Avid Jockeys for First Place with New Media Composer 5


Fifteen years ago, Avid was the only serious NLE option running for film and video editors. NLEs today are less expensive and more powerful than they've ever been—there are currently several affordable professional editing suites on the market. By releasing the brand-new Media Composer 5 Production Suite, Avid is hoping to blast around the inside turn and take its place at the head of the pack, for NLE projects of all sizes and budgets.

I've been using the Final Cut Suite almost exclusively for the past few years, and I’m excited to try out Avid's Media Composer 5. Years ago, when Avid was the only game in town, there wasn’t any serious competition for its flagship product, Media Composer. The software only worked on incredibly expensive turn-key systems that Avid supplied. Of course, anyone working professionally in editing was working on an Avid Media Composer system. Over the past decade, however, many competing non-linear editing programs have become available, including Apple's Final Cut Pro and Adobe's Premiere Pro. These NLE's were significantly less expensive, weren't tied to specific hardware systems and featured what many editors felt was a much more friendly interface and work flow. For the first time, Avid was feeling some heat.

Fast-forward to 2010: With the new Media Composer 5, Avid is showing evidence of having listened to its user group, and has implemented changes that will please Avid enthusiasts and entice Final Cut users to take Media Composer for a spin. It's clear that with version 5, Avid is once again making a bid at being the lead NLE on the market (which some editors will argue it always has been), and it may very possibly have succeeded.

One of the big changes in Media Composer 5 is its brand new "Smart Tool." In the old Media Composer, to move clips around the timeline you had to click on specific edit tools. To splice in a clip, you had to hit the SPLICE button. To overwrite a clip? Click on the OVERWRITE tool. With the new Smart Tool, simply placing the mouse at different spots along the timeline will allow a variety of editing functions. Now, you can edit by dragging and dropping elements directly into the timeline. If you want to trim a clip, hover the cursor near the end of the clip for TRIMMING functions. To move a clip, just drag and drop it with the mouse. Final Cut users will be familiar with this type of editing, but for Avid, it's a brand new track. For editors who prefer the traditional Avid way of editing, the Smart Tool can be turned off.

Another major improvement is AMA (Avid Media Access) support for Quicktime and R3D files. In older versions of Media Composer, you would have to import video files and convert them into Avid files before they could be manipulated. Now, you can open just about any Quicktime file (including Apple ProRes and H.264) or RED Camera R3D file directly in Media Composer and it will play that file natively, without requiring conversion. If you’re working on RED RAW camera footage, being able to play those files natively in Media Composer will be a huge plus—and a huge advantage over Final Cut, which currently does not offer this functionality. 

Another noticeable change in the new Media Composer is that Avid is opening up the software to third-party hardware, which will allow you to use the Matrox MXO2 Mini to view your footage on external monitors. On older versions, you were limited to the much more expensive Mojo DX or Nitris DX systems to view playback on external monitors. 

The Avid Media Composer Production Suite also comes loaded with other third-party software to help you in the editing room. It includes DVD-authoring software; the 2D and 3D FX compositing software, Avid FX; the Boris Continuum Complete set of filters; SmartSound Sonicfire Pro music-editing software and sound-loop library; and Sorenson Squeeze to convert your video for playback in just about any media. If you already own a previous version of Avid Media Composer Production Suite, you can upgrade easily with the Media Composer 5 Upgrade

The good news is that the cost of entry into a fully functional Avid system is dropping tremendously. Media Composer 5 has added the kind of flexibility to its editing and importing functionality that may entice Final Cut and Adobe Premiere users, and its native support for RED RAW footage will hopefully place Media Composer two steps ahead of the pack as a serious option for a winning NLE suite. 

Do you have any preference for one type of NLE software over another? Are you excited about Media Composer 5? Feel free to leave questions or comments in the Comments section below.

Discussion 19

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"The best part about using Media composer is that you aren't anchored to a Mac."

Oh, yeah, anchored to a computer that's more reliable than a PC.  That would be tragic.  

Honestly, I've used MC5 at work and have had issues with it since day one.  It keeps shutting down if I scroll too fast in any of the bins.  The production director thinks he knows what the issue is, so we'll see.

Aside from this, here are just a few reasons why I prefer FCP over Avid:

* Dedicated keyboard shortcut for rendering (Have yet to see that from MC5)

* You can open multiple sequences (again, not in MC5)

* Easier to apply multiple filters/effects to your clips (Just drag and drop)

* Despite the upgrade in MC, the interface still seems too "rigid" compared to FCP.  

