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Media Composer’s Trim mode is often cited as an Avid editor’s favorite feature and helps keep professional editors dedicated to the platform.


While comments are often made that MC doesn’t have the ability to finish at 4K (at least it can’t, as of this writing, but that may have changed by the time you read this), it can do what’s probably more useful in most editorial and finishing situations: work with high-res media in a 1080 timeline. A feature called FrameFlex can access the native clip resolution and allow the editor to crop, reframe or scan around the image via keyframe-based animation. It’s an incredibly useful addition to the toolset, and is probably called for more often these days than actual finishing at 4K. FrameFlex is available in a clip’s Source Settings menu that allows the editor to do other things to file-based clips, like change the color space or add LUTs, all things that a modern file-based NLE needs to do.

One criticism I often hear of Media Composer is that it’s not as capable in working with effects as some of its competitors. While the third-party plug-in support isn’t anywhere near as vast as that of Final Cut Pro, there are full-featured high-end effects packages available from vendors like Boris and GenArts. MC features a good set of basic effects tools built in and they can be applied on a clip-by-clip basis or applied to many different clips at once. The Effect Editor is actually quite robust, as it allows animation keyframing of individual parameters via a mini-timeline or all parameters at once.

Layered Photoshop files are supported. Matte keys can be applied. There’s a very good slow-motion and stabilization engine. The AniMatte tool is an editor favorite for creating quick masks. The Paint tool can clone and remove part of a shot (among other things). Many editors swear by the FluidMorph transition to fix a jump cut in an interview. You can even apply composite and blend modes from within the MC interface by utilizing the free Avid FX compositing application. Animation options run quite deep and some incredibly complex effects can be achieved. Though MC probably wouldn’t be my first choice on a motion graphics-heavy job (we do live in an After Effects world, after all), it’s important to know you can do a lot of effects-heavy lifting right from the interface.

FrameFlex is Media Composer 7’s option for dealing with larger-than-HD media in an HD timeline, though it also can be used for HD media, as well.

Avid’s biggest problem with Media Composer is probably that of perception. It seems that today it’s thought of by many as an old application that can’t move easily into a 4K future. That it’s an expensive tool only used by old men and women in Hollywood. That it’s incredibly difficult to learn for the new editor.

Historically, Media Composer is an old application, but that rewrite of the application means it will continue to evolve into the 4K future. That evolution isn’t anywhere near complete. Unlike Apple, Avid isn’t in a position where it can alienate its customer base by retooling the entire NLE. A good part of the entertainment industry depends on MC working the way it does to get those movies and TV shows edited. An entire industry doesn’t change very quickly or easily.

But the reputation as an "old" application isn’t entirely unfounded. The interface isn’t nearly as fluid as other NLEs. During playback, you can’t scroll around the timeline or do other things in the interface (besides marking In or Out points) without playback stopping. This feels downright archaic when moving over from other NLEs. There’s no "skimming" or Hover Scrubbing, so quickly viewing media requires a lot of double-clicking and dragging. That’s one of the biggest things I miss in Media Composer after using those options in Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro CC, respectively. There are so many settings, preferences, menu items, buttons, switches and windows that a new editor might be overwhelmed into thinking he or she will never get the hang of it. While you can resize windows, tab bins and create custom saved workspaces, I always feel like I’m fighting window organization more than the other NLEs. Between all the Smart Tool combinations and different editing modes, a novice might feel like Media Composer is complex just to keep new users from learning it! Truthfully, it is complex.