Here at No Film School, we've been talking about Avid's free version of Media Composer for a couple years. First announced in 2015, the trimmed-down version, dubbed Media Composer First, is aimed at "aspiring video professionals, video enthusiasts, and students" as a way to introduce them to the Avid environment. Finally, it is now available for download. 

"People using Media Composer First are going to get the full Avid editing experience, but in a way that is more approachable than ever before​."

At NAB 2017, Avid keyed in on some of its features, including 4 video tracks and 8 audio tracks, a simplified user interface, and bin support. No Film School reached out to Matt Feury, Director of Product and Segment Marketing for Pro Video at Avid, to find out more about its inception and functionality. 

No Film School: Media Composer First was teased a few years ago. Obviously, development and research takes its toll on the calendar, but what was the biggest obstacle in getting this release out?

Matt Feury: There wasn’t any one obstacle in particular. It was more the realization that for Media Composer First to succeed, it needed to be more than just a stripped-down Media Composer that we offered up for free. Media Composer has been refined for almost 30 years by professional editors all over the world. It’s a really deep and powerful toolset—one that can be a little intimidating for new users. 

Since announcing our plans for Media Composer First back in 2015, we’ve been working hard to take what has become the gold standard in Hollywood and make it appropriate for someone just starting out. And that’s a lot more work than just turning things off in the codebase. But I think it was well worth the effort. People using Media Composer First are going to get the full Avid editing experience, but in a way that is more approachable than ever before.

NFS: What type of codec/resolution can it import?

Feury: It can link to anything (UHD, 4K, etc.) and can encode all of the same codecs that Media Composer can encode, with the exception of DNxHR. First can only create SD or HD rasters, however, so anything with a raster greater than HD will need to be reframed using FrameFlex.

NFS: And on the export side?

Feury: Export is a QuickTime Movie either H.264 or DNxHD of HD raster (1920x1080) 59.94fps. 

NFS: Can you export to any video container other than QuickTime?

Feury: Not at this time. You can export QuickTime Movie to your desktop or you can also publish directly to YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo. 

NFS: Will Media Composer First play well with H.265/HEVC out of the box?

Feury: No.

NFS: What kind of editing tools are included?

Feury: Since one of the big points in making Media Composer First was to give beginners a fun way to learn Avid editing, the timeline functionality was something that we wanted to keep as faithful as possible between Media Composer First and Media Composer. We’ve been showing Media Composer First to Hollywood film and TV editors and they all asked the same question: “What isn't in Media Composer First? This works just like my Media Composer." Other than the track limitations, I can’t think of anything else off the top of my head that would distinguish the editing model of MC First from Media Composer.

NFS: That's really great to hear. As of now, Media Composer First projects do not open in Media Composer. When do you think this functionality will be added?

Feury: While we do intend to allow First projects to be opened in Media Composer in the future. We are still investigating the circumstances and workflows that require such functionality. Based on these findings (which we’re gathering from customer requests, beta feedback, and eventually Media Composer First users), we’ll develop a method for migrating projects that makes the most sense both technically and practically. We do not have an ETA for this functionality yet.

NFS: Is there any simplified communication between Media Composer First and Pro Tools First projects?

Feury: For now, users will need to export .wav from Pro Tools First and import into Media Composer First. We’re investigating more integrated workflows via Cloud Collaboration in the future.

NFS: Speaking of, when do you think Cloud Collaboration will be included for Media Composer First?

Feury: Later this year or early next year.

NFS: Avid Studio for iPad was once a free alternative editing app to iMovie and later sold to Pinnacle Studio. Do you see First parlaying into another app for Avid?

Feury: That’s certainly a possibility, but there are no plans for that right now. Media Composer First is worth considering if you're new to editing or even a seasoned vet on other NLE platforms. Knowing the Avid environment and understanding the way it works will only aid in advancing your skills as a filmmaker. As with most software related products and companies, Avid will gauge the community's response from this release and offer future updates for better performance. 


  • Free (email required to download)
  • 4 Video Tracks
  • 8 Audio Tracks
  • Export either Quicktime Movie H.264 or DNxHD of HD raster (1080x1920) 59.94fps.
  • Can link to any media (4K, UHD, HD, etc) 
  • Projects can have up to 5 bins

You can now download the free software here (or compare each version here). Avid has also included a set of tutorials, starting with Episode 1