Sony Vegas is a very comprehensive program which has advanced effects, excellent audio editing, decent realtime support and comprehensive DVD and Blu-ray writing using Sony DVD Architect which is supplied with Vegas.
You can buy the program in several versions:
Sony Vegas EDIT - just the editing program, Sony Vegas. This includes the ability to output to DVD and Blu-ray without menus.
Sony Vegas Pro 12 - Sony Vegas with Sony's excellent DVD writing program, DVD Architect.
Sony Vegas 12 Suite - the Vegas editing program with DVD Architect for authoring, Sony Sound Forge for manipulating the sound, Sony Production Assistant (various extras for Vegas) and HitFilm Ultimate - a compositing program which "dynamic links" into Vegas rather like Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premiere Pro.
Sony Vegas is slightly different to your average editing application. For example, clips are called "events" and can be dragged out well past their last frame; if you do this then they either loop or freeze depending on your preference. This may sound a odd but comes from Vegas' origins as a sound sequencing program, where you would lay a sample of a drum, for example, and them repeat it several times to produce music. There are other small things like this which are different from other programs; these are not necessarily bad things, just different to the norm, so you just need to learn the Vegas way of doing things. Vegas' origins as an audio program do mean its audio capabilities are brilliant and you can even lay out an music CD using the program!
Vegas was one of the first programs to edit STEREOSCOPIC (3D) footage and output 3D as well in a large number of different formats. Editing footage in 3D is called "stereoscopic" or "stereo" editing in an effort to try and distinguish it from 3D effects - such as a 3D picture in picture effect (something which Vegas also does very well too).
Obviously the first thing you have to do is to film in 3D using either two cameras or one of the new breed of 3D cameras like the Pansonic AG-3DA1 3D camera. These will generally produce two video clips for everything filmed - one for the left eye and one for the right eye. You take both clips, line them up on the timeline and then combine them into a single clip. You edit as normal but at the end produce a 3D master which you can burn to Blu-ray disc.
Vegas has a lot of nice 3D tools and can output it's 3D image in all sorts of ways. You can view the 3D on your computer screen using old fashioned red and blue-style glasses, or connect the computer up to a proper 3D screen. Vegas lets you watch a 2D picture on the edit screen but a 3D picture on the output. You can view a full quality STEREO picture using an nVidia graphic card- with the latest versions of Vegas you can use either a regular card or a Quadro card (earlier versions would only work using the more expensive Quadro cards). If you use a different device like a Blackmagic Intensity or Black Magic Extreme HD you can also output a 3D image to a 3D TV, however this would not be a full quality 1920x1080 50i image and would have to be a SIDE-BY-SIDE or TOP-BOTTOM image. This is the same as other programs which support 3D editing like Grass Valley EDIUS or Avid Media Composer.
Vegas 3D support does not stop there. If your left and right video clips do not quite match you can use Vegas' tools to align them. You can also apply Vegas' 3D stereo adjust filter to any clip on the timeline, like a title for example, and adjust its position in 3D space. You can even keyframe it so the title appears to move towards you.
Grass Valley EDIUS is actually better when it comes to playback of footage - it can generally handle full quality playback on a reasonable up-to-date computer where as Vegas will struggle slightly unless using a powerful machine, although there is one area which sets Vegas' 3D editing above the other programs - output. Vegas can output a full quality 3D Blu-ray in the standard formats (1280x720 50/60P or 1920x1080 24P) which EDIUS and Avid cannot do. The other programs can manage half quality SIDE-BY-SIDE or TOP-BOTTOM discs but not the FULL QUALITY discs. If get Sony DVD Architect with Vegas you can even do full quality STEREOSCOPIC discs with menus - something you normally need to spend a lot of extra money to achieve.
Like most programs Vegas can capture DV or HDV footage using the built-in capture application. You can add various cards which will also let you capture footage through other sources - component, composite, HDMI and HD SDI. These cards are either from Black Magic or AJA. Black Magic have an Intensity Pro card with all these connections except SDI and the card is only £125+VAT.
Vegas editing is similar to other programs. As you can see from the above picture we have a source and destination window (called the trimmer and the preview window in Vegas) a project window and a timeline where the clips are laid out. The trimmer can even show you the sound wave form at the same time as showing you the picture which is helpful.
Once you get used to Vegas’ methodology editing is pretty similar to other programs - although the tracks in Vegas go in no particular order -you can end up with your sound above your video, for example - this is not a major problem just different to other editing programs.
One very useful feature is the ability to add video as takes - you can have 4 different takes of the same clip occupying the same place on the timeline and switch through them at the press of a button.
Vegas is excellent at effects. It has great realtime playback - it was doing realtime effects out to FireWire long before any other program even thought of it. There are also a variety of quality settings and at the top setting the quality is very good. You get less realtime playback at the top settings, but the quality does rival and even beat some of the other programs.
There are various quality settings and you can preview effects at low, auto, good or best quality, meaning that you can always choose a setting where you see something. Everything is realtime and the list of effects is huge and includes excellent primary and secondary colour correction, good quality motion paths, a nice titler, and wacky effects like old movie, TV simulation, lens flaresand glows.
One area that Vegas is slightly different to other programs is 3D motion. Vegas actually has excellent 3D motion paths and can do more in 3D than most programs. You can move clips around in true 3D - so they can fly around each other, sometimes in front, sometimes behind, and create really stunning effects. The only downside is that 3D can only be applied on a track level - so that on a long project with various sections in 3D you would end up with lots of tracks!
Vegas can apply keyframable mattes to clips, with edge feathering. This kind of feature has slowly made its way into every editing program, so is now in Avid and EDIUS (although not in Premiere Pro) and used to be the kind of effect you would need to go to a program like After Effects or Boris to achieve.
