The day has come for Media Composer editors. As the line went in Star Wars …”It will be a day long remembered”. The release of Media Composer 2019(.6) (MC2019), is one that Avid has been pushing for a while now. We’ve seen the NAB demos, and the live user group feeds showing it off, but the question still remains….Is it a step in the right direction? Well, this “review” is more going to look at answering that question as opposed to getting in and talking about new features. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll discuss (and show you via tutorials), some of the new features in MC2019, but more look at if this is something that will get editors to switch to, or switch back to, with their upcoming projects.
Media Composer as always been very rigid in how it wanted to you work, and how you were to not only organize your projects, but how to organize your interface as well. Well, that has gone the way of the Dodo (an expression I use a lot when talking about MC2019). The Project window has always been at the core of your editing experience in MC, and the Project window is no more. Bin Containers rule the application now, and all the features like settings, Format, Hardware, Usage and many more have been tucked away in menus, only to be accessed when you need them.
This was something that, to be honest, took a little getting used to. I’ve been using MC2019 for about two months prior to its public release, and I’ll be 100% transparent. When I started working with it…..I hated it. I didn’t like that the project window was gone. I didn’t like the new Bin Containers. I didn’t like the idea of having to dock all my panels, tools and bins. But, let me be clear. Much like before, you don’t have to work any particular way. You don’t have to work with docked panels and bins. I find now that the project window was a pretty big waste of space, holding tools that I really never used. I am now, what some people might call, a “Power Docker”. I dock all my bins now constantly. I find that I can just access all my media so much faster. Here’s the thing, though. If you’re not big on docking, you can tab your bins and tools. Don’t like that idea either? No problem, you can switch back to having Floating panels as well. Now, with the Project Window gone, how are you going to organize yourself in your editing project? That’s where Bin Containers come into play.
When you first launch the application, you’ll notice what appears to be the project window, that shows you your project bins, as well as any currently open bin. Looks like a project window, but it isn’t. It’s a bin container broken down into two sides. The left side contains the project sidebar, and the right side has the bin pane. What’s important to keep in mind here is that at any time if you don’t want to see either pane, NP, you can simply drag the window to the left to cover the Sidebar, or close any open bins to only see your Project Sidebar.
With the bin pane on the right, this is where you can start to “power organize” your bins either by tabs or by docking. Here’s a tutorial that will show you what I mean.
Bin containers are a very clever way to have a “Project Window”, without having a project window.
Let’s move on and talk now about another core feature that has stepped into the foreground with the new release of Media Composer 2019, and that is Workspaces. Previous to MC2019, I wasn’t a Workspace user. At all. I would only ever use it to switch over to Color Correction mode, and even then that was only sparingly. With MC2019, I use Workspaces all the time. They go hand in hand with the dockable tools and switching back and forth for little interface changes has become so commonplace for me, I almost don’t even notice I’m doing it anymore. A perfect example of this is when I want to apply an effect to a clip, and then step into Effects Mode to edit the effects’ parameters. The process would be to call up the Effects Pallette, choose the effect, drop it onto my clip, step into the Effect Editor, move it out of the way, into a location where there aren’t any other tools, and then adjust accordingly. Pain in the you know what. Now what I do is in one of my Effects workspaces, I have the Effects Pallette and the Effects Editor tabbed to my Bin Container. Now with a quick click of the mouse, I can tab between windows, find what I need, and when I step into the Effects Editor, it’s in a location out of the way, so I can start working immediately.
The other big feature in MC2019 is the Inspector. Much like MediaInfo (a free utility that you can use outside of Media Composer for getting more information about your media), this dockable panel is used for just that. Inspecting your media. You’ll get more information that you’ll need about your clips, and this tool is exceptionally helpful when working with Linked media, as I can’t count the amount of times I’ve been asked to take a snapshot of certain clip parameters to send to a client, and now all I have to do is take a snapshot of this window, and it has all the information I need.
With that being said, let’s talk about a few of the Bells and Whistles that I did cover in the above tutorial, in case you didn’t watch it yet.. MXFOP1a media has been the focus of Media Composer for the last few years, and this release has added a very smart feature that I can’t believe has taken this long to add, and that is the ability to capture as MXFOP1a media, as well as Transcode/Consolidate and even mixdown your timelines as it as well. What does that mean for your Media Management? Data, Video and Audio are now all combined into one simple MXF file, much like it is when you’re exporting your final productions for delivery.
