In the Studio: Avid Media Composer 5 and the Matrox MXO2 Mini

EventDV by Marc Franklin

Avid is the granddaddy of all computer-based nonlinear editing (NLE) systems. It was the first to market with its NLE in 1989. In the early days, you worked with offline resolutions of 320x240 and a 512MB hard drive, and it cost much more than $100,000. In those early years, only Hollywood studios, major post houses, and TV networks could afford those NLEs. Today, Avid remains tops in the big studios, TV networks, and post houses. But Apple Final Cut Pro (FCP), Adobe Premiere Pro, Grass Valley EDIUS, and Sony Vegas are the NLEs of choice for the vast majority of event video studios. That said, Avid has recently streamlined its product line and added a lot of requested features that previously fell on deaf ears. The latest edition of Avid’s flagship desktop system, Media Composer 5 (MC5) is said to be the company’s answer for people who said they went to FCP or Adobe Premiere Pro because “Avid didn’t listen.” Let’s take a look.

The first thing I noticed while installing MC5 was no more USB dongle. I hated the dongle. If you wanted to run it on a workstation and then a laptop while traveling and you forgot the dongle at home, you were pretty much out of business. Next, I noticed a healthy number of useful tutorials, programs, and plug-ins. The MC5 suite includes the AVX version of Boris Continuum Complete 6 (BCC 6; the current retail version is 7), Boris FX (cool transitions), SmartSound Sonicfire Pro 5.5 (soundtrack-building software), Avid DVD by Sonic (DVD authoring), Sorenson Squeeze 6 (multiformat transcoding), and a tutorial DVD from I’m a big fan of BCC 6 and Sonicfire Pro. They are both essential tools that I use on a very regular basis. All in all, MC5 is a well-rounded package of essential software. The only thing you’ll need to add is an image editor such as Adobe Photoshop and an audio editor such as Avid Pro Tools (more on that later).

Installing the software on the HP z800 workstation (dual quad-core 3.2GHz Xeon, 12GB RAM, NVIDIA Quadro FX4800 GPU) proved pretty painless. Unlocking and registering it was another story. I got the “congratulations you are registered” message, but then upon running MC5, I was told I had “too many systems registered, number of systems: 1.” It took half an hour to get through that with tech support. I then found out there was a 5.03 update that required me to register again on the Avid website, then log in and download.

Upon running MC5 for the first time, I started a new project and imported some HDV files. This is a major improvement in itself. In the past, Avid systems would only work with footage captured into Avid directly using Avid’s own codecs. With Avid’s new open architecture, you can capture to an Avid file or you can import files you previously captured in another program. The basic rule of thumb is, “If Apple’s QuickTime can play it, so can Avid.”

HD Monitoring With Matrox MXO2 Mini
Another significant item of Avid’s open architecture is being able to use third-party hardware. Previously, MC5 by itself would allow you to edit and export. But unless you bought the Mojo I/O box for $7,500, you could only monitor your video on whatever computer screen you were using to edit. Avid has opened the MC5 software to work with Matrox’s MXO2 Mini for monitoring through its HDMI, component, composite, S-video, and RCA audio outs. read more...

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