While not officially at the NAB show, Avid had a very big presence. I was fortunate enough to attend their dealer meeting on Saturday and their user event Sunday night. They also had a user event Monday night and hands on demos at the Hard Rock during the show. At the dealer and user events we had the chance to hear from the new Avid management team and how they were re-inventing the company and re-thinking their business.

Let me tell you, MC Soft 3.0 is a MAJOR upgrade. Here are just some of the goodies Avid has added into the software Ė weíll discuss the hardware afterwards.

1) Media Composer 3.0 is a true multi-threaded application with support for Leopard and Vista. Under Vista 64 it will run 32 bit, but you will get to use huge amounts of RAM. MC 3.0 will also still run under XP Pro for those Windows users not yet willing to make the jump to Vista.

2) CPU and GPU performance taps into all processing cores in your machine. Avid has designed something called Domain Management into MC Soft, which allows the software to identify what is the best way to handle the load and manage it between all the CPU cores and the GPU and the Avidís new line of DX hardware. MC Soft does all the work, you just edit and MC Soft gets the optimal performance from your workstation.

3) Multiple layers of HD with support for all flavors in native rasters. This means that HDV and DVC Pro HD thin rasters are no longer an issue. You simply select the format you want to edit in and MC Soft takes care of the rest. Multiple layers of HD footage are a breeze and you can even mix formats including 720p and 1080i in the timeline in real-time.

4) You can drag and drop multiple layers of footage together on the timeline - in multiple HD formats. This was one of my favorite parts of the demo. Before this you would have to re-create a multi-layered sequence if you wanted to add a layer anywhere but the top. Now you can just grab a stack of clips and move them anywhere on the timeline. They stay perfectly synced together and you get instant real-time performance.

5) The handling of Media Composer 3.0 is superb. When you hit the keyboard, the timeline reacts instantaneously. No delays, no waiting. Dead on accurate response times.

6) How much real-time HD? Depends on the speed of the computer. They were running 8-core Macs and HP workstations. 6 layers of DVC Pro HD in real-time full resolution. I think they got up to 9 when they lowered the preview to 1/4 resolution. Then we saw 3 or 4 layers of HDV in real-time full resolution output. Even more amazing was 6+ layers of DNxHD (up to 10+ with the Nitris DX hardware). Most impressive to me was when they dragged and dropped multiple layers of mixed HD formats while still maintaining full res, real-time playback.

Whatís the deal for upgrades?

Upgrade for recent purchasers of MC to 3.0 will be free. The ďunofficialĒ grandfather date is March 17th , so registered users who purchased either the full version or the upgrade after March 17th will be able to get a free upgrade to 3.0 when it ships via the Avid download center. For those who purchased prior to March 17th I have been assured this will be a reasonably priced upgrade. We expect this to be well below the continuing offer to upgrade Xpress pro to MC Soft for only $495. Keep an eye on Videoguys.com for the official upgrade information and special upgrade bundles.

Letís talk hardware.
At the show Avid unveiled a brand new architecture that goes beyond just the software. It also includes two exciting new hardware devices designed specifically for MC 3.0. MojoDX and its big brother NitrisDX are external devices that are PCIe based, not firewire. PCIe delivers 20x the bandwidth of firewire 400. Both hardware solutions are portable and you can run them with a laptop using a laptop PCIe card. Avid was showing this on one of the pods. Iím not sure if Avid will be offering one of these laptop cards available or just certify a list of those compatible. The move to PCIe is a major change and it will allow more consistent operation and reliability. If you have laptops and towers you can move the hardware between machines just by unplugging it from one and plugging into the other.

OK, so now for the big question Ė ďHow much will it cost?Ē MojoDX with Media Composer 3.0 software will be $9995. Do the math and the hardware alone is $7500. We hope to have upgrade bundles available with the X Pro to MC upgrade. We also requested some kind of trade in program for existing Mojo SDI and even Mojo owners. No word on that but our Avid folks liked the idea. When I have the info, I will share it here.

The MojoDX hardware is for I/O. SDI (SD & HD) I/O plus HDMI out. While it doesnít offer you true acceleration, there are some video related tasks that MC Soft will hand-off to the MojoDX allowing the CPU & GPU to take on more. HDMI output is HD video and surround sound. So you could go down to Costco or Walmart and grab the best HD flatscreen TV you can for around $500 with HDMI inputs, then grab one of those $500 surround sound audio systems in a box. Hook it to MojoDX and you have your own HD surround studio. Itís not broadcast, but it is interesting.

NitrisDX will be $15K w/ MC Software. Same math puts the hardware only at $12,500. Nitris DX includes Avid DNxHD encode/decode plus far more I/O. If you can afford it - GET IT! I think you can get up to 9 layers full res of DNxHD in real-time with the Nitris DX hardware. 12 or more at 1/4 res. We will not be carrying the Nitris DX. You will have to get NitrisDX from your local Avid Gold Premier dealer. Upgrade programs for Adrenaline owners are in the works.