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Avid Media Composer 3.0 and Mojo DX

New Look on the New Thinking

By Ron Seifried

This last year has seen tumultuous changes at Avid that put the Post Production world on notice that the granddaddy of non-linear editing was heading toward a "New Thinking" about their product line and corporate structure. When Avid announced new marketing initiatives that did not include a tradeshow floor booth at NAB '08, rumors were rampant that the company was being shopped around or possibly going under.

That changed when the crew from Tewksbury snuck out some key announcements on the eve of NAB that addressed users' complaints and struck out in a new direction. They announced new products and considerable price drops, but skepticism persisted up until the new versions were put to the test. Avid kept repeating that customer satisfaction is their new corporate philosophy and that customers are the key to their success, and they are fully committed to support the final product. Well, Avid has delivered; it has demonstrated its complete commitment to support the final product.

The first of Avid's announcements was the retirement of the Xpress Pro line of software and the base version of the Mojo I/O box (the Mojo SDI is still available). Avid is now focusing on the Media Composer for all editing applications, so all of the confusion that customers had in the past concerning which package does what, is now limited to only what hardware I/O to incorporate into their system.

The Mojo DX is the new hardware interface that only comes bundled with Media Composer 3.0. It is important to note that previous versions of Media Composer and Xpress Pro/DV are not supported with the new hardware. Composer 3.0 is available in several upgrade packages that are compatible with older hardware interfaces including the discontinued Mojo and Adrenaline.

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The new I/O includes an impressive array of HD/SD inputs and outputs (SD and HD SDI, HDMI output, SD-SDI and HD-SDI embedded audio I/O, S/PDIF, optical ADAT and analog audio). We connected the Mojo DX via PCI Express interface to a Hewlett Packard xw8600 2.8Ghz Quad-Core workstation with 4GB RAM, four Seagate 750GB SATA drives striped internally (RAID 0) on the internal motherboard connector. We also connected a Dulce Pro DQ 6TB drive (RAID 0) and checked the read/write speeds using the Blackmagic disk utility. We got reads of 583MB/s and writes at 620MB/s. The system came preinstalled with Microsoft Windows Vista Business 32, but also works with Mac OSX Leopard, Windows Vista 64 and Windows XP Pro.

The installation of the new Media Composer 3.0 software was pretty simple and without any issues. Upon launching the application, the familiar interface appeared and we were ready to go. After capturing some clips at different rates on both the internal and external drives, we dropped all of them onto the timeline. The first notable difference you see is the fast response times when controlling the timeline. In the past, it didn't feel like a very responsive interface, but with this new version, reaction times in scrolling along the timeline or opening up bins has been improved drastically. And it didn't matter what type of video formats were on the timeline; whether its DV, or uncompressed HD, performance was impressive since 3.0 supports multiple different types of clips provided they are at the same frame rate. The improved performance of multiple layers of HD enables you to mix different flavors of formats including 720p and 1080i. With the Mojo DX, we were able to run up to 5 layers of DVC Pro HD in realtime and full resolution. The new software also supports Sony XDCAM-EX (with the Sony Clip Browser software), Panasonic AVC-I and JVC 23.975p and 25p HDV. Real-time playback of non-full-raster HD codecs through video output from the timeline was a breeze.

Domain Management is a hidden feature that does not appear on the interface but is extremely important, with improved real-time effect performance with optimized CPU/GPU acceleration. The software can now select which processor delivers the best performance, so running through multi-layer, multi codec projects with several realtime effects is a breeze without any hiccups or delays. For those who depend on Avid for their livelihood, this alone is the most important detail that has been severely missed in earlier versions.

There is now support for a Timecode window display. This new effect will burn-in up to three lines Timecode values, including a convenient notes track for intuitive communication between director, producer and editor. You can also resize and reposition all of the display text within the video frame.

The new Timecode tool includes the option for up to three text lines.

Another neat feature is the ability to incorporate subtitles and captions. Using an interface similar to the Timecode tool, the subtitle feature allows you to import or export captions via a .STL file right onto the timeline, with the options for text type, size, color and background. This new tool is a good way to put together basic closed captioning text together, since it is not embedded into the video track, commonly found in the standard recognized by all televisions today.

The Text tool can be used for subtitles or a Closed Captioning

Although we did not try it, the latest version of Avid DVD (Windows only) supports Blu-Ray authoring with interactive menus, or you can burn discs directly from the timeline. Avid DVD is the latest in the successful partnership with Sonic.

After a few years of uncertainty, Avid has come back with stable and fast software, a new hardware interface and aggressive pricing. But the most important bit of news is that Avid is finally listening to their user base, and it shows with this latest release. By addressing some primary concerns and improving performance, Avid has shown that they intend to continue to have an important role in the future as they've had in the past.


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