Top 10 Avid Media Composer Tips


Since I’ve done a little entry about the Top 10 Final Cut Pro tips then why not do the same for Avid? Most of these tips apply to Media Composer but there are a few that will work in Avid Xpress Pro as well. While it would be easy to compare and contrast a lot of these things with what Final Cut Pro has to offer I will avoid that as it’s not the intent of this article. But maybe that’s a post in the future. Without further delay, here are the Editblog Top 10 Avid Media Composer tips!

• Colors

If you select clips in a bin and choose Edit > Set Clip Color, you get a drop down menu:


Choose the color you want and it is reflected in the bin as well as the timeline:

colors_bin.jpg colors_timeline.jpg

You also have control in the timeline as the color can be toggled on and off. This is very helpful when you want to identify things in the timeline at a glance. And since you can pick your own colors as well the combinations are endless!

• Colored Locators

While we’re on the subject of colors, Avid lets you apply one of any 8 colors of locators:


Like coloring clips, the different colors can be used to designate different things in a clip or a timeline therefore helping with organization. And organization is an important thing in an edit.

• ScriptSync

I’ve talked about ScriptSync before a time or two. ScriptSync “uses phonetic-indexing technology from Nexidia to analyze the audio portion of a clip and match it to lines of the script text.” The basic use for ScriptSync is to make script based editing more efficient by making it easier to “line” a text copy of a script with the footage from the shoot. But if you have talking heads and a transcript you can also use ScriptSync and line that transcript and once you use it the first time you’ll never want to work without it. Now if only we could get more people to transcribe their interviews …
• Toggle Source/Record in Timeline

There’s a little button in the corner of the timeline: toggle_button.png Push this little guy (or better yet map it to the keyboard) and any sequence, clip or anything else that is loaded into the Source monitor will be displayed in the timeline. While it’s great to be able to see the timeline build of an edit in the Source monitor I use this more when editing an interview. Toggle to the Source view and then turn on the waveform of the audio and you can use it as a visual reference to get where you need to go. The timeline is identified as view the Source by the playhead turning a bright neon green:


• Center Duration
Turn on the Center Duration option in the Composer Settings dialog box, center_duration.png and you get a little display located at the top of the Composer window between the Source and Record monitors. It displays one of two things: The time remaining in the clip or sequence from the position indicator to the end or the duration of the material between the IN to OUT point.


It may seem small and inconsequential but the Center Duration display is very handy and very unobtrusive. I never turn it off.

• Avid Calculator

Yes there are third party utilities your can download but the Avid Calculator is built in right there under the Tools menu:


Hit Command+2 and there it is. There are options for frame rates and film and the scrolling window keeps all previous entries. Very helpful when trying to get a show to time.

• Option + c
The Avid clipboard itself is a handy thing to have. Press the c key copy_to_clipboard.png and anything selected in the timeline is loaded onto the clipboard. You can then load that in the Source monitor or use the Clipboard Monitor (located under the Tools menu) as an always open Source monitor to store and edit things from the timeline. Even better is to select anything in the timeline using IN and OUT points as well as the track selectors to define what you want and hit option + c to load that media from the timeline into the Source monitor in one keystroke. This is the easiest way to move media from one place in the timeline to the other.

• Media Tool

The Avid Media Tool is a one stop shop for all the media on your hard drives. Since Avid uses its own media format, everything your capture or import is converted to that format when new media is created. The advantage of this can be debated but one of the greatest advantages is that the system can track it all unbelievably well and upon a moments notice (well, it might take more than a moment to call it up if you are a lot of media on a lot of drives) call it up in the Media Tool:


You can only load from specific drives or specific projects and choose only to load master clips or precomputes. Precomputes being those titles, effects renders etc. The Media Tool then loads all this media into a window where it can then be sorted, deleted and even edited from just like any other bin. One of Avid’s strong points has always been media management and the all encompassing Media Tool helps make that possible.

• Sync Point Editing

Choose Sync Point Editing from the Composer Settings window, the Special menu or by right+clicking on the Composer window and the Overwrite button turns orange: syncpint_editing.png What exactly is Sync Point Editing? From the Media Composer help: When this option is selected, your Avid editing application overwrites material onto your sequence so that a particular point in the source material is in sync with a particular point in the sequence. There are a lot of ways to achieve this but by far the easiest and most accurate is Sync Point Edit. Basically you have to do 4 things to make this work. Select an IN to OUT point in either the Source or Record side, then place the playheads in both sides to the exact frame where you want them to be in sync. The app will then overwrite that clip with the frame of the playhead on the Source side landing exactly where the frame of the playhead sits in the timeline. The IN and OUT is defined by where the IN and OUT was set. You can’t really screw things up too badly because if you have the wrong marks set you get a warning:


It takes a little experimenting to understand exactly how Sync Point Editing works but once you get it there is no easier way to put an action on a beat. I use it all the time, especially in music videos.

• Trim Mode

If I had to select any one single thing among any and every non-linear editing application that I have ever worked with, that one thing that is the single greatest, handiest, most useful and most refined tool that exists in the software NLE world it would be the Avid Trim Mode. I really don’t know how to sing its praises any more than that. If you’ve never used it then you won’t understand. If have used the trim modes / trim windows in other NLEs then you probably hate the mention of trim mode because most others work so poorly by comparison.

When entering Trim Mode the Composer window really doesn’t change that much:


Some info leaves the top and the buttons on the bottom change a bit. Down in the timeline you get little “rollers” that correspond to the tracks selected to indicate which edits are to be trimmed:


At that point you can JLK scrub the edit, click and drag with the mouse, play around the edit and change it on the fly with an IN point (among other things) to trim the edit. But it’s the many, many different things and options you get from the Trim Mode that makes it so vital to Avid editing. There’s an asymmetrical trimming (editing different cuts on different tracks in different directions), the Transition Corner Display (a display that shows six frames you can use as reference points when trimming a transition effect to easily eliminate those annoying flash frames in a dissolve), customizable pre and post roll, adding black while trimming and dual image play just to name a few. Then there’s slip and slide in Trim Mode:


You get a nice 4 frame display that show the in and out frame of the clip you are adjusting plus the tail and head of the adjacent clips. Again, this isn’t revolutionary but you now have full JLK scrub and playback of the clip you are moving. An amazingly powerful way to adjust and edit the selected clips. And as you do your JLK scrubbing in Trim Mode you always get this little white line that plays along in the timeline (instead of the playhead moving) to give visual feedback as to what it going on. It’s little touches like that that make the refinement of the Avid Trim Mode second to none among any feature in any NLE application.