Avid Media Composer: Review of 8.5/8.6

Avid Media Composer: Review of 8.5.2/8.6

by Jonathan Moser; Post Magazine

PRODUCT: Avid Media Composer 8.5.2
PRICE: $1,299 perpetual license with annual upgrade plan ($34.97 monthly subscription w/three-year agreement)
WEBSITE: www.avid.com
- New Timeline Mode allows more efficiency in editing
- 64 tracks of audio
- New grouping by audio waveform syncs clips
Avid Media ComposerFor a company that’s been facing turbulent times, both financially and competitively, Avid sure is constantly updating its venerable flagship editing program (with 19 releases since May 2014). With the constant comparison between NLEs, some will see many of these changes as Avid still trying to play catch-up, while others will appreciate the new implementations. Media Composer 8.5.2 has been out for several months and you can bet that by the time this review hits print, a newer version will probably be available.
This version is a significant upgrade in some features, and still wanting in others. The rhyme and reason of how Media Composer is evolving (or not). It is a topic of debate in some editing circles and a complete mystery to others. The editing wars are still going strong between the three As. Media Composer’s future is dependent on whether it can stay relevant and facile in the face of ongoing innovation by its competitors. Version 8.5.2 is at least addressing some of its weaknesses, but I can’t say whether it’s enough to overcome the marauding horde. (I hope so, it’s my bread and butter — I use it every day.)
A quick overview shows attention to HDR color spaces and custom resolutions up to 8K, new timeline features, new media linking options, 64 tracks of audio (!), a new video frame cache to speed up response time and sluggish playback, allowing adjustable RAM size, as well as the ability to ramp up video memory for more fluid playback. This is making a huge difference in stuttery playback. Well done!
Keyboard junkies will delight in a number of enhancements. Quickly find effects and settings just by typing the first letter of the effect or setting you want.
There was also a lot of housekeeping done to put commands and selections in a more logical order called Menu Simplification (although this editor would question that title). Also, Waveform Grouping brings the world of Premiere and FCPX to the native MC world — sort of. Everything from the Effect Palette to the Audio Mixer has had big and little additions. New enhancements to the bin interface now allow greater flexibility and user friendliness.
I’ll go through most of the changes in a moment. Probably the biggest change you’ll see is in the user interface with timeline trimming and top-to-bottom menu simplification.
HIGH VISIBILITY TIMELINE EDITING
This is probably the most apparent change to the program. Now, when dragging in segment or trim mode, the moving clip becomes transparent, it allows you to see whatever is underneath. That's including effect icons and waveforms (which will stay on during dragging operations, allowing for precise alignment). Gone are the outlines we used to see, unless you want to turn them back on. Clip boundaries also light up. Dragging in splice mode will visually show you how other clips are affected. There are also handy one-frame tick marks that now appear when trimming for precision. Be aware that dupe colors will turn off during these operations. Another great feature is an end-of-clip indicator that pops up red on your clip when you’ve reached the end of your media. In all, it’s useful, looks pretty cool and helps brings MC into this century.
Another welcome addition (and also long overdue) is the ability to add new tracks (audio and video) simply by dragging clips up or down.
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