It was earlier in the year, around the time of NAB 2009, when Avid announced the release of Media Composer 3.5 (and other new Avid products) which marked the arrival of Avid Media Access. In case you’re unfamiliar with the technology, AMA is Avid’s way to have near instant access to tapeless media. By linking to an AMA volume the supported media pops right up in your bin. This can be directly from an acquisition media card or from a backup hard drive with the day’s shoot. It really is a very fast way to get to work and currently trumps anything that Final Cut Pro has available when it comes to working with the tapeless cameras, that is with the exception of the new GY JVC cameras that shoot directly to a .mov file. But even with that format it’s just as fast … and maybe a bit faster in that AMA can automatically populate  a bin when a volume is mounted. After kicking the tires on AMA quite a bit I can say it works pretty well.

But something is missing.

Avid also recently launched a new part of their website dedicated to AMA. And they announced the first new plug-ins available for AMA, apart from the XDCAM and P2 support that was available at launch: It’s … GFCAM support! Wait, what the hell is GFCAM? GFCAM is a format from Ikegami and is captured by their HDS-V10 camera. Okay, I admit that I don’t know everything about cameras but I do keep up on camera technology as it directly affects post. I didn’t know this GFCAM format existed and really had forgotten that Ikegami made cameras at all. I’m sure there’s a lot of GFCAM users out there and this addition of GFCAM support in Avid AMA just made their lives a whole lot easier.

I’ve mentioned before that AMA is very promising and I’d even go so far as to say that it’s one of those types of “killer features” that could bring new editors to the product. Many of the Final Cut Pro users in the world have never known an editing application where you don’t have to Log and Transfer / transcode / rewrap tapeless media files before you edit. This takes time. Time is money. Final Cut Pro is an app that the creators have decided needs to work only with .mov files come hell or high water (we’ve discussed that before as well) even though 3rd party developers have proven that it can work with files. The release of Final Cut Pro 7 didn’t change this either even though Apple marketing touts “camera native editing:”


See the commentary near the bottom of this link for more on that. Avid Media Access is camera-native editing in the truest sense of the term. But Avid hasn’t yet capitalized on the potential of AMA. Let’s take Avid’s own HD codec DNxHD. You can create DNxHD QuickTime files in any number of applications. It stands to reason that Avid would make available a plug-in for their own software to allow AMA linking to DNxHD QuickTime files. In my mind this is the biggest no-brainer for AMA to support and something that should have happened, if not with the Media Composer 3.5 release but soon after. Here we are some 4 + months after and still no DNxHD QuickTime access via AMA. In fact the AMA plug-in page is quite sparse. There’s literally tens of hundreds of different media types out in the world that modern NLEs have to support so it’s understandable when they can’t support them all but not supporting one of your own formats seems like a big oversight and a missed opportunity. Is it a technical limitation to get a .mov wrapper into Avid? That’s not a limitation that I have heard though it may be (and how disappointing if that is the case). Is Avid only going to rely on camera manufactures to provide AMA plug-ins? If so then that would be (as I mentioned above) … a missed opportunity. With all of the RED ONE and Canon 5Ds shooting today there’s a ton of file-based media being transcoded to non-camera native formats for editing ***coughProRes*** and finishing. If DNxHD is good enough for Fox it’s good enough for most jobs. Having AMA access to DNxHD QuickTimes would make it very easy and economical to use the format, especially from an ingest time and hard drive space perspective.

Hmmm … now all we need for our Avids is an AJA Kona affordable hardware I/O solution for those Avid Media Composer software systems that will allow input and output to tape, down-converts and client monitoring. But that’s another discussion for another day.