Well my first non-linear editor (NLE) "girlfriend" was Media 100 circa 1995 through 2002. We spent a lot of time together, including more than a few late nights and weekends. But mostly we just made money. In the early days there were still a lot of linear "on-line" suites around and a high-quality NLE made us very competitive.
Remember, it wasn't the same twelve years ago. Back in those dark ages of the early to mid-nineties, when I first chose Media 100, it was a time when several other NLEs were outputting less than broadcast video. They were being used primarily for VHS-resolution "industrials" or for stringing together off-line cuts which had to go elsewhere to be on-lined. Other early systems of that time were ‘not ready for prime time' toys which, in my opinion, let you "play" at editing but made getting material in and out problematic at best.
So what happened to this first NLE "girlfriend"? We grew apart, seems we wanted different things in life, wanted to start seeing other people... no, wait. That was the other first girlfriend. With Media 100 what happened was watching other NLEs dramatically progress while Media100 seemed to be standing still, or at the very least, not progressing as fast as other systems.
The company's sale (Once? Twice?) and other financial gyrations must have been responsible for this stalling of market momentum. The cost of Media 100's upgrades also seemed to be out of line as competitive programs got cheaper and better. So, like many others I stopped renewing and upgrading long before eventually moving on.
But I never moved that far because there always seemed to be a few legacy programs residing on our Media 100 computer and little incentive to go through the work needed to migrate them to our new NLE. Of course also at play was the fact that there was next to no incentive to sell the old system. Even after having done a couple of hardware updates and several software updates over the years, the Media 100 boards and software were worth very little on the re-sale market. (In fairness to them, I should point out that this is the case with virtually all NLEs.) And the fact that the boards and software resided in a computer, which was a few years old, meant that it too had next to no resale value. So there it sat, relegated to B Room status, getting used only for a few shows that needed the occasional update. FCP on a multi-processor Mac G-5 was where all new projects landed.
What was (and more importantly what is) Media 100's claim to fame, anyway? For me, and I believe countless others who got onboard earlier in its life, Media 100 has always been about speed. It's simpler interface and command set meant that I could fly through an edit, delivering high-quality results in very short order. That's what caught my attention initially and why I stayed at the party for so long.
A WHOLLY SOFTWARE-BASED 11.5 VERSION
So jump ahead to late 2006. I've spent the past five years ignoring Media 100's upgrade offers. But this was about to change when one of my Cow buddies, someone I respect, suggested that I check out the latest incarnation of my first NLE "girlfriend." He told me about the new Media 100 Producer. No boards needed for this, a wholly software-based 11.5 version.
The promise was that this new Media 100 would allow me to not only bring all the old programs over to our new, much faster machine, but that it would also easily integrate with the media I'd been working with in FCP. Old and new? This was something I had to see.
On launch my first thought was "Well, this is familiar. Real familiar. Project, bin and program organization are updated, but functionally unchanged. There's now two monitor windows, "Source" and "Record" instead of just one. "Digitize" is now called "Acquire." (Whew. I think I can adjust to that one.)
99 VIDEO TRACKS
But what's this? Up to 99 video tracks! Why in all of their upgrade solicitations (which I must admit, I barely read) had the company not told me about this? Okay, maybe they tried, so why hadn't they beaten me over the head with this fact? A major part of the reason I'd moved on to FCP was the fatigue of telling people that two channels and a graphics track were enough for almost anything we wanted to do.
24 AUDIO TRACKS
Getting back on track (so to speak), I should also add that Media 100 Producer also boasts up to 24 audio tracks. But to be honest, just like with the much older version, audio export is, in my opinion, still rather weak -- it's still done as a two channel mix. This would be rather time consuming if one had 24 channels to export to Pro Tools. I used to joke that "When it comes to audio, Media 100 is a wonderful video editing system." That's changed some. Maybe they'll keep improving this aspect, too. More on the new audio in a while.
