Avid Unveils Media Composer 6
COW Library : Avid Media Composer : Debra Kaufman : Avid Unveils Media Composer 6
In the wake of Apple's release of FCPX, in DATE, Avid held an event in Burbank ("Avid Reiterates Commitment to Professional Market") to reassure its professional users that it was committed to their needs. "We talked about the importance of openness, collaboration and productivity for Avid," says Mackay. "We've been working hard towards that and, with version 6, are delivering a release that's satisfying a number of customer requests. We're committed to professionals and these new versions are about understanding the challenges our customers face with their workflows and bringing innovative solutions to allow them to be more productive."
The new versions for all three products have been completely rebuilt from the core, notes Mackay. "As a new, open 64-bit architecture, it gives users access to more RAM and lets them use system resources more efficiently," he says. "The net result is to be able to do more with existing equipment. Customers can take on larger projects, more complex visual effects and enjoy a better system response across the board.
Avid has been evolving towards more openness for some time, and this latest version has made that abundantly clear, with AVCHD and RED Epic support with Avid Media Access (AMA), an Avid DNxHD 444 codec and support for Avid Artist Color. "We have an improved AMA and have added more formats," says Mackay. "There's no formats you can't read. RED Epic files are now directly and immediately legible and so are AVCHD files. In addition, we're offering ProRes encoding on our Mac-based system. You can render out of Media Composer to ProRes, so you can have a ProRes workflow within Media Composer. You can easily fit into ProRes pipelines."
Third party manufacturers have also taken note, using the Avid Open IO SDK to create compatibility with the new Avid releases. Support for video and audio cards from AJA Video Systems, Blackmagic Design, Bluefish444, Matrox and MOTU are now in place. "You now have the choice of using Avid hardware or you can choose from this range of off-the-shelf third-party cards," says Mackay. "This is a big long-standing request."
Ross, who is returning to Avid after many years of using Final Cut Pro, agrees. "One of the biggest features I really like is that Avid has opened up to third-party capture cards," he says. "It allows all those people who have hardware invested in Final Cut Pro to use that hardware and just transition to Avid software."
Avid has also reduced the price of its own hardware video accelerator Avid Nitris DX, as a standalone purchase, starting at $5,499. Nitris DX is available with one or two Avid DNxHD or AVC-Intra chips and supports full resolution and full frame stereoscopic workflows.
Modernized user interface
Also new is a redesigned user interface. "When we say new, it's important that existing users understand that we've taken on all their comments and preserved the investment they've already made in learning Media Composer deeply," says Mackay. "It's a freshening but not a total rewrite. What we've done is modernize the interface and employed some mechanisms that will make management of the windows smoother. There will be less clutter, and productivity gains in not having to manage the screen. It has a slightly different look and feel and it's customizable."
Ross notes that Avid has walked the fine line between maintaining an interface that so many editors are familiar with and updating the look. "They were able to update the look but not change it too much," he says. "That's a good thing. I like the buttons where they are. Why break something that works?"
Ross notes that Avid has walked the fine line between maintaining an interface that so many editors are familiar with and updating the look.
While we mention popular existing tools that Avid continues to promote, let's not forget Avid PhraseFind, powered by Nexidia, Avid SciptSync for phonetic search and editing and real-time Mix and Match, allowing multiple formats in the same timeline. "As a documentary editor, when you have to Franken-bite somebody and replace only one word, it can take an hour to find that word in all the footage," says Ross. "With PhraseFind I can find it right away. That tool pays for itself in one day."
Support for 3D
Avid has been giving technology previews of its support for stereoscopic workflows since NAB 2011, says Mackay. "What we've got is the most extensive, complete and thorough stereo solutions available," he says. "We have been in close contact with people working in stereo right now, going back and forth with them on understanding their challenges and how to solve them. All three products offer a variety of tools for stereo." One of the big challenges is metadata management, since 3D doubles the number of assets that need to be tracked and managed. "People need to be able to bring in clips for left and right eyes and manage them as a group in the editing environment, and also to do visual effects, titling, creative and corrective work with convergence and alignment," says Mackay. "All these features have been enabled in stereo, but it remains Media Composer, so the effects work the same way, the editing is the same. It's an integrated solution as opposed to working with plug-ins. This is defining how the industry will tackle stereo."
