Avid has released an upgrade to its Media Composer video editing software for Mac and Windows -- along with new versions of its NewsCutter news editing tool and the Symphony finishing system.

Media Composer 5.5, NewsCutter 9.5 and Symphony 5.5 gain the PhraseFind add-on. This allows editors to quickly find clips and segments by searching for words or phrases used in audio tracks. It uses the same Nexidia phonetic indexing engine found in the ScriptSync plug-in, which is designed to match dialogue to a script.

The new versions of Media Composer and NewsCutter add support for AJA's Io Express, a low-cost video input and output interface. This adds to the support for Matrox MX02 Mini monitoring hardware added in Media Composer 5. Editors can also now leverage Artist Mix, Artist Control and Artist Transport control surfaces (formerly from Euphonix).

The growing support for third-party hardware from a company that has traditionally focussed on its own boards and devices shows that Avid is trying to win over current users of other editing software, especially Apple Final Cut Pro, by allowing Media Composer to work with the hardware they already own. Support for other hardware is expected to be added in future releases.

Also with Final Cut users in mind, Avid has added direct timeline control of transitions as an alternative to using separate transition tools.

Editors using the applications with the Nitris DX hardware can gain support for real-time capture and increased playback streams of Panasonic AVC-Intra media through a user-installable chip.

Other new features include support for Sony's HDCAM SR Lite format (through the AMA framework), improved search, and support for Pro Tools hardware.

The new versions are expected to ship on March 8.