Bring Avid Into the Modern Age
I originally posted this to the Avid Community Forums, but I thought it might be useful to a more general audience. Since the release of Final Cut Pro X last summer, people are taking a second look at Avid Media Composer. And there’s a lot that the application does right. But in many ways, it feels like a piece of software from the late 90s.
There are five major limitations that I see in Media Composer that are in none of its competitors. These limitations are taken for granted by the rest of the editing world, and badly need to be addressed. As users take a second look at Avid, these seemingly ‘small’ issues may quickly turn them off; and of course, they constantly slow down the work that people like me do, which means that in a way they cost our companies money.
Here is what I think is needed to move Media Composer forward.
1. We need more than 16 voices.
The 16 active track limitation has been a major pain point for those of us in animation, as we constantly juggle audio between tracks and create mixdowns, having to often resync and update those mixdowns when changes are made to the sequence. Given the power of current hardware, this is a limitation that doesn’t make sense, and one that Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere do not have.
2. We need more than 24 audio tracks.
While 24 audio tracks may seem like a lot, when editing a major feature, they quickly fill to the brim. Walter Murch uses 50 audio tracks in his Final Cut Pro projects, and indeed Final Cut Pro has supported up to 99 audio tracks for many many years. This limitation seems silly and arbitrary.
This is also related to point number one, as more audio tracks won’t help too much unless you can actually hear them play back; that said, even if there are still only 16 voices, having more than 24 audio tracks would at least allow you to keep the tracks you mixdown in the same sequence, saving time when updating mixdowns.
3. We need to be able to non-destructively stack AudioSuite effects.
AudioSuite effects are great, but the fact that they only work destructively is a huge problem. For example, I want to add reverb to a clip of dialogue that I pitched down. Simple, create new media, then apply the reverb. What if later I need to adjust the pitch effect? The entire process needs to be repeated.
Stackable audio effects are common in nearly every editing application, save Media Composer. This costs us time, which in turn diminishes quality—since iterating is difficult, we will do less of it, and the end result will suffer.
4. We need to be able to intuitively and simply stack video effects.
Like audio effects, video effects are often used in conjunction with one another. While Media Composer does allow you to stack video effects, the implementation is confusing, hidden, and doesn’t always seem to work. Again, this is handled quite simply and effectively in every other editing application.
5. We need true long filename support.
It pained me to discover that the “Allow filenames to exceed 27 characters” feature is still functionally broken in Media Composer 6. This is obviously a known bug, as I was warned about it by a dialogue box when I enabled the feature. This lack of polish makes Avid feel old, and really should not be difficult to fix. It also would save editors time when naming bins and exporting files. Both the Mac and Windows have had support for 255-character filenames since the 90s; there’s no reason for this.
Were the above limitations addressed, Media Composer would finally proudly cross the threshold into the Modern Age of editing—and many assistants and editors throughout the industry would be able to work faster and better, giving Media Composer an even stronger position in the world of editing.
Now, to be honest, I don’t know that I want Media Composer to be in a stronger position. I’m still not a fan of some of its editing philosophy, and Avid’s UI designers don’t seem to ‘get it.’ But it’s still the standard, and I have to use it every day, so I would love to see it improve.
But these are tumultuous days in the editing world; who knows what lurks around the next corner…