Avid Technology Inc.®, headquartered in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, has been the leading producer of non-linear digital editing equipment since the late 1980's.

The Avid Film Composer® has progressed from being an "interesting" Macintosh application with some functionality and an absolutely bewildering array of customizable features to the de facto tool of choice for most professional filmmakers.

"Avid" is practically synonymous with "computer editing machine" in the same way that "Moviola" used to mean "film editing machine." Over the years the company has withstood challenges from all sides, on all computer platforms. D/Vision, Montage, EMC, and Lightworks at one time or another all competed with Avid in the digital editing field, and with the possible exception of Lightworks--which remains an excellent solution running on Intel boxes--anybody who owns one of these other tools basically possesses a pretty good boat anchor.

Much of Avid's success stems from the fact that it is a true 24 frame editing system. Motion picture film is shot at 24 frames per second. Video screens at 30 frames per second. When the time comes to cut the original negative on a film project which has been edited on a digital video system, the 25% difference between film and tape frames per second has to be accounted for. Most other systems approximate the difference, adjusting arbitrarily here and there. Avid (and Lightworks) actually edit at the 24 frame rate and then do a reverse telecine back out to video, adding the extra frames to the review videotape.

Six frames--a quarter of a second--is a lot of time in an action sequence. One frame can be essential. It's the difference between a muzzle flash from a firearm being in the movie or edited out accidentally when the original negative is cut. It's the difference between an eye blinking open or closed at the beginning or end of a close-up. Editors and directors care very much about these things, and the Avid provides an assurance that "what you see is what you get."

The Film Composer® (and also Media Composer®, an even more elaborate tool) has other advantages as well. The editor is able to preview special effects, for example, which otherwise would have to be created by trial and error over and over again at great expense. The newest Avids output uncompressed video. Some shows you see on network television come right out of the Avid box--no further post production work is needed. The Avid sound module is completely digital, which means the editor can work with the original digital tracks, manipulate them in any way he or she chooses, and be assured that "what s/he hears is what s/he gets."

As is usual in the world of high tech applications, the market finds its level. The Avid has always been, and continues to be, enormously expensive. A Hollywood-quality machine costs at least $150,000. In the past year or so, Apple has come up with what it thinks is a better way: Final Cut Pro, their software solution to the challenges of film editing, can be had for one thousand dollars. It runs on an iMac, and on a G4 with an additional board, it'll do 24 frame editing. Time will tell if Final Cut Pro is finally the "Avid Killer" many people would like it to be.

That point, it seems, is somewhat irrelevant. With Final Cut Pro anybody can do what only Avid editors used to be able to do. Sprinkle in something called talent, add a dash of what might be termed good taste, and sooner or later somebody's "home movie" is going to become a "major motion picture."

That's called progress.

On Hollywood and filmmaking:

Below the Line

sex drugs and divorce

a little life, interrupted
  1. Hecho en Mejico
  2. Entrances
  3. Sam's Song
  4. Hemingway and Fortuna
  5. Hummingbird on the Left
  6. The Long and Drunken Afternoon
  7. Safe in the Lap of the Gods
  8. Quetzal Birds in Love
  9. Angela in Paradise
  10. And the machine ran backwards

a secondhand coffin
how to act
Right. Me and Herman Melville
Scylla and Charybdis Approximately
snowflakes and nylon

I could've kissed Orson Welles
the broken dreams of Orson Welles
the last time I saw Orson Welles
The Other Side of the Wind

Below the Line
completion bond
Film Editing
Film Editor
Final Cut Pro
forced development
HD Video
king of the queens
Kubrick polishes a turd
movies from space
Persistence of Vision
Sven Nykvist
Wilford Brimley

21 Grams
Andrei Rublyov
Apocalypse Now Redux
Ivan's Childhood
The Jazz Singer
The Sacrifice
We Were Soldiers
Wild Strawberries

riverrun's writeup above is an excellent overview. I have just a few things to add.

Firstly, there essentially isn't any such thing as Avid Film Composer software anymore. All the 24fps editing capabilities of Film Composer were folded into Avid Media Composer by version 7 of Media Composer. MC software is now at version 10.x, but there was no version numbered 8.

Secondly, the Avid is no longer solely Macintosh-based. The Avid Symphony system, which is capable of handling uncompressed digital video (including High Definition video), runs on the Windows NT platform. Many Avid editors, myself included, saw this as a bit of a betrayal, but it is more likely the result of Avid's recent purchase of SoftImage (developers of high-end 3D animation and special effects software) from Microsoft than an indication of full-scale conversion to "PC" systems.

Avid Techology, Inc. develops and sells the following digital editing "solutions", among others:

Avid|DS HD
Avid Symphony
Media Composer
Avid Xpress
Avid Xpress DV
Elastic Reality
Media Illusion

Avid also owns digidesign and, as such, develops ProTools.

For a somewhat clearer explanation of how the Avid solves the problem of the frame rate differential between film and video, please see 3:2 Pulldown.

Av"id (?), a. [L. avidus, fr. avre to long: cf. F. avide. See Avarice.]

Longing eagerly for; eager; greedy.

"Avid of gold, yet greedier of renown."



© Webster 1913.

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