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April 2014
Issue: August 1, 2013

Review: Avid Media Composer 7

By: Brady Betzel
PRODUCT: Avid Media Composer 7 

WEBSITE: www.avid.com

PRICE: Standard, $999; Interplay Edition, $1,499

- FrameFlex and LUT support
- Background transcoding and consolidation
- Cached waveform redraw
- Dynamic media folders with new media management

Avid Media Composer 7 is bringing the heat to post production workflows and data management everywhere. Full disclosure: I am a huge Avid fan. I read the forums. I follow the Avid gurus on Twitter. I read all the #postchat’s, and I work with it daily, so I am very excited for this release of Media Composer.  

One of the biggest drawbacks in Media Composer has been the inability to multi-task. Those days are gone with Media Composer 7. Background transcoding, consolidating, cached waveforms (worth the price of the upgrade alone), Dynamic Media Folders with new media management, and even selecting everything in a video track except the filler (Alt+Select Right/Left or Option+Select Right/Left) are here! 

At home, I use an HP workstation that is a few years old, but is still hefty enough to test most equipment. I wasn’t sure that Media Composer 7 would install properly on my older system, but to my surprise, it did. Tip: Make sure that before installing, you deactivate and uninstall all previous versions of Media Composer, as that may cause some hiccups. And to really accelerate background services, I would maximize the amount of RAM in your system. 



After installing, I immediately wanted to uncover the much talked about behemoth: FrameFlex. FrameFlex allows the inclusion of greater than 1920-by-1080 resolution media inside HD projects. You can access it by right clicking on a master clip, going into source settings and choosing what area of the frame and aspect ratio you want use as your HD extraction. You can also keyframe the position and size in effects mode. 

Color management of footage has also arrived in the Color Encoding tab, where we can select realtime LUTs as well as create and modify our own customized looks. 

AND AUDIO TOO

The new audio mixer options let users choose what to show, or, more importantly, what not to show, including meters and faders. A large portion of screen real estate can found when hiding the audio faders. While you have the faders in the mixer hidden, the new direct clip gain is a great way to adjust the clip gain directly on the clip in the timeline. When clicked, the direct clip gain reveals a fader to adjust that particular clip’s gain. In addition, you can adjust your entire sequence at once using the new master audio fader. 

Personally, I think that the biggest audio related addition to MC7 is cached waveforms. Instead of waiting around for each clip to build its waveform, the new cached waveforms takes just moments to populate on the timeline. No more coffee breaks when drawing waveforms, it’s almost instant…really!

Spanned markers are Avid’s gift to producers who have plenty of notes to give. You can now mark a section of the timeline with one long marker. To accomplish this you must mark an in and out around the section you want to use a spanned marker with, hold Alt or Option, and click the marker. Inside the dialogue, you can name the marker, add comments and change the color. 

AMA media is now managed via the Avid databases and appears inside the Media Tool, great for those OCD assistant editors out there. Instead of linking to your AMA file in the “File” menu, you can now drag clips into a bin as AMA linked clips by holding Alt/Option while dragging a clip. Furthermore, you can now import graphic media as AMA files along with their alpha channels, assign a color to AMA clips in the timeline and specify to transcode/consolidate only AMA clips in a sequence (true salvation for assistant editors upres-ing footage).

While everything I’ve mentioned so far is great, the real game changing elements of Media Composer 7 are baked into the background services. Background transcoding, consolidating and dynamic media folders use a Web-based interface to monitor all of the action. With a fast computer, you can set up drop folders with specific tasks to run in the background. 

For example, if I want a folder to handle the importing of all still images, I can set a folder to perform a backup copy of the images, import them at high resolution to my online drive and low resolution to my offline drive for an offline/online workflow. 



This not only saves time, it will help stop editors or anyone else from importing media to the wrong drive, at the wrong resolution, or at the wrong aspect ratio with the simple setup of networked Dynamic Media Folders on an ISIS or other server. This can all be done while Media Composer 7 is running or when it is closed, while you’re editing or when you’re not. While not here yet, background rendering, exporting and a queue-based system, hopefully, aren’t far away. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

Media Composer 7 is as close to a must-have upgrade for every Avid user that I have seen. As an assistant editor, there are life-altering changes packed inside of MC7. Avid even includes new, bonus gifts, such as the NewBlue Titler Pro plug-in and a 30-day trial of the iZotope Insight audio plug-in. 

In the end, background transcoding, consolidating and Dynamic Media Folders give the power back to the end user by freeing up valuable time that is usually wasted watching files import, transcode or consolidate.

Brady Betzel is an Assistant Editor with Bunim Murray Productions in Van Nuys, CA. He can be reacher at: bradybetzel@gmail.com.