Hello editors and assistant editors everywhere!
Let’s talk about licensing. These last few years have seen some extraordinary changes in the computer industry, causing a dramatic shift in the editorial business model.
Editors have always been mindful of their own computers, software, and how to license it all, but navigating what that means today goes far beyond adhering to a list of specs or jotting down some codes. The staggering demand for cloud workflows — or even better internet-based licensing & activation systems between multiple devices — has many editors reassessing everything they have ever known.
I remember going to NAB in 2014. Thoughts about subscription models, cloud activation, and even SaaS were just a bunch of ideas. That time is over. Growth in these areas has been tremendous, and a direct result of many tech companies finally getting their products right. However, while technology has moved forward, supply chains have receded.
The pandemic also caused demand for remote connectivity to go through the roof. Everyone, from the single freelancer to remote editorial teams have boosted their internet connectivity to compete – and the faster the speeds, the better. Editors and assistants everywhere have come to appreciate the productivity of interconnectivity. Also, with the worldwide employment shift to remote and hybrid workforces, companies have realized that hiring remote workers is often a far better way of gaining top-tier talent, rather than limiting themselves to local candidate pools.
To support it all, a massive transition in licensing and subscriptions has ensued, and not just for our creative apps. Netflix, Zoom, Office, even the services that bring groceries to our doorstep — everything is a subscription. Why? Because the entire world has responded well to the idea.
Avid launched its subscription workflows to support Media Composer 8 in May of 2014. In November 2021 they launched Cloud Licensing which fixed some things and added a lot of features. It’s now more reliable, faster, and easier to activate your subscriptions. Most customers have embraced subscriptions and the new activation methods. However, there are many editors who have been reluctant to even set foot in this new ecosystem. Some simply have muscle memory or are terrified of what kind of changes it might mean for the future — licensing or otherwise. Some were contractually obligated in the past to keep their editing systems air-gapped from the internet and might still be. Others see this whole thing as “change for the sake of change”.
I completely understand all of this. I started on a Steenbeck, clutching to my perfectly sealed film canisters. I moved to Avid Film Composer in 1994, and Media Composer in 1998. Back then, if Avid made a T-shirt that said, “I Love My Dongle”, I would’ve worn it. But over these decades, my fierceness about that softened because of how much exposure I’ve had to the overall experience of subscriptions. Today, I have a bunch of dongles sitting in a drawer, and no intention of ever using them again.
Read on, I’ll explain everything. My hope in this blog is to put as much of the current info together as possible, and to show what Avid customers can expect from their licensing as of 2022. Hopefully after reading this, you’ll have a better understanding of where things are now and where they are heading.
In this article:
- News about perpetual licenses and dongles
- Additional news about Macs
- Introduction to Avid’s Cloud Licensing
- Examples of licensing and activation workflows in 2022
- Tips for Cloud Licensing
- A history of Media Composer licensing through the years
1. News about Avid perpetual licenses and dongles
The entire industry, Avid included, has seen perpetual licensing costs continue to increase. The need to constantly maintain and adapt the back-end support has been increasingly plagued by modern supply chain stress and a dwindling market. This weighs heavily on the pricing, maintenance, and support of crafting new perpetual models.
Many years of working with subscriptions has proven it is much easier to provide better features and streamline deployment — all things that contribute to a reduction of costs. As a result, the number of customers converting their Avid dongles to perpetual licenses, and then cross-grading them to subscriptions has soared.
To that end, in March 2022, Avid began communicating to customers that the Final Sale Date for new perpetual Media Composer and MediaCentral licenses is December 31, 2022.
Avid Dongles are perpetual licenses too. Thus, all new dongles for Mac and for Windows will share the same Final Sale Date of December 31, 2022, and a final support date at the end of 2025.
This will give customers who wish to remain in perpetual license situations plenty of time to purchase what they need to sustain their perpetual lifestyles. This will also allow customers to plan their transition to subscription at their own pace. Avid will continue to offer support & upgrade contracts for existing perpetual licenses until December 31, 2025.