WORKING WITH LEGACY MEDIA 100 PROJECTS
For my re-orientation, the first thing I did was bring over an older, existing Media 100 project from the B-room system. The project opened and after several minutes of automatic re-linking, everything was there and it was (and here's a word you don't see too often) perfect. Every clip, every transition, every audio level exactly the same as it had been. Sure this is the way that it should be, but we all know that what should be isn't always the way it is.
MEDIA 100 INTERFACE AND LAPTOPS
As discussed earlier, Media 100's primary advantage is, and always has been, simplicity and therefore speed. I can see how this ease of use would be especially beneficial in field editing on a laptop. This is an opinion: While a 15 or even a 17" laptop will always feel cramped when compared to a multi- and/or big-screen desktop system, the simpler Media 100 interface seems far more accessible on a laptop when compared to other popular NLEs. Like I said, this is my opinion and may therefore be, based more on personal preferences than fact.
MULTIPLE FORMATS & CODECS ON A SINGLE TIMELINE
One of the primary things, which is quite a change over the Media 100 of just a few years ago, is the ability to not only work in both standard and high definition, but to be able to combine both on the same timeline. In fact, all Quicktime-supported codecs can co-exist in the same timeline and by not requiring any transcoding to get there, you're able to work instead of watching a progress bar. Can other NLEs do this? Sure. Some, I guess. But the point is now old Media 100 guys like me can do it using our wealth of existing Media 100 files. Conversion of screen formats, 4x3 to 16x9 and back, is also, in the true spirit of all things Media 100, a snap.
WORKING WITH PANASONIC P2
Another video feature of the 11.5 version is direct acquisition from Panasonic P2 disks. This should be especially useful for field editing where you could download the contents of a disk, drop in on the timeline without the need to transcode, then immediately re-use the disk. Remember, with Media 100 it's all about speed.
WORKING WITH FINAL CUT PRO & MEDIA 100
The next task was to create a new project using media digitized using Final Cut Pro. No problem here, either. Still, and this is not to throw water on my own enthusiasm, but it's important that I point out one fact: Taking FCP digitized (acquired) media over to Media 100 is not a two-way street. If you need to take clips from Media 100 to Final Cut Pro you'll first have to export them out (render) as Quicktime files. And speaking of two-way streets, Media 100 touts the "Ability to move programs backward and forward between Media 100 version 11.x systems." Not having the hardware versions of either Media 100 SD or HD, I was unable to test this, but have little reason to doubt it.
There are a few notable audio features and tools which are new to the 11.5 version. For me, the most useful is the "Master Bus" feature -- a giant step ahead in convenience because it allows the user to group channels in one place for applying EQ and dynamics. This is a huge improvement over the old system of having to add EQ to each clip along the timeline. The Master Bus concept is simple, but sweet!
Dynamics -- compression, limiting, noise gating and expansion -- are now part of the audio package. They're certainly tools you'd like to have at your disposal, but to be honest I've not spent enough time with them yet to get very good results. And it's too soon to tell if it's me or the tools themselves that are at fault. Of course like so many things non-linear, it's probably more a case of having to un-learn how I want them to work, so that I can learn how they actually work.
Media 100 apparently returned to its Mac roots a while ago. Producer and the other current Media 100 products are just Mac-based. Makes sense to me because in my limited travels I think I've only seen a couple of the PC-based Media 100 installations and many, many more running on Macs. I'll put forth the idea that this shows a certain level of maturity on the part of Boris FX, the company's parent -- do what you do best and don't try to be all things to all platforms. I will point out however that Boris-branded programs are available for many, many flavors of NLEs, Mac and PC-based.
So the question becomes, if you're starting from scratch or upgrading from another NLE, does Media 100 Producer make sense for you? Probably. But if you're a lapsed Media 100 customer with projects which still live in an older Media 100 environment, it's almost a no-brainer.
At $795 the cost of M100 Producer is, IMHO, competitive in today's environment. But add in the Boris Red 4 bundle for a combined price of $1,295 and it's a great value. For returning Media 100 users like me, calculate the time savings and convenience of having access to old as well as current work and the value of the package shoots through the roof.
Welcome back, Media 100. It's like the romance never ended.
-- Nick Griffin
for more information: www.media100.com