What is the difference between Avid Symphony and Media Composer?

Now that Avid has updated and repriced their product offerings, Avid Symphony is becoming a very viable option for those who want more robust finishing features than Media Composer offers. This post will attempt to talk about the differences. I’m borrowing a lot of content from Bob Russo, who is a product specialist at Avid. Thanks, Bob!

First of all, they are now both offered as stand alone software – external hardware is not required. You can also purchase Media Composer and then upgrade to Symphony at a later date.

Secondly, both can use Avid’s Nitris DX hardware – so if you have a Media Composer and the Nitris DX box, it is a simple software upgrade – in the past, Symphony was only sold as a turn key system. Avid still offers turnkey bundles, but you can also purchase everything a la carte.

Symphony is a superset of Media Composer – everything that is in Media Composer is also in Symphony, with 2 significant additions:

1. Universal Mastering:
Universal Mastering means that you can take any 1080p 23.976/24/25 project and output as 23/24/25p or 59.94i SD or HD during Digital Cut, including necessary speed changes.

In Media Composer, you can use mix and match allows you to use different frame rates within the same project, and it will adjust motion adapters on clips that don’t match the sequence frame rate.

With Universal Mastering, if you need to deliver a PAL 25p broadcast master from a 23.98p project, you do a Digital Cut at 25fps, speeding it up ±4%.

If you would need to deliver the same master using mix and match, you would not easily achieve this. If you would open your 23.98p sequence in a 50i or 25p project, M&M would autochange the playback speed of the clips in the timeline, so that realtime remains realtime. Which will not give you a generally accepted broadcast master.

The reason why it’s not “Generally Accepted” is because with Mix and Match the cadence starts over for each clip. It’s not an uniform cadence through the entire sequence. Universal Mastering adds a uniform cadence through the entire sequence.


2. Advanced Color Correction Tools:

Media Composer has two basic ways of doing color correction:

  • Hue, Saturation, and Luminance (HSL) (only at a ‘Master’ Level)
  • Curves – Red, Green, Blue, and Master.

Symphony adds more ways to color correct, including:

  • HSL in Symphony is more powerful then MC.
    1. In controls it adds Highlight Midtones and Shadows where MC only has Master.
    2. In Hue Offsets it adds Master
    3. It also adds Luma Ranges
  • Channels
  • Secondary Color Correction –  is used to change a range of colors in a video without affecting other colors

Symphony also allows for ‘relational’ color correction which allows you to start color correction while in offline editing. It is also called ‘source side’ color correction because you can correct by tape name: correct one clip and every other clip from the same tape can get the same correction. When online, you can merge corrections, resulting in a quicker finishing workflow.

One note:The video ‘Legalizer’ function which used to be exclusive to Symphony back in the day, is now an effect that is included with both Media Composer and Symphony.

One other note: The vectorscopes in both Symphony and Media Composer only come alive if you are using Avid’s Artist Color external color control panel.

3. Other Advantages and Features of Symphony:

  • Symphony comes with the Boris Continuum Complete (BCC) plug in suite, whereas Media Composer comes with Avid Fx (which is basically Boris Red)\


We hope this helps.  Please let us know if we are missing anything or if there are any errors here.

With these powerful features for a very reasonable price, we think a lot of people will start to seriously consider Symphony as their finishing tool.