As always, perpetual licenses (both software-activated and dongle-activated) can be upgraded to newer versions of Media Composer if the support contract is current. With a final support date of December 31, 2025, that means whatever version of Media Composer is active at that date will be the highest version possible and will continue to run forever. After that, any new versions of Media Composer that get released beginning in 2026 will require a subscription to run.
So... What does this all mean?
First and foremost, let’s be clear about what has been decided here. Avid is not “taking away” anyone’s perpetual licenses. If you currently have one, it will continue to work in perpetuity. If you buy a new one before the end of 2022, it will continue to work in perpetuity. Perpetual means perpetual, and Avid stands by that. The only things we are changing are the ability to buy new perpetuals and dongles beginning in 2023, and the ability to upgrade all perpetuals to new versions of Media Composer beginning in 2026.
I know, I know. It’s a change. It’s a huge change. But, between you and me, I didn’t flinch when I heard this news. To be honest, I haven’t been using perpetual licensing for my own editorial work since around 2014 because the case for perpetuals has been diminishing.
The case for subscriptions
I started down this path by trying to decide whether editing systems that are air-gapped from the internet is a dying business model. The high adoption rates of web-based review and approval processes seem to support this. They’ve been alive and kicking since the days of Apple’s MobileMe, and today are nearly unanimous.
Connectivity seems to be the top priority that editors are seeking to support their businesses, especially in this remote-ready world. It was mine too. One week after the pandemic hit, I grabbed a new router and boosted my home connection from 75/75 to 400/400. I wasn’t alone. The walls around Hollywood and feature editors came crumbling down too, as teams were scattered everywhere. They needed to connect. Initially, many just took their work editing systems home with them. But that didn’t last, as facilities reminded everyone of how much easier it is to provide long-term maintenance and security on systems in-house, rather than in houses.
Most of the old security practices that broadcasters used to rely on for shared storage environments are antiquated. New security practices have eliminated the need to “bunker” an edit system from the world. Remember when editors used to keep their systems off the internet because anti-virus software wasn’t allowed to run on Avid systems? That’s been gone for over a decade. Plus, let’s face it, today if you’re paid to edit, you are also uploading.
Subscriptions and editing systems that are attached to the internet are far in the majority. Sure, there are exceptions, but it seems everyone is quite happy being online – which is where subscriptions and cloud activations thrive.
Avid knows this decision will represent a dramatic change for some long-time dongle customers. Perpetual license holders have one great fear of subscriptions, and it is no secret: They are afraid of losing access to their software because something “phones home” and disconnects them from their current project in Media Composer. Or, with everything going “cloud” they fear the occasional cloud outage. Let’s look at a few scenarios that might help with this.
The case for perpetuals
Throughout the rest of 2022, Avid will continue to sell new perpetual licenses for Media Composer. There is still a strong case for perpetual licensing in some situations, and you might want to consider this when looking at the rest of 2022 and deciding whether getting one is the right decision for you before they’re gone.
Customers have had perpetual licenses available to them for many years. Their favorite benefit has been how easy they are to work with. Once you make the purchase and activate the license, it truly is a case of “set it and forget it”. Following the classic process of designating a single computer as “an Avid”, that computer gets the license, and then an editor can simply run Media Composer, without a care in the world, until that computer dies many years later. They can also connect or disconnect from the internet freely, without worrying about their license. They can also move the perpetual license from that computer onto another in the future.
In short, for some customers, owning a perpetual license offers peace of mind.
It's very much like the difference between leasing a car and buying one. If you bought a car in 2016, and today is 2022, then you have a six-year-old car in your driveway. Likewise, buying a perpetual license today in April of 2022 will get you a copy of Media Composer 2022.4. Now, you can upgrade the version of Media Composer any time during the term of your annual support contract that comes with the license (1-year). However, if you let the contract expire, then, like the car analogy, the version of Media Composer you have at the time it expires is the version you keep. Upgrading will require you to get your service contract renewed.
Side note — in 2018, Avid announced that they were going to remove phone support for perpetual licenses. They did so in February of 2021. All perpetual licenses now carry Standard support. If you want ExpertPlus support, which includes phone support, you’ll need to get a Media Composer | Ultimate subscription, or you’ll need to contact Avid Sales to get your facility onto an Elite contract, which also offers next-day shipping of hardware.
