Review: Avid Media Composer V.5.5.2 & AJA's IO Express
Issue: August 1, 2011

Review: Avid Media Composer V.5.5.2 & AJA's IO Express

PRODUCTS: Avid Media Composer 5.5.2 and AJA IO Express


PRICE: Avid: Media Composer shippable box, $2,495 with the production suite.

$2,295 without suite. Download-only, $2,295. Buy production suite separately on Avid store for an additional $295.

PRICE: AJA: IO Express, $995

Avid Media Composer: 

·Updated tools and interface 

·Robust media management combined with Unity ISIS and Interplay environs

·Updated AMA plug-in architecture 

AJA IO Express:

·Third-party I/O and monitoring solution compatible with variety of tools

·HDMI v1.3a I/O

·Portability via Express Card and/or PCIe card (purchased separately)

The day has finally come where someone like me — who is always trying to expand his editing skills — no longer has to purchase a used Avid Adrenaline and an old version of Media Composer to really learn the Avid Media Composer suite. 

Avid, AJA and Matrox have come together to embrace Media Composer’s newly developed third-party hardware support. AJA’s involvement, announced at NAB, is the IO Express — a powerful input, output and monitoring solution. 

Working as an independent editor when not at my day job, I built my own editing bay to continue learning the craft of editing. I often use my Canon T2i H.264 footage to edit and play with, but with an Adrenaline SD I haven’t been able to monitor my footage on my HD television. With the AJA IO Express I was able to monitor my footage as soon as I installed Media Composer 5.5.2. I use the AMA feature to quickly look at the footage without having to fully import it (I would suggest fully importing the footage to a nice DNX codec.).


The affordable AJA IO Express works seamlessly with Avid Media Composer 5.5 and above. For those who do not need the additional hardware acceleration that the Nitris/Symphony DX provide, the AJA IO Express comes to the rescue. It is connected via Express Card slot on a laptop or PCIe card for a workstation, and if you have both it could be a great field-to-edit solution. 

I was able to install the supplied PCIe card within minutes, attach the external input/output box and install the AJA IO Express software and drivers. The IO Express installation was easy. Immediately I monitored my work in Adobe Photoshop CS5 on my HD TV via the HDMI output; I do not have After Effects CS5.5 but if I did, I could monitor my After Effects projects, too. 

The IO Express harnesses 8- or 10-bit HD/SD SDI and HDMI 1.3a (a = audio) input and outputs in addition to the component and composite outputs. There is also great 10-bit hardware downconversion that supports anamorphic, letterbox and cropped outputs. Audio I/Os include embedded 8-channel 24-bit SDI, 8-channel HDMI embedded audio and 2-channel unbalanced RCA outputs. There is RS-422 machine control and color black or tri-level sync.


After the quick AJA installation I installed Media Composer 5.5.2 and its production suite of software of compression, music and effects. Avid has trimmed down the packaging to a small box and one small manual; love to see less carbon footprint with PDF manuals! 

A hot commodity today is tapeless workflow, which Avid is taking a lead on (while not forgetting legacy tape-based workflows). With MC 5.5.2, I Linked to AMA File and mounted a few Red-based R3D files, QuickTimes — including Apple’s ProRes wrapped H.264s, even Canon’s 5D, 7D and T2i flavored H.264s. To help future-proof the AMA architecture with new technologies, we are now able download additional AMA plug-in updates from — I downloaded and installed the Red R3D plug-in quickly. I was using R3D files via AMA within five to seven minutes — no reboot needed.

Being new to the Media Composer 5 family, I found the updated trim tools very intriguing. They include rolling trim (classic Avid trim style) or a ripple edit, more of a style seen in Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro. Furthermore, Media Composer 5.5 has added a transition tool — visually they look like audio keyframes in the timeline — the transition in and out points can be adjusted within the timeline, no need to draw up the Transition Dialogue, but if you do, you will find a new sidebar allowing the editor to select the tracks to apply the transition to, i.e. V1, A1, etc. For those who do not know, when using the segment tool (within MC 5) to move a clip in the timeline, transitions of old Media Composer projects would be deleted, but transitions now stay in time — it seems miniscule but is very handy. 


Avid’s breakthrough of PhraseFind and continuation of ScriptSync have furthered the sport of editing inside Media Composer. PhraseFind, a feature that can be added for an additional price, has helped the dynamicity within the Media Composer application. PhraseFind allows the editor to find (Shortcut: ctrl+F) a phrase that was spoken on any clip that was imported/digitized into Media Composer, a giant time saver for the reality/news editor within us. ScriptSync is a great feature that allows a “paper” script to be imported into Media Composer and analyzed against the footage to align with what is said. Click on the script where a line is said — timeline will jump to that point on the clip.


The post industry is in a strange flux — currently bridging and trying to complete the transition from tape to tapeless workflows while still upholding legacy tape formats, undertaking resolutions that mimic film and embracing tons of processing cores and GBs of RAM. Media Composer still has room for advancements but those are coming. I recently attended an event Avid held at Warner Bros. where they showed DNX 4:4:4, 4K and higher projects, a 64-bit version and further third-party integration.

Avid Media Composer is a rock solid, reliable platform that editors trust in an industry that evolves and advances minute by minute.