Monday, May 11, 2015

Review: Sony Vegas Pro 13

By B.I. Diamond

When Sony Vegas first emerged about 2004, its competitors in the Non-Linear Video editing (NLE) game were few. Today, however, Sony Vegas Pro 13 is way ahead of the small fry, and fits right in as one of the major players in the digital editing universe. Indeed, in the “how to book” Vegas 6 Revealed, written by Doug Shalin more than a decade ago, a line apropos then, and certainly applicable to today’s version reads: “Vegas is an incredible application, but it isn’t overwhelming.”

Many reviews of software get into the weeds, and that can be helpful if you like weeds, but personally I enjoy giving the application a spin and see how it feels – and Vegas Pro 13 handles beautifully. The program comes in several “flavors” – Vegas Pro Edit ($399.95) includes a package of plug-ins (effects) from FXHOME, the Pro connect iPAD app, as well as Vegas Pro. At $599.95, you can purchase Vegas Pro that comes with everything found in Edit, but also includes DVD Architect 6, the Vegas disc authoring title, a collection of NewBlue FX effects, and iZotope’s Nectar Elements dialog processing plug-in. If you’re into Dolby sound, the program also includes a Dolby digital encoder. The extras alone are valued at more than $250. The last and most versatile bundle, at $799.95, is the Vegas Pro Suite. Everything that’s in the first two versions, but you’ll also get Sound Forge Pro, Hitfilm 2 Ultimate, and royalty-free music tracks. With the plug-in collection and the other apps thrown in, you’ve saved yourself more than $800 by investing in the suite.

The program itself is user friendly, and if you started with the lower end version – Vegas’ Movie Studio platform, transitioning is a breeze. Still, if you’ve never used Vegas and tried other brands, you’ll find Sony’s software easy to use and learn. And, to help you get started, Sony provides a complete “show me how” option when the program opens.

Once opened, the design of the editing screen puts everything in front of you. Toolbars in Vegas Pro 13 are located below the timeline, and for those of us who’ve been around Vegas awhile it was a bit of “where is everything,” but it soon wears off. Users will find Importing media a snap and most media formats will easily import; and here’s a feature that some other timeline based digital editing apps may not include – import and export of projects files to and from among others, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut, and AVID.

Digital editors also will find a host of powerful features, such as the multi-camera editing tool (a bright spot for those of us who like “takes” from various angles); and the plug-in collection, the variety of which grows more enormous by the day. Indeed, in Vegas Pro you can chain 32 effects and apply them to an event, a track, or a project.

One of most useful tools included in Vegas Pro is the Loudness Meter. This is a response to legislation known as the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act. Broadcasters who fail to adhere to the audio guidelines outlined in the act are subject to penalty. The act was a response to the problem with “television commercials” blaring at higher volumes than the show surrounding them. CALM required the volume of commercials and programs to be consistent. Hence, the introduction into Pro 13 of the loudness meter.*

One other tool that professionals will adore is proxy editing. You’re on the move, covering an incident for your television station; or shooting a film somewhere. With Vegas Pro 13, if you’re shooting XDCAM footage and have a Sony Wireless Adapter, you can transmit your media as a low-res proxy to your editor who massages your rough media into a stunning piece. Then, once you’re back in the editing suite, you can relink the proxy to your original hi-res media, and render it as the edited piece.

In Vega Pro 13, you also can archive your work, definitely an advantage when you need something you shot a week or a year ago. And unlike a project where some things change as you make alterations – an archived file takes everything with it and files it away as a single file in a single location.

By the way, output is simple. There are customizable templates allowing you to render your output in an array of formats such as WMV, MP4, AVI, etc. There also is a YouTube upload option.

Finally, there is the Vegas Pro Connect app. This gives editors using iPADs the opportunity to share video and a host of other aspects of their project with other users, or clientele. Its setup is not difficult and its usefulness is extensive.

Vegas Pro has been around for years now, and as with every piece of software, it has its great, good, and poor points. Having been a proponent of the Sony software for a decade or more, the great and the good definitely outweighs the negative. Hence, if you’re looking for a moderately priced NLE timeline based digital video editor that does everything “but the dishes,” check out Vegas Pro; it provides the power and the ease (that user-friendly thing we hear about) that others can’t touch. Try before you buy and undoubtedly, you’ll find that Shalin was correct when, a decade ago, he wrote: “Vegas is an incredible application.”

Product comparisons available at: Pro 13 (tested): Purchase $599.95; Upgrade from Vegas Pro 12 $249.95
Vegas Pro 13 Edit: Purchase $399.95; Upgrade $199.95
Vegas Pro 13 Suite: Purchase $799.95; Upgrade $449.95
Trial versions available

Technical Specifications:Operating System: Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 (64-bit)
Minimum CPU: 2GHz (multicore or multiprocessor CPU recommended for HD or stereoscopic 3D; 8 cores recommended for 4K)
Minimum RAM: 4GB (8GB recommended; 16GB recommended for 4K)
Minimum Hard Drive: 1GB required for program installation
Graphics Card: GPU-acceleration requires OpenCL supported NVIDIA, AMD/ATI or Intel GPU with 512MB memory; 1GB for 4K

*If you’re interested in examining the standards set by the Advanced Television Committee regarding audio, see the following: ATSC Recommended Practice: Techniques for Establishing and Maintaining Audio Loudness for Digital Television. (A/85:2013) Doc. A/85:2013. 12 March 2013.

B.I. Diamond is a professor at Georgia State University, and contributor to Markee 2.0.