Avid Media Composer 6 - Is it Right for Your School

AvidLogoWhen Avid released its new and improved version of Media Composer Version 6 they really meant “new and improved.” It was a complete re-write of the “under the hood” code

to bring MC6 into the 64-bit world and a freshening up of the user interface. For those familiar with Avid, don’t worry it wasn’t a complete overhaul of the interface. The new MC6 will feel like a comfortable pair of shoes, but this pair of “shoes” is built for speed. In fact, if you take a look at the “What’s New In Media Composer 6” PDF document, it’s 172 pages. So, it’s safe to say there are a few new bells and whistles.

Let’s get this out of the way right off the top, the biggest complaint I have heard about Avid in the past was that it was too expensive and for professionals only. It is true, that if you are a professional editor, MC6 will cost you $2,499, but if you are in education as a faculty member, student or school the exact same Media Composer will cost you $295.   If you are a student purchasing MC6 you get four years of free upgrades, to me, a bargain to good to pass up. Also, if you are purchasing it for your school, volume licensing for educational institutions will be available soon for those with media labs.IMG_1874

As an added bonus for education, Avid FX and Sorenson Squeeze are included for Mac and for Windows you get Avid FX, Sorenson Squeeze and Avid DVD included in the $295 MC6 price. MC6 will look and work the same on both the Windows and Mac Platform, except on Mac you must be running OSX Lion (64bit).

You can also try it before you buy it. Anyone can download a fully functioning 30-day free trial of MC6 to give it a spin. No strings, no watermarking video, it works just like you bought it for 30 days.

Another complaint was that if you wanted to view your material on an external monitor while editing in Avid MC you had to use Avid’s hardware. With version 5, Avid opened the door to 3rd party hardware and now, with version 6, Avid is allowing 3rd party vendors to develop plug-ins for their hardware with a program Avid calls “Hardware SDK.” AJA, Matrox, Blackmagic Design, Motu and Bluefish444 are already onboard, developing plug-ins for their hardware. Some of the devices are quite affordable with some offering educational pricing.

A major concern among high school broadcasting teachers is that since Avid is for professionals it must be too hard for their students to learn. Not true, we have been using Avid in our District with students as young as ninth grade very successfully. If you are just starting out, there are more resources than ever for those wanting to learn Media Composer. Lynda.com has a series of tutorials, Avid’s website offers over two hours of free training on version 5, and the library of tutorials is now being built for version 6. There are also many independent trainers creating their own podcasts and tutorials readily available on iTunes.

There is also the official curriculum delivered by Avid Certified Instructors. This is probably the best way to dive into your Avid-learning journey. It’s five days of intense, focused training to get you up and running as fast and efficiently as possible. This can be done on-site at your location if you have a few people who need to be trained, or the training can be delivered at an Avid Learning Partner. More information and locations of the training centers are available on Avid’s website.

Avid has also revamped their official curriculum concurrent with the release of MC6 introducing a 3-day MC101 course entitled “Editing Essentials” and a 2-day MC110 course entitled “Effects Essentials.” These would be the two courses that are covered in the Avid Certified User (ACU) Exam for Version 6. The ACU Exam is a recognized Industry Based Certification in Louisiana where I teach and in many other states, which was a big selling point for my District.

Also, new with the revamped courses are revamped course books, which are now publically available. In the past, to get the Avid official curriculum book you would have to take a course with a certified instructor at an Avid Training Partner location. I still recommend this approach, but if you don’t have the time or the money for a dedicated class you now have the option to buy the books and learn at your own pace. The books are also going to be released as eBooks for those using iPads, Nooks, etc.

According to the folks at Avid, the new ACU Exam will be more of a true “user” exam covering the essential editing techniques and effects topics offered in the MC101 and MC110 courses. Let’s just say the version 5 ACU Exam was challenging, especially for high school students and professionals. An Avid Certified Pro Exam will also continue to be offered.

