Avid Media Composer 3.5 review

When Avid released version 3 of Media Composer in 2008 a keener price and huge software bundle showed the company was not resting on its laurels anymore. So now we have the half-point update, which offers some significant improvements over the previous version.

For a start, Avid has changed the way it protects its software. Gone is the hardware dongle, to be replaced by an activation system. However, you can use your old dongle if you want, although this still requires activation.

File format support has been greatly enhanced. With the growing popularity of Sony’s XDCAM camcorders, it’s good to see native compatibility with the Long-GOP HD formats used by XDCAM HD and now also EX. The new Avid Media Access system further extends this by allowing you to link clips into a bin from an external volume, such as SxS media and P2 cards. Once you’ve linked to a piece of media, it will simply pop up as a new bin, its contents ready for inclusion in your project.

Avid has made some notable changes to the way effects work. In particular, when you nest Advanced keyframes you can now access parameters of all nested effects at any time. The SubCap and Timecode Burn-In Generator effects have new parameters, with the latter able to display information from any bin column. A FluidStabilizer tracking engine has been added, offering sophisticated tools for counteracting shaky camerawork.

CPU and GPU acceleration have been extended to more effects, including 3D Warp Perspective, SpinZ, Luma Key and Peel. In parallel with this, a new rendering option, Image Interpolation, replaces the ‘Effects Quality Render Using...’ option. This allows you to globally override how effects that resize or reposition are rendered, with Draft, Standard and Advanced options available.

Audio provisions have seen improvement, too. Broadcast Wave Format files are now supported; the Capture Tool can record up to 16 channels of HD-SDI audio simultaneously; and Digidesign AudioSuite plug-ins can be used within Media Composer.

OUR VERDICT

Media Composer 3.5 includes some impressive new features, particularly for tapeless workflow. The new effects abilities and tweaks are also quite extensive, if not a sea change. Existing Media Composer users will want this update – but the pricing for new users still makes Final Cut Studio considerably better value.

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