I've had some weird requests the past six years. Most notably the young lady who awkwardly asked me: "my boss wants you to send us a link for free editing software". Yes, I kid you not (That same client screwed me and a few other folks over spectacularly a few years later, so I should probably have taken a hint then...) Anyway, if that same request came by today I would have smiled and pointed them at Avid. Yes, it's really free. For real, yours to own and use without limitations. Actually the exact same set of tools I use every day. What? You want me to come over there and teach you how to use it too? No sorry, you'll have to learn to change your own nappies...

But back to Avid and the subject at hand. Yes, Avid Media Composer First was just launched and yes, it is indeed as free as the air you breathe. Click on over to Avid.com, create an Avid account and download yours for Windows or Mac.

Are they nuts to just give away the company's bread and butter software suite that most of Hollywood uses to cut feature films on? Actually no, they are brilliant because they are saturating the market, something they should have done as soon as the likes of Discreet, Apple FCP and Adobe Premiere started kicking up dust. The young folks who will be grabbing this up to edit their school projects and YouTube movies on will be the future producers and facility owners who will be buying licenses one day. Brilliant business move.

For freeware this is a surprisingly complete version of Media Composer. The interface is the same as the full version, and features that most Avid editors will be familiar with are all there, although slightly scaled down. Think of it as Media Composer Lite - same taste, slightly different label and with a little less kick. 

Left: Media Composer First UI. Right: Fully-licensed Media Composer 8.8.4 UI (Click to view full size)

Take for instance the Colour Correction Toolset - Media Composer First offers the same colour correction tools as the full version, but only with the HSL tab. The Curves tab is not available. The free version offers you enough tools to learn the interface and do basic grading.

Left: Media Composer First Colour Correction Toolset. Right: Fully-licensed Media Composer 8.8.4 with Curves and HSL tabs (Click to view full size).

There's a few other things to also be aware of. Your User Settings from the fully-licensed version will not work in the free version. This is also true for projects created in the licensed version; they will not open in First and you will be asked to upgrade to the full version. But other than that it is the exact same set of tools you will buy from a reseller.

Media Composer First is built on the current Media Composer 8.8.5. Is this something full-time editors and Avid users will use? I think so. I'm certainly keeping a copy on standby for the day my software dongle gets damaged. Better to have a scaled down set of tools in an emergency than no tools at all.

If you're a media student or someone looking at getting into serious post production work, definitely get this and familiarize yourself with Media Composer, even if your institution uses something else. Hate or love them, Avid is very much an industry standard.

And anyway, nobody ever complained about getting free stuff, did they?