Avid has finally released Media Composer First, the long-promised free version of its widely used NLE, in versions for Mac OS X 10.11 and 10.12 and 64-bit Windows 10 (Professional and Enterprise), Windows 8.1 (Professional and Enterprise), or Windows 7 Professional (Service Pack 1). The software is available for download at the Avid website.

Originally announced at NAB 2015, Media Composer First is designed to walk a fine line that makes it useful for learning the ropes of Media Composer without replacing the paid version of the tool for pro users. Notably, Media Composer First limits a timeline to four video tracks and eight audio tracks, compared to the 24 video and 64 audio tracks allowed by the full version.

Resolution is also limited, to a maximum of 1080p (this means MC First does not support DNxHR at all), with no progressive support for SD rasters, and the only available desktop display LUT is Rec. 709. Toolsets for color-correction, audio editing and effects are similarly limited, as are options for ingest and export.

On the other hand, Media Composer First will give younger editors who aspire to work on Hollywood feature films and prestige TV an introduction to the Avid environment that doesn’t require them to first find a job in a pro cutting room. And it will also allow working editors who are fully trained up on Adobe Premiere Pro CC or Apple Final Cut Pro X (not to mention the also-free Lightworks or Resolve) to take the Avid system for a spin, perhaps for the first time.

To help them out, Avid has created a series of “Get Started Fast” tutorials designed to get first-time users up to speed with creating projects, importing media, and getting to work on a sequence.

Avid Media Composer First: www.avid.com/media-composer-first