The Avid Keyboard Shortcuts You Should Be Using

I’ve taught Avid Media Composer editors of all levels and often find that veteran editors can be identified by how little they rely on a mouse to get things done. So if there’s one thing I emphasize it’s this: to fully unlock the speed and efficiency of Avid Media Composer, you need to get familiar with keyboard shortcuts. Or better yet, build your own custom set.

In this article, I’ll be sharing the Avid keyboard shortcuts I find the most useful. But before we get to that, I have to point out that most of these are not default Media Composer keyboard shortcuts, so you’ll need to map them if you want to try them out for yourself. So let’s take a quick look at how to do that first.

How to map keyboard shortcuts in Avid Media Composer

There are two key methods to map Avid keyboard shortcuts. Both require the virtual keyboard, which you’ll find in User Settings—scroll down to Keyboard and double-click the active keyboard. You’ll also need the Command Palette in the Tools menu (Cmd/Ctrl+3). With both the virtual keyboard and the Command Palette enabled, your screen should look something a little like this.

The first method for mapping an Avid keyboard shortcut is simple. Just drag and drop functions from the Command Palette onto a key on the virtual keyboard. Holding down Shift at the same time, will add the Shift modifier to your keyboard shortcut choice.

Choosing this shortcut mapping method lets you browse through all the functions in the Command Palette (or using the search bar) and quickly assign them to the keyboard shortcut that works best for you.

Note: For this to work the “Button to button” reassignment must be enabled on the lower left of the command palette (it is by default).

Alternatively, you can use “menu to button reassignment,” instead. You enable this with a check box on the other end of the Command Palette. Menu to button reassignment works exactly how it sounds, allowing you to map a function from just about any menu in Avid to a keyboard shortcut. To use this approach, check the Menu to Button reassignment box in the Command Palette, then click a key on the virtual keyboard. The next menu function you select (including fast menus on the timeline or in the bin) will then be  mapped to that shortcut key.

The best Avid keyboard shortcuts

Right, let’s get down to the essential Media Composer shortcuts that will make your edits a little bit easier. As I mentioned earlier, most of these aren’t the Avid defaults, so I’ll be using Default/Palette/Menu in the subheadings so that you know where to look when you’re setting them up as the shortcuts on your Media Composer setup.

Avid UI / Tool shortcuts

Media Composer’s workspaces (Palette)

Media Composer’s UI places the four default workspaces (Edit, Audio, Color, and Effects) along the right hand side. Choosing one of these workspaces will rearrange all the tools and UI to favor the task at hand. It’s an excellent way to work as you can customize each of these workspaces to suit how you want to work—like making audio tracks larger in the timeline in your Audio workspace, for example. These workspaces also put the tools you need—like the Effect Editor/Effect Palette—closer to hand as they’re docked in the relevant workspace.

To map these workspaces to keys so you can quickly toggle between them, bring up the Command Palette. Under the Workspaces tab, you can select up to 12 workspaces (W1, W2, W3…) which can then be dragged and dropped onto keys. Currently I have five all mapped out!

Export to file (Menu)

Exporting a timeline is normally done from going to the following path in the file menu:  File->Output->Export to file

With menu to button reassignment, we can map this directly to a keystroke. On my system it is set to Shift+E.

Markers window (Menu)

Many of us use markers in Media Composer for notes and to-dos for our timelines. Assigning this to an Avid keyboard shortcut makes it much easier to call up these notes when you need them. I have it mapped to Shift+M. Note that you can also map specific colored markers from the Command Palette to keys as well.

Source Browser (Menu)

Avid’s tailored import window, the Source Browser,  lets you preview your clips prior to ingest, linking and importing as well as creating bins based on the containing folder. It’s a really great tool that I’ve mapped to Shift+I. It can be mapped with menu to button reassignment from File->Input->Source Browser.

Timeline Clip Notes (Menu)

The Timeline Clip Notes feature is an incredible function. As the name suggests, it lets you attach notes directly to clips that can be read by the timecode generator for burn-ins. Clip Notes can also be exported in EDLs and shown like markers in their own window. To make them even more useful, map them to a shortcut key by mapping “Add timeline clip note” from the Timeline menu. Then create another shortcut for the “Timeline Clip Notes” function under the Tools menu so you can bring up the Notes window on demand.

Avid Timeline shortcuts

Link Selection toggle (Palette)

Link selection is an essential Media Composer function that lets you drag a video clip to a new timeline location position without leaving its linked audio track behind. Sometimes, you might need to move the video or audio independently, so being able to toggle Link Selection with an Avid keyboard shortcut means you can switch modes at a moment’s notice. 

Trim / Segment toggle (Palette)

Smart Tools are an Avid staple these days. Designed as an adaptive and intuitive way to switch between selecting segment modes. For example, hover over the top half of a clip for yellow segment mode and bottom half for red, and the same for edit points and trim tools. But they can be a pain point for new Avid editors. My favorite way to work with Smart Tools is by mapping toggle switches to keyboard shortcuts to activate the tool I need at any given time. These cycle through all options of the Smart Tools and Trim tools at the touch of a button, with the UI showing us just above the timeline that’s currently active.

