMA as well as vertical scrolling on the timeline.
Avid Media Composer 7 is extremely promising. If youre already an MC user, this is a must-have upgrade and if youre not, its time to give it a serious look. Avid has added some really powerful features that are especially beneficial for people doing more on set work such as LUT Management, AMA media-managed clips, as well as background services. By making Symphony into an add-on feature, it offers buyers and users the ability to start with a fantastic NLE and enable the finishing toolset at a later stage, giving you a really powerful all-in-one system.
Avid has big plans for MC and with the demise of the Avid DS, who knows if we might start seeing some of the DS more advanced FX toolsets within MC, making it a very complete and powerful system, capable of handling any show from start to finish. The future looks very bright indeed.
Tony Ruthnam is an award-winning Senior Editor at twofour54 intaj in Abu Dhabi and an Avid-certified instructor and pro-user. He has worked on a number of local and regional projects as Lead Editor and Co-Prodcuer.