There is a financial benefit as well. Perpetuals cost significantly more than subscriptions on the front-end. However, if your goal is to simply buy Media Composer and not renew the service contract, then over the course of many years, it will eventually cost less to have purchased that perpetual license.
Personally, I’ve moved away from that theory though, because of the shift in how my edit clients have run their businesses. Ever since software like Norton’s Anti-virus and Microsoft Office have gone subscription, companies have moved all of their purchases of software out of capital expenses and into operating expenses. They now treat apps as cost of doing business, rather than as property that depreciates.
Tips, Tricks, & Myths
There’s a trick to understanding subscriptions that, for some reason, seems to be misunderstood by a lot of users. When you look carefully and plan how you want your subscriptions to work, you can set yourself up with a workflow that almost perfectly mimics the behavior of perpetual licenses. In fact, they offer more control and more features I’ve come to love. That’s not a sales gimmick — that's my own realization from having used subscriptions “the right way” for years in the trenches.
I first met Avid Application Manager and Avid’s new subscription concept in 2014. We all did. That’s also the year I began attending Avid Connect, where I began having one-on-one conversations with Avid’s own app designers and engineers. I’ve learned a great deal from going to those events. Here are a few takeaways that address some of the apprehension to subscriptions.
Myth #1: Perpetual licenses never need to touch the internet.
Almost true... To activate a perpetual license, you need to do so on the internet. If you want to take your license off one computer and use it on another, you need to do so on the internet. But if you’re not doing any of that, then once you activate the license(s), they’ll continue to work without ever touching the internet.
Unless, of course, you need some stock footage, or to browse a stock music library, or are uploading a rough cut, or are reading this blog while rendering, or more importantly someday wish to upgrade the specific version of Media Composer you have installed.
Myth #2: Subscription licenses always need to be on the internet.
Not true at all. That’s like saying leasing a car means you must visit the dealership every day to say hi.
Let’s say you decide to buy a 3-year subscription to Media Composer, paid upfront. That means there is a hidden countdown in your computer, counting down silently for all three of those years. In the meantime, just connect to the internet and activate it in Avid Link using the Take Offline checkbox, and it behaves much like a perpetual license.
Myth #3: Perpetuals are just plain easier.
More untrue than true. If your idea of easier means you activate it once and then simply run it forever, then yes. However, that’s the extent of ease.
If you’re the type of editor who wants to use your license on multiple computers (even rarely), then you should consider other options. Example: if you have a perpetual license to Media Composer, that’s one set of codes you need to enter manually. Let’s say you also want ScriptSync. That’s another set of codes you need to enter manually. Add PhraseFind. Add Symphony Color Correction. Add NewsCutter. In total, that’s up to five individual System IDs and five separate Activation IDs you need to enter every single time you need to activate your license on another computer. In total, the traditional license activation process in Avid Link for a perpetual license can take up to five minutes to complete. A Media Composer Ultimate subscription activated by Cloud Licensing handles that same workflow with one click, and in less than a few seconds.
Myth #4: Perpetuals are more flexible
Not true. Flexibility means being able to upgrade or downgrade your versions whenever you wish. Flexibility means being able to run your license on a computer with Media Composer 2018.12.15 installed, then deactivate, then activate your license on a computer running 2022.4, and not have to adjust your license at all. Subscriptions allow for that. To a certain extent, perpetuals also can, but it’s a process requiring more thought.
While a perpetual license is one that you own outright, you must think about whether you want to keep that one version forever or whether you eventually want to upgrade to newer versions. You are entitled to the latest version of Media Composer if you keep your Upgrade and Support Plan current. If your Upgrade and Support Plan expires you may still launch Media Composer, but only the last version that was released while your Upgrade and Support Plan was active. If you let your Upgrade and Support Plan expire for more than 30 days, you must re-purchase Media Composer (Perpetual or Subscription) to receive the current version.
Myth #5: Dongles are rock solid
You’ve obviously never worked for Avid Support. We have RMAs for broken, lost, or stolen dongles constantly.
If you break it or lose it, then you’re without a dongle for anywhere between a week to a month. That’s the reality of today’s supply chain shortages. Dongles are simply not always readily available. The chip shortages combined with delivery times means that users are contacting Avid Support and begging for temporary subscription licenses to hold them over until a new dongle arrives. Think about that for a minute.
