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In recent weeks, Avid has announced a change in their company philosophy, dubbed “New Thinking.” In March, they announced the end of the Xpress Pro line of software and aggressive price reductions on their Media Composer software. Perhaps more significant was the implementation of a stronger online resource base of tips, tutorials, and forums, which had always been an advantage of Final Cut Pro.

This week, Avid generated some spirited discussion on their message boards after an event in Universal City that gave a sneak preview of their newest hardware products (the official announcement, including pricing, should come early next week). The jury is still out as to whether phasing out an expensive line of hardware that is only 5 years old (Adrenaline) was a good decision, but it’s not hard to get excited about lower prices and faster, more powerful equipment (the new DX boxes will attach via PCI-e bus, which is vastly superior to Adrenaline’s current FireWire connection).

Along with the new hardware, Avid promised a software update to Media Composer that will include various real-time timecode burn-in options as well as Leopard and Windows Vista support. Since they’re calling the new release Media Composer 3, I couldn’t help but naively hope they will include a number of features that editors have been begging for (and complaining about) for years:

  • Background saves. There’s nothing more annoying than being in the midst of a series of keystrokes and having to wait while Media Composer saves all of your bins and settings over the course of several seconds. Couldn’t it at least remember what keystrokes I hit in the meantime and apply them in order after it finishes saving?
  • More available features during playback. I would love to be able to navigate through different bins and menus and change timeline views and settings on-the-fly while my sequence plays uninterrupted. As it currently stands, I can’t do anything but set in and out points and locators.
  • A better Title tool. The current tool never ceases to confuse and frustrate me. The interface for creating and editing titles should be cleaned up and simplified. The method it uses to update and name titles that already exist in a timeline is baffling.
  • An easier way to select multiple clips in Segment Mode. Lassoing is inconvenient and oftentimes inaccurate, especially if you have lots of tracks in your timeline. I used Final Cut Pro’s “Select All Clips to the Right” button all the time when I used FCP in college, and it was a huge time saver. There is no better way to open or close a hole in a complex sequence with lots of overlapping edits. Seems to me it shouldn’t be too hard to implement this feature and would be way faster and more accurate than zooming all the way out of your sequence and trying to lasso several minutes of clips all together.
  • Settings files that actually transfer between software versions and operating systems. What’s the point of spending hours tweaking your settings to perfectly fit your individual needs when you’ll have to re-create them on your next gig? Ninety percent of the time, when I try to import my settings into a different Avid system I get punished with the default settings instead. And since my settings won’t transfer, shouldn’t there be an easy way to print out my keyboard settings, composer buttons, and color settings without doing screen captures?
  • The ability to add filler at the end of a sequence. Why is this still impossible? What was the idea behind it in the first place?
  • More intuitive nesting of effects. While I am admittedly inexperienced in this area, there is definitely a steep learning curve. It can be cumbersome to “step in” to edit the correct effect when several are stacked on the same clip. You should just be able to access all of them from the Effect Editor and drag them above or below each other to prioritize their order.
  • Effects that can be applied to only one layer. Going along with the previous bullet point, it’s very frustrating to apply a reformat or color effect to a title or clip that contains an alpha channel and have the effect applied to every layer underneath it as well. If I wanted it applied to all the layers, I would have put the effect over filler in the top-most video layer.
  • Waveforms and clip thumbnails that never have to be refreshed. These two features would be a lot more useful if they didn’t drastically slow down Media Composer’s performance. Waveforms and thumbnails should only be drawn once when you first open a bin or sequence, and not every time you resize the timeline or open other items.

Obviously not all of this will happen overnight. But here’s hoping that Avid will pay as much attention to the software engineering side of their operations as they have been paying to their hardware and business sides lately.