Clearly, some of editors who had a chance to beta test Media Composer version 6 agree with Mackay's assessment. Picture editor James Haygood, A.C.E., whose credits include TRON, Where the Wild Things Are, and Fight Club spent several sessions with Avid product designers along the way. "Since we were cutting a 3D film, we talked with them fairly often about things we thought would be useful," he says. "Avid went so far beyond what we asked for, creating a tool that handles a remarkable range of 3D workflows, from intelligent compositing tools to a ton of 3D file background management, for an evolving 3D world. It is a really an impressive effort to make those tools great."
ProTools integration, Avid Artist Color
Avid is also increasing flexibility by enhancing ProTools integration and 5.1/7.1 surround and metadata management, allowing the transfer of more session data from Media Composer to Pro Tools. "Now you can do a lot of work in Media Composer and either finish there or pass it on to Pro Tools for a more in-depth audio edit," says Mackay, who notes that improved AAF capabilities enables additional metadata.
Avid Artist Color is a control surface within Avid editing systems that gives the user more high performance color correction tools. "The Avid Artist series of external controllers has been compatible with the mix, transport and control," says Mackay. "Now we're offering support for the Artist Color panel. Anyone doing high-end, high performance color grading in Symphony or Media Composer will be able to be very productive and get a high-end look. You can control multiple parameters at once and maintain your eyes on the screen using tactile controls.
Ross says he will soon be testing Avid Artist Color. "It's a really great interface," he says. "Now we can do fine tweaking within Media Composer using this interface. Plus, what's great about it is that it works with DaVinci Resolve and other systems. It's user customizable, a solid piece of hardware and not that expensive."
For the first time, Avid is now offering an in-app marketplace. "From within Media Composer, connected to the Internet, you can access stock footage libraries and the marketplace where third-party apps are sold," he says. "Our first release, we're working with Thought Equity Motion which has access to interesting footage libraries. You can go into the library, browse clips, download them to a bin and, do your edit. Once you've finalized your edit, there's a very simple way of downloading the full resolution version and getting cost reports and rights usage. It's an integrated solution to manage stock footage."
Avid is also introducing the Avid Vantage Program, an annual membership program for Media Composer, Symphony and Pro Tools customers, that provides unlimited online technical support, deeply discounted expert phone support when needed, and access to a collection of NewBlueFX effects (for Media Composer or Symphony subscribers) or audio plug-ins (for Pro Tools subscribers). Subscribers will, for a limited time, receive an Avid Store coupon they can apply to new software purchases or upgrades. The Avid Vantage Program will be available to users during Q4 2011 for $149/year.
Permanent offer for FCP users
From April to September 2011, Avid offered Media Composer for a $995 promotional price for any Final Cut Pro user. Now, Avid has set the price for FCP users at $1,499, and it's a price that will stay put indefinitely and comes with free online training to help make the move.
Pricing for Media Composer 6.0 starts at $2,499, with upgrade pricing starting at $299. NewsCutter 10 starts at $2,499 with upgrade pricing starting at $499. Symphony 6.0 pricing starts at $5,999 with upgrade pricing starting at $499.
The new versions for Media Composer, Symphony and NewsCutter are a strong move towards making Avid tools more accessible to more people, with both third-party hardware and more efficient use of Avid's own architecture. The company seems to have truly listened to its customer base in maintaining things that work (the UI) and expanding features that clients want (3D stereoscopy). These are all very positive steps for a professional editing market looking for tools that are unambiguously aimed at their work. Creative COW looks forward to writing about how customers use the new versions to their best advantage.