Innovation

A taste of the shiny new Avid Media Composer 2019

The latest release of the Media Composer brings many UI changes and split opinions

Date
Author
Filip Milovanovic
Post-production expert,
ELEMENTS
Category
Innovation
Tags
Avid
Media Composer

So, I kind of have this fear that I believe most of us have felt at some point in our professional lives. I imagine going out on a long world travel, or for some other reason not working as I currently do and returning back to work only to find that the technology and the tools that I was working with have moved on. They have continued evolving with no regard for my absence and now when I try to get back to work, instead of familiar buttons and menus, all I see is three seashells. Stop worrying Filip, there’s no way that the media people will not get that Demolition man reference. 😀 Well, upon first use of the all new shiny Media Composer 2019, I’ve gotten a tiny reminder on how that nightmare scenario could feel.

Media Composer has always been quite inflexible when it came to project organisation compared to other NLEs on the market. Therefore production workflows always needed to conform with Avid’s way of working. In order to achieve workable performance, the footage needed to be converted into media files in most cases. Avid’s media files could only be OP-Atom MXFs and the manipulation of the UI was restricted to opening, closing and resizing the windows. For these reasons, Avid Media Composer was very well suited for big shared projects in which as little room as possible will be left for human error. This is why there is a very high chance that a number of your favourite movies have been edited in Avid Media Composer.

But the success of YouTube and relatively inexpensive cameras with good video quality have given rise to a new kind of video content creator. Their projects tend to be short and often self-produced –  the perfect tool for this faster moving style of projects turned out to be Adobe Premiere Pro. It has offered a more intuitive, easier to learn UI, uncomplicated media management and was better suited for editing using only one monitor – in other words everything that Avid Media Composer wasn’t. This fact was probably getting harder to ignore by Avid as the market continued to grow and the release of Media Composer 2019 is the biggest step made so far to try to fit in into this market.

The first thing noticeable when starting the new Media Composer 2019 is its changed UI look that now resembles those of the DaVinci Resolve and Adobe Premiere Pro. A Resolve-like dock was introduced for switching between customisable workspaces. This feature could definitely prove to be useful. A nice improvement is that switching between the edit and the colour correction mode has become a bit faster than in the versions before.

Some more UI changes have been made – all buttons have been given a make-over with some like the Lift-button changing altogether.  The standard timeline buttons have been boiled down to the minimum in order to fit the buttons from the timelines side-menu that is now completely gone. Bins have the new Frame view mode that allows for a grid-free redistribution of the clips, similar to Premiere Pro’s Freeform view. One refreshing and useful new feature is window docking. Docking the windows together now means that each window no longer needs to be scaled separately as was the case in the earlier versions.

The biggest and somewhat radical change in the newest version of Media Composer is the elimination of the project window. Now, users have access to so called bin containers – basically familiar bins with a slidable left edge that reveals the bin list of the project. This was probably done, like so many other things, in order to allow for easier work in a single monitor. While editing in the new version, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of things. One is that I actually liked having the project and the bins separated and the second thing is that I was used to having the settings, the user menu and the effect palette always ready on hand in the project window. This may be a thing to get used to, but after about a month of using the new version I still struggle with it.

Media Composer now allows the creation of MXA OP1a and DNxUncompressed media files. This decision allows for a bit more flexibility in the organization of the media files but may on the other hand be weakening that rigid way of working with Avid that many companies actually like.

The new Media Composer version supports creation of OP1a mixdowns – video, audio and data in one master clip. Support for OpenEXR has been introduced as well as timeline playback at 32-bit float. Inspector tool has been introduced, supposedly giving users a kind of an Avid-based MediaInfo-like tool, but there are not many apparent differences to the “get info” menu point in the previous versions of Media Composer.

All in all, there are split opinions regarding the new look and function of the new Media Composer and only time will tell how it will go down in history. Nevertheless, these are not huge changes. Discounting the elimination of the project window, most changes are cosmetic to the UI. When it comes to features like the customizable workspace dock and window docking, one could even argue that they were somewhat overdue. Avid’s efforts to shape Media Composer according to the changing media landscape are understandable and the new features and looks just need some time to get used to. It will be interesting to see to which degree Avid will continue reinventing Media Composer. It is very probable that the new version will be used as a base for further conservative developments in the scale similar to the versions before, as this software has many users in the professional sector that are not too keen on seeing big changes in their favourite, industry-standard NLE.

At the end, a little word of advice – Using an old user in Media Composer 2019 can produce all kinds of strange behaviours. For instance, not being able to switch between workspaces. We recommend following the best practice of creating a new user and thereby saving yourself some hassle.

Important information when working with Avid Media Composer on shared storage: As of January 2019, shared projects (bin locking) are only available on Media Composer perpetual license plans and Media Composer Ultimate and Enterprise subscriptions.  A simple Media Composer subscription, currently costing 23 EUR or 23.99 USD per month does not provide bin locking functions regardless of the storage that the projects are stored on.

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