Both of these toggle switches can be found in the Smart Tools tab of the Command Palette with the names Segment Mode and Trim Type.

Avid Timeline Views (Palette)

Timeline views are presets for different arrangements of the Media Composer timeline—specifically, a great way to swap between track sizes. For example, I have an AUDIO template saved where the video tracks are tiny and the audio tracks are large and a VIDEO template which is the reverse.

So in the Command Palette under the More tab, you can assign these views to TV1, TV2, TV3, etc., much like we’ve done with our workspaces, and then assign these to shortcut keys for quick switching between them. Very useful!

Track select / Monitor (Palette)

This one’s a twofer. First to note is that you can, of course, map specific tracks to a key, so if you’re always enabling and disabling specific tracks this will be handy. However, a little known secret is that under the Other tab, you’ll find two buttons on the left there called Add Option Key (or Alt on Windows) and Add Control Key.

If you first map a key to enable/disable a track and then drag and drop the “Add Option Key” button on top—which adds the Opt/Alt modifier to the function—then, when you hit that key, it will monitor that track. 

I find this to be absolutely invaluable as I’ll often be fixing stuff up on lower tracks and then want to shift my timeline monitoring back to the top track before an export. So this allows me to do that with a single keystroke. Just decide how many tracks you’ll have and then set this to monitor the highest one.

Go to Next Event / Go to Previous Event (Palette)

Next Event/Previous Event are essential timeline navigation tools that jump to the next/previous edit points on the selected track, so it’s worth giving them a shortcut key of their own. Note that there are further options to change the behavior of this too—like “ignore track selectors—under the Move tab in Composer Settings. 

Sync Lock All Tracks (Palette)

Rather than clicking all the time, set up a shortcut key for Sync Lock All Tracks to toggle track sync on and off. It’s a real timesaver

Transition Manipulation (Palette)

Turning this feature on allows you to lengthen and shorten transitions by clicking and dragging the edges. You might find this a more intuitive approach compared to typing numbers—and certainly more in line with other NLEs you might be more familiar with .

Timeline Zoom (Menu)

These shortcuts are mapped by default but if you wish to remap (or see their keys) all the zoom controls can be found in the Timeline Fast Menu under Zoom. Your options are zoom in, zoom out, show entire sequence, zoom into region (a selection) or zoom to the last view.

General editing shortcuts

Match Frame (Palette)

Match Frame is a commonly used Media Composer function that brings the clip in the timeline to the Source monitor at the frame you’re viewing. It will also add a Mark In at that point.

Find Bin (Palette)

This function finds the relevant clip in the bin—opening the bin if necessary—allowing you to easily bring up the rushes bin for a particular scene on a timeline by simply tapping the Match Frame shortcut to get into the Source monitor and then using Find Bin to bring up the rushes bin.

Digital Audio Scrubbing (Palette)

Audio scrubbing isn’t a function I personally use, but I know it’s popular for some Avid editors. It used to be toggled with the Caps Lock key, but isn’t part of the default Media Composers setup these days. So if you want to hear the audio while you’re scrubbing, you’ll need to map this to a keyboard shortcut from the Command Palette.

Top and Tail (Palette)

Using the Top command will ripple edit from the playhead to the previous edit point (the “top” of the shot). Conversely, using the Tail command ripple edits from the playhead to the next edit point (the “tail” of the shot).

Effect Controls (Palette)

Found under the FX and 3D tabs of the Command Palette, these buttons provide greater control while you’re working in Effect mode. Setting these controls up with their own shortcuts will let you perform scale/crop/track/bezier actions (among others) by hitting the key to enable the tool, then interacting with the image on the canvas. A lot faster than fiddling with sliders in the Effect editor.

Add Edit (Palette)

If you’re coming to Avid Media Composer from a different NLE, this one’s a must-have. It serves more or less the same function as Premiere’s Razor tool or Final Cut’s Blade tool, adding an edit at the playhead position for any activated tracks.

Reduce / Enlarge (Palette)

Media Composer’s Reduce or Enlarge function is specific to viewing in the Record monitor and doesn’t affect anything else. But being able to blow up the view can be useful if you’re trying to read small details (like a slate), while shrinking it can really help out during FX work.

Do your thing

I could suggest mappable Avid keyboard shortcuts all day long but, at the end of the day, custom keyboard shortcuts are about the tools you need for your workflow. So go have fun and build yourself a keyboard shortcut setup that will make your edits fly. It’s well worth the effort.

Jack Brown

Jack Brown is an Avid editor based in Scotland. He's worked in a variety of roles ranging from assistant editor, 2nd assistant, VFX editor, and editor on productions including Ash vs Evil Dead, Guns Akimbo, Shadow in the Cloud, and Northspur.

Insider Tips: How to Use FCP’s Segmented Exports for Long Edits

Insider Tips: Mastering the Premiere Pro Swap Edit

Exposing to the Right: What Everyone Gets Wrong