Avid Media Composer 6.5 review

After a much-need refresh with version 6 which added interface improvements, release from being hardware-dependent and more support for third party hardware, Avid’s venerable NLE gets a modest update. This time round we’re talking some general improvements and hardware tweaks rather than wholesale changes or performance enhancement. The hardware liberation that started with 6.0 is continued here with a toggle for attached devices that releases them so you can use software only features without having to disconnect them. This is fine for AVID’s own hardware but third party drivers need to be updated to make use of the feature or it gives an error message.

There’s a tweak when you’re getting started that is very welcome. Previously, when you connected any mounted drive, it was automatically scanned for AMA media and those clips were added to the current bin. In theory this was a good idea, saving time, in practice it meant connecting a drive to access just one file was then delayed while everything else on the drive was scanned and imported and which then needed to be cleaned out of the current bin afterwards. This has been fixed with an option in the AMA Settings to toggle the feature on or off.

New features include support for the AS-02 MXF mastering format which can package different versions of the same clip sequence together without having to store the same assets again. There’s also support for the JPEG2000 codec and you can use AMA to export content without transcoding. Currently, HDCAM SR has AMA writeback, but other AMA plug-in developers are expected to update and follow suit.

When dealing with clips there’s a couple of interesting developments. The first is a timeline improvement whereby non-adjacent clips can be selected and moved together. It’s the kind of thing you wonder why it’s taken this long to include. The other is in the Relinking options. Whilst not particularly user-friendly to start with, this has more options to make the process more flexible and avoid the frustration of not being able to get it to relink to files where you thought it should. There’s also an option to automatically relink to all AMA QT files which can do this as a batch process when they’re all in the same folder.

The sound side of things gets some interesting tweaks as well. There’s advanced audio keyframing which can also be copy and pasted or just some of the audio attributes can be pasted. Pasting of attributes is key feature of FCP so it’s nice to see this here though it’s only in audio with this release. The other audio upgrade is the support for up to 64 audio voices (from using 16 or 32), including multiple 7.1 surround sound tracks, though note that the actual audio tracks remains the same at 24.

OUR VERDICT

This is an intermediate release requiring a paid-update and adds some new features, most of which are useful, rather than increasing performance or fixing some existing bugs. The audio keyframe copy/pasting feature was way overdue but one of the most useful features is the ability to not do something – turn off automatically loading bins with AMA media from mounted volumes. While not an essential upgrade, it’s a worthwhile one for Avid editors.

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