More on the Smart Tool

Avid’s new Smart Tool  promises a more intuitive, drag-and-drop approach to timeline editing and is designed to compete head-on with Final Cut and Premiere. But for many long-time Avid editors, the first response is, “how do I turn it off?”

The dilemma is a classic one and goes to the heart of how we learn to use any tool. For newbies, an interface wants to be immediately obvious and welcoming. But power users want speed. The best interface combines elements of both and is malleable enough to grow with you as your needs evolve.

I’m just finishing a show on MC5, and have tried several approaches to the Smart Tool. Here’s the setup that I’ve settled on (so far):

  1. Upgrade to one of the recent patch releases ( – Trim mode in these builds will be much more familiar to long-time Media Composer users. Then enter trim mode by lassoing, or by hitting the Trim Mode button (not the Smart Tool). This gives you something closely approximating old-style trim mode. For details, see this post.
  2. Go to the Edit tab of Timeline settings and select the following. You may also want to select “Clicking the TC Track or Ruler Disables Smart Tools.”
  3. Then activate only one Smart Tool — the keyframe tool. Leave all the others off. This gives you permanent access to audio keyframes, which matches past behavior. But more important, because you are leaving one tool on all the time, the tool palette won’t reset itself when you start up MC. It’ll come back as you left it when you quit. (If a tool is on when you quit, that’s the way the system will start up. If nothing is on, the tool resets itself.)
  4. Assign the segment tools to your keyboard and turn them on and off from there, as needed. (By default, you’ll find them on Shift-A, and Shift-S.)

You’ll probably have to do some experimentation to get things to work for you, but those are the key ingredients in creating a more familiar, version 4-style editing experience.

Explore posts in the same categories: Avid, Avid Technical Tips, User Interface

5 Comments on “More on the Smart Tool”

  1. Alain Says:

    Hello. Been editing on Avid since 1994, so I know it quite well. I know FCP aswell but prefer the sheer speed of Avid ‘keyboard based’ editing. A tip to force you to use the keyboard: just remove all icons in the composer and timeline windows, and use the ‘find bin’ command a lot.

    About the smart tool, well I instantly loved it. Actually half of it, because I only keep the segment modes active, not the trim modes. Its much quicker to trim by lassoing than to try to click on one side of a cut in a 20 track sequence. Also, I don’t see the point of the Red trim mode.

    But moving segments on the other hand really goes a lot faster with the smart tool, because you don’t have to select a segment mode anymore. Very handy if you need to move audio up or down tracks fi. A second advantage is that if you select a segment and hit delete, the segment will now always be lifted out of the sequence, and never cut. This means that everything that’s down the timeline, will remain where it was. Before, it depended on the active segment mode.

    Anyway, as steve points out, it’s possible to mimic v4 behavior, but at least give the smart tool a decent try…

  2. Ed Says:

    I’m doing a job on version 4 now, and I really miss the smart tool. It’s certainly not perfect, and I don’t think it supersedes more traditional Avid techniques, but I think it is quite a nice addition to the toolset. I map it to Tab which makes it super easy to toggle and really handy for quick trims (e.g. extending a mask on a top video layer).

  3. Matthew Hannam Says:

    I have a question. The trim tool, and the trim tool alone converted me over from Final Cut (I was a used since version 2, quite a feat) and one function that I relied on has disappeared. Prior to v.5 in trim mode you could double click and option+double click to get into slip and slide. Where did that go? Is it gone? Is it just a setting? I’m in Mourning.

    • Steve Says:

      Matthew —
      Yea, I agree. Trim Mode, alone, is a big reason to use MC.

      Many people bemoan the seeming loss of slip/slide by double-clicking in v5. But it’s (mostly) still there. First get into trim mode any way you want. Then double-click on a roller (not on a clip) to slip it, double-click again (double-click twice) to slide it. If you hold down the option key while doing this, you’ll turn on linked selection and slip or slide all synch clips together.

      You can also lasso from right to left — the clips you lasso will be selected for slipping.


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