Many of us who have been cutting on the Mac version of Avid’s Media Composer have felt a bit neglected over the last few years, and to a certain extent, rightfully so. We sat and watched as Avid got the wind knocked out of it by Apple’s introduction of Final Cut Pro. Apple’s lower prices and integration with newer versions of the Mac OS came as a great step forward in the democratization of media and Apple ran a full court press on Avid’s dominance of the digital editing tools market. Avid struggled to find their way as the price of editing tools dropped, and the company that created and dominated modern digital editing found themselves having to play catch-up.

Today I write about the first manifestation of Avid’s “new thinking”, Media Composer 3.0. With a new team of top executives, lower prices and an emphasis on customer satisfaction, Avid is not only talking the talk, they are walking the walk. Media Composer version 3.0 delivers on the company’s promise to do business in a new way, and with the exception of a few minor hiccups (self-imposed as I quickly learned) my transition from 2.8 to 3.0 was not only painless, it was downright fun.

Ever the digital editing daredevil, I decided to do the upgrade right in the middle of locking a feature film. (Actual stunt editor. NOT recommended for sane users) The footage, which was originally captured to an Avid Unity on Adrenaline, had subsequently been transferred to a 1TB G-RAID and had been knocking around town on several different systems for almost a year. I backed up all my project data in the event of catastrophe. (I’m crazy, not stupid) I installed the upgrade, restarted the computer and….

Kernal Panic….Argh!

That’s right, the grey screen of death. I’m thinking, what a drag. Why do I always do this to myself?

I call Avid support and explain my situation. It’s here I have a chance to see some of Avid’s “new thinking” in action. Now get this, the person on the other end of the line actually empathizes with me! I’m stunned. In the old days I would have had to pledge my first born, or purchased a very expensive yearly support contract. Avid now offers what I believe is a fair price for per-incident support but better than that, on this call they were kind enough to comp me a 24 hour support ticket! I thanked them profusely and proceeded to contact TS. After a short wait I got someone on the line. The voice had a thick accent, but at least I could understand him. He seemed pretty stumped when I first describe the problem, but after a short discussion we figure out that it was… (trying to look innocent) something I did. How surprising.

In the upgrade “Read Me” (which, BTW, I did read) there are installation notes for Mac users that say to install only on a “clean” version of Leopard. This was a bit much for my little head. Did it mean clean as in “wipe and reformat” clean or clean as in “upgrade” clean? Michael Phillips, Solutions Manager, Content Production at Avid clarified this for me saying Mac users can uninstall Composer 2.8 from Tiger, upgrade to Leopard with no need to wipe and reformat the drive and install 3.0. My issue stemmed from immediately installing 2.8 on Leopard when I first bought it. Why you ask? Because, I didn’t read the “read me” file. (Ugh!) Confirmation once again that it pays to RTFM (read the fabulous manual). After walking me through uninstalling and then deleting some remnants of the previous version, I re-installed, rebooted, and voila, problem solved.

This is where it got fun. Media Composer 3.0 booted fast and clean. While doing so, it notified me that it needed to update my Mojo SDI firmware and proceeded to do so without a hitch. (I have been told that some users have had issues upgrading their original Mojo boxes, so check Avid’s knowledge base for the latest information). The software loaded, (cue angelic music from the beginning of “Simpson’s” episode) and immediately I could tell something was different. You might say, how can you just tell something like that? Well let me tell you, after 16 years of editing on this software, when something is different, you CAN feel it. Adrenaline on Mac didn’t feel robust to me. In fact if felt kind of frail and my experiences with it confirmed this. I crashed more often than Meridian, it was not as responsive and after cutting a feature in HD on Final Cut Pro, it was a drag to have to go back to using Tiger.

I start putting 3.0 through it’s paces and at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it is ROCKING. No latency, no glitchiness, (my word, Colbert) picture quality is noticeably and substantially better and the playhead  is slicing through multi-layer, real-time effects and title comps like “butta”. I’ve got reels with 20 audio tracks, 3-5 video tracks, I’m deleting, re-patching, copying and pasting, I make tons of cuts and changes and Media Composer doesn’t flinch once. I start getting a warm and fuzzy feeling and think, this is a beautiful thing. These guys have really done their homework.

Yes, Media Composer 3.0 is solid. Yes, it’s fast. Yes it works on Leopard which really gooses the (Mac) editor satisfaction meter (Mac heads rejoice!) but one feature I immediately found worth the price of the upgrade is the new real-time “Timecode Generator” effect. This feature gives you the ability to generate window burn with a variety of options. No more Horita boxes, no more rendering, this seemingly minor addition works perfectly, and will save editors and assistants countless hours and headaches when having to make outputs for collaborators on the post production team. 3.0 includes many other new enhancements and features but that’s beyond the scope of this “First Look”, and I will cover them in depth in future video segments.

It has taken the company some time but with it’s executive makeover, lower price structure and now the release of Media Composer 3.0, Avid seems to be regaining its footing. Filmmakers of every level will enjoy working with the application’s time and battle tested editing interface. The fact that it runs flawlessly on Apple’s latest operating system and hardware is the ice cream on top of the pie. From my first week of working with it, Media Composer 3.0 is a winner.