Sony Vegas Pro 10 is here! After months of speculation about what would be in the latest full-step upgrade to Sony Creative Software's popular pro NLE, the new version has brought users new features and increased performance-without sacrificing stability. In this overview I'm going to cover many of these new features in Vegas Pro 10 that will be of benefit to event videographers; some of them may seem far-fetched, some of them may not be obvious, but they're all here for a reason.
We'll also lay the groundwork for the series of tutorial articles that will follow in my "Tips and Tricks" column, and the video tutorial series that will kick off this month on with a series of video tutorials (see videos at the start and end of this article). But first...
I'll Go Ahead and Say It
The perception of many ".0" releases of any software package invite cries of "Wait For the Service Pack!" Well, by the time the download link for this new release was live to the public, the version was already at 10.0a. This is an update to the planned release. Kudos to Sony Creative Software for continuing to test and improve up till the release date. In my opinion this is instrumental to the stability of Vegas Pro 10. If you're waiting for an update before you install it, fear not—it's already here.
DSLR Preview and Editing Improvements
First up on the feature list is improved performance for editing files from Canon DSLR cameras such as the 7D, T2i, or the new 60D. I'm told by Vegas product manager Matthew Brohn that this feature intended specifically for the H.264 format used by DSLRs, and provides upwards of a 300% improvement. I first tried it out on hardware that desperately needs to be upgraded to work with anything later than HDV: a 2.4GHz Intel Q6600 that plays back T2i footage, in Preview Auto, at about 5-7 frames per second (fps) under Vegas 9e. There's no way you could edit this natively, nor would you want to.
However, on the same hardware and OS, with Vegas Pro 10 32-bit, the same project file played back at full frame rate. It still had the occasional stutter, but it performed exactly as if I were editing HDV or Cineform intermediates. While I don't recommend using older hardware for editing DSLR footage-even with Vegas Pro 10-the comparison demonstrates that Sony's claims of 3X improvement do indeed pan out.
Moving our test over to a more modern system, in i7-950 processor running Windows 7 64-bit OS, the footage plays in real time even in Vegas Pro 9 (using Preview Auto). Making the test harder, I used three tracks of video with the first two composited at about 50% so that information from each track was visible in every frame. This test is indicative of a complex composite, and in Vegas 9 the video previewed at 1-4fps, while on the new Vegas Pro 10 it clocked in at a considerably more watchable 8-14fps. The takeaway here is that if you're editing footage from a Canon DSLR, this feature alone is enough to warrant the upgrade to Vegas 10.
Image Stabilization, Courtesy of...
A brand-new feature with Vegas Pro 10 is image stabilization, courtesy of proDAD, developer of the popular Mercalli stabilization plug-in. While the stand-alone Mercalli product has just been upgraded to 2.0, the engine included in Vegas 10 is based on enhanced version 1 technology. This stabilization capability first became available to Vegas users in the consumer-oriented Vegas Movie Studio. However, in Vegas Pro 10 you get more control over how your stabilization is applied. You can do more with it than just choose between presets.
The proDAD-driven stabilization interface in Vegas Pro 10
Unlike filters and transitions, image stabilization is accessed by right-clicking individual clips. Since image stabilization creates new clips, realize that the exact clips to which you apply stabilization are the only media that will be affected. If you're in a workflow using proxy files, you will want to wait until you've switched to your master, render-ready clips before you apply stabilization (unlike other FX or filters). If you apply stabilization to your proxies and then shift gears to prep for your final media, you will lose your stabilized clips.
New MultiCam Features
Vegas Pro has had built-in multicam capabilites since version 8. We don't personally use this feature in our studio, as my wife, Christie, and I have grown accustomed to the multicam tool provided by the UltimateS Pro plug-in from VASST. UltimateS Pro and another widely used plug-in, Edward Troxel's Excalibur, have provided multicam capability to Vegas users in one form or another for years.
In looking at the updates that Sony has made to the built-in multicam for version 10 however, I found that they've added one important feature. Once your multicam track is built, you can now expand it back into individual tracks for further tweaking. You can even choose to keep the unused clips, and Vegas will mute those individual events that aren't being used.
The updated Multicam interface in Vegas Pro 10
Vegas in the Third Dimension
This is where things get interesting. You can't walk into a multiplex movie theater these days without finding some Hollywood offering being shown in 3D. From animation to horror, it seems like everything short of romantic comedies is a candidate for 3D. Noted horror director Wes Craven, when speaking to the Los Angeles Times about his new film My Soul To Take, said this about 3D: "For me, it's an experiment ... If it does endure as a technical form of the art, then I'm learning at the ground floor like everybody else, and it's an important thing to do."
3D at the movie theater seems to be a natural, if for no other reason than to get people to the theaters to see movies in a way that we can't see it at home. It was only a matter of time, apparently, before the companies who exhibit at NAB, IBC, and other conferences decided that we all need to shoot, edit, deliver, and watch 3D at home.
