Most NLEs, such as Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 and Avid’s Media Composer, come in two flavors: Mac or PC. Some, like EditShare’s Lightworks, also come in Linux. There are three notable exceptions to this: Apple’s Final Cut Pro X, Autodesk’s Smoke, and Sony’s Vegas Pro 12. While FCP and Smoke are both Mac-only, Sony decided to make their NLE PC-only. Let’s take a look at the newest professional NLE from Sony Creative Software.
There are five different versions of NLE currently sold in the Vegas line. Three of them are consumer-oriented. The last two wear the Pro badge. Movie Studio 11, Movie Studio Platinum 12, and Movie Studio Platinum 12 Suite are the consumer end. I took a look at Movie Studio Platinum 12 a while back. You can find that review here. The two pro versions are made up of Vegas Pro 12 Edit and Vegas Pro 12. The difference between the two is DVD Architect Pro, a professional-end DVD and Blu-Ray creation application. Vegas Pro 12 ships with this, Vegas Pro 12 Edit does not. Vegas Pro Edit retails for $499.95, Vegas pro 12 retails for $699.95. If you don’t need to make complicated DVDs or Blu-rays, you can save $200.00.
I downloaded Vegas Pro 12, opened the installer, ran it, and put in my license number. Then Vegas Pro 12 opened.
The screen opens with several windows open – Explorer, Source Monitor, Video Preview, and Timeline. Explorer is where you find your media to import into the project. There are two other window tabs: Project Media and Media Generators. Project Media is self-explanatory. Media Generators include title creation, test patterns, checkerboards and color gradients. The Video Preview has an additional window pane as well, the Master Bus for audio. This is a simple fader if you are in stereo mode. If you’re in surround, you get l/r faders for front, rear, center, and low frequency.
Vegas gives a full range of editing formats to work with. Presets range from Mutlimedia 320×240 at 29.97 FPS all the way to 4K 16:9 at 24P, which translates to 40x96X2304 at 23.976 FPS. You can also create new templates and save them for later use. You can also change output rotation, with the default set at 0 degrees, which is the original. There are also settings for stereoscopic 3D. Including Left/Right swap and Crosstalk cancellation. Pixel formatting is either 8-bit or 32-bit, with options on the 32-bit side for full range or video levels. You have the options to start every new project with the current template settings, as well as adjusting your source footage to better match the project settings.
Audio editing gives you the option to work in Stereo or 5.1 Surround. Choosing surround let’s you enable a low-pass filter, with choices on the cutoff. The cutoff choices are 80 hz, 116 hz, 120hz, and 180.
There are options to print to HDV, print to tape, export media, burn a Blu-Ray disc or DVD, or an audio CD.
Cutting with Vegas is fairly straight-forward. Set an in-point and an out-point in the Source monitor, set your cursor in the timeline, and hit add to timeline from the cursor. The other options include Add to Timeline Up To Cursor, or Fit to Fill if you have set an in-point and out-point on the Timeline. In and out markers can be dragged from the top of the timeline. as well as using the “I” key for set in and “O” key for set out. Audio is both fader and keyframe editable. There are scripts you can use for a variety of purposes, from adding timecode to all media to converting stereo audio to mono.
There are quite a few effects built-in to Vegas 12: Keying, transitions, color effects, blurring, masking, 3D shapes, etc. You can also import layered Photoshop files, with each layer on a separate video track for animating. There is also a software developer’s kit for download for creating effects. And there are many popular plug-in packages available for Vegas Pro 12, including filters from Boris FX and GenArts.
New in Vegas Pro 12 is Color Match. This matches colors between two clips, either using presets or source controls, working in L*a*b* color space. Speaking of L*a*b*, there is also a L*a*b* histogram to see the L, a and b channel distributions of the image.
Also new for 12 is support for the OpenFX extension for GPU rendering using openGL textures. Sony says this is “. . .allowing third-party OpenFX plug-ins that use OpenGL to leverage the power of the GPU more effectively within the Vegas Pro OpenCL™ architecture. Also supports OpenFX on-screen interoperability, making position controls and effects ‘handles’ visible directly on the Preview itself. Updates to the OpenFX Properties UI make better use of screen real estate by increasing the slider control area and reducing the size of the numeric field space.”
