Pros: Wide native video format support; fluid editing engine; comprehensive suite of powerful bundled apps.
Cons: Expensive, with no non-suite option.
Avid Media Composer 4 was always going to be a tough act to follow. Its Open Timeline brought the biggest brand in desktop video editing bang up to date with a format agnostic rendering engine to vie with the best out there. Version 5 consolidates on this, but adds a selection of new features as well.
Avid Media Access (AMA) support has been extended still further, and now connects directly to RED and QuickTime sources, including the latter's high quality ProRes options. So media can be used directly without the need for importing and transcoding before use. RED footage is scaled to HD for a smoother workflow. The direct QuickTime support will be particularly useful when working with footage shot on the increasingly popular Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 7D digital SLRs. The Canon XF codec used by its new XF300 series models is also supported by AMA, including its 4:2:2 colour space. Avid Media Composer can now also import AVCHD-based format directly, including Panasonic's AVCCAM.
Avid Media Composer 5
The interface has been improved, with the introduction of a SmartTool. This set of five modes lets you work with clips on the timeline in a context-aware way. The tool action changes depending on cursor position. At long last, you can also alter the duration of clips by directly dragging their end points on the timeline. It's easier to integrate footage with different aspect ratios, too. You can choose how non-native aspects are displayed, such as scaled or letterboxed. The Mix and Match facility added with version 4 has been improved for use with third-party equipment. Non-native frame rates can now be transcoded for compatibility.
Although Avid Mojo and Nitris DX hardware provides extra acceleration and I/O options, sometimes all you want is HD monitoring. So Matrox's MXO2 Mini is now supported as an output device. Media Composer also offers HD-RGB finishing capabilities using a 4:4:4 colour space, rather than just YUV 4:2:2. However, Nitris DX hardware is required for capture and output. Audio enhancements include support for stereo audio clips as one element. Real-time audio effects can now be applied within Media Composer itself using Real-Time Audio Suite (RTAS) plug-ins. So you won't need a third-party audio app anywhere near as frequently.
Avid continues its bundle approach by including a host of extras, ranging from Avid FX and Boris Continuum Complete effects add-ons, to the Avid DVD authoring app, Sorenson Squeeze encoding and SmartSound SonicFire Pro for loop-based music soundtrack creation. So, whilst the purchase price is very steep, you get a lot for your money. With the very strong format support and fluid Mix and Match engine, Media Composer remains the comprehensive professional choice - if you can afford it.