When we say, “supply chain” and “chip shortage” in the same sentence, hopefully this picture illustrates what we mean.
Many dongles out there today in the hands of users are long-in-the-tooth from the Avid Xpress days, circa 2004. Those will only work for so long, and the exact spares for those are all gone. Dongle requests these days have reduced to a trickle, and so the fewer are bought, the more expensive they become to replenish.
Of course, these are not the only workflow issues people may have or can foresee. If there are a million Media Composer users, then there might be a million-and-one possible workflows. We haven’t even begun to talk about how support contracts differ between perpetuals and subscriptions. So, I’ll tell you what. Email me, and if you have any worries not covered here, let’s discuss. For now, let’s move on.
2. Additional news about Macs
In 2020, Apple announced they would be transitioning the processing architecture for their Macs away from Intel’s x86-64 to their own Apple silicon processors, starting with the M1 chip. This was followed by M1 Pro and M1 Max in 2021. During that time, Avid was working to update Media Composer to be compatible with this new architecture. The team was successful, and customers were able to start using Apple silicon-based computers beginning with Media Composer 2021.12.
However, during the process of creating Media Composer 2021.12, Avid learned that the manufacturer of the dongles used by Media Composer would not be updating their driver software to be compatible with Mac M1, M1 Pro and M1 Max’s or macOS 12.x Monterey.
Apple-based Media Composer users are only capable of running a maximum of macOS 11 “Big Sur”, and only Intel (non-Apple silicon) Macs.
3. An introduction to Avid’s Cloud Licensing
At the Avid 2020 Vision and Strategy Summit, there was a very heated discussion about other long-time feature requests regarding Avid’s licensing in general: Being able to deactivate licenses remotely; speeding up the license sync process; and making the entire process more stable.
Many customers were present, demanding that these be put at the top of Avid’s list. The Avid Board of Directors was also present and agreed.
Unfortunately, some fixes need modern technology to make them possible. The licensing method at that time simply did not allow for those kinds of changes to happen. So, if these feature requests were to be a reality, they would have to be done with an entirely new licensing concept.
Using Application Manager and Avid Link, editors commonly took their work home with them, but they would sometimes forget to deactivate their licenses before leaving work. They would arrive home, realize their mistake, and need to run back to work to deactivate their license or email Avid staff privately for help. (Ask a dongle user if they remember ever leaving their dongle at work or at home.) Overall, things needed to change with Avid’s licensing model.
Drum roll... Enter Avid’s Cloud Licensing.
In November of 2021, Avid released the new Cloud Licensing model. This was not a new product to purchase, nor some new version of software to install. It was simply an additional way for customers to activate their apps using Avid Link. It provided a number of solutions to some old problems.
Problem: Avid Application Manager and earlier versions of Avid Link utilized more memory and system resources than users were comfortable with. As a result, many people chose to launch it and activate their Avid apps, but then shut off Avid Link and keep it off.
Solution: In mid-2021, Avid released Avid Link 2021.6 which made some long-awaited changes. It removed all the remaining JAVA requirements and resolved everyone’s concerns about memory/CPU usage. During syncing or installing of plugins and apps, it may creep up to 3% or 4% CPU usage, but after its activation and syncing is done, it levels-off to a negligible percentage that has no real effect on performance.
Problem: It was common to find yourself waiting for several minutes for a license to activate.
Solution: In late-2021, Avid released its new Cloud Licensing. This new way of activating is almost instantaneous.
Customers can now use these two separate methods to activate their products:
1) Cloud Licensing
Activating on the cloud offers all the fixes and feature requests everyone has been asking for: (Here’s the FAQ.).
Customers can now activate very quickly. When they log into Avid Link, it automatically activates their license. Or they can designate which license to use by navigating to it in Avid Link and clicking “Use License”.
They can do so remotely, and they also have access to a new panel called “Manage Devices” which not only shows their cloud-activated licenses, but also shows them the other licenses they have activated elsewhere.