Speaking of Media Formats and Codecs, DNxUncompressed brings along with it the ability to have your media consolidated/transcoded into Float color space, and once you’ve C/T’d it, you can switch your Timeline’s Video Quailty over to Float as well.
Last but not least, Avid added a tool that I never knew I needed, but one that I’m using on a pretty regular basis now, and that is the ability to drag and drop effects to empty places on your timeline. Before, if you wanted to add an effect, let’s use the Avid Titler+ effect, to your timeline on a track above everything else, you had to add edit points to that empty track before you could drag and drop the effect where you wanted it. Well, not anymore! Now, simply mark in and out point on the track, and drag and drop any effect (Titler+ included) to the timeline, and that effect will be automatically added to the timeline with no additional work required.
With all this being said, I’ve seen the usual haters online already badmouthing MC2019 before they’ve even started using it. I’ve seen some posts in the Avid Editors of Facebook page that “Nobody cares about Docked panels, they’re making a big deal about nothing”. Remember, for Media Composer editors, many of them who have been editing on their Media Composer systems for over 20 years (yes, that’s me raising my hand), they don’t need change. They don’t like change. Everything has worked fine the way it is, but let’s look at cars as a good example. How much have they changed in the last 30 years. They haven’t really, at their most basic. You put the key in the ignition, turn it, the car (hopefully) starts, and you drive away. That’s the way I look at Media Composer. Don’t get me wrong, features have been added, and companies like Boris FX have given us unbelievable tools to do things in our timelines that we have never been able to do before, but to be honest, if you look at Media Composer way back at version 5.5 when I started editing (that’s 20 years ago), and you look at it two months ago, features have been added, but not much has changed. I would compare this update of Media Composer to going from a Chevy to a Tesla. They still do the same job, but things are just so much smoother in the Tesla than they are in the Chevy (Chevy lovers please don’t start e-mailing me. LOL).
I’m writing this third last paragraph with a bit of a chuckle, as I’m going to talk about probably my most annoying new “feature” of Media Composer, and that is Audio Scrubbing. Now, you’re probably thinking “Why would you be annoyed with Audio Scrubbing?”. Well, this comes from the book of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, someone at Avid decided that editors should have the ability to map Audio Scrubbing to any key on the keyboard. Awesome. Sounds great. Except for one little problem. Audio Scrubbing has been mapped to Caps Lock since day one with, for me at least, absolutely no reason to change that. Well, in this version, you can now map Audio Scrubbing to whatever keyboard shortcut you want……except we can’t map to the Caps Lock key for some reason. I can’t tell you how many times, today included, I’ve gone to turn on Audio Scrubbing by hitting the Caps Lock key, only to remember, for the millionth time, that I’ve had to map it somewhere else. Exceptionally annoying, no reason to do it, and you won’t get one customer switching to MC because you can map Audio Scrubbing to whatever keyboard shortcut you want to.
I want to give a final mention to a tool that was added a couple of releases ago, and to say it was underwhelming is an understatement, and that is Avid Titler+. Fear not, Media Composer friends, as much as this tool was confusing definitely not what we expected when it was hyped for years (and years), the development team is still working to get this tool up to the level it needs to be at, and there are some updates to it that I will focus on in it’s own dedicated article/tutorial, as I feel this tool has the potential to be one to replace the Title Tool…just not yet, though.
In the end, the Audio Scrubbing gripe in minor, and I have to say that Avid has converted me. When I first saw 2019.6, I thought that the coloring of the interface was cool, but I hated docked panels, I never used Workspaces, and I was just really annoyed in general. After working with it for a couple of months I have to say that I’m totally converted. I’m a Docking Master, and a Workspace Overlord, and I have to say that I have found that these updates (except for Audio Scrubbing, of course) have helped speed up my workflow a great deal. With that being said, if you’re looking to update to the newest version, which is available now, don’t do it in the middle of a project, as there is a learning curve you’ll need to be ready for as things are where you left them in previous version. I’ll say this…. Avid, you have taken a step in the right direction, and have helped me speed up my workflow more in the last two weeks, than I have in the last 10 years, so keep things going in this direction, and I think you might be onto something! Keep in mind that I didn’t talk about all the new features of MC2019, so when you download the software, make sure to check out the “What’s New” document for all the new features, as well as the “Known Issues” PDF, as there are still some bugs being worked out, but overall my experience with MC2019 is that it’s one that Media Composer editors, as well as new editors, and recent converts will really like!