Avid  Media  Composer First

Avid Media Composer First offers all of the power of the full version of Media Composer for free, with a few notable limits. Unlike many free versions of larger editors, Media Composer First will allow you to do most everything its big brother can. You’re limited to four video tracks, six audio tracks and up to five bins. You are able to import footage in resolutions higher than HD, but output options are limited; you can export SD and HD video, but not 4K.

Unlike most other free programs, Media Composer First is a great training tool. Media Composer First is a great way to learn the Media Composer workflow for free. The full version of Media Composer is a powerful program but can be tricky to learn because it works a bit differently from other editors. Since Media Composer First is based on the flagship program, there will be a learning curve for new editors or new Avid users.

Media Composer First makes you think more about the technical aspects of your footage because it doesn’t just automatically accept everything. That’s not to say the program is limited in what it will accept, just that it will require you to know certain aspects of your footage for it to work within the editing environment.

Media Composer First makes you think more about the technical aspects.

If you are mixing frame rates, for instance, you will need to conform to the frame rate you are going to be working in. This will force you to better understand your resources and would likely affect the final product for the better. With that said, it’s difficult to jump into a program that locks in your choices versus one that is flexible all the way through the production process. Which one will work for you will depend on if being forced to make choices strengthens your product. In many cases, making choices as you go along makes them easier to make. Because you made choices early, you don’t have a bulk of them to make at the end of your project. This lack of an intuitive ingest process will make Media Composer First difficult to use for some. However, the difficulty it offers will force you to fully understand the media you are working with. This will increase your editing IQ and improve your ability to make the best product possible.

For those who already know Media Composer, the question is, “Will Media Composer First work for me?” That depends on what you’re doing with it. The limit of audio and video tracks isn’t a hindrance if you do a simple cut. However, if you have lots of assets to organize, the bin limit will be problematic. Exports are limited to HD up to 60 frames per second as Quicktime Movies in H.264 or DNxHD. Avid says that this starter edition of Media Composer is for aspiring video professionals, video enthusiasts and students, so overall, these limitations may not have much of an impact on the software’s target users.

In Use

The ethos of Media Composer starts at installation. Although we doubt this is something many will run in to, we were unable to install First because we already had the full version of Media Composer installed. It required that we uninstall that before we could install First. This is a great example how the rigidity of Media Composer sometimes makes things harder than expected. We’re sure there is a technical reason that we couldn’t install both, but we still felt a little frustrated.

Once the program was installed, we were able to jump right in. Because the Media Composer workflow can be tough to get your head around at first, here are some steps to get started. First, you must create a project and choose a location for it to save. To start editing, you must ingest your footage. At this time, you must choose to either link to the original file or import the footage by transcoding it. The footage will go in to your bin and you are ready to edit! To create a timeline, preview the clip you’d like to start with, mark the in and out using I for in and O for out. Lastly, to place the clip in a timeline, press B. The project properties window will open up and ask you for the raster and edit rate for your project. Raster is the resolution and edit rate is the frame rate. After that, you can use three point editing by issuing the in, the out and the overwrite point. This is the core of how Media Composer can become quite fast to use, and the process won’t even require a mouse.

Like the full version of Media Composer, Media Composer First has a full selection of color correction tools with scopes. It has a titler and can stabilize your footage. You are able to speed up and slow down footage and you can export your project to most social media platforms. If you require something added into the program through a plug-in, those can only be purchased in the Avid marketplace.

Other Free Editors

The best part of trying out a free program is that, if it doesn’t work for you, it was free and you can move on. In this case, here are a few others you should try so you can evaluate what works best for your needs and desires.

Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 14 is another robust video editor with professional tools. Edit and export up to UHD 4K, plus get the professional color correction tools Resolve is known for. Though Resolve started as a tool primarily for color correction, in recent versions, the editing tools are robust, too. As with Media Composer First, if you like the free version, there is an upgraded version with additional features. DaVinci Resolve Studio goes for 300 dollars.

Next up is Lightworks, which is also available as both free and paid versions. Lightworks runs on any operating system and offers all of the same editing tools you would expect from a professional editor, with the only limitation being output format. If you simply wish to export 720 HD files for YouTube or Vimeo, Lightworks is worth looking into. Like the others, if you don’t like it, no worries, it was free. And if you do like it, you can upgrade to the Pro subscription for 25 dollars per month or own Lightworks outright for around 440 bucks.

Last up is Media 100, a name from the past. More than a decade ago, Media 100 was one of the top editors in the industry. However, it didn’t keep up with the times. The newest version of Media 100 is free and has no limitations on input or output. It’s an intuitive no-frills editor and has many features that would be educational and useful for a new user.

Final Thoughts and Recommendation

Media Composer First is free; why not try it out? Although its learning curve can be steep, Media Composer First lets you learn without risk. At worst, you’re going to learn a few new ways to do something, but at best, you’ll be proficient in a industry-standard editing application. Media Composer is quirky, but strong. If you are curious, just go and download it.   




  • Free
  • Forces you to learn Avid


  • Limited to HD output
  • Steep learning curve


Avid Media Composer First is a free version of Media Composer with a few limitations. Media Composer First might not be the easiest program to learn, but you’ll be smarter if you do.

Recommended Users:

  • Enthusiast filmmakers
  • YouTubers
  • Social media enthusiasts
  • Educators
  • Let’s players

Tech Specs:

Minimum System Requirements:

  • 64-bit Windows operating systems
  • Windows 10 Professional and Enterprise
  • Windows 8.1 Professional and Enterprise
  • Windows 7 Professional (Service Pack 1 only)

Memory: 6 GB minimum, 8 GB or more recommended; 16 GB or more when working with UHD or high frame rate media

Mac OS X
Memory: 6 GB minimum, 8 GB or more recommended; 16 GB or more when working with UHD or high frame rate media

Chris Monlux used two VCR’s to create his first edited video. He is also Videomaker’s Multimedia Editor.