Learning Avid Media Composer 6.5
I bought Avid over Christmas, making the most of Videoguys crossgrade deal, and finally installed Avid Media Composer 6.5.2 in the new year. The download and install process from the Avid site was very easy. I had scoured the net to see if anyone else had installed AMC 6.5 on Snow Leopard (10.6.8) and so far I’ve not had any problems, so that’s my first tip.
In preparing to invest the time and determination it takes to learn (anything!) a new piece of software – made all the more challenging when you’re coming from 10 years of using FCP to be fast, comfortable and customised to the teeth to be that fast and comfortable – I tried to keep reminding myself to:
EXPECT THAT IT WILL ALL BE UNFAMILIAR.
EXPECT THAT IT WILL BE DIFFERENT.
EXPECT THAT LEARNING TAKES TIME.
But still given all that – this gif is how I feel when I open Avid.
A Few Shocks and Surprises
One thing that came as a nice surprise was that Sorenson Squeeze 8 comes with Avid, which somehow had evaded my eagle eyes (am I blind?), so that was nice. Avid’s DVD program only comes on Windows so that was a non-starter. The Videoguys crossgrade comes with a free Class on Demand training series – an excellent combination. Both Videoguys and Class on Demand’s customer service was exceptional and I would highly recommend them to anyone.
Steve Hullfish’s Complete Training Series for Avid Media Composer 6 & Symphony 6 is the tutorial series that I went for and it is excellent, well structured and very useful to have along side you, when you’re just starting out. I would recommend getting this one over the ‘Media Composer for Final Cut Pro editors’ series which is less in depth.
My overriding thought about the journey so far is that for the past 10 years I heard nothing but how great Avid was and it was the only thing real professional editors used. Which I never really believed to be true and now I own it, and I’m starting to embark on the long road to learning it properly, I feel like I’ve moved out from under the shadow of the mighty Avid.
Furthermore, now that I’m paying attention to the movements of the Avid ecosystem, when I see ‘big new features’ added to Avid that FCP had for ages I can’t believe it – I’m totally bewildered. I thought Avid was ‘better’? Audio keyframes spring to mind. Anyway I guess I had high expectations, that I’m sure may well be met when I know what I’m doing, but at the moment there are a few things that I still can’t believe its so hard to get my head around from the get go.
1. I’m not sure if I’ve got stuff set up right?
In FCP7 its pretty straightforward to make sure you’ve got your sequence settings matching your footage. It’s easy to check if they match and relatively easy to discover where to make the necessary adjustments if they don’t. Even if you don’t know what you’re doing technically, when you drag the first clip into the sequence it will match them for you. In Avid I’ve got next to no idea if things are set up correctly – How do I do that? (Answers in the comments please!)
2. AMA is not native.
Avid’s AMA is supposed to allow me to work with non Avid friendly MXF/DNxHD footage. AMA is not native, its plugin based so you have to install plugins for each codec and flavour that AMA supports. But how do I check if I have them installed?
3. Transcode, Tran-slowed
Having to transcode footage into Avid’s DNxHD format (and wrapped in MXF) is a problem for me as most of the projects that I cut the footage comes to me transcoded as ProRes QT’s (all my previous clients are FCP – so I’m learning/using Avid for personal projects only at moment). Now I know you’re supposed to be able to use them in Avid with AMA but I tried and I tried and I tried to get some Avid AMA ProRes files to reconnect to a sequence of sync’d footage from FCP but it would never work. I was doing that because I was trying to get Pluraleyes to sync three separate sources in Avid, which I couldn’t get to work either, so I did it in FCP hoping to relink, but no.
4. Epic fail on keyboard customisation
I find it pretty shocking that the keyboard shortcuts can only be customised to the keys and the keys + shift. This is a BIG loss – why only the shift key? Why not allow me, the editor, to map functions to any key I want, not any key YOU will allow me. It’s adding a layer of friction that simply doesn’t need to be there.
5. Clunky User Manual and Help Files
Avid needs to take a leaf out of Blackmagic Design’s book (literally) and make its user manual much better presented and far easier to use. DaVinci Resolve 9’s user manual is beautifully laid out and makes it very easy to learn how to do stuff in Resolve.
Ultimately ‘its not about the bike’ – but about the story and the final product. After all, no one on the planet will know what your film was cut on when they watch it. But Avid really need to change their attitude if they’re going to survive in the splintered NLE market. The tools should be doing their utmost to be as flexible and adaptable to the user, not the other way around. But that said, I will be persevering because people know it, love it and use it on big projects. I’m sure once I figure out what I’m doing I’ll be singing Avid’s praises just as much as the next post-geek, but for now that is yet to come.
Solutions to common Avid for FCP Editor Problems
OK, so I really didn’t want this post to just be a blow by blow series of moans and whimpers and I do have a long list of helpful tips for the workarounds/learnings that I’ve discovered while trying to learn Avid. But this post is already too long so I’ll do those in a separate post and add a link here when I do. Happy editing!