Avid Media Composer 6.5 review
Price: £1,799 plus VAT
Pros: Useful additions to audio toolset; more flexible with hardware
Cons: Expensive for few new features; Title tool poor; little toggle hardware support; still some bugs
The hardware liberation that started in Media Composer 6.0 is continued in the 6.5 update with a toggle for attached devices that releases them, so you can use software-only features without having to disconnect them. This is fine for Avid’s own hardware, but third-party drivers need to be updated to make use of the feature or it gives an error message.
There’s a tweak when you’re getting started that’s very welcome. Previously, when you connected any mounted drive, it was automatically scanned for AMA media and those clips were added to the current bin. In theory this is a good idea, saving time, but in practice it meant connecting a drive to access just one file was then delayed while everything else on the drive was scanned and imported, and which then needed to be cleaned out of the current bin afterwards. This has been fixed with an option in the AMA Settings to toggle the feature on or off.
New features include support for the AS-02 MXF mastering format, which can package different versions of the same clip sequence together without having to store the same assets again. There’s also support for the JPEG2000 codec, and you can use AMA to export content without transcoding. Currently, HDCAM SR has AMA writeback, but other AMA plug-in developers are expected to update and follow suit.
When dealing with clips there are a couple of interesting developments. The first is a timeline improvement whereby non-adjacent clips can be selected and moved together. The other is in the Relinking options. While not particularly user-friendly to start with, this helps make the process more flexible and lets you avoid not being able to get it to relink to files where you thought it should. There’s also an option to automatically relink to all AMA QT files, which can do this as a batch process when they’re all in the same folder.
The sound side of things gets some interesting tweaks as well. There’s advanced audio keyframing, which can also be copy and pasted, or just some of the audio attributes can be pasted. Pasting of attributes is a key feature of FCP, so it’s nice to see this here. The other audio upgrade is the support for up to 64 audio voices, including multiple 7.1 surround sound tracks, though note that the actual audio tracks remains the same at 24.
This is an intermediate release requiring a paid-update and adds some new features, most of which are useful, rather than increasing performance or fixing bugs. The audio keyframe copy/pasting feature was overdue, but one of the most useful features is the ability to turn off automatically loading bins with AMA media from mounted volumes. While not an essential upgrade, it’s a worthwhile one for Avid editors.