Avid Media Composer 3.5

When Avid released version 3 of Media Composer in mid-2008, it clearly intended to head off competition from the likes of Apple Final Cut Studio and Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium.

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Avid Media Composer 3.5
  • Avid Media Composer 3.5
  • Avid Media Composer 3.5
  • Avid Media Composer 3.5

Pros

  • Ability to link directly to tapeless media via Avid Media Access, improved effects, greater CPU/GPU acceleration

Cons

  • Cheaper suite alternatives from Adobe and Apple might have all you need

Bottom Line

Although this is a dot release, Avid Media Composer 3.5 still includes an impressive range of new features, particularly for tapeless workflow. The new effects abilities and tweaks are also quite extensive, if not a sea change. Existing Media Composer users will want this update — but the pricing for new users still makes Final Cut Studio considerably better value.

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Note: Pricing for this product is in US$.

When Avid released version 3 of Media Composer in mid-2008, it clearly intended to head off competition from the likes of Apple Final Cut Studio and Adobe Creative Suite Production Premium. A much keener price and a huge software bundle showed the company was not resting on its laurels anymore. So now we have the half-point update: it may not herald the huge policy change of version 3, but 3.5 still has some significant improvements over its predecessor.

For a start, Avid has changed the way it protects its software. Gone, at long last, is the hardware dongle, to be replaced by the now-familiar activation system. This could be annoying to those who install on multiple machines – say, a desktop and notebook – then move the dongle to the one currently in use. However, you can go on using your old dongle if you want, although this still requires activation.

That’s far from being the only new feature. File format support has been greatly enhanced: with the growing popularity of Sony’s XDCAM camcorders, it’s reassuring to see native compatibility with the Long-GOP HD formats used by XDCAM HD and now also EX. The new Avid Media Access system (below) further extends this by allowing you to link clips into a bin from an external volume, such as SxS media and P2 cards. Once you have linked to a piece of media, it will simply pop up as a new bin, its contents ready for inclusion in your project. There’s also support for displaying and editing stereoscopic footage, for working on 3D projects.

Avid has made some notable changes to the way effects work in Media Composer. In particular, when you nest Advanced keyframes, instead of being able to change the order of effects by dragging their priority icons, you can now access parameters of all nested effects at any time. The Color Correction tool is now keyframeable, too. The SubCap and Timecode Burn-In Generator effects have new parameters, with the latter able to display information from any bin column. A new FluidStabilizer tracking engine (below) has been added, offering sophisticated tools for counteracting shaky camerawork.

The CPU and GPU acceleration introduced with version 3 have been extended to more effects, including 3D-Warp Perspective, SpinZ, Luma Key and Peel. In parallel with this, a new rendering option has been enabled as well: Image Interpolation replaces the ‘Effects Quality Render Using…’ option. This allows you to globally override how effects that resize or reposition are rendered, with Draft, Standard and Advanced options available.

Audio provisions have seen improvement, too. Broadcast Wave Format files are now supported; the Capture Tool can record up to 16 channels of HD-SDI audio simultaneously; and Digidesign AudioSuite plug-ins can be used within Media Composer. You can even have ProTools and Media Composer installed on the same system, although you can’t run them both at the same time.

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