In addition to a 64-bit overhaul and the availability of 3rd party hardware, what’s the big deal? The user interface (UI) has been retooled with the use of tabs for editing tools and different ways of viewing your bins.   This will really be of interest to those who edit on laptops or single monitor computers. The addition of the “workspace” layouts will also streamline your workflow for different tasks such as audio editing, color correction, effects editing and capture. You can assign up to 12 workspace buttons including your custom workspace layouts.

If you’ve never used Avid or haven’t in a while you are probably not familiar with Avid Media Access or AMA. This is a plug-in architecture that allows you to link directly to clips without having to import them into the Avid application. Some of the file types you can access with AMA are Quicktime (including Canon 5D/7D movies), ProRes, AVCHD, XDCAM, P2, Red, etc. Check Avid’s website for the latest updates and AMA plugins you can download.

So how does it work? Let’s say you have a P2 camera and just finished shooting. You just mount your card on your computer and “link to AMA volume” and then a bin populates with all the clips you shot in just a few seconds. You can immediately play the clips in your source/record monitor and immediately begin editing. No Importing!!! Have a bunch of Quicktime files on an external drive? No problem, just use the “link to AMA files” and immediately you can start playing back your clips and editing. You can also mix clips with different frame rates and resolutions on the same timeline.

Another big improvement on the new MC6 is its audio editing tools. You can now edit in 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound right in the timeline. The audio mixer tool has also had a complete makeover and is downright cool! There are also many RTAS (Real Time Audio Suite) plugins available in Avid for audio sweetening and your sequence will move seamlessly back and forth between Media Composer and ProTools if that’s something you are interested in. However, at the education level, and for that matter the professional level, you will find any audio tool, effect or plugin you could ever need right in MC6.

To say there have been a lot of changes lately in the software offerings related to video editing would be an understatement. Some educators are electing to stay with what they have and some are exploring their options. In my opinion, Avid Media Composer 6 is worthy of consideration at the high school level. For about $300 you have access to the same tools used to edit major Hollywood movies, reality TV shows, episodic TV, commercials and documentaries.

According to George Klippel with Avid Education, “If you are in school today and you can learn the tools of the trade that are being used by professionals in the industry, it will give you a leg up to get a job when you graduate.” And at a recent Avid Lecture Series event at the University of New Orleans, A.C.E Editor Chris Nelson told the audience the best way to get your first job in the post production industry is to “Show up knowing the technology.”

I have had the pleasure to meet with many of the folks at Avid Training and Avid Education at NAB, and some have even visited my school recently. They have all been VERY interested in the high school market. As a company, I believe they are committed to training the next generation of video and film editors whether it’s at the high school or college level.

I have been an Avid Certified Instructor for about four years and have been offering the ACU Exam to my students for the past three years. Last year, six of my eighteen advanced students pass the ACU test. Those that were committed passed. I am really excited about rolling out the new MC6 curriculum for my students and hopefully giving them a jumpstart on their college career and their first job in the “real world” of post production.

 Resources:

 Getting Started: http://apps.avid.com/Get-trained-mc6/

 Official Curriculum Books: http://www.courseptr.com/avid/

 Moving From FCP to MC Training: http://apps.avid.com/Get-trained-mc6/mc6-fcp.html

 MC6 Training Videos: http://apps.avid.com/Get-trained-mc6/new-to-mc.html


Dupont-HeadshotAlbert Dupont has been the Advanced TV Broadcasting Facilitator (Teacher) at the Satellite Center in Luling, Louisiana since its opening in 2005.  The Satellite Center is a “satellite” facility of Hahnville and Destrehan High Schools.  The schools are a part of the St. Charles Parish Public School System located near New Orleans.

Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Dupont was a news and sports videographer for WVUE-TV in New Orleans for twelve years and news producer at WAFB in Baton Rouge and KATC in Lafayette for five years.  As a sports photographer, Mr. Dupont was a field videographer at the New Orleans Saints games from 1994 to 2009.  He also was a videographer at two Superbowls and numerous college national championship games in a variety of sports. He is an Avid Certified Instructor in Media Composer 6.