As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Or, more prosaically, we often can extend our creative skills through access to slightly more advanced tools than those with which we’re currently familiar. Video-editing software falls comfortably into this category, especially if we have aspirations to move into more sophisticated productions, for which additional tracks, processing and finishing options are on our immediate horizon.
If Adobe Premiere, Avid Pinnacle Studio, MAGIX Movie Edit Pro, Sony Vegas and similar fare define the entry-level sector of the market, then the high end is probably dominated—with apologies to Apple’s Final Cut Studio—by Avid Media Composer, which is the NLE of choice for a large number of film and video projects. And with the recent introduction of Media Composer 5.5, Avid has wrapped into the product a number of new features and functions of direct relevance to the HDVP community.
"Our recent upgrade added a number of important advantages for videographers and independent filmmakers," considers Angus Mackay, Avid’s segment marketing manager for Media Composer. "One of the most important features is that the software can now directly work with native formats from a broad cross section of video recorders, without the need to first transcode the files."
Using Avid Media Access, or AMA, a plug-in architecture that was first introduced with version 3.5 and steadily augmented in subsequent releases, Media Composer can directly ingest Sony XDCAM, XDCAM HD and XDCAM EX, plus Panasonic P2 (DV, DVCPRO and DVCPRO 50), DVC PRO HD and AVC-Intra, HDCAM SR Lite, Material Exchange Format (MXF), GFCAM, Canon XF (MPEG-2 full HD), RED 4K and QuickTime, which adds compatibility with ProRes, H.264 and Canon EOS 5D Mark II/7D videos.
"By eliminating the need to transcode, rewrap, import and/or copy media," Mackay emphasizes, "MC users can start editing straight away—you simply connect a supported card/disc or device and begin viewing and cutting your footage. The amount of time that can be saved depends upon the file-format codec and editing computer, but can be significant during an average project. For example, suppose you’ve shot maybe 14 hours of material at a wedding celebration. Given the ability to edit raw material and render only finished material in the final timeline—maybe a 60-minute summary of the event—and we can immediately see the advantages of an AMA-based workflow."
Max Burgess is a London, UK-based freelance editor and senior editor at Box Television, which operates seven music TV channels; he has extensive experience with Media Composer while editing music videos, promos and commercial work, in addition to his personal projects. "A lot of the file-based material I edit is shot in RED format," he says. "Media Composer’s AMA ingest capabilities dramatically speed up my workflow. In the past, it might have taken a couple of days to transcode the files and perhaps half a day to import them into the edit system. Now, I can start editing straight away. We also use Avid’s DNxHD 36 offline codec, which provides far better results from multicamera projects, where it’s essential that I see everything within the frame."
Burgess’ credits include music promos for Mystery Jets’ "Half In Love With Elizabeth," Biffy Clyro’s "Mountains" and Sydney Samson’s "Riverside," plus channel-brand promos for Magic and Home.