I can say this right up front: Vegas Pro 9 addresses some long-standing issues raised in the Vegas user community. It also steps out in front of the pack of other NLEs with cutting-edge features and support for the newest formats. To me, the biggest advantages of this release are the total support of 64-bit technology and 4K acquisition and editing. All specifications and new features are described here. But I do want to take a moment and discuss some of the enhancements that are most relevant to videographers.
First Things First
The first thing most users are likely to notice and comment on is the new interface and color scheme (below). It’s darker. Some might say “big deal,” but the userbase has actually been asking for a darker color scheme for some time. Some folks have noted that, compared to Avid, Premiere Pro, or Final Cut Pro, the Vegas interface looks “unprofessional.” Some say that this new dark gray UI is optimal for doing critical color grading and is better for long editing sessions in a darkened room.
You’ve always been able to alter the color scheme via the Windows Control Panel, but this is the first time that the interface is dark right out of the box. If you prefer the look of previous versions of Vegas, changing a setting in Options – Preferences will take you back. In addition to the new default layout, you get two other layouts: one for Audio Mixing and one for Color Correction. You can switch between these layouts with a simple keystroke. Don’t like it? Create up to 10 layouts of your own and switch between them on-the-fly.
64 vs. 32
You get both 64-bit and 32-bit versions of Vegas in this release. The advantage of 64-bit is that it runs natively under the newest versions of Windows (Vista and the upcoming Windows 7), which, by definition, means it can access more RAM and process tasks faster. I’m told by beta users that Vegas Pro 9 64-bit is more fully realized and more stable than was the initial 8.1 64-bit. Remember that all your hardware needs 64-bit drivers, and any plug-ins need to be written for 64-bit as well.
I’ve looked only at the 32-bit version, but I do have one telling observation. In recent weeks, I’ve been working with a Vegas project file in version 8 that would not render past 60%. It crashed Vegas hard, and it’s truly the first time I’ve experienced an issue like this (although I have heard of at least one other user seeing this exact scenario). Without making any other changes, I opened the .veg file in question in the new Vegas 9; it rendered the file out perfectly. This is not a thorough diagnostic session by any stretch, but it does seem to indicate that memory or resource errors have been addressed.
Improved HD Format Support
XDCAM EX and AVCHD device browsers are now built-in to provide better support for cameras with these formats. In addition, native support for RED ONE is here now. This probably means more to indie filmmakers than to event videographers, but it’s very noteworthy nonetheless.
The RED ONE support also means that the Vegas project can be set to a 4K resolution—just the thing for the huge photos taken by today’s digital cameras (below). Now, Vegas will not automatically resize your images and events, nor will it crash when loaded down with images greater than 2,000x2,000 pixels. The greater size means you can zoom way into a high-rez image and still maintain HD quality.
But Wait, There’s More
VelvetMatter (VM) has had an impressive collection of light effects called Radiance that has been available for a few years. Now, it’s included in Vegas Pro 9. Sony has bought the underlying technology and incorporated it into the base software.
These effects are not branded VelvetMatter in the Filter dialog box, but if you look at Glint, Rays, Defocus, Fill Light (below), and the other new filters, they have the telltale VM “look,” much like the ProType titler.
And If You Act Now …
There are a number of other enhancements that will serve videographers well, such as a fully customizable gradient wipe transition, improved audio waveform editing, and 4-point audio envelope editing—great for very quickly ducking music during the minister’s voice over. You also get numerous new keyboard shortcut combinations and behaviors for slip editing events.
Another great feature is the new ability to crop still images automatically to match the project. Although this capability has been part of the scripting world for a while, it’s cool to have it more readily available within the Vegas GUI. Your images, when dragged onto the timeline, will now automatically fill the screen, helping to ensure that your photo montages won’t have that “I did this in PowerPoint” look to them. What’s more, Vegas now comes with additional Sony AVC render templates, which is great for internet distribution (below).
Vegas Pro Production Assistant
With all that said, something positioned to be a game-changer isn’t built into Vegas at all but is available as an option: the Vegas Pro Production Assistant, which essentially automates a number of useful production tasks that required scripting or plug-ins in the past. We will delve into this $199 tool in a later article. But for this initial overview, I wanted to list some of its main features: photo and video montage, animated lower-thirds, batch file processing, and workflow automation. The possibilities of this tool, from the very brief view I’ve had of it, are leaps above even what Ultimate S or Excalibur are capable of.
For years, scripting has been Vegas’ Quiet Little Secret. Now, with Sony introducing Production Assistant (powered by VASST, the folks who brought us Ultimate S Pro, among others), you will be able to design templates for common projects such as a wedding, a same-day edit, or a dance recital. These templates are Vegas files that have an empty event (a slug) for every piece of media you want to populate (below).
Once you’ve populated a template, at any time you can launch Production Aassistant, select the template you created, and give the project a name. Press Add to add media from your system, and press OK. Production Assistant will open Vegas, load the project, and then replace the empty events with your media. Static items such as your logo, titles, effects, etc., are already in place.
Production Assistant has some overlap with Ultimate S Pro, so you will want to evaluate both tools to see which fits your needs. For repetitive tasks, Production Assistant gets the nod.
Wrap It Up, I’ll Take It
Vegas Pro 9 and the included DVD Architect (which does a fine job with Blu-ray, by the way) retails for $699. Upgrades from previous versions of Vegas run approximately $234. Vegas Pro 9 includes a handful of new filters, effects, features, and goodies that many folks will want. But I think the real draw of this release is the stability of 64-bit processing and improved support for XDCAM EX and AVCHD, 4K workflow, and gigapixel images. Be sure to download the trial and put it through its paces, and don’t forget to check out the Production Assistant add-on.
David McKnight (david at mcknightvideo.com) is half of McKnight Video of Houston. He is vice president of the Houston Professional Videographers Association (HPVA), has Sony Vegas and HDV
certification, is the technical editor of Vegas Pro 8 Editing Workshop (Focal Press), and is a contributor to TheFullHD Book (VASST). He and his wife, Christie, are winners of multiple HPVA awards.