Post Production

Media Composer – First: Free and finally shipping after all these years

It’s free, it’s downloadable and make no mistake, it’s a damn near full version Avid Media Composer

Media Composer | First has been talked about for years but at last it has dropped! Avid has finally released their free and feature-limited version of the industry’s flagship NLE: Media Composer | First. While this has been a long time coming (first announced in 2015) it’s important to note that feature-limited doesn’t mean it’s lacking functionality and isn’t capable of doing real work. The heart of Avid Media Composer is here and while there are limitations make no mistake; this is a real version of Media Composer running on your Mac or PC … for free. Get ProTools | First and you’ve got a whole free suite right on your computer.

For the most part, all the stuff that is in Avid Media Composer comes across with a few less settings here, a few less options there. Avid has a handy comparison chart that will show the differences between First and the full version. It’s worth noting that apparently you cannot have both regular Media Composer and Media Composer | First installed on the same system. That’s probably because Media Composer | First is what appears to be a full install of Media Composer with some stuff just turned off or limited a bit here and there. You also have to register for a free Avid account to download.

That pretty much looks just like a real Media Composer project right there where it saves the project files. It’ll be most interesting to see if Media Composer | First bins will open in a full Media Composer project. Hello free logging tool if it will! From a Media Composer | First FAQ (PDF download link):  You also cannot open bins from Media Composer | First in Media Composer; this functionality will be added at a later date.

If you wonder what will happen see this tweet below.

Avid brought out some big guns in the editing world to help with this product launch. I wonder if this video was done in MC | First?

What all is in Media Composer | First?

Here’s a few things I noticed as I played around with Media Composer | First while transcoding a bunch of clips in ahem another NLE this afternoon.

The on-boarding screen will be a place for new editors to learn how to use Media Composer | First.
The Media Composer | First interface looks … well… like Media Composer!
A step through the menus shows less than the full paid version of MC but a lot of the stuff here.
The Settings are WAY slimmed down from the full version (this is a good thing) but there’s still a customizable keyboard and saved bin views.
There’s a full batch of Media Composer effects and some color presets.
Speaking of color there’s full Color Correction mode, just a few less color tools.
That’s a full Avid Effect Editor and all it’s keyframing glory.
Saving your titles? There’s your media creation options. That’s a lot of options there for free.
Ready to upgrade? Do it right in app in the Marketplace. What I don’t see here is the ONE YEAR Paid Upfront option.


What is missing?

Very little. Very very little. If you were expecting a really dumbed-down version of Media Composer you’ll be disappointed as dumbed-down it is not. It seems to limit exporting and output to 720 which I think is a mistake. I mean does Avid really think they’ll sell that many less full Media Composer licenses if they let MC | First export a 1080 H264? I doubt it.

You’re limited to 720 DNxHD and H.264 on the file export. 1080 would be better that’s for sure. You seem to be limited to the export size that your sequence is set to.

UPDATE: You CAN do 1080 (it’s always good to RTFM first!):

If you drag a clip into an empty timeline you’ll get the Project Properties option above that will let you create a sequence at 1080.

And 1920×1080 also becomes your export resolution.

Publish options also include YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo. Those services take 1080 ya know Avid.

And it works!

You need to log into your Avid account to launch. I guess if you don’t have internet that might be an issue. UPDATE: You can still launch MC | First even without internet. 
You hit upgrade limitations withe the number of bins as well as video and audio tracks. You can do a LOT with 5 bins, 4 video and 8 audio tracks. A lot.


Who is the target here?

Avid will tell you that the target audience for Media Composer | First is “Aspiring video professionals and beginners.” That’s pretty obvious for a product like this and makes perfect sense. But Media Composer | First is a very interesting beast in that there is a lot of complexity in there that Media Composer is famous for that really isn’t that hidden away. For those wanting the most simplicity out of AMC | F it’s relatively easy to use and you don’t have to dig very deep to get to editing.

But if you’re wanting to really learn Avid you have a lot here.

  • All the Trim tools Avid is known for? Check.
  • All the different Modes Avid is known for? Check.
  • Media Management complexity that comes from both Link and Avid MediaFiles folder media creation complexity? Check.
  • All the different audio options from Audio Mixer to Audio Punch-In and everything in between? Check.
  • An interface full of windows that have to be moved around and managed? Check.
  • A timeline that stops playback with most everything you do? Check.
  • An antiquated title tool that performs exactly as it did many versions ago? Check.
  • An audio mixer that still can’t be dragged to resize? Check.

I could go on here but you get the picture. While Avid could have chosen to really simplify this Media Composer | First application they’ve left a ton of complexity there if the editor wants to know more … or of the editor needs to do certain functions.

On the one hand you might ask the question of why make an entry level | First tool any more complex than you have to? Which Avid has clearly done as it is quite Avid complex. I think the easy answer is it’s cheaper and faster to strip out features on an existing application. Media Composer | First is a full blown Avid install (it was a 1.7 GB download) that has just been limited. I don’t think Avid has the resources or desire to create a new tool from scratch.

The more complex answer is that Avid just might have made a brilliant move in today’s everyone creates media world. While there’s plenty of free, very-capable, high-end options out there to edit video, (hello Resolve, Media 100 and Lightworks) no free NLE out there has the pedigree and brand recognition that Avid Media Composer has. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker who knows even a little bit about this industry and you have a choice to download one of those other free tools which do you choose? Sure there’s an argument that DaVinci Resolve is more feature rich (which it is) and has a big push in the current market but it’s not the NLE that’s editing most all movies and television shows that you watch. Avid Media Composer is and Media Composer | First, for all practical purposes, is a nearly-full version of Media Composer with a few limitations.

I was talking with the chair of the film department where I do some teaching and wondering how we could get the young college students who are proficient in Adobe Premiere Pro and/or Final Cut Pro X to have a better experience learning Avid as it has been my experience that many of them hate learning Media Composer. My suggestion was to ask them to download Media Composer | First and get familiar with it before setting foot in the first editing class. That would save weeks of teaching basic interface and get to the real learning much faster. That will make for better editors and filmmakers overall. And I think that is an exact target Avid is going for. While Avid will be happy for the hobbyist and wedding videographer to use Media Composer | First they’d much rather have the aspiring career filmmaker learning it early and using Media Composer often. Will they? That remains to be seen.

The big takeaway

“most of the god stuff” … that was a typo obviously in my twitter reply to Dan but the more I think about it ….

I’ll end with this: when it comes to learning the mechanics of the software tool, the aspiring editor who learns the ins and outs of Media Composer | First and becomes an expert on all the buttons, knobs, switches and settings will have a huge advantage over Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X experts when they go for that job assisting or editing on that big Hollywood tv show.

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Scott Simmons was born in rural West Tennessee and didn't really realize that movies and tv had to be made by actual people until he went to college. After getting degrees in both Television Production…

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The given link leads to a page, telling nothing about the differences between the two applications.


What do you mean? The page says “Comparison” with one on the left and the other on the right? Clicking down the left column steps through all the differences.


Hello, first time poster here. I found this story searching for issues I’ve had with Avid First. I get I-Lok screens twice during the launching of Avid First ( closing them and the launch proceeds) and an “Audio Limitation” (option to proceed) during the initialization of the audio effects. Regardless I still get audio. That is more to relay my experience than I have a tech support expectation here. What I did want to comment on was students coming from a Premiere/Final Cut background. I taught at a California community college. Our program was called “Film, Television, Media.” But frankly… Read more »