Cloud Activation also works automatically. If you have only one license for Media Composer and/or Sibelius, then simply logging in to Avid Link will activate it. If you have more than one, it will automatically activate the last one that was used on that device. Scroll down for more details on the Manage Devices panel.
2) Offline Licensing
The traditional activation process, now referred to as “Offline Licensing”, is the same licensing model customers have been using since Media Composer 8. When you want to take your computer away from an internet connection for extended periods of time (hence the name “offline”), use this. There is one new feature – we've created an easy Take Offline checkbox in Avid Link.
The obvious downside to Offline Licensing is that... well... you’ll be offline, so you’ll not get access to the features in Cloud Licensing. The Manage Devices screen will not be getting the data from your computer anymore, and so it will be read-only. You’ll also no longer be able to deactivate devices remotely because your computer is offline. The Deactivate buttons will be dark orange and not work. The way to get them working again is to get out of the Take Offline mode and get back onto the cloud.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the new features that you get when you use cloud activation.
New feature: Manage Devices
The new Manage Devices panel shows you a list of all your devices that are currently activated. This is one of the new features that came with Cloud Licensing. So, if your license is activated via the cloud, then this panel is interactive, allowing you to click on the Activate/Deactivate buttons.
Launch Avid Link 2021.12.1 (or newer) desktop app. When the panel opens, you will see a new "Manage Devices" feature at the top. This allows you to see all the devices that a specific System ID is being used by.
You can also find this without using Avid Link. Go to your MyAvid account (https://my.avid.com/account) and login. Click on My Products > View My Products and then find your Media Composer license. See the “Manage Devices” link? This way you can be anywhere, using any browser, and be able to control what’s being used in your MyAvid account. How cool is that?
New feature: Take Offline
You’ve been able to run “Offline” activation for years. However, there’s a new and easy to find button in Avid Link. When you launch Avid Link 2021.12 or later, you can now click on the “License” button next to Media Composer and see the new “Take Offline” checkbox.
New feature: Activate/Deactivate Notifications
If you open your desktop Avid Link app and click on the Preferences, you can set up notifications to email you whenever an activation or deactivation is triggered.
These are not sales notifications. They simply tell you that your license has been activated on another computer. Individual creatives might use this feature less than a post house with 20 licenses that they need to manage. Regardless. It's a particularly good thing from a security stance, don’t you agree?
New feature: Create nicknames for your devices
You can "NAME" your device in the Manage Devices panel. For example, you can designate "Edit Bay 3" or "Lisa’s Avid laptop”. These names will be visible in all Manage Devices panels — in your mobile app, on your Avid Link desktop app, or in your MyAvid account.
You can also do so directly in the Avid Link app.
The Device ID stays the same, as does the Host Name (Mac Pro, HP z8, etc.). So, it's kind of just a cosmetic thing — but for facilities and individuals managing many edit bays or computers, it can be quite helpful.
A note about Avid Link versions
I’m constantly surprised by how many people are running old versions of Avid Link or even Application Manager. I get it — it may simply be the version that was downloaded with Media Composer 2018. The truth is, though, it would be wise for customers to always attempt to be running the latest versions of the licensing and activation apps that “host” their creative tools. If you want to be running Media Composer 2018, that’s fine... but running the latest version of Avid Link means you have the ability to see the most up-to-date information about the products you are running.
Doing so will keep your system safer. Those older versions of Application Manager and Avid Link that you might have downloaded years ago are not receiving any security updates. They also have bugs that have been fixed in later versions.
4. Examples of licensing & activation workflows in 2022
You now understand the basics for each one, but this brings up the next obvious question: How do you navigate the licensing workflows in various scenarios once you’re already operating in it? Let’s look at a few Cloud activation vs Offline activation scenarios:
1) An editor wants to run a team of assistants who are remote, working on their own systems:
- The editor purchases several subscriptions for the whole team that covers the duration of the scheduled edit (1yr, 2yr, 3yr).
- Choose to pay upfront, rather than monthly, to avoid credit card expiration and other potential lapse issues.
- Recommendation: Since this is a team-based project that is communicating with each other over the internet, there probably isn’t a reason to use the Take Offline checkbox. Everyone is going to be connected to the internet anyway. The benefits from Cloud Licensing can be an asset here.