You can use these masks for isolating an area of the screen, for example a person moving, and keying it onto another background.
This list of useful effects is huge and all are thoroughly keyframable. It even has media generators which can create moving background textures - very handy for the background of a DVD menu, for example.
Vegas also has keyframable slow motion, again previewable in realtime, and when rendered, due to Vegas subsampling, very smooth.
When it comes to effects Vegas sometimes feels a bit like After Effects with a bit of editing thrown in, rather than an editing program with effects. You can also nest effects by putting one project inside another and you can have several version of Vegas running with different timeline open when editing.
Another interesting feature is that you can use other machines on your network to render effects with Vegas, if you purchase additional licences.
DVD & Blu-ray writing
You can write Blu-ray discs directly off the Vegas timeline - these would not have any menus, just video. However, DVD and Blu-ray writing is best handled by Vegas’ companion program,DVD Architect. Architect can only bought either in a bundle with Vegas or on its own. It has a full set of features likeAdobe Encore DVD, and you can have multiple menus, slide shows, video menus, subtitles, etc. as you would expect.
The MPEG files required can be created in Vegas, which has an excellent high quality two pass VBR encoder - using the same Main Concept engine as Encore. Alternatively you can create them in Architect, although strangely this only has a single pass encoder. One nice feature in Architect is the Optimise DVD menu where you can specify the encoding settings for each video or you can specify some and tell Architect to fill the disc with the rest.
Architect integrates very well with Vegas. In Vegas you can enter chapter points which are carried over to Architect and you can type subtitles in the Vegas timeline and these too can be carried over to Architect. This makes positioning subtitles much easier.
You can encode to H264, the most popular format for Blu-ray discs faster by using a graphic card with CUDA chips (found on most up-to-date nVidia cards). The more powerful the card the faster the rendering.
As you might expect from the makers of Sound Forge, the sound side of Vegas is excellent. The display of the sound waveform is accurate and once the “peak” file is written, takes no time at all to be updated as you zoom in or out. Vegas also supports proper surround sound mixing and, unlike Premiere Pro or Avid Media Composer, you can make full 5.1 Dolby digital DVDs straight out of the box (with Premiere you need to buy and extra plug-in to achieve this). Grass Valley EDIUS can make a 5.1 Surround sound file but not mix it in the first place. Vegas can do both.
There is a large range of useful audio effects - although all have to be rendered. Vegas does do this very quickly when asked and automatically replaces the original clip with the new render on the timeline without any intervention. Vegas supports DirectX effects and VST plug-ins.
Anther interesting sound fact is that Vegas, like Premiere Pro, edits down to the sample level as opposed to the frame level, so you can get much more accurate positioning of your sound effects.
We recently had a need for some ADR (automatic dialogue replacement - where you re-record dialogue and overlay it on the original video) and the sample level editing and time stretching abilities of Vegas proved to be the best choice. Adobe now have a brilliant way of matching ADR takes in their sound program Audition, which makes ADR recording quicker than Vegas, but if you don't have Audition, Vegas is the next best choice.
Vegas can capture from HDV cameras using its own utility. Editing the native files is also very good and has improved compared to previous versions of Vegas. Vegas can also record back to HDV as well.
Vegas supports all variations of AVCHD files on the timeline. It actually does a pretty good job of playing the files back -although Premiere Pro and Grass Valley EDIUS are a little bit better for full quality playback with a couple of layers of files. If your computer is not powerful enough then Vegas will drop the quality to maintain a proper speed playback - meaning that even on a lower spec computer the playback is still usable. Althought native playback is a bit better in other programs it is good enough in Vegas for it not to be a major reason to choose EDIUS over Vegas.
Vegas Device explorer shown here will show you the contents of any card or camera connected to the computer and you can select which clips are needed. Vegas will then copy the clips off the card and into the project folder, making importing AVCHD relatively easy.
Vegas supports native XDCam-HD and XDCAM-EX files. As you would expect for a Sony program it actually supports both Sony's formats very well and has its own built-in loading module to get the footage in quickly.
DVCPro (P2) support
Vegas 12 finally supports Panasonic DVCPro out of the box. In previous versions you would have to buy an extra plug-in to load P2 clips.
RED Camera support
The great RED camera, as used by film-makers for its huger than HD quality and excellent picture, is supported in Vegas. Vegas will edit the RAW footage, unlike a program like Apple Final Cut Pro which has to convert Red footage to QuickTime to edit. Vegas support is similar to the way Adobe Premiere Pro supports RED footage.
These days there are huge numbers of different formats available including MOV files, MP4 files and lots of variations of H264. Vegas will let you drop most of these onto the timeline and started editing without any extra hassle - a bit like Adobe Premiere Pro and Grass Valley EDIUS.
What’s Good about Vegas
An excellent range of high quality effects - and Vegas is part editor, part compositor! No other editing program proper 3D motion paths - you would need After Effects or Boris RED for this with other programs.
Support for Stereoscopic 3D video built-in - with full quality 3D output.
In-depth DVD and Blu-ray writing as standard.
Excellent sound support - with Vegas supports VST plug-ins as well as Direct X, has good surround sound mixing built-in and can even encode the audio into the correct format for DVD without any extra cost (with Adobe Premiere you need to buy another plug-in to do this)
Realtime with everything and all out to DV.
Network rendering - use other machines linked via a network to render effects.
Scripting built-in - this opens up Vegas to third parties writing scripts to automate various processes - which means someone can write a script that may save you a lot of time!
Animated titling built-in - Premiere can only do still, rolling and crawling titles. Vegas can animate per letter and bounce them in and out as needed.
Vegas’ odd interface is hard to get used to if you are a Premiere user. Having clips which can be longer than the media and then finding they are looping the original material is bizarre!