Avid Media Composer

Media Composer, frequently referred to as “The Avid”, is a non-linear editing system. It is the flagship product of Avid Technology. It was released in 1989 on the Macintosh II as an offline editing system. Since that time, the application features have increased to allow for film editing, uncompressed standard definition (SD) video and high definition (HD) editing and finishing. Since the early 1990s, Media Composer has been the dominant non-linear editing system in the film and television industry on first Mac and then also on Windows. The Avid Newscutter, aimed at newsrooms, Avid Symphony, aimed at finishing, are all Avid products that were derived from Media Composer and share similar interfacing, as was Avid Xpress Pro, (discontinued in 2008), which was aimed at the lower end of the market. Catering to the high end of the non-linear editing market, Avid is still used in a lot of major film productions, though it’s facing increasing competition from Apple’s Final Cut Studio [1]. Avid received an Oscar statuette representing the 1998 Scientific and Technical Award for the concept, design, and engineering of the Avid Film Composer system for motion picture editing. Film Composer is no longer sold as a separate product, since – over time – all of its specific film editing features were implemented into the “regular” Media Composer and/or the Avid Symphony. In July 2009 American Cinema Editors (ACE) announced that the ACE Board of Directors had recognized Avid Media Composer software with the Board’s first-ever “ACE Technical Excellence Award” – recognizing it as the preferred choice of the industry’s most acclaimed editors.[2]

Current version

There is one version of Media Composer, which can be used as standalone software, or to which you can add specific external Avid input/output interfaces.

Avid Mojo SDI: includes Composite, S-Video, Component and SDI video, with 4 channels RCA, 4 channels AES and 2 channels optical S/PDIF audio. This interface only supports SD video formats.

Avid Mojo DX: a newer version of the Mojo with architecture offering faster processing and full 1920×1080 HD resolution in addition to standard definition video. This interface has SDI/HD-SDI inputs and outputs, HDMI outputs and stereo 1/4″ TRS audio inputs and outputs.

Avid Nitris DX: a replacement of the Adrenaline hardware, a successor to the original Avid Nitris (used with Avid DS and Avid Symphony), with architecture offering faster processing and full 1920×1080 HD resolution (without extra cards) in addition to standard definition video. This interface also has a hardware DNxHD codec. Video connections include SDI, HD-SDI, Composite, S-Video and Component (SD or HD) inputs and outputs, it also has a HDMI output. Audio connections include XLR, AES, optical S/PDIF and ADAT inputs and outputs. It also has RCA inputs and 1/4″ TRS outputs, plus LTC timecode I/O.

Media Composer software does not work with third party I/O devices, with the exception of the original Matrox MXO.

Recently discontinued

Avid Mojo: includes Composite and S-Video with two channels of RCA audio. There is an optional component video cable that can be added to this interface. This interface only supports SD video formats.

Avid Adrenaline: rack mountable interface which includes Composite, S-Video, Component and SDI video, 4 channels of XLR, 4 channels of AES, 2 channels of S/PDIF and 8 channels of ADAT audio. This interface also has an expansion slot for the DNxcel card which adds HD-SDI input and output as well as a DVI and HD component outputs. The DNxcel card uses Avid’s DNxHD compression which is available in 8-bit color formats at 145mb and 220mb as well as a 10-bit color format at 220mb. The DNxcel card also adds real-time SD down-convert and HD cross-convert.


The Current version of Media Composer (MCSoft) has the following important features

  • Animatte
  • 3D Warp
  • Paint
  • Live Matte Key
  • Tracker
  • Timewarps with motion estimation (FluidMotion)
  • SpectraMatte (high quality chroma keyer)
  • Color Correction toolset (with Natural Match)
  • ScriptSync
  • Stereoscopic editing abilities
  • AMA – Avid Media Access, the ability to edit with P2+XDCAM native material directly without capture.
  • Mix and Match – put clips of any frame rate, compression, scan mode or video format on the same timeline

Media Composer differentiates itself from Avid Symphony because it is missing Advanced/Secondary Color Correction and Universal Mastering.

