Partnership with Blackmagic Design, Compatibility with Apple and Avid, Drives MediaCentral Platform

Avid showed that it was serious about growing Media Composer's user base by announcing Media Composer | First, a feature-limited version of its venerable Media Composer NLE software, at NAB this weekend.

Media Composer | First (MCF) will give editors a no-risk way to learn Avid-style workflow and compare MC to competitors like Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro. But it won't represent any kind of competition for the full version of the software. For one thing, users of the free version will be allowed to save only a limited number of projects, and those projects must be saved to the cloud rather than local hard drives. However, the actual media files will be stored locally for performance reasons. This suggests that MCF requires an always-on Internet connection, which limits its usefulness.

Also, various Media Composer features will be limited, simplifed, reduced or eliminated in the free version, Avid said, including functionality related to menus, the timeline, source and record monitors, bins, LUTs, closed captions, import and export, titles, FX, buttons, keyboard optione, multicam and more. MCF will also not connect to other Avid systems like Interplay, Media Central | UX and ISIS. (Avid discussed some of these details in a blog post, Five Things to Know About Media Composer | First.) Avid is introducing the concept of in-application purchases, which will allow users to pay to unlock some of those missing features as well as AVX and AAX plug-ins, stock footage and music. If a user later upgrades to the full version of Media Composer, those purchases will all be carried over, Avid said.

And Avid sent a bit of a mixed message about just how helpful the free version will really be. In an FAQ, the company first says it "has all the tools to create a project from start to finish and to deliver a finished movie in professional formats and to popular web outlets." But in the same document it also cautions, "if you're serious about developing your skills, you might wait a long time [for MCF's release] to find that [it] is too limited."

Media Composer | First will be released later this year, Avid said.

Avid Artist | DNxIO Hardware
The company also took a decisive step forward for its MediaCentral Platform, announcing the Avid Artist | DNxIO. Developed in partnership with hardware provider Blackmagic Design, the new interface offers ingest, editing, monitoring and output at resolutions up to 4K for Avid's Artist Suite software — as well as Apple Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro.

The DNxIO fits in standard equipment racks and features a 1080p HD display for monitoring media ingest and output. Inputs and outputs include quad SDI in and out supporting dual 12G and dual 3G, dual 12Gbit optical in and out, HDMI in and out, and analog component and composite video in and out. Audio connectivity includes four channels of balanced analog audio IO, two channels of AES/EBU audio IO, inputs for audio from MP3 players and similar devices, and a front-panel mic unput with 48V phantom power, level control, and a headphone connection with its own level control.

Hardware-accelerated capabilities inside the box include encode, decode, color conversion, up- and down-conversion and cross-conversion. PC connectivity includes PCie and Thunderbolt.

Compatibility with NLE software from Avid competitors Apple and Adobe will be a big draw for facilities that have gotten used to mixing and matching the tools in their pipeline depending on client needs. It also expands directly on Avid's well-received announcement last month that its ISIS shared-storage systems fully supported Premiere Pro CC.

The DNxIO is slated to ship in Q3 2015, with onboard DNxHR to be enabled through an upgrade in the fourth quarter.


Avid ISIS | 1000
Avid also announced a new entry level for ISIS, aiming the collaborative storage platform at smaller video facilities, independent production studios, corporate media departments and the like. With a starting price of $17,995 for a 20 TB system, the new Avid ISIS | 1000 is expandable to 80 TB and bandwidth for anywhere from 36 to 144 streams of media to 50 Mbps.

Avid ISIS | 1000 is expected to ship in Q3.