Avid Media Composer 8.5 Update Overview
Avid Media Composer 8.5 was released not too long back and brought with it quite a few nice features, including HDR support, an overhauled menu, improved drag and drop within the timeline and more. This update seems aimed at improving workflow while simplifying the interface—both welcome additions by any Avid editor’s standards.
Media Composer 8.5 Installation Issues
Before I begin looking at the features that 8.5 has delivered, it’s probably worth noting that a few people have had difficulty with downloading the update through the Application Manager. If you’re one of those people, make sure you’re using the most recent version of Avid App Manager—if your manager is up to date and it still doesn’t work, a reinstall may be the solution (or you can go old school and install 8.5 manually).
With that out of the way, it’s time for a quick look at what Media Composer 8.5 brings to the table.
High Dynamic Range (HDR) Support
Avid have jumped on the HDR wagon. That’s right. Media Composer users now have color spaces for HDR available for Dolby Vision, Sony S-Log3, BBC/NHK, and ACES profiles! This provides support for higher ranges of video signal, enabling automatic transformations dependent on the selected color track for a given project.
Avid is recommending that HD projects use the 10 bit DNxHD444 and HQX while anything higher than HD should use the 12 bit DNxHR444 and DNxHQX.
High-Visibility Timeline Editing
The timeline has been fired into the modern era, with clips remaining visible until they are dragged—at which point, they turn transparent so that you’ll be able to keep tabs on the overall layout of your timeline. Furthermore, if you have waveforms turned on, they’ll remain visible to ensure that clips can be lined up easier.
If, for some reason, you prefer the old wireframe style then don’t despair—that can be turned back on from within Timeline Settings.
Another workflow improvement is the ability to add tracks to the timeline by dragging a clip vertically. It does seem that there is a limit of adding one track at a time using this method. An audio track to match will be automatically created during this process.
64 Audio Tracks
Gone are the days of 24 tracks of audio. Instead, Media Composer 8.5 offers 64 mono tracks—or voices. Of course, not all audio is equal and neither is the number of voices used per track per format.
- Mono – 1 voice
- Stereo – 2 voices
- 1 – 6 voices
- 1 – 8 voices
Avid are a bit late to the party with this one, but still, it is nice to see that waveform analysis has been added to Media Composer 8.5. A quick look at social media shows that people are having mixed results with Avid’s answer to Waveform Syncing—for now, though, Media Composer users should be happy that it has finally been included; it’s a start and any shortcomings shouldn’t take too long to iron out.
Sync Lock Trimming
Media Composer 8.5 allows Sync Rollers to be enabled for Sync-Locked tracks. While this feature is set to be abundantly useful, it is going to take a while to get used to two new rollers, gray and dim yellow, have been added to the mix.
There’s also the new ‘end of trim’ indicators, which look great for helping to understand the effects that various trims will have on the timeline.
Images can be rotated or straightened at source level using a Z Rotation slider found in FrameFlex. Once any changes that you make to the source image in this way have been added to the timeline, you’ll also have the ability to animate them using the Effect Editor. Finally, these settings will be saved and available for reuse in the clip metadata.
Custom Columns for Bins
A major improvement for organizing projects, adding custom columns to a bin in Media Composer just got a whole lot easier with the release of 8.5. Simply hit ‘Add Custom Colum’, name your new addition, and then do as you please! In the event that you choose more than one column to add to the bin, they’ll appear to the right of your selected column—and if you’ve not selected one, they’ll be sent straight to the far right.
Much like the timeline changes, the new-look menu seems to be aimed at helping new Avid editors out a bit. Items have been shuffled around into more logical positions, including the Timeline, Composer, and Fast menus. For more information on the exact changes made, and the new locations of those menu items, check out the What’s New Guide (PDF).
Media Composer 8.5 also brings an update to the Effect Palette interface, making it easier to filter effects and find the items that you’re looking for. Thanks to new categories (including one for transitions!) and a search box, the process of navigation the once almost unnavigable just got a little bit better!
Video Memory and Video Frame Cache
Media Composer 8.5 brings with it better response times, via caching any played frames (and their effects) in RAM. This allows frames to be replayed from the cache, rather than regenerated, reducing the resources required for the next run through. Furthermore, users can now increase the video memory allocated to Media Composer which should aid in reducing underrun errors.
Audio Mixer Update
After years of users wondering why the Audio Mixer has been so unintuitive, Avid seem to have made a few steps towards improving it. An expand/collapse style has been added to the interface for controlling the track selector, which still leaves one question: why can’t the mixer just be resizable?
OS Support: Windows 10 and OS X 10.11
Media Composer 8.5 brings official support for Windows 10 and OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) operating systems
Media Composer 8.5’s Other Features
Of course, there’s more to the update than just those listed. These include:
- Identifying rendered effects
- Opening a Settings Dialog in the Project Window
- Preset Project Format Management
- UI Customization, such as background color and Bin and Project font and font size
- Grouping clips by Waveform Analysis
- Timecode Burn-In update
- Applying the same text to a column for multiple items
- Linking and importing Broadcast Wave files
- Audio track Ordering Layout name change
Avid Media Composer 8.5 has been out for a little over a month now and the features and updates included have tackled some issues that were a little overdue and helped Avid users improve their workflow. By Avid’s standards, 8.5 has been a fairly huge update and I’m personally looking forward to future updates to some of the new additions to the package.
Keep your eyes peeled for some more in-depth, hands-on articles that’ll be coming after the Cinema5D team have had a chance to fully immerse themselves in Media Composer 8.5—for now, though, how has your experience of the update been? Let us know in the comments!