This article will cover the basics of the interface and editing tools in Avid Media Composer.
To learn how to start a new project from scratch, see our other guide Starting a Project in Avid.
To learn how to Link and Import media into your project, see our other guide Importing in Avid.
The arrangement of windows in Avid Media Composer is completely customizable. The program provides users with 4 default arrangements, each with their own focus. On the right side if your screen, you'll see these listed as Edit, Color, Effects, and Audio.
If you click through these, you'll see how the interface changes. For example, clicking the "Color" arrangement opens an additional window with Color Correction Controls.
We will spend most of our time in the Edit tab, so navigate back to Edit to continue following along.
The project window is where your bins are displayed. If you are in the default Edit arrangement, this window should appear in the top left of your screen.
Double clicking a bin will open it in a tab to the right. This will display all of the footage, audio files, sequences, etc. that you have saved in that bin.
In the screenshot below, we have two tabs which means we have two bins open.
The below icons are labeled as what they are.
- Sequences are where your cuts are saved
- Linked video and Linked audio clips refer to original linked media (not Avid's preferred format)
- Video clips and audio clips reference your MXF media - properly formatted inside your Avid MediaFiles folder
- Subclips do not create new MXF files, but rather are created from/reference master clips. Subclips are created when syncing video and audio clips or by setting in and out points in the source monitor, holding down ALT, and clicking and dragging from the source monitor to your bin.
Source/Record and Timeline
- This is Avid's main interface. The top left window in the screenshot below is your source monitor. It previews the clip you currently have selected in the bin. To the right is the record monitor, which previews your sequence based on the location of your playhead.
- In the example bellow, the source monitor displays the original clip as it appears in the bin, while the record monitor displays the same clip with an effect that has been added in the sequence.
Beneath your two monitors is the timeline. When a sequence is open, it will display here with all of your cuts.
The light blue line cutting vertically through your timeline is your playhead. It tells you exactly which frame is being displayed in the record monitor (right side).
Bellow the timeline, you'll find a series of menus, information, and options.
On the far left is the Fast Menu. Clicking on it will bring up a number of options. Notably, "Audio Data" will allow you to display a waveform for your audio, and "Track Color" will allow you to color-code your tracks.
Next you have sequence information - the name of your sequence (in this screenshot, just "Sequence" be we do not advise this name), resolution, and framerate.
The "focus" button will zoom in or out of your timeline towards your playhead.
This is the Toggle Source/Record in Timeline button. If this button is green, this indicates that the timeline is in source mode and will display the clip currently selected in the bin. This option can be useful for setting in/out points while syncing, but make sure that it is deactivated when you are editing or else you won't see your sequence.
To the right , you'll find the Video Quality Menu. Right clicking on it will give you a list of options to control the preview resolution of your video. "Best Performance", for example, will lower the preview resolution, but might enable you to preview your video more seamlessly if you have applied many effects. For most applications, you can leave it on "Full Quality" or "Draft Quality".
Placing and Removing Clips using interface buttons
There are four tools that dictate how a clip is placed or removed to/from a sequence. For any of these tools to work, in and out points must be set by hitting I and O respectively. Clear in and out points with the G key.
- Splice-in - The yellow right-facing arrow. This tool will insert a selection from a source clip, pushing other clips to the right to make room.
- Overwrite - The red right-racing arrow. This tool will insert a selection from a source clip on top of other clips that are in the way.
- Extract - Pair of open scissors. This tool will remove a selection from a sequence and close the resulting gap.
- Lift - Person lifting weights. This tool will remove a selection from a sequence and leave filler in its place.
Edit Modes in the timeline
If your Segment Tools or your Trim Tools appears as a solid color (just red or just yellow) then you can right click the tool to check off both colors. However, some users find it easier to work with one checked at a time.
These tools are the most difficult piece of the Avid learning curve for most users, but they're actually fairly easy to get a handle on. Simply remember that the red tools don't move other clips, while the yellow tools do. The red tools become accessible when hovering your cursor over the top half of a clip, and the yellow tools become accessible when hovering your cursor over the bottom half. Similarly, the arrow tools only appear when hovering over the middle of a clip, and the trim tools only appear when hovering over the edge of a clip.
- Overwrite (Segment Mode) - Red arrow - Allows you to move clips of video or audio over others, replacing them.
- Splice-in (Segment Mode) - Yellow arrow - Allows you to move clips of video or audio in-between others, pushing other clips to the right.
- Overwrite Trim (Trim Mode) - Red roller - Allows you to extend or shorten a clip without moving other clips. Overwrite trims will replace other clips in the timeline if the resulting trim overlaps.
- Ripple Trim (Trim Mode) - Yellow roller - Allows you to extend or shorten a clip, pushing or pulling other clips away. This will move other clips forward or backward in your timeline but it will not replace any clips.
- Lift & Extract are still useful tools while working in the timeline too!
In the timeline window, video and audio clips are displayed on tracks, much like in Premiere. To add an audio track, hit CMD + U. To add an audio track, hit CMD + Y. To the left of the tracks are options that allow you to solo, mute, enable, or disable individual tracks.
You may notice that many of these icons are repeated. That's because the icons to the left affect the clip loaded in the source monitor, while the icons on the right affect all clips on that track.
Enabling or disabling a source track (i.e. by clicking on V1) will affect which tracks of the clip in the source monitor are added to the sequence. Enabling or disabling a record track will affect which tracks in the sequence a new clip gets added to.
The small "S" icons will solo an audio track, meaning that all other audio tracks will be muted. The small "M" icon mutes an individual track.
Zooming and Focusing in the Timeline
- Default Keyboard Shortcuts: Command Left bracket (Command [ ) will zoom out. Command Right Bracket (Command ] ) will zoom in.
- You can use the scale bar (bottom of the screen, next to the scroll bar) to stretch and contract the timeline area centered around the playhead. This lets you either zoom in to focus on a specific area of your sequence or zoom out to display your whole sequence.
- You can use the Focus button (circular icon in the bottom left) to quickly change your view of the timeline so that you focus on a few seconds of material on either side of the playhead. The focus button centers the playhead and scales the timeline so each second of time in the sequence fills 90 pixels in the display.
Backing Up Your Project
- When you have finished editing for the day, save and quit Avid.
- Open the “Shared Avid Projects” folder (or wherever you chose to save your project folder) and find your project. Copy the entire folder to your hard drive (or Student space on the server).
- You may want to create a”older versions” folder where you keep each day’s project folder as a backup before overwriting the folder with the most recent version of your project. These folders take up very little space and this will make your life much easier if something goes wrong with your project in the future.
- At the beginning of your next editing session, copy this folder into the Shared Avid Projects folder and open this version in Avid. You are less likely to run into problems if you work from the Shared folder than an external drive.
- Note: If you rename your project, Avid will no longer be able to find it. Be sure to keep the name of your project folder consistent.