2) A freelance editor is very mobile, very busy, and working for several different facilities:
- Purchase a 1-year subscription to Media Composer | Ultimate, guaranteeing all Options (Symphony, ScriptSync, etc.) are available for any situation that arises. Renew it annually, as needed.
- Choose to pay upfront, rather than monthly. This will help avoid credit card expirations that cause disruptions or other potential lapses in service during the year.
- Recommendation: For Cloud Licensing, simply sign into Avid Link, which activates Media Composer automatically. This way the editor can activate/deactivate on the fly, and regardless of where they are, terrestrially.
3) An editor is at home, either a hobbyist or only working occasionally, and the license will be on a laptop that leaves the home often and will often be away from the internet.
- Purchase a 30-day subscription to standard Media Composer, because the additional options in Media Composer | Ultimate are rarely needed. Renew every month, as needed.
- Choose the 30-day license paid monthly. Although this will see a lot of increased “ending soon” notifications, it will allow the customer to let the license lapse.
- Recommendation: Use the “Use License” button for Cloud Licensing so that the editor can activate/deactivate on the fly, and regardless of where they are, terrestrially.
4) An editor is going to be working in a location that has no internet connection for many months or even years.
- The editor purchases a subscription to cover the duration.
- Choose to pay upfront, rather than monthly. This will avoid credit card expiration and other potential lapse issues.
- Recommendation: Use the Take Offline checkbox when activating the license. This will allow Media Composer to “feel like” it is running as a perpetual license for those three years.
There was some internal debate whether Cloud Licensing should replace Offline Licensing entirely. Avid made the decision to offer customers both, and to allow them the freedom to hop back and forth between them whenever they choose. I personally love this idea, because it doesn’t alienate any previous workflows, and it allows new cloud workflows to mature.
Here’s an example of what someone using both activation methods might expect:
A freelancer named Theresa wakes up in the morning and opens a laptop at home running Media Composer | Ultimate 2022.4. She logs in to Avid Link and clicks Use License. This sets up the license as cloud activated. She can even change the device name to “Teresa’s Laptop”. She does some mild editing on an independent student film project. It’s time to leave and go to work. Theresa closes the laptop but doesn’t log out of Avid Link. She leaves the laptop home.
She arrives at a post house to do an 8-hour shift. She logs in to Avid Link using the same account from home. This alone automatically deactivates the license on the laptop at home and activates the license on the post house’s iMac. She clicks on Manage Devices and changes the iMac’s device name to “Post House iMac”. This way she’ll have a quick way of realizing exactly which machine she is doing the work on. She does 4 hours of editing and runs to lunch. While at lunch, she pulls out her phone, and using Safari, and logs into her MyAvid account. She goes to Manage Devices and realizes she misspelled “Post House iMac”. She corrects it. When lunch is finished, she returns to work.
After the remaining 4 hours, she returns home. She logs into her account on the laptop’s Avid Link app. This automatically deactivates her license back at work and activates the machine in front of her.
The next morning, she wakes up. She is leaving for a 3-month-long edit in a country abroad and is unsure of her internet connectivity during that time. So, she deactivates her license on the laptop again, but then reactivates it on the same laptop, however before she does so, she clicks the Take Offline checkbox. (She could accomplish the same task by typing in her activation codes manually. Entering codes manually does the same job as the “Take Offline” checkbox.) This means that she won’t be able to have the same luxury of remotely deactivating her license, but that’s fine because she’ll have her laptop with her the entire time.
After 90 days working away from the internet with her laptop, she returns home, deactivates her license from its offline state, and then reactivates it on the cloud by unchecking the Take Offline checkbox and clicking Use License.
5. Tips for Cloud Licensing
So far, I haven’t found any real issues with cloud licensing, and I’ve been testing it intensely. However, there are a few tricks to fully understanding how Cloud Licensing works. First, you’ll need to understand that it DOES NOT work on all versions of Media Composer.
Cloud Licensing is brand new and needs to be injected directly into the code of the app itself. That means it will only work starting with the version of Media Composer it was initially made with, 2021.9. The engineers working on the code inside of Media Composer needed to make a massive number of changes inside the code to get Cloud Licensing to sync perfectly with Avid Link and with a customer’s MyAvid account. Since a full array of extensive testing needs to happen for each version before it gets released to the public, it would be a very resource-heavy task to apply Cloud Licensing to older versions of Media Composer.