Is it all just a fad? I don't know. While this article is not about 3D in general, let's look at some facts and statistics before dismissing altogether the concept of video production in 3D. To begin, most research that I've found projects sales of 3D TVs being slow in 2011, and picking up sharply after that. ABI Research predicts that 3D television in the home will begin to take off in 2013, with more than 50 million 3D TVs shipped worldwide in 2015 alone. While you can buy all the gear to produce 3D content now, most analysts predict that 3D in the home will be mainstream in 2-4 years. Is 3D a fit for wedding and event video? 3D could very well become as mainstream as HD is, and it's nice to know that you can start experimenting with the technology yourself, today, with very little investment. To pick up a 3D camera that's comparable to the prosumer models most non-DSLR videographers use, you'll need to shell out $22,000 for the likes of the Panasonic AG-3DA1 (or, better yet, rent it for the occasional 3D booking). That's a little steep for most of us, but Panasonic has a consumer model, the HDC-SDT750, with a street price of $1,400, and a company called Aiptek has introduced a Flip-like 3D cam with a street price of $200.
With Vegas Pro 10, you can edit footage from any of these cameras right away. The Stereoscopic 3D mode you want to work with is chosen in the Project Properties window. You have a variety of choices in monitoring 3D; you can view it from your PC display, and you can even use a 3D-capable HDTV via HDMI as your external monitor for a more accurate preview.
Choosing project properties for 3D editing in Vegas Pro 10
While, traditionally, most of us have seen the ability to edit video in real time without specialized hardware as a plus, times do change. And Vegas Pro is changing with them. In another "first," for Vegas, version 10 has joined Adobe CS5 in adding GPU processing. In the past, the kind of video card you had in your editing system was never a concern with Vegas with the exception of DVI or HDMI output connectors. With this release of Vegas Pro you will now be able to take advantage of a CUDA-enabled GPU in a very specific application, which is rendering to the Sony AVC codec.
It's important to note that the GPU in Vegas Pro does not have any effect on editing performance in the timeline. This is Sony's cautious foray into the GPU arena, and I look forward to what other processes they can speed up by offloading them to the GPU.
Choosing GPU rendering in Vegas Pro 10
Be careful about what video card you choose if you're upgrading your hardware. You may find that your CPU alone is faster than using the GPU. For example, in one of our new PC builds, the i7 950 processor alone proved faster than offloading to the NVIDIA GeForce GTS 450. In my test project, the CPU rendered the 30-second Vegas project (.veg) file in a little less than 30 seconds, while the GPU-only render took 35 seconds. Our next machine will have a better (and more expensive) video card with a higher CUDA count. I'm thankful that we didn't spend too much on the GTS 450 card, since we won't be using its CUDA capabilities.
OpenFX Plug-in Architecture
Vegas Pro 10 has a completely new plug-in architecture for effects and filters. This is exciting news, as editors and creative types will now have many more tools to play with. Any plug-in based on the Open Effects Association (OFX) standard is a candidate for use in Vegas Pro 10. The very high-end GenArts Sapphire and Monsters GT plug-ins work right out of the box with no alteration. BorisFX has also released Continuum Complete for Vegas 10. This is a midlevel-priced offering from BorisFX, and I hope to provide a thorough review of it in a future column.
Applying the Pencil Sketch effect in BorisFX Continuum Complete for Vegas Pro 10
Plug-in manufacturers will need to do a minimal amount of work to update most of their OFX products to interface directly with Vegas under the OFX standard. For users of existing plug-ins, have no fear. Vegas is maintaining the legacy SDK-at least for this version. Your existing plug-ins will work, and a brave new world of Open Effects plug-ins awaits. More information about OFX is available at http://openeffects.org.
There are many other updates and new features in Vegas Pro 10 that we'll be exploring in a new online tutorial series now underway on EventDV-TV (www.eventdv.tv). Among these is a welcome upgrade on the audio side, the ability to apply all of Vegas' audio effects at the event level. You've always been able to apply video filters and effects at the event level, but real-time audio effects were only available at the track level or in some cases the master bus output level. For the first time, Vegas allows you to insert up to 32 audio effects at the event level and preview them in real-time. This further solidifies Vegas Pro as the NLE with the most robust audio function support.
Also new in the audio department are track and VU meters. Track meters are great to have because so many of us work with multiple audio tracks, mixing them into final master output. Knowing at a glance which one of your tracks is causing the whole thing to clip is a wonderful new feature.
Using track meters in Vegas Pro 10
Another enhancement is Track Grouping. With Track Grouping, you can now select several tracks and group them together, even hiding them out of your way. Being able to group events together has been a feature of Vegas forever, but just now are we able to group together tracks. You can group tracks, name the group, and choose to show or hide the group.
Grouping tracks in Vegas Pro 10 and naming the group
DVD Architect gets a little love in this release (though not much) with the inclusion of new HD themes and the ability to use a Windows burning engine, thereby potentially supporting more and newer DVD and Blu-ray burners. You can choose at run time which method you prefer to use.
This version is a winner! You get better playback on DSLR footage, track grouping, OpenFX support, enhanced multicam, a few audio goodies, and 3D to boot. There's even more to love; you can check out the full list of features and enhancements found in Vegas Pro 10 at http://sonycreativesoftware.com/vegaspro.
David McKnight (email@example.com) is half of McKnight Video of Houston.He is former vice president of the Houston Professional Videographers Association (HPVA), has Vegas (SCVE) certification, is the technical editor of Vegas Pro 9 Editing Workshop (Focal Press), and is a contributor to TheFullHD Book (VASST). He and his wife, Christie, are winners of multiple HPVA awards.