Avid Media Composer First allows you to begin using the Media Composer platform at no cost.

Choice is good, and if you're a video editor you just got one more. Avid, whose nonlinear editor Media Composer is widely used in the film and television industries, recently released a free version of its software called Media Composer First.

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On the surface, this appears to be a similar approach to the one taken by Blackmagic with DaVinci Resolve, which has evolved into a creditable NLE in addition to its legendary color grading tools. The full version of Resolve Studio sells for $299 (down from $995 a few months ago), while the basic version of Resolve can be downloaded for free. While there are differences between the two, the free version includes most of the same tools as the Studio edition, making it a very attractive platform.

Avid appears to be taking a bit of a different approach, however, as Media Composer First comes with a number of limitations. The most notable is that it only supports projects up to 1080 resolution, which will likely to be a stumbling block for many editors today. It also limits the number of video and audio tracks you can use, the number of bins in a project, and its desktop display LUT is limited to Rec.709. In fact, if you compare features, the free version has a fair number of limits across all functional areas.

So, why would anyone use Media Composer First? The full version of Media Composer sells for $1299 (or as a subscription for $35/month), so cost is obviously one motivation. However, what's likely more important to many editors is access to the Media Composer platform. This presents a cost effective way for beginners to use and learn a piece of software that will be very important if they want to work in film or television.

If neither Media Composer nor Resolve work for you, the other 800 pound gorillas in this space are Adobe Premiere, available as part of Adobe's Creative Cloud, or Final Cut Pro X for Mac users, which sells for $299.