Not all licenses listed in the Manage Devices panel are cloud-activated. If you see some in bright orange, those are cloud-activated. Dim orange means they are Offline activated. The picture below, for example, shows System IDs in Avid Link that are all licensed to a particular user. Do you see how the “Deactivate” buttons are dim? That means those licenses are either activated on Media Composer versions older than 2021.9, or they are still activated in the “Take Offline” (non-cloud) way.
The way to get them working in the Manage Devices panel is to:
- Make sure the installed Media Composer version is 2021.9 or higher
- Make sure the installed version of Avid Link is 2021.12 or higher
- Go to the computers those licenses are activated on, and deactivate them
- Activate them on the same computers, but use the “Use License” button
This way, you will see the cloud-activated licenses show up in your Manage Devices area. See how the “Deactivate” buttons are now “lit up” as bright orange?
Once you begin using Cloud Licensing, you’ll also be able to see a full history of cloud-based login/logout events by clicking on “View History”.
6. A history of Media Composer licensing through the years:
I know this has been a lot to digest. So, to make sure everyone is on the same page, I figured that providing a detailed history of licensing would also be helpful.
First, let’s get some vocabulary established.
License — This is the “permission to use” given to an app. You can’t legally drive a car unless you have a license. Same goes for software.
Activation — You have an app. You have a license. Activation is simply the light switch on your computer, and your ability to turn it on/off. In tech speak, it’s the procedure used to “validate” a license on that specific computer. You activate using Avid Link.
MyAvid Account — All of the apps you purchase need to be kept in one place. You can find it by visiting https://my.avid.com/account. It’s where you can create your Avid Master Account, view your apps, download updates, see your receipts, and contact Avid Support. (Link.) NOTE: We recommend that you use an email address that you check often, because if you need help from Support, we need you to see our replies.
Support Contract — Sometimes called a service contract, these are the various levels of support you can choose for your product. These are not to be confused with warranties or the protection plans you add onto a coffee maker while at the register at Target. Their primary functions are to allow users to upgrade to new versions of the apps when they get released, as well as unlocking more and more levels of tech support, based on which tier is purchased. (Info.)
The codes your computer sees:
System ID — This is the big one. When you are calling or emailing me at Avid Support, this is the code I’m looking for. It’s the primary code that your app uses.
Activation ID — This is the code that acts like a light switch. When you activate/deactivate your System ID, it stays visible, but this is the code that gets turned on/off in the background. It’s simply the way that customer licenses have been kept safe and secure for years.
Device ID – Your computer has a serial number that no other computer has. It’s like your car’s VIN number. When Avid’s licensing sees that computer’s serial number, and it also sees that you’ve entered the correct Activation ID, it creates a code called a “Device ID”. You’ll probably never need to use it for anything. It’s just how our systems know which machine(s) you have activated your licenses on.
Many Avid editors and assistant editors have spent years coming up through the ranks. We’ve seen the many licensing concepts Avid has employed come and go. Other Avid users began within the last couple of years and have no context to the old ways.
Disks, CDs, and DVDs:
Long-time customers remember the days of opening software boxes containing disks, CDs, or DVDs and printed software activation codes as if it was yesterday.
For a few people who enjoy keeping their old tech alive, it actually was yesterday. I still assist customers who want to hand down their old Avid software to their kids. Of course, their kids roll their eyes because once they realize the older versions support no modern cameras or phone media, they want the latest version anyway.
Quite a few current users have been fans of dongles since their early days.
Sticking out of the back of a computer, these purple plastic USB thumb drives containing a perpetual license used to be activated by a local app (in the early days by Avid Dongle Manager, later followed by Avid License Control).
Contrary to widespread belief, dongles were meant to be constantly removable. Their whole point was to eliminate the need to type in that long software code manually every time you wanted to hop around from one edit system to the next. So, in essence, dongles were like the first “sneakernet” attempt at the flexibility of what cloud licensing is today.
