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The Next Dimension in NLE Software: Sony Vegas Pro 11 Lets You Import, Edit and Output 3D Media

Vegas Pro 11 from Sony Creative Software is a full-featured editing system that includes Blu-ray and DVD authoring and advanced 3D titling. Vegas Pro 11 functions on both 32- and 64-bit operating systems and employs GPU-accelerated performance to speed rendering and effects applications. It also provides full stereoscopic 3D editing and accepts virtually all existing video formats. It works exclusively with Microsoft Windows 7 or Vista operating systems.

Features
Vegas Pro 11 is designed to work with every video format available, including stereoscopic 3D formats. For 3D monitoring, editors can use an SDI or HDMI output and select channel-specific top/bottom, side-by-side, blended or anaglyph displays.

A significant timesaving feature is the ability to mix resolutions or frame rates on the timeline without transcoding. Natively supported codecs include XDCAM, XDCAM EX, NXCAM, HDCAM SR, AVCCAM, RED R3D, AVCHD and AVC-based MOV files from DSLR cameras. These formats pass through the editing process unaltered, saving time and preserving original quality. But you can import any video file that your QuickTime Player will read, as Vegas harnesses QuickTime as a plug-in for file importing. Vegas Pro 11 supports 2K and 4K file resolutions.

The Vegas package offers many features found in more costly editing systems. It offers image stabilization, and its multi-cam editing tools enable switching between as many as 32 video sources. The titling tool offers true 3D in a stereoscopic environment and simulated 3D in a 2D environment. Templates make it easy to animate text and keyframe motion.

The effects palette is extensive, including more than 300 functional and stylized effects. In addition, Vegas Pro 11 provides more than 200 2D and 3D transitions. Many of these utilize GPU acceleration, which harnesses the processing power of the graphics card to speed up effects rendering and monitoring.

Effects are elegantly managed. Numerous effects can be added to each clip and are displayed in a chain in the effects window. Users can easily alter a specific effect or change the order of a sequence of effects.

The color correction tools provide extensive controls for improving or enhancing bland images or creating stylized effects. The effects palette includes most of the popular effects, including glow, lens flare, film grain, film effects, light rays and Gaussian blur.

The color correction tools are advanced enough to color correct and match footage effectively. Vegas Pro 11 provides three-way color correction in the customary curve or color wheel hue control options. There is also a one-step white balance correction tool.

Image stabilization and slow and fast motion are provided, with simple controls to adjust speed within a clip.

Vegas Pro 11 provides comprehensive audio mixing capabilities, with recording, editing and mixing of unlimited tracks, 24-bit/192 kHz audio support and 5.1 surround sound mixing tools. There are more than 30 audio enhancement effects, including EQ, compression, noise gate, reverb and pitch shift.

Specific system requirements and graphics card recommendations can be found at www.sonycreativesoftware.com/vegaspro/techspec.

In Use
I tested Vegas Pro 11 on a relatively modest desktop computer (AMD Athlon 2.2 GHz 64-bit processor, NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GS display adapter and 1 GB RAM) running Windows 7 Professional. My first lesson was to make sure you meet the minimum specs. I discovered that 1 GB of RAM is inadequate for smooth playback—2 GB to 4 GB of RAM is recommended. I also recommend installing one of the supported AMD or NVIDIA graphics cards for GPU acceleration, which makes rendering three to four times faster and improves real-time performance.

Vegas Pro 11 provides device control for those who still use tape. As I shoot on memory cards now, I used the file import method. I found that I could import any format that the QuickTime player recognizes. There are only a few formats that the editor will not readily accept; these are generally proprietary ones such as DVCPRO or Avid DNxHD in an MXF wrapper. This can be a limitation when working with some media, but overall, Vegas Pro will accommodate just about everything. And there are simple solutions available to ingest any format.

In terms of actual editing, Vegas Pro 11 has very comprehensive capabilities. It offers all of the basic timeline editing functions for trimming and adding transitions. I did find, however, that using Vegas Pro 11 is not as intuitive as some of its competitors. Many of the operations are not drag-and-drop but, rather, are located in small icons or keyboard shortcuts. Once you learn them, editing is a snap, but it takes some time at first to find the tools for the job. For example, when I wanted to slice a clip on the timeline, there was no obvious razor tool. After some research I found all I have to do is press “s” on the keyboard, but this is not readily apparent. I had the same experience when I wanted to remove an effect I’d added. There is a tiny icon that does the job, but it’s located in the effect control window, not on the timeline. It would be helpful if they grouped editing tools into a mini menu.

Vegas Pro 11 does an excellent job of mixing formats, codecs, resolutions and frame rates in a single project. I set up a project as 1080/24p and added formats including DV 30i and 24p, 720/24p and 1080/60i. The sources included AVCHD, H.264 from a DSLR, standard DV and transcoded P2 footage. All the formats mixed on the timeline, and I was able to render the project out into a single format. I wasn’t able to directly import Panasonic P2 clips, but a plug-in is available that makes it possible.

The effects palette is wonderful and includes many effects that would be expensive to purchase separately, such as film grain, lens flare and lighting effects. They are easy to apply, and Vegas’ architecture makes them easy to manage. Effects are displayed in a chain, allowing you to go into any effect and adjust it or change the order of effects. This can be vital when one effect interacts with another. For example, adding glow to an image at the end of a chain may not look as good as when it’s placed at the beginning, where the highlights are brightest.

I tested both image stabilization and motion control. Image stabilization uses a simplified interface with few controls, but it achieves very effective results with far greater ease of use than the more complicated versions. It took me a while to figure out how to create slow motion (Vegas Pro 11 calls it “time stretching”), but the effect is easy to apply. Just drag a clip’s end to make it longer or shorter to achieve slow or fast motion. More precise controls are available that allow you to insert keyframes and contour the motion change. The slow motion was very smooth as Vegas Pro creates and inserts frames as opposed to repeating them.

Space does not permit an in-depth review of the included DVD Architect Pro application, but I’ll note that its diverse assortment of templates makes it intuitive and easy to learn. It burns both standard and Blu-ray DVDs with equivalent ease.

Summary
Sony Vegas Pro 11 provides a very impressive set of editing and DVD authoring tools in a single package. The learning curve is a bit steep as it has so many features, many of which are not displayed as obvious visual icons.

Its strongest feature is the ability to mix formats, frame rates and resolutions effortlessly on the same timeline. And its effects capabilities in both video and audio are quite comprehensive.

However, Sony Vegas 11 is developed for use in a Sony codec environment and a PC world. Those who use a wider range of cameras and codecs or work with material from a Mac environment will find some limitations. It’s ideal for editors accustomed to Microsoft Windows who work with Sony, DSLR and AVCHD-based cameras, as it’s optimized to work natively with these codecs.

Sony Creative Software Vegas Pro 11

SCORE:

PROS: Provides an impressive set of editing and DVD authoring tools in a single package. Strongest feature is the ability to mix formats, frame rates and resolutions effortlessly on the same timeline. Imports most video formats. Effects capabilities in both video and audio are comprehensive.

CONS: Learning curve is a bit steep as there are so many features, many of which are not displayed as visual icons. Optimized for use in a PC world.

BOTTOM LINE: Ideal package for editors accustomed to Microsoft Windows who work with Sony, DSLR and AVCHD-based cameras, as it’s optimized to work natively with these codecs.

MSRP: $600

ONLINE:www.sonycreativesoftware.com/vegaspro

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