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Proxy-Based Editing, Plug-Ins & iPad Compatibility: Putting Sony Vegas Pro 13 Through Its Paces

Vegas Pro 13 is an easy-to-use, fast and efficient editing tool that includes Blu-ray Disc authoring.8/27/2014 5:30 PM Eastern
Vegas Pro 13 is an easy-to-use editing application that’s great for simple or complex editing projects. The bundle includes both editing and Blu-ray Disc authoring software.

If you are looking for an easy-to-use editing application that’s optimized for a Windows workstation, one option is the Vegas Pro family from Sony Creative Software. Configurations include Vegas Pro 13 Edit, Vegas Pro 13 and Vegas Pro 13 Suite. The big differences among these is the selection of Sony and third-party tools that come with the bundle.

The Edit version is mainly the NLE software.

The standard Vegas Pro 13 package includes a Dolby Digital Professional encoder, DVD Architect Pro 6, the NewBlueFX Video Essentials VI plug-in collection and Nectar Elements from iZotope. All three products include CALM Act-compliant loudness metering and the HitFilm video plug-in collection from FXHOME.

The Vegas Pro interface windows may be opened and closed to let you arrange the interface based on your focus at any given time.

 

The Suite bundle adds Sound Forge Pro 11 (a file-based audio editor), HitFilm 2 Ultimate (a separate compositing application), Vegas Pro Production Assistant and 25 royalty-free music tracks.

Vegas Pro is a 64-bit application that requires a 64-bit version of Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. In my testing, I installed it on a Xeon-powered HP Z1 G2 configured with Windows 8.1, an NVIDIA K4100M GPU and 16 GB of RAM. I didn’t have any video I/O devices connected, so I wasn’t able to test that functionality, but Vegas Pro will support AJA hardware and various external control surfaces.

If you’ve ever used a version of Vegas Pro in the past, then Vegas Pro 13 will feel comfortable and familiar. For those who’ve never used it, the layout might be a bit of a surprise compared to other NLE software. Vegas is definitely a niche product in the market, despite its power, but fans of the software are as loyal to it as those on the Mac side who love Final Cut Pro X.

In addition to the Vegas color correction tools, other stylized plug-ins are offered, including the HitFilm Bleach Bypass filter.

 

Vegas Pro 13 supports a wide range of I-frame and Long GOP video codecs, including many professional and consumer media formats. For those moving into 4K, Vegas Pro 13 supports XAVC (used by Sony’s F5 and F55) and XAVC-S, a format used in Sony’s 4K prosumer cameras (including the FDR-AX100). Other common professional formats supported include Panasonic P2 (AVC-Intra), Sony XDCAM, HDCAM-SR, ProRes (requires ProRes for Windows and QuickTime installed) and REDCODE RAW. 4K timeline support goes up to a frame size of 4096 x 4096 pixels. As an application with deep roots in audio, the list naturally includes most audio formats.

What’s New

Fans of Vegas Pro will find a lot in version 13 to justify an upgrade. One item is Vegas Pro Connect, an iPad companion application designed for review and approval. It features online and offline modes to review and add comments to a Vegas Pro project.

Vegas Pro 13 features comprehensive audio tools, including new loudness meters for CALM and EBU compliance.

 

There’s a new “proxy-first” workflow. Videographers shooting XDCAM can use the Sony Wireless Adapter to send camera proxies to the cloud, for example. While the XDCAM discs are being shipped back to the facility, editors can download and start the edit with proxy files. When the high-resolution media arrives, editors then automatically relink the project to this media.

Vegas Pro 13 adds a project archive to back up projects and associated media.

Plug-ins have been expanded in this release with the bundling in of new effects from NewBlueFX, FXHOME and iZotope. Video effects include color modification, keying, bleach bypass, light flares, TV damage and a number of other popular looks. These additions augment Vegas Pro’s extensive selection of Sony audio and video effects. Vegas supports the VST audio plug-in and OpenFX (OFX) video plug-in formats, which means that compatible plug-ins installed for other applications on your system can be detected and used. For example, the FXHOME HitFilm plug-ins also showed up in Blackmagic Resolve 11 Lite (beta) that I had installed on this computer because both applications support OFX architecture.

Naturally, given its audio heritage, Vegas Pro 13 includes a comprehensive audio mixer. New with this release is the inclusion of iZotope Nectar Elements, a single audio plug-in designed for one-click voice processing. Another welcome addition is a loudness meter window for measuring levels and mixes in order to be compliant with the CALM Act and EBU R128.