Note: You may have seen the term iLok before, but it has nothing to do with Media Composer. It is the technology used to protect a Pro Tools customer’s license from being stolen. Many people confuse the terms iLok and dongle, but iLok uses a licensing model that is only compatible with Pro Tools. It cannot work with Media Composer, Sibelius, or other products.
In a way, the old disks with license codes were like perpetual licenses because anyone can enter those codes, in perpetuity. Dongles are also perpetual licenses, encoded to a physically removable device. Regardless of the physical implementation, perpetual licenses were designed for people who treat their editing systems like submarines — diving into the abyss of an edit bay, untethered from the internet, for months or years at a time.
This was necessary in the 1990s and 2000s when anti-virus software was not yet able to function correctly on an Avid Media Composer system. (Virus scans would include the Media Drives, and thus take hours or even days to complete.) It wasn’t until the late 2000s that anti-virus software gained the feature of being able to ignore Avid’s Media Drives. Finally, editors could run edit systems while constantly connected to the internet. However, this wasn’t true yet for anyone running Avid Unity or ISIS shared storage. The freedom of internet connectivity didn’t come for those folks until the release of Avid NEXIS and until the release of better versions of Application Manager and Avid Link.
I personally enjoyed getting my Avid computer onto the internet because I was exporting hour-long videos of my daily timeline progress for review sessions. Being able to upload directly to Dropbox or even to private videos on YouTube saved a heap of time every day.
For large facilities, including universities, a server could be purchased to host licenses locally. A single on-site person can administer license codes to a multitude of users coming and going. Universities love this model for handing out licenses to their students, and then being able to deactivate them all at the end of the semester. Many large post houses and broadcast facilities use this method as well.
In May of 2014, Avid Media Composer 8 was released. This was the first subscription offering where licenses, seen in a customer’s MyAvid account, could be activated using their new software activation app: Avid Application Manager. Dongle users would also come to know Application Manager, as it replaced the previous software they used.
For non-dongle users, the Application Manager workflow was a breath of fresh air because it meant they could deactivate a license at work, and then activate it on a computer at home without crawling under the desk or behind the server rack to find their dongle.
Offline Activation is aptly named because users wish to take their computers "offline" from the internet for the duration of the subscription that they paid for. An example of this might be an editor who purchases a 3-year subscription, enters their subscription's System ID and Activation ID manually in Avid Link, and is able to go offline from the internet for all three of those years. Then they can attach to the internet, renew, and then go offline again for another three years. Scroll down for more details on the offline activation.
The licensing process and the app customers used has evolved over time. Editors will remember Avid License Control, followed by Application Manager, and later Avid Link. As each one evolved into the next, there were a few workflows customers asked for again and again. In November of 2021, these long-time feature requests hit the streets as Cloud Licensing.
There are a few key takeaways I hope anyone who reads this will remember moving forward:
- Avid is not taking away customers’ perpetual licenses. We are giving everyone every opportunity to examine their existing ones; decide whether to buy new ones through December of 2022.
- Only the sale of new perpetual licenses is being affected by December of 2022.
- Perpetual indeed means perpetual. So, customers who purchased perpetual licenses fifteen years ago are still able to use them. Likewise, customers who purchase new perpetual licenses today will be able to use them, fully supported, through 2025. They will also be able to use them unsupported in 2026 and beyond.
- The industry surrounding physical dongles is not the same that it once was. Plus, with customers discarding their dongles more and more, at first in favor of perpetuals, but now in favor of subscriptions, the Avid dongle workflow has become incredibly difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to support.
- New editors entering the workforce have only shown interest in Cloud Licensing and subscription models.
In the end, here’s my favorite thing about subscriptions — they make me feel like I have the best control over whatever I’m working on.
As a freelancer, wherever I’ve gone to do some editing, I’ve always wanted my licenses to simply travel with me. In the old days they did — on a floppy drive, on a CD, on a thumb drive, and today in the cloud. Wherever I am, I’m able to simply log into Avid Link, and everything I need to begin working simply activates, automatically, while I’m talking with the producer or the director. That is just plain huge.
The whole Cloud Licensing concept, combined with subscriptions, has been a long time coming. I’m incredibly impressed with it, and after nearly 30 years working as an editor, I’m very difficult to impress.