One of the great things about 21st Century magazine publishing is that location doesn't matter in the way it still does in, say, real estate; with a phone line and broadband Internet connection, you can get the job done just about anywhere. So it's never really mattered much to EventDV and EMedia before it that we're located out here in the Midwestern hinterlands of Wisconsin, even though our publishers are on the east coast, our writers scattered hither and yon, and most of the companies whose products we cover have their headquarters somewhere in NoCal or SoCal. But sometimes location does have its perks: case in point, everytime our Madison neighbors Sony Pictures unleashes a new version of Vegas—which lately has become an annual thing—we're among the first to see it.
Thus the week before NAB we got a sneak peak at Vegas 6, the full-step upgrade to Sony's popular pro/prosumer NLE. We also saw the latest and greatest new features of DVD Architect 3, Vegas' DVD authoring batterymate.
One of the first things we found out about Vegas and its developers is that they've finally sorted out what they're actually called, something that's seemed a bit murky since the media software division of Sonic Foundry was acquired by Sony Pictures two years ago. Even though the sign outside says Sony Pictures Digital Networks, the division that produces Vegas, the Reader's Choice-winning Sound Forge (also recently upgraded to version 8), and ACID will henceforth be known as Sony Media Software.
Not surprisingly, many of the most eye-catching features of the new Vegas relate to HD and HDV support, but Sony Media Software director of engineering Dave Hill is quick to point out that "this release is not just about HD and HDV." That said, Vegas 6 is the first version of the software to boast native HDV support without the help of plug-ins; it also offers support for Decklink and HD cards for 1080/60i, 1080/50i, NTSC, and PAL capture, monitoring, and print to tape via SDI.
Other key enhancements include full multiprocessor optimization, which enables Vegas users to take greater advantage of today's HT and dual-processor systems as well as forthcoming dualcore-enabled editing platforms. With this comes improved rendering and encoding speeds, according to Hill and VP of marketing Dave Chaimson, who both acknowledge this was one of the knocks on previous versions of the software. Foremost in the new and intriguing category are Vegas' ability to detect A/V sync problems and correct them automatically (user's choice), a versatile frame-rate conversion utility, and a media asset manager that allows users to add ample metadata and works across multiple projects, according to Chaimson. Enhancements to Vegas' ability to do preview on external monitors are a boon to color correction, says Hill. "If you're doing color correction for CRT delivery," previewing the project on an LCD monitor "is going to give you a different look." This approach, he says, is not so much aimed at doing the best-looking preview possible, which could be misleading in terms of what the end user/client will experience; rather, it's "delivery-focused."
Vegas 6 also introduces the ability to nest projects within the timelines of other projects; that is, without rendering, you can add a timeline (or a chunk of a timeline) from one project directly into another, and continue to work on it with all the transitions, effects, etc. still editable.
Vegas ships for $599, which is $100 less than the $699 that editors were paying for the product a year ago. Also available at a $100-lower price of $899 is the Vegas+DVD bundle, which incorporates DVD Architect 3, a significantly upgraded version of Sony's DVD authoring tool.
New in DVD Architect 3 are support for DVD+R DL authoring and burning, and the ability to recognize and use Photoshop layers in PSD documents that are tagged according to Vegas' basic naming conventions (background, button, button, button mask, etc.). "It's a really easy way to set up a complicated menu," Hill says. "It will handle all the layers with fairly simple naming conventions." Architect 3 features complete button-routing capability and end-action support. You can also apply button masks that don't require rendering. "The mask uses the DVD player's subpicture drawing capability as it would do subtitles," says Hill.
DVD Architect 3 also boasts a new Smart Reprepare feature that allows users to change, say, a misspelled word in a title or an improperly aligned button in a menu in a project they've already rendered, burned, and watched on their TV without having to re-render anything but the element they've changed.
Architect 3 also includes a new Theme Export feature that allows users to create new menu themes or templates and save them for later use; support for replication master formats like DLT, DDP, and CMF with the ability to add copy protection flags and CSS where appropriate; and a new MediaFX image editing utility that allows cropping and reframing and basic filter application to images used in DVD menus or slideshows without requiring the user to open a separate application like Photoshop or PhotoImpact to make those edits. Architect 3 also now supports multiangle selection for up to eight videos, and an "Extra" feature for adding ROM content to a disc that consumer DVD players will ignore but DVD-ROM drives will recognize. "Extra" folders can contain anything from ReadMe and Word docs to PDFs or even WMV HD files for viewing the disc's movie content on a PC monitor (or MediaCenter-attached HDTV) in full resolution—a nice feature for videographers who may be shooting in HDV but downconverting to SD for DVD delivery.
But again, Hill emphasizes that the enhancements to Vegas and DVD Architect aren't designed to benefit only those editors and authors who have made the jump to HD acquisition and/or delivery. Nor are the existing features optimized to work only on bleeding-edge editing systems. "What are you going to deliver? If you're willing to ask that question," he says, "you can work on a much lighter system," and get the most out of your existing gear.