Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 9 is a cut-down version of Vegas Pro 8, but it has very few features directed at home users. Instead, it’s streamlined, elegant and surprisingly powerful.
Movie Studio’s greatest strength is its speed of use. Everything works the way we would expect it to, and with the minimum of mouse clicks. No matter how complex a project becomes, the interface is responsive. There’s one caveat: loading a project with lots of MPEG files takes ages, and even switching to another application and back to Movie Studio can make it hang for minutes. It seems that all associated files are checked for any changes carried out in another application, but an option to bypass this would be welcome.
The preview display is highly scalable in both size and quality. These options are useful for balancing preview quality against smoothness, and a frame rate readout makes it clear when frames are being dropped. When we first reviewed version 9, we found that AVCHD preview performance was poor, but an interim release (bringing it to 9.0b) improves it significantly. Even so, it didn’t quite achieve smooth AVCHD playback on our Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 test PC, averaging around 20fps and slowing to a crawl during transitions.
One workaround is to render sections of the timeline using the Selectively Pre-render Video command. However, this must be performed after each edit, making it impractical for anything except the occasional short section. Another solution is to make standard-definition copies of the AVCHD files, edit with these and use the Replace command to swap them for the AVCHD originals when it’s time to render. However, unlike in Serif’s, Corel’s and CyberLink’s editors, this is an entirely manual process, requiring each raw file to be converted and replaced individually. It wouldn’t be hard for Sony to automate it, and we hope it does so soon.
Sony also needs to address Movie Studio Platinum’s Blu-ray authoring capabilities. Blu-ray discs are generated directly from the timeline, but these discs lack menus. The accompanying DVD Architect Studio is by far the best DVD-authoring tool here but supports only standard-definition discs. The full version of DVD Architect, which comes with Vegas Pro 8, has menu-based Blu-ray authoring, and it’s about time Sony included it here, too.
Other limitations, such as a maximum of four video and four audio tracks, look increasingly restrictive compared with the competition. Movie Studio Platinum supports the 24fps footage produced by Nikon’s D90 SLR, but the lack of custom MPEG2 and AVC export templates to match the 1,280×720 24p footage is frustrating. It’s not possible to export as an MPEG2 file at PAL widescreen resolution, which is an oversight.
We’re disappointed that our former favourite low-cost editor has fallen behind. Sony clearly wants to maintain a distinction between Vegas Movie Studio Platinum and Vegas Pro, but it needs to unlock Platinum’s restrictions if it’s to become competitive again.