The software is protected by a USB dongle that will operate on either Mac or Windows. As of version 3.5 the dongle is optional, and the user may opt to use software activation. Since version 4.0, new systems are being sold exclusively with software activation. The software ships with installers for both Mac and Windows, and can physically be installed on several computers, allowing the user to move the software license or the dongle between systems and/or platforms.

Also included with Media Composer v3 is the following 3rd party software.

  • Boris BCC 6 – Native Special effect filters that run directly in the Avid effect palette, which include secondaries, some tracking features, many applicable to titles.
  • Avid FX – 2D & 3D compositing and titling software (aka Boris RED)
  • Sorenson Squeeze 5.1 – Compression software to create, Windows Media, Quicktime, MPEG 1/2, MPEG 4 or Flash video
  • SonicFire Pro 5 – music creation software (includes 2 CDs of music tracks)
  • MetaFuze – Tool to convert files (R3D, DPX, TIFF) from film scanning, CGI systems or RED camera into MXF media files (Windows only)

Software are full versions with online manuals.

[edit] History

Year OS Version Notes/Major Features
1989 Macintosh Avid/1 First Avid. Becomes Media Composer
1995 Mac OS 7.5 5.5 Last version to run on Macintosh 68K hardware
1999 Mac OS 7.6 to 8.6 7.2 Last version on ABVB hardware.
1999 Mac OS 8.5.1 8.0 First version based on Meridien hardware. Uncompressed SD video.
1999 Windows NT 9.0 First Media Composer release on Windows NT 4.0 (Meridien)
2000 WinNT/Mac OS9 10.0 SD 24p support
2001 Win2K/Mac OS9 10.5 Support for Windows 2000
2002 Win2K/Mac OS9 11.0 Marquee integrated (Windows only)
Feb 2003 Mac OS X 11.7 First version to support Mac OS X
May 2003 WinXP/Mac OS X 1.0 First version of Media Composer Adrenaline
Nov 2003 Win2K/Mac OS X 12.0 Last version of Media Composer on Meridien hardware
Sept 2004 WinXP/Mac OS X 1.5 MXF support, Marquee on Mac
Dec 2004 WinXP 2.0 HD support, 10-bit video, SpectraMatte keyer, AVX2
March 2005 WinXP 2.1 P2 support, XDCam support
Dec 2005 WinXP 2.2 HDV support
June 2006 WinXP/Mac OS X 2.5 HD on Mac, Media Composer soft, Mojo and Mojo SDI support, XDCam HD, Tracker
Sept 2006 WinXP/Mac OS X 2.6 Interplay, Color Safe Limiter effect
May 2007 WinXP/Mac OS X 2.7 MacPro (Intel) support, ScriptSync, P2 / XDCam writeout
Dec 2007 WinXP/Mac OS X 2.8 VC-1/MXF (SMPTE 421M) support
June 2008 WinXP & Vista /
Mac OS X
3.0 ‘DX’ hardware support, new render engine (better multi-threading and GPU support),
RT timecode generator, SubCap effect, AVC-I codec support
Sept 2008 WinXP & Vista /
Mac OS X
3.05 XDCAM 50mb format, DNA hardware on MacOS 10.5.5, RED workflow support
Dec 2008 WinXP & Vista /
Mac OS X
3.1 Video Satellite option for ProTools (Windows only)
March 2009 WinXP & Vista /
Mac OS X
3.5 Avid Media Access (AMA) for better file based workflows, FluidStabilizer, Keyframeable ColorCorrection, Native XDCAM EX support, Timecode in Quicktime files, Stereoscopic support, Software Activation, 14-day Downloadable Trial
Sept 2009 WinXP & Vista /
Mac OS X
4.0 Mix and Match frame rates on timeline, Expert Decompose, AVC-I writeout, Macintosh Video Satellite support, 1080p24 (not-PsF) output, HD Ancillary data support on DX hardware, GFCAM 50mb/100mb support, Stereoscopic enchantments, updated 3rd party software bundle

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