Even though I've gotten used to using Avid, I much prefer FCP.

I realize that Avid can be used on a Mac, but I don't know of anyone that has a Mac that doesn't use FCP.  And if this is the case for the most part, then Heaven help Avid if/when Apple comes out with a touch screen for Macs like on the iPhone. 

been using 5 now for three weeks.. brilliant so fast its unbeliveble Smart tool is excellent what an innovation. Nice thiong tho I have two no avid pcs used since the days of 2.6 usually one or two issues on all upgrades... 5 sailed in no issues whatsoever.

The tutorials on lone are great and finally we get some free support at last..

give it a try


Avid vs Final Cut Pro?

Guys, they're tools. Both get the job done and both have their fans. Please don't tell me that you're work is better 'cause you're using an Avid system. It's just so Junior high school. It's like comparing a Toro to a Honda mower. Just mow yer lawn, and quit yer yappin!!

i am still using adobe premier pro 6.5..... and it has never failed me....

but keen to upgrade and to do my work faster..am in malaysia  +6-012-5887719

email at   bestoto@tm.net.my

I've been using Premiere CS3 and now Premiere CS5 and absolutely love it! I looked at Avid seriously years ago and it never struck a balance in my situation in terms of price and hardware. I believe alot of the other NLE's have not only caught up with Avid but may have surpassed it, especially in terms of innovation, price and compatability with different hardware solutions.

Learned on Avid while in film school. Loved it. Priced it after graduating. Dang!!!!  Went with Final Cut and now love it.  Avid may be the choice for big production today but editors of tomarrow start with what they can afford.

Final Cut opened the door that Avid slammed shut. I won't crawl back to Avid.

The basic time-line functionality of MC5 Liquid had over 5 years ago. Avid took the good bits out of Liquid that they could write into the MC code. Even though they've killed Liquid I'll be staying with it, no MC for me.


Sony's Vegas Pro has had many of these features new to Avid and FCP for years. I'm glad Avid has stepped up it's development to include a more friendly user interface. Thankfully, they still have the best data management of any NLE.

However, for my workflow in HD, for my quick turnaround needs and for my need to drop just about any type of video/audio file on the timeline....Vegas Pro still fits me needs.

Have been using Avid for 15 years now. Love the system and how it works. BUT the company and support are useless. Basically can't get answers to problems. Forum moderators are basically no help and the AVID has become a faceless company. Prices are going up more than its worth and feel i will move onto another system, within the next upgrade period. Sorry AVID you have lost me..

Heard the upcoming FCP will not only blow your mind, but bust your eyeballs too.

Serious editing equals Media Composer...

 After buying Avid Liquid Edition it was discontinued. Avid has a higher cost does not justify its functionality. Liquid gave up and now use Canopus Edius, it is very good.

I'll 2nd that. After working with AVID and other NLE's and then moving to CS4 and PPro last year and now CS5, I'll never go back. 80% of editors told me to go with FCP but the expense of a new Mac rig was out of the question. Now they're all looking at CS5! The integration rocks, 64 bit, Mercury engine, low cost of ownership, excellent interface and with the money you save you can afford a nice fast RAID and some new camera gear. The real benefit is being able to get under the hood of your PC and upgrade components at low cost as your needs change. New motherboard or DDR3? No problem. New RAID controller? No problem. Can't do that easily on a Mac.

Match all this flexibility with some sweet plugin's like Red Giant or Boris and you have total control. Why would you bother getting sucked into the proprietry world of FCP or AVID?

I bought DigiDesign's Pro-Tools software back in December. I am still trying to get it to work properly. The people at the Apple Store will help me. The DigiDesign people won't! They want to charge to help me. Go figure. I'd think a long time before buying an Avid product as it is the same company, right?

Avid is by far the superior NLE.

People thought Apple was too late when it acquired Final Cut from Macromedia and retro fit it to conform to OSX. But, if the tool is good serious editors will use ir regardless of the name on the box. This is a solid release that answers much of the negative negative feedback Avid has gotten since 2000. 

what's the price of the new Avid Media Composer?  how come you're not saying?  If it still costs more than Final Cut, where are all the whammy extras making it worth the extra bucks, not to mention the time for learning the program?  

I have been working with Adobe Premiere Pro for years, and I'm not interested in Avid's Media Composer 5 trying to regain it's place with a few improvements to the NLE field.

way too late. no?