Putting Vegas Pro 13 Through Its Paces

One big selling point of version 13 is GPU acceleration based on OpenCL in NVIDIA, AMD and Intel graphics cards. This processing power becomes especially important when dealing with 4K formats. Performance advances are most noticeable once you start layering video tracks. Working with 4K XAVC, RED EPIC Dragon and 1080p ProRes 4444 media was easy. Scrubbing and real-time playback never caused any issues. The Vegas Pro preview window lets you manually or automatically adjust visual preview quality to maintain real-time playback. If you are a RED user, then you’ll appreciate access to the R3D decode properties. The Z1 G2 felt very responsive working with native RED camera media.

Vegas Pro 13 natively supports camera raw media from RED cameras.

 

Many editors take some time to get comfortable with Vegas Pro’s interface. Vegas started life as a multitrack audio editing software (DAW) and the layout and track design stem from that history. Each video and audio track is designed like a mixing board channel strip. You have read/touch/latch automation control, a plug-in chain and a level slider. With audio, you also get panning and a meter. With video, you get spatial control, parent/child track hierarchy control (for track grouping) and a compositing mode.

Many of the functions can be manipulated in real time while the timeline is playing. This capability may seem obvious when writing audio levels in an automated mixing pass; it’s rarer for video. For example, you can do the same for video opacity—writing a real-time pass of opacity level changes on the fly—simply by adjusting the video level fader as the timeline plays.

Once you get deeper into Vegas, you’ll find quite a few surprises. For one, it supports stereoscopic workflows. Its title generator effects include numerous animated text templates. Together with DVD Architect, you have a solid Blu-ray Disc authoring system.

Unfortunately there were also a few things I’d wanted to test that simply didn’t seem to work. Vegas Pro 13 is supposed to be able to import and export a range of project files, including XML, AAF, FCPXML, Premiere projects, etc. I attempted to import XML, FCPXML and Premiere Pro project files but came up empty each time. I was never able to export an FCPXML file. I was able to export FCP 7 XML and Premiere project files, but the Premiere file crashed Premiere Pro CC 2014 on both my Mac and this test PC. The FCP 7 XML did work in Premiere Pro, though. I tried to bring an XML into Final Cut Pro X using the 7toX translation utility, but FCP X was unable to relink to the media files. While this should be a great feature, it seems to be a work in progress at this point.

It was hard for me to warm up to the interface itself. While it’s very fast to operate, Vegas Pro is still designed like an audio application, so it’s very different than most traditional NLEs. For example, double-clicking a clip edits it straight to the timeline as the default condition. To first send it to the source viewer in order to select in and out points, you have to use the Open in Trimmer command. Fortunately there is a preference setting to flip this behavior.

Vegas Pro projects contain only a single timeline—also referred to as the project (like in FCP X). You cannot have multiple timelines within a single production, but you can have more than one instance of Vegas Pro open at the same time. In that case, you can switch between them using the Windows task bar. It is also possible to edit a VEG (Vegas Pro project) file to the timeline, which gives you the same result as in other NLE software, where you can edit a nested timeline into another timeline.

Vegas Pro 13 includes new third-party OFX plug-ins, such as the HitFilm collection from FXHOME.

 

Speaking of the interface, the application badly needs a redesign. It looks like it’s stuck in the Windows 98 world. Some people appreciate starkness—and I know it probably helps the application’s speed—but if you’re going to stare at a screen all day long, it should look a bit more elegant. Even Sony’s Sound Forge Pro for the Mac, which sports a similar design, is cleaner and feels more modern. Plus it’s very bright. In fact, disabling the Vegas theme in preferences makes it even painfully brighter. It would be great if Vegas Pro had a UI brightness slider like Adobe has offered for years.

Conclusion

Sony’s Vegas Pro 13 is a useful application with a lot of power for users at all levels. At only a few hundred dollars, it’s a strong application suite to have in your Windows toolkit, even if you prefer other NLEs. The prime reason is the wide codec support and easy 4K editing. If that’s how you use it, then the interface issues I mentioned won’t be a big deal.

On the other hand, if you’re an experienced Vegas Pro user and happy with it as is, then version 13 is a worthy upgrade, especially on a high-end machine. It’s fast, efficient and gets the job done. If Sony fixes the import/export problems I encountered, Vegas Pro could become a tool that would make itself indispensable.   

 

Product: Sony Creative Software Vegas Pro 13
Score:
Pros: Superb media handling with wide codec support. Well suited for 4K editing. A nice collection of audio and video plug-ins.
Cons: Nontraditional interface design. Only a single timeline per production. Some import and export functions didn’t work.
Bottom Line: Vegas Pro 13 is an easy-to-use, fast and efficient editing tool that includes Blu-ray Disc authoring.
MSRP: $399.95 to $799.95
 

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