Media Composer 3.0.5 review

With this version of Media Composer Avid has completely rebuilt its flagship video-editing software from the ground up for Mac OS X 10.5. Avid has upped its game by adding capabilities for the ever-growing tapeless camera market.

Media Composer is the first editing tool Avid has shipped without the need for proprietary hardware.

Same interface, new capabilities

The look and feel of Avid’s user interface remains the same, but underneath that familiar cover, Avid has answered many of its critics – and some within its user community – who called for updated support for the latest tapeless cameras and advanced codecs.

The popular XDCam Ex and XDCamHD MPEG 4:2:2 models gain support via Sony’s XDCam Transfer Tool. Avid has even posted a short video of its SxS card workflow on YouTube. There’s full support for 50MB XDcamHD workflows with the capability of handling offline editing of XDcamHD Proxy Video files directly in their original MPEG format. Import of Panasonic’s AVC-Intra codec remains in Avid’s own flavour of the MXF format, however. The most eagerly awaited addition is support for 24fps and 25fps workflows in 720pHDV, arriving long after such cameras were released on the market.

This release doesn’t just offer native access to the majority of camera formats, there are also a number of welcome adjustments. Included are enhanced controls for content dragged or dropped into a timeline, enhanced keyframing controls in the effects editor, and the ability to copy, paste and even remove redundant keyframes from content already in your timeline.

Geared to the needs of editing pros, Media Composer highlights the elements missing from Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro. Avid offers superior timecode support and on-screen display with the new AVX version of the Timecode Generator plug-in. Timecode Generator allows up to three simultaneous fields of on-screen data that can include timecode, edgecode, source name and sequence name, and even an onscreen notation field. The last is not as helpful as it sounds for day-to-day use; the timecode data remains on screen for the duration of the playback and is not editable. Yet this makes it an incredibly effective tool for visually watermarking client preview and offline versions.

The SubCap Generator, a new AVX plug-in in this version, allows for the dynamic compositing of text and the co-ordinated graphics on screen. Called open captioning because the content always remains visible to the viewer, it allows specifically for Avid DS and EBU N-19 standard caption file formats, greatly simplifying the process of creating and viewing alternative languages, translations or graphics on screen. Avid’s attention to the needs of professionals is exemplified by the new Sequence and Clip Summary, as output of individual clip and track specifics, timecode, colour corrections and EFX information can now be saved as a simple text file.

Pro v prosumer

Avid’s tools are geared toward the large, multiuser post-production environments found in broadcast television or commercial production. This software-only version allowed seamless integration and transfer of projects and files in and out of large workgroup environments using both Avid’s Unity and an Avid-approved EditShare storage network. With its software-only version, Avid has reopened the prospect of more pros and prosumers working with the suite. Freed from the hardware restrictions of previous Media Composer versions (and their industrial price tag), this should result in a rise in alternate use from the existing customer base.

This version of Media Composer also signals the end of the line for the Avid Adrenaline hardware range, as well as for the Xpress Pro and Xpress DV product lines: tech support for these products finishes this year. The company’s focus is now firmly on the professional editing marketplace.

OUR VERDICT

While not an earth-shattering upgrade, Avid Media Composer 3.0.5 is a must-have if you work with the emerging HD formats popularised by card-based camera systems. Corporate, editorial and prosumer users will love this upgrade’s functionality, especially if they’re working with JVC’s 720pHDV, Panasonic’s AVC-Intra codec or Sony’s EX cameras. Media Composer 3 allows users the same working options on location that they have in their edit bays, simplifying the workflow by maintaining a single user interface in both the desktop and laptop versions.

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