Avid’s Dave Colantuoni Introduces New Features For Media Composer 8.5

Avid asked editors from across the country what features they wanted added to Media Composer. Version 8.5 includes many of those suggestions.

Avid Technology’s latest software release for Media Composer, the new version 8.5, has only been out for a little over a month so I sat down with Avid’s senior director of product management, Dave Colantuoni, to look inside its new features.

BroadcastBridge: Media Composer 8.0 was released in May 2014. Aren’t we ready for more than a “dot 5” upgrade?

DC: We’ve actually changed the nomenclature of how we labeled releases since 8.0, which introduced the licensing of our software. Now every release is kind of major and we want people to focus on the feature updates. This is the fourth or fifth since 8.0 came out, and I don’t know what we’ll do when we get to 8 dot 10 or 8 dot 11.

BroadcastBridge: What are the most significant features of Media Composer 8.5?

DC: This release was really born out of our meetings with our Avid Customer Association (ACA), both monthly and at the big trade shows like NAB. Some of the new improvements like menu simplification and new bin organization came from their input.

BroadcastBridge: Can you cite key examples?

 Dave Colantuoni, senior director of product management, Avid

Dave Colantuoni, senior director of product management, Avid

DC: With the new bin organization, everything that should intuitively be associated with working with a particular bin is now positioned contextually near that bin. For example, “New Script” is now under “File”. It’s a more logical organization.

BroadcastBridge: I note you have added 64 audio tracks which is a 250% increase. Doesn’t audio finishing require a different set of skills than picture editing? After all you also have ProTools. Some would question the efficiency of tying up a video bay to do audio work.

DC: I hear that, too. But our editors in the ACA are simply calling for more audio capability. Final sweetening may still be done in ProTools, but editors feel the need to structure those tracks while locking the picture.

BroadcastBridge: I also see that 8.5 “supports” High Dynamic Range video. Will editors using 8.5 be able to create HDR profiles or just pass them through?

DC: If you are working with footage shot on a camera that records an HDR profile, you will be able to keep that expanded video range throughout the pipeline. So our HDR support means the system can input, say Dolby Vision’s HDR profile, and output it without degradation.

BroadcastBridge: I’m also told you can “get better visual feedback when editing”. What does that mean?

DC: Basically, that refers to being able to see the new video profiles displayed on your editing monitor.

BroadcastBridge: This version also lets you “Straighten images quickly with FrameFlex rotation”.

DC: FrameFlex helps you when you are extracting an HD image or ‘Region of Interest’ from a 4K recording and want to correct it’s rotation on the Z axis. This could be especially useful when extracting an ROI from the edge of a wide angle shot.

BroadcastBridge: I also understand that with MC 8.5, all clips, and all effects applied to those clips, are cached in RAM.

DC: We are finding that playing back the really large resolution media, and especially the new computation-intensive codecs from Sony and Panasonic (XAVC and AVC-Ultra), was a struggle for our former playback engine, especially with multiple layers of video. So for the first time we have implemented a video frame cache which eliminates performance degradation even with the beefier codecs like Panasonic long-G (AVC-LongG, member of the AVC-Ultra family)

BroadcastBridge: There are two other improvements that caught my eye in Media Composer 8.5. One is you can now begin the frame count at “1” instead of “0” (zero) for SMPTE timecode burn-in copies.

DC: Yep. That’s what you get when you have a committee full of editors giving you real world advice.

BroadcastBridge: And, when you are importing multiple audio tracks from field recorders you can now preserve their associated meta data.

DC: That’s right. I also like the new “high visibility timeline editing” that came from that committee. That means the whole clip remains visible while you are dragging it around. Also, if you drag a clip from within the timeline to above the timeline it automatically creates the track that will be needed to hold it.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that Media Composer 8.5 is completely ready for OS X 10.11 (El Capitan) and Windows 10.

There will be another meeting of the Avid Customer Association on April 16th and 17th at the Wynn in Las Vegas, the weekend heading off the NAB Show 2016.

The latest version of Media Composer is free to current Media Composer customer or can be purchased through the Avid Store.

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