Avid Media Access Frequently Asked Questions

It has been nearly five years since Avid introduced AMA to its editing software. As advertised, it has changed the way people ingest and edit within Avid’s Media Composer editing software. This month in Tech Edge, we are going to look at AMA and answer the most frequently asked questions.

What is AMA?

AMA stands for Avid Media Access. It is a software plug-in that enables editors to ingest media shot by cameras in that camera’s native format. There is no need for transcoding or rendering when working with an AMA plugin. The footage you shot is what you edit with. There is no need to capture or transcode because with AMA, editing is instantaneous.

What this really means is that manufacturers of cameras are now responsible for writing the plugins to get their cameras clips into an Avid editing timeline. This frees camera manufactures of Avid’s release cycle. If Sony comes up with a new camera file format, and Avid isn’t releasing an update for a month, Sony can write their own plugin to get those clips into Media Composer’s timeline today.

This enables editors to work with media created anywhere. It doesn’t matter if it is Final Cut Pro clips, Panasonic clips, Sony clips, a QuickTime exported from Adobe Premiere, none of that matters. They can all play in the same timeline without rendering or transcoding.

What are AMA’s most common “gotchas”?

When Avid releases a software update for Media Composer be sure to check with the manufacturer of your most commonly used AMA plugin, if they have an update as well. There have been many times when a software update for Media Composer has come out, but then one of the major camera manufacturers (Sony, Canon, and Panasonic) did not have a plugin that is compatible with Avid’s update. Editors in this situation then need to back-rev any Avid software updates, find a work around for the non-updated plugin, or in a worst case scenario, be dead in the water unable to edit at all.

The way to avoid putting yourself of your business in that situation is to look before you leap. Make sure there is a compatible AMA plugin for your camera and your Media Composer software version.

How has AMA changed since its inception?

Initially, AMA only supported less than a handful of formats. Now the AMA supports not only clip playback, but delivery formats and cross application transfers. More on that later.

AMA has changed in Media Composer from being completely unruly in borderline unusable, to smooth and dynamic. Avid has added Interplay support for AMA about a year ago. Last week, Avid has added the AMA access tool to and with its latest release of Media Composer 8.1, you can now browse AMA clips in the Media Tool.

Avid has also added AMA export formats that enable you to deliver your entire sequence via AMA. The workflow allows sequences to exported via AS-02, AS-11 or MXD OP1a.

Are AMA plugins still free?

AMA plugins from the major camera manufacturers are free. So if you have a camera from Sony, Panasonic, JVC, RED, Arri, or Canon, you will be able to play your clips in Media Composer with AMA for free. You will just have to get the plugins from your manufacturer of choice.

There is a new blossoming market for AMA plugins that add functionality for transfer and delivery. Those plugins typically have a trial period and then you will have the option to purchase permanently.

What about the AMA plugins that are paid for? What do they add?

There are a few plugins that will augment your workflow beyond putting clips you shot in a timeline. Here are the major ones…

Drastic Media Reactor Plugin – This plugin enables you to put live streaming footage in your Media Composer timeline and edit while the stream continues to broadcast. You just need to ensure that your streaming device is compatible with Media Reactor

Glue Tools – This company makes 2 plugins for AMA on Media Composer, the ARRIRAW AMA plugin and the Phantom Cine AMA plugin. The ARRIRAW AMA plugin will do the importing, playback, debayer, white balance and color correction to an ARRIRAW image sequence. The plugin enables you to play back that image sequence without rendering or transcoding. The Phantom Cine AMA plugin, allows you to work with Phantom Cine RAW “.cine” files in real time. With Phantom Cine RAW, you also get all the flexibility with color that you would have gotten while shooting.

Humburg Pro Media- Humburg makes 2 AMA plugins, MPEG Import and GFX Import. As you can imagine, the MPEG import allows you to access MPEG videos through AMA. So this can get you DVD files on your Avid timeline. The GFX plugin allows you to bring Grass Valley created media into your Avid timeline.

All of the above manufacturers offer trial of their plugins, so see if it helps you and your workflow.

Why do my AMA clips drop frames on playback?

Smooth AMA playback is dependent on you having hard drive storage that can support the bandwidth of your high resolution clips. When you see frames dropping on playback in an Avid editing application, look to the time code track first. If you see blue lines or dots on the time code track where you were dropping frames that is Avid’s way of telling you that your storage could not provide the media for playback fast enough. If you see red lines in the time code track, then it’s a computer processing problem. By all means, check the time code track when dropping frames because it’s not only a time code track, but a handy diagnostic tool

What is this I hear of the AIS AMA Plugin?

With Media Composer 8.1, yet more AMA functionality was introduced. The AIS AMA plugin stands for “Avid Image Sequencer” which allows you take DPX (Digital Picture Exchange) image files and create a sequence instantaneously. Avid plans on supporting more formats in the future.

Steve McGrath is a Broadcast Sales Engineer for HB Communications. He has worked with NBC, ABC, CBS, NESN, NECN, Fox, ESPN, Pentagon, Powderhouse and many others. You can reach him at Steve.McGrath@HBCommunications.com. Learn more, visit Unified Communications | Audio Visual Solutions – HB Communications.


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