How to Use Play Length in Avid Media Composer

This tutorial will teach you how to and why you would want to use Play Length in Avid Media Composer.

Play Length is a feature you can enable in Avid Media Composer that helps your computer out when you have a complicated sequence or it’s just running slow. There’s a hundred things you can do when you’re computer is slow to help it out and this is one of them when you are running Avid Media Composer. This video and article walk you through enabling and setting up Play Length. We dive into the Console so it may not be for someone who is on Day #1 in Avid. If you are or if even if you aren’t, please leave a comment if you’re having any issues. Let’s get into it!

What is Play Length in Avid Media Composer?

Play Length shortens the amount of timeline that Avid Media Composer “puts in its brain” to process at a time. By default without Play Length turned on, Avid is perpetually thinking about the entire sequence when you hit play. If you work off an older system or a system without a lot of RAM, this can be very burdensome to your computer.

When Play Length is turned on, Avid Media Composer only thinks about a specific amount at a time. By default it’s set to one minute. So one minute before and after the blue time position indicator is all Avid thinks about. This means that once you play forward (or backward for whatever reason), Avid Media Composer will automatically stop once you hit one minute past the time position indicator. Hit play again and you can watch the next minute of the timeline.

Enabling Play Length

Play Length is hidden from the Avid Media Composer interface. You need to open the Command Palette. You can find this under the Tools menu or using the keyboard shortcut Cmd+3 (Mac) or Ctrl+3 (Windows).

New to Avid Media Composer? Check out my Mastering Avid Media Composer’s Keyboard Shortcuts Series

With the Command Palette open, go to the Play tab. At the bottom of the Command Palette make sure ‘Button to Button’ Reassignment is enabled. Then drag and drop the Play Length Toggle icon onto your interface. I add mine below the Record Monitor near the Play button which will make more sense in a second.

Command Palette in Avid Media Composer with Play Length highlighted
Drag the Play Length Toggle icon onto your interface

Now close out of the Command Palette.

When you hit play you’ll see that Play icon under the record monitor is green. This means Play Length is not enabled. To enable Play Length, click the PL icon that you just dragged onto your interface. You’ll notice the button is now kinda highlighted. When you play your timeline now check out the Play icon. It’s no longer green and it’s highlighted similar to the PL icon. This means that Play Length is enabled. As described above, your timeline will play for the next minute before stopping. If you are playing at 2x, 3x, etc. speed it’ll still stop at one minute.

Green Play icon in Avid Media Composer
This is without Play Length enabled. Notice the green Play icon.
Gray Play icon with Play Length enabled in Avid Media Composer
Play Length is enabled in this picture. Notice the gray highlight on the PL and Play icons.

Note: I’m using an older version of Avid Media Composer (v8.4.4) in this tutorial. The colors and highlights may be slightly different in a newer version. As far as I know though, Play Length works exactly the same way.

Changing the Duration of Play Length in Avid Media Composer Using the Console

If you don’t like the one minute restriction you can change it. I believe it has to be a whole number (1, 2, 3, etc.). You do this through the Console.

Go back to the Tools menu and choose Console. Or you can use the keyboard shortcut Cmd+6 (Mac) or Ctrl+6 (Windows). This opens the Console.

In the Console type in: playlength ‘#’

For # replace that with the minute duration you’d like. Example: playlength ‘3’ to make the Play Length three minutes. Then hit the Enter/Return key to tell the Console to do it.

Changing Play Length in Avid Media Composer's Console
Change the duration of the Play Length in the Console

If you’ve read this article and you still need help with Play Length in Avid Media Composer, please leave a comment and I’ll do what I can to help troubleshoot. I hope you stick around and check out some of the other Avid Media Composer articles on my website or consider signing up to get notified about new blog posts and happenings around EVF.

– Josh

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