A collaborative editing workflow in Avid

6 minute read

Media Composer is the core of Avid’s ecosystem and the basis of many collaborative editing environments. Avid recently restructured the Media Composer line to provide a clear separation of capabilities:

  • Media Composer | First – for students
  • Media Composer (Standard) – for independent professionals
  • Media Composer | Ultimate – for teams of professionals

Let’s see how collaborative editing is achieved with Media Composer and Media Composer | Ultimate, which we’ll refer to as Standard and Ultimate.


  • Install the same version of Media Composer on all team members’ workstations.
  • Establish a naming and organization structure for clips and bins.
  • Provide access to the same Avid project and media.

The Same Version of Media Composer

Ideally, everyone on your team will use the same version of Media Composer for the duration of the project.

It is possible to hand off projects among editors with different versions, but there may be trouble down the road if you do.

Establish Your Bin and Clip Naming and Organization Structure

It can’t be overstated: organization is the foundation of success in the edit. Before any actual editing begins, establish as a team how bins and clips will be named and organized for the duration of your project.

If the structure can improve, write down your changes, then tactfully present them to the decision maker.

If you’re the decision maker, don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis, or be unwilling to change. Always be open to the possibility something could be clearer. Listen, then decide. If changes are made, document it, relay them, then stick to it.

When everyone does their part to be consistent with clips and bins, you’ll spend less time looking for stuff, and more time making creative decisions.

More details are available here:

Access to the Same Avid Project and Media

With Media Composer (Standard)

As of version 2018.4, Media Composer Standard no longer natively supports shared storage. So how can you share media without shared storage? This approach works best when handing off the project between individual team members:

  1. 1
    Ingest footage
  2. 2
    Log clips
  3. 3
    Hand off to the Lead Editor
  4. 4
    Hand off to other team members

Someone on the team, perhaps the Assistant Editor, will create a new project in Media Composer with the desired frame size and frame rate for final delivery.

Getting this right is important. Getting it wrong will mean lost time and lots of work reversing damage later. Verify project settings before creation.

Next, ingest and transcode your source footage to an Avid codec. Your project settings will narrow down which codecs are available for transcoding.

Instead of transcoding, what about just linking to sources so you can hit the ground running? You can, but Media Composer doesn’t run at peak performance with most acquisition (i.e. shooting) codecs. On the other hand, Avid’s DNxHD and DNxHR codecs do.

Transcode some test shots with the available codecs in your project. Remember, if transcoding to DNxHD, the higher the number at the end of the codec name, the larger the resulting MXF. Try shots with large quantities of random motion, like moving water or a Steadicam-like follow of someone running. How does it look? How big is the resulting MXF in ../Avid MediaFiles/MXF/ on your media drive? Weigh those out, then choose your codec for transcoding.

Media Composer can transcode footage in the background while it’s running, but reliability varies from version to version. For consistent results, budget time to perform a traditional transcode overnight, or schedule other tasks if transcoding during the day, since you can’t Media Composer while transcoding footage.

Name your clips and subclips according to the agreed-upon organization structure. Adhering to that structure is crucial. Naming clips in Media Composer is a manual process, and there’s no batch renaming tool in Media Composer.

Multicam clips may be built and additional metadata, such as script notes, may be imported or added as well.

At this stage, the project’s ready for the Lead Editor. The initial handoff consists of gathering and transferring the Avid project folder and all associated media.

Media Composer follows a consistent pattern for storing projects across Windows and macOS. Remember that project you created? More than likely, you’ll see a folder with that project name inside your home folder at this location:

• Windows

◦ Private Projects: C:\Users\\Documents\Avid Projects

◦ Shared Projects: C:\Users\\Documents\Avid Projects

• macOS

◦ Private Projects: /Macintosh HD/Users//Documents/Avid Projects

◦ Shared Projects: /Macintosh HD/Users/Shared/Avid Media Composer/Avid Projects

Copy that folder to an external drive or a shared folder, which will be transferred to the corresponding folder on the Lead Editor’s workstation.

You can use Media Composer’s built-in Media Tool. But doing so is challenging for all but the most seasoned Media Composer user. Instead use MDV to gather project media.

MDV (Media Database Viewer) is a free media management tool written by a veteran Media Composer user, available for Windows and macOS. It scans all Avid MediaFiles folders on all mounted volumes, then displays all available media files associated with a project. MDV can also scan individual bins, showing all available media connected to clips in that bin. Using it, you can sift media for an entire project or individual bins with clarity and confidence. It’ll even sift the media into new folders named after the project in question.

Sidebar: all media imported or transcoded into Media Composer is managed by Media Composer. The media are usually MXF files inside a special folders on your designated media drive. Those folders are under ../Avid MediaFiles/MXF/ (where N is a number of 1 or higher) and contain databases that index and connect the MXF’s to the clips in bins accessible from Media Composer.

Using MDV, copy the project media to a folder on an external drive or a shared folder. These MXF’s will be transferred to the Lead Editor’s media drive. The simplest approach? Quit Media Composer, then create a newly number folder inside /Avid MediaFiles/MXF. If you already have a “1” folder, name the new folder “2”, then copy the MXF’s there. Relaunch Media Composer then go for a walk while it indexes the new media. Open the project on the Lead Editor’s machine, and they’re ready to go!

More details are available here: http://djfio.ru/mdv/

What if an Assistant Editor needs to add more to the Lead Editor’s project? The Assistant can add new media by creating new bins in their local project where they’ll ingest, transcode, and log. When they’re done, they’ll transfer the new bin along with all media gathered using MDV to the Lead Editor’s workstation and media drive.

With Media Composer | Ultimate

Avid introduced Media Composer | Ultimate in version 2018.4. Unlike Standard, Ultimate can take advantage of the collaborative workflow feature set available in a traditional Media Composer environment, such as connecting to shared storage with Avid file systems (AvidFS) or bin locking in shared projects. Ultimate can also connect to MediaCentral, Avid’s media asset management platform, for extended functionality.

More details are available here:

Beyond Media Composer

At NAB 2018, Avid announced Avid On Demand. On Demand provides access to editing and media management tools in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model with cloud-based storage supplanting large shared storage appliances. Instead of deploying, administering, and supporting costly facilities, Media Composer seats can be added with applications ‘spun up’ or ‘spun down’ (like a mechanical hard drive) as needed. Or, on demand.

More details are available here: https://www.avid.com/solutions/cloud

Handing off to Other Team Members

After picture lock and conform, you may be working with a colorist and an audio post specialist during the finishing phase. The handoff typically consists of an AAF file along with a reference export of your movie and media sifted from your project. Media Composer can export AAF’s tailor made for round-tripping in DaVinci Resolve and Pro Tools, which you can save as reusable export settings later.

Workflow Guide

Read the full guide

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