AVID-LogoWhen you want to do a job, how do you choose your tool?  Do you pick the one you’re comfortable with?  

Do you pick the cheapest or easiest tool to use?  Do you pick the one the “pros” use?  How about when teaching a student to use a tool?  As a broadcast or film teacher, one of the jobs that you and your students need to get done on a daily basis is editing, so I would like you to take a look at a “tool” that you may not have considered, Avid Media Composer. 

This article was pitched to School Video News before the release of Final Cut Pro X.  With the release getting mixed reviews (See Larry Jordan Link Below), and FCPX being basically a different program, some of youAvid02 may be considering a change or at least exploring your options.  Also, my purpose is not to bash FCPX, Premiere, Edius or iMovie.  It’s just to let you know there is another, very viable option.

Judging by the chatter on the web and email lists like the RTNDF/HSJ.org list, Avid is not very popular at the High School level.  Considering the success we’ve had in our District with Avid, I wondered why.  Some of the comments I have received from other broadcast Teachers are that Avid is too hard for students, there is no support or resources and it’s too expensive. 

Five to ten years ago, some of these concerns did have some truth to them and it’s hard to shake a reputation.  I can say after six years of teaching Avid, it’s not true any more.  I had a chance to meet with some of the people behind Avid Training at this year’s NAB Show and they are very interested in the high school market and want to hear from us.

Changing something in your class as big as a moving to a new editing system can be a little scary.  Have no fear, there are plenty of resources to help you in your move.

First, the concern that Avid is too hard for high school students to learn is simply not true.  In the District where I teach, students are taught Avid in their first broadcast production class as young as 9th grade.  The ones who are interested usually have no more trouble with Avid than learning any other new piece of software.

Another concern in education, Avid is too expensive.  Avid Media Composer software is currently $295 for students, teachers and educational institutions.  The price for commercial customers is currently about $2,500.  The difference in the software … none.  Also, there is a fully functioning 30-day trial version available for free download.  As they say, “drive it like you stole it!”  At least you can for 30 days.

A third concern is that there very little resources or limited training available for Avid.  I posed the question to the Avid Training Department on what resources they offer.  Here is their response:

“Avid has its own Training department that produces a complete curriculum, which includes media, exercises, and supporting materials for the teacher. Use of the official Avid Media Composer curriculum does require becoming an Avid Certified Instructor. This certification ensures the teacher ability and confidence in Media Composer and best practices for delivery. Avid is actively establishing high schools as official Training Partners with the ability to deliver certification exams to students.

Avid01We’ve also partnered with other 3rd parties, to produce top-quality training materials that are publically available.  The PeachPit Book, Editing with Avid Media Composer, is fashioned after Avid’s MC101 course, and works especially well as a high school textbook for those schools not interested in full partnership or certification. We will be expanding these offerings giving you additional teaching tools for your classroom.”

If you are considering a switch to Avid, I highly recommend, before trying to teach the software, at least using the program for the free 30-day trial and also taking one of the five-day MC101 courses through one of the Avid Authorized Training Partners.  This course gives you a good foundation on the Avid Media Composer System.  To find your nearest training center and a schedule of classes click on the AATP finder at the link below.  Also, Avid partnered with Lynda.com to produce a set of “Getting Started” tutorials.  They are available free on Avid’s website at the link below.  If you are a Lynda.com subscriber, there is also a more in-depth set of tutorials created by Ashley Kennedy who is the author of the Peachpit Book “Editing with Avid Media Composer 5.”

Here is one confusing part about Avid’s training books.  The Peachpit Book is “Avid Official Curriculum,” but it is NOT the same book taught in the MC101 course.  According to a blog-post by an Avid Trainer it contains about 50% of the material covered in the MC101 course and does not prepare a student for the Avid Certified User test.  That being said, Avid feels that it would be an excellent textbook for use in a high school or beginning college course in editing and I agree.

So, do you have to be an Avid Certified Instructor (ACI) to teach your students Avid?  No.  I became an ACI after teaching Avid for three years.  It has been great for my program, but my main purpose in becoming an ACI was to be able to offer my students the Avid Certified User (ACU) exam.

So you ask yourself, why should I switch?  I am perfectly happy with the current “tool” I am using.  It gets the job done.  As a teacher I feel we should be doing more than getting the job done.  We should be preparing them for that “next level” and if the resources are within reach, that top-level job.  According to Avid Training, Media Composer is the editing tool of choice for more of the top-tier production facilities than any other editing application. 

A 2010 survey of the American Cinema Editors (A.C.E.) seems to confirm that claim by Avid Training.  The survey reported that 87% of them used Avid and 12% used Final Cut for their edit system.  In 2009, 19% of the ACE Editors were using Final Cut.  To me, that’s industry standard, at least in the Motion Picture and Network Television industry.  The full survey is available in the 2011, 2nd Quarter publication of the Cinema Editor Magazine.

FCP and Premiere do have their share of the independent films and smaller production houses and even a few major Hollywood movies.  My point in citing the survey above is that if the same “tools” that the top-level editors are using are available to the high school teacher, shouldn’t we at least consider them?

As a final question to Avid Training I asked them what would be their “elevator pitch” to get a high school teacher to consider Avid in their classroom.  Here was their response:

“I think it’s really about options, and access to career growth with financial stability.  Students interested in the creative industries need to know multiple tools, and Media Composer is an industry-standard tool. Avid’s Media Composer certifications have been recognized at the State and Federal level as “industry standard”, and adding these certifications to your program, may provide additional funding opportunities for your school (PELL and Perkins grants).  It is something that a number of our partners have taken advantage of, and it has been a tremendous advantage to them financially.”

Avid is only one of many tools that can be used to tell the story you and your students want to tell.  You still have good camera work, good sound and good writing to tell and edit a good story.  Don’t forget the basics!  You can have the best tools but it’s still all about STORY!

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 5.

Links Mentioned in Article:

Peachpit Book: Editing with Avid Media Composer 5

Avid Training Partner Finder

Avid Certified User

Avid Getting Started Tutorials

American Cinema Editors

High School Journalism

Larry Jordan on FCPX controversy