Not all changes are with video, there are a few audio improvements too. One welcome change is for AJA and Blackmagic Design users: you can now listen to audio over the video preview device. In my case, I was able to listen to audio over my LCD attached to my Blackmagic Intensity Pro card. Also, several Sound Forge 32-bit plug-ins did not work with Vegas Pro 64-bit. They’ve been rewritten to work with Vegas Pro 12. Some of the updated plugs include Wave Hammer, Click and Crackle Removal, Clipped Peak Restoration, and Noise Reduction.
Vegas Pro 12 now supports Panasonic P2. Ingest from P2 cards via Explorer and edit DVCPro 25 /50/100 natively, as well asl AVC-Intra 50/100 .mxf files. Vegas Pro 12 also now includes encoding to all HDCAM SR formats.
Projects in Vegas save as .veg files. Vegas recognizes that what happens in Vegas does not necessarily stay in Vegas. You have options for exporting projects to other formats, including AAF for Avid Media Composer and ProTools; .prproj for Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects; .xml For Davinci Resolve and FCP7; and . fcpxml for Final Cut Pro X. You can also send projects out as EDL .txt files and protocol compliant .aaf (different from the Avid .aaf). Finally, in a nod to Sony’s own formats, you can export projects as XDCAM discs or PlayStation Portable files. You can import from media from various drives, capture from tape, import from Premiere Pro projects, import from Final Cut Pro 7 / Davinci Resolve projects, import EDL .txt files, import .wav files, import from DVD Camcorder discs, or import Closed Captioning information.
I tried importing and exporting to and from Adobe Premiere Pro. I made a couple of sample edits in Premiere Pro on the timeline, and then saved the file. I Imported into Vegas from the Premiere Pro project. Vegas opened all the associated media files from the Premiere Pro project, as well as the timeline. I went back to Premiere and made a slightly longer timeline, this time adding in keyframes to the audio and adjusting the levels. I also made a dissolve between the first and second edit, leaving the third edit as a straight cut. I saved and exited Premiere Pro, then went back to Vegas. The Premiere Pro project imported in with the video portion of the timeline intact – my dissolve was still there. However, none of my audio keyframe adjustments survived. I went back to Premiere Pro and added in a B/W filter to one of the edits, saved and exited. Upon importing into Vegas, I got the timeline, but the B/W filter didn’t come through.
I made a few edits in Vegas and exported it as a Premiere Pro project. These were simple cuts-only. The exported project opened in Premiere Pro with no problems. I went back to Vegas, and added in some audio keyframing, a dissolve between two shots, and a B/W filter. Premiere Pro opened it, but without the audio keyframe adjustments I did in Vegas and without the B/W filter.
This is pretty much what I expected. Plug-in architecture differs from NLE to NLE, so I wouldn’t expect filters to make the jump from one NLE to another.
Vegas Pro 12 was fun to cut with. I had no difficulties with it, no crashes or system hangups. One thing I enjoyed was the UI. A few articles ago I watched my daughter work with Movie Studio Platinum 12. The interface between Movie Studio Platinum 12 and Vegas Pro 12 is almost identical. Cutting with them is very similar, more similar than say Premiere Pro and Premiere Elements 11.
So who is Vegas Pro 12 for? It is pro-level software for the PC. Vegas Pro 12 is half the cost of Adobe CS6 Production Premium, but still imports Photoshop files for animation. It is half the cost of Avid Media Composer, but can export ProTools .aaf. It’s ten times more expensive than EditShare’s Lightworks, until you figure in the $60.00 per year for the license plus the $600.00 per year for Lightworks’ email and phone tech support. It will not run on OSX, though it works on Mac with Bootcamp. It is fairly forgiving with it’s system requirements.
The best way to decide if software is right for you is to download a trial and work with it to see if it fits your needs. I’ve seen many Vegas users out there in newsgroups and online forums, extolling the virtues of the software. After working with Vegas pro 12, I understand why.
You can find a trial version of Vegas Pro 12 here. Give it a look.