Sony Vegas 5 is a multitrack audio and video editing application for Windows-based computers. When Sony purchased Sonic Foundry last year, Sony added its name, reputation and a whole lot of powerful features to the latest version of this unique and intuitive editing application.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, project studio, broadcast, post
Key Features: New in V5: ACID loop and event pitch shift support; 5.1 surround plug-in support; surround downmix monitoring; fader-based automation; controller support; key-framable transition envelopes; 3D track motion; multilevel compositing; key-framable Bezier masks
Contact: Sony Pictures Digital at 800-577-7642, Web Site.
The combination of Sony’s video expertise with the creative programming of Sonic Foundry has made Vegas 5 ($699) a tantalizingly easy-to-use yet powerful audio/video editing system.
It would be impossible to cover all of the features of Vegas 5 in an article of this length (the ‘Quick Start’ manual is 100+ pages) let alone have room for my evaluation. To that end, I direct you to the Sony Vegas website (www.sony.com/mediasoftware) for a full feature list. Covered here are some of the program’s base capabilities and a rundown of new features added in this latest version.
On the video side, Vegas boasts unlimited video tracks, a slew of video effects (190+), three-wheel primary and secondary color correction, several video measurement tools and scopes, text animation and titling tools, and over 175 2D and 3D transitions. Vegas supports any aspect ratio (4:3, 16:9, etc.), multiple frame rates (23.976 fps, 24 fps, 25 fps, 29.97 fps etc.), progressive and interlaced field orientation, and editing of HD, HDV and a wide variety of other formats video formats. Vegas even lets you combine multiple file formats and rates on the same timeline without conversion.
New features include video track envelope automation and key-framable transition envelopes, 3D track motion, multilevel compositing, Flash file import, key-framable Bezier masks, and two-pass variable bit-rate MPEG-2 export for direct use in Sony DVD Architect 2 authoring software.
On the audio side, Vegas features unlimited audio tracks, supports ASIO hardware, is 24-bit/192 kHz-capable, comes with over 30 real-time audio effects and provides 5.1 surround mixing capabilities. Sony offers a Vegas+DVD Architect package ($999) that includes a Dolby AC-3 encoder.
New audio features found in Vegas 5 include Sony ACID loop and event pitch shifting support, 19 user-definable time stretch modes, on-the-fly punch-in recording, auto-input record monitoring, bus-to-bus routing, 5.1 surround plug-in support and surround downmix monitoring.
When I was asked to review Vegas 5 for Pro Audio Review, the assignment was to cover its use in audio production. After using the software for several months and on numerous projects, I realized the program’s true strength: Vegas 5 is not just a high-powered video editing system with a decent amount of audio functionality. It is the video editing software for audio engineers interested in bridging the gap between the two disciplines.
If you are familiar with the audio-editing paradigm used in just about every digital audio workstation, you can cut and assemble video projects in Vegas with almost no learning curve (creative and theoretical knowledge of editing, however, is not included with purchase).
As an audio-only application, Vegas does not operate at the level of, say, Digidesign Pro Tools or Steinberg Nuendo, though Vegas has improved immensely over the last several versions.
Vegas 5 has added ACID loop and pitch shift support, external controller support, fader-based automation and discrete surround panning with downmix monitoring functionality – all very welcome additions, thank you.
While the audio improvements in this version are substantial, it still lacks several functions considered essential by many in order to use Vegas as a standalone audio workstation. For instance, it has no MIDI, VST or VSTi/Dxi instrument support (though some VST plug-ins will work with in Vegas with a VST-to-DX wrapper), no track grouping to speak of, nor does it have the capacity for multiple tempos/time signatures across the length of a project – just a global tempo and signature setting.
This last omission is the most egregious, in my opinion. Typically, multiple and scalable tempo settings are required to match multitrack audio compositions to visual hit points, so from the stand point of creating music to fit video, this is a major weakness.
While Vegas does have a few audio shortcomings, it is important to note that, when compared to other desktop video editing applications such as Avid Xpress and Apple Final Cut Pro, Vegas is absolutely light years ahead in its integrated audio support.
In fact, none of the other editing systems have a tempo grid at all. When looked at from the reverse perspective as above – not creating music to fit video, but cutting video to fit music (as in music videos, TV commercials and bumpers) – the tempo grid, single setting or not, becomes invaluable. I found the ability to cut and assemble video to a tempo grid breathtakingly simple and quick, and the results were always in lock step with the music bed. Two of my full-time Avid-editor colleagues were drooling at the possibilities.
The new ACID support in Vegas 5 opens the door to the use of Sony’s immense collection of ACID sample discs available at www.acidplanet.com. These ACID-enabled discs simplify tempo matching and allow quick and easy construction of complex original music beds, atmospheres and sound effects for video productions within Vegas 5.
Another advantage Vegas has over most other video editing applications is its powerful scripting language. Akin to macro programming, Vegas scripting provides in-depth access to many of the program’s operations and functions, allowing the user to complete lengthy or tedious tasks at the click of a mouse, integrate with external applications and implement customized features.
For example, the creative folks at Mobile Pro Video and Jet Digital Video have coproduced two wizard-based plug-in collections (Neon and Excalibur) utilizing Vegas scripting that add functionality and greatly enhance many aspects of editing in Vegas. Mobile Pro Video also produces in-depth training DVDs covering Sony’s Vegas 5 and DVD Architect 2 software (see www.vegastoolsandtraining.com).
It is this kind of open access to the program that generates the tremendous community spirit shown on the Sony Vegas forum site – easily one of the most active and helpful forums I have encountered. Sony programmers take an active role in the forums, and seem genuinely interested in listening to the user base in order to improve the software. Kudos!
Vegas 5’s initial simplicity belies the fact that this is a very powerful program. Despite its ingeniously simple entrŽe, Vegas 5 possesses a full complement of video and audio tools to satisfy the most seasoned professional editors and engineers.
While its flow may initially seem counter to video editors used to traditional applications like DV Xpress, Final Cut Pro and Premiere, it does not take long to realize the power of Vegas 5’s in-depth feature set and highly customizable interface. For those used to professional audio applications, Vegas 5 is an instantly recognizable winner.