An evolutionary update to an already highly evolved editor
Sony Vegas Pro seems to be the last man standing for amateur enthusiast-level video editing. Most of its competitors have disappeared over the years, and Premiere Pro CC is now only available via subscription. Vegas Pro 13 Edit arrives 16 months after version 12, and is available as an upgrade.
There are three bundles available. Vegas Pro 13 Edit includes the editor only. Vegas Pro 13 adds DVD and Blu-ray authoring, as well as some video and audio plug-ins. Vegas Pro 13 Suite includes Sony’s audio editor Sound Forge Pro 11, the fabulous FXhome HitFilm 2 Ultimate compositing and special effects software and more plug-ins and utilities.
There are some interface tweaks that are unlikely to get hearts racing but are welcome nonetheless. The dockable panels are now easier to manage, as they only dock when the Ctrl key is held down. There’s a new Project Archive function that embeds all media, proxy and audio peak files into a single .VEG file. The various buttons that are dotted around the interface have been rearranged, with project management at the top of the screen and editing functions at the bottom. The latter includes new tools that dictate what happens when timeline objects are adjusted, such as the Time Stretch/Compress Tool that changes the playback speed so a clip automatically fits the desired length. Many of these tools were already available via keyboard shortcuts, but having dedicated buttons makes them easier to find. The Shuffle Tool is new, and provides a quick way to reorder clips.
The new editing modes (bottom-centre) remove the need to remember lots of keyboard shortcuts
Proxy editing was already available in Vegas Pro, delivering smooth previews of demanding video formats by generating lower-resolution copies for use while editing. It wasn’t the easiest feature to find, though. Now it’s applied by default when importing footage with a resolution higher than 1,920×1,080, which is a sensible move for those who will be editing Ultra HD footage. It’s still far from clear how to switch between the proxies and original footage while editing, though.
Vegas Pro Connect is a new iPad app designed to help teams collaborate on projects. It communicates with Vegas Pro over a local network. By carefully following the instructions in the online Help, we were up and running in a couple of minutes.
At its simplest, the app is a wireless remote control for the software’s transport, either using conventional buttons or via a set of gestures that include tap to play, swipe left or right to jump to a marker, two-finger swipe to scroll through the timeline, three-finger swipe for frame-accurate scrolling. It’s also possible to undo, redo and arm the software for audio recording. Both the conventional and gesture-based controls include the ability to add markers, which appear instantly on the Windows software’s timeline. It’s an elegant system that allows a collaborator to look over an editor’s shoulder and make frame-accurate comments. It would be even better with colour-coded markers that could be filtered according to who added them.
The accompanying iPad app acts as a remote control, commenting system and offline playback device
The app also includes an offline mode. There’s an option in the Windows software called Prepare for Vegas Pro Connect, whereupon the timeline (or loop region) is rendered at 720p and made available to the app. After synchronising, the video can be played offline and markers can be added that synchronise as soon as the app and software find each other again on the local network. These markers might be out of sync if the project has been edited since it was synchronised, but that’s forgivable.
This is a neat way to share projects in professional environments with minimal effort, and with no risk of files being copied and shared illicitly – videos aren’t accessible except via the app. We also found it useful at home to be able to view works in progress on an iPad on the sofa, although we’d have liked a full-screen playback mode for a more casual viewing experience. We’re glad to see that it’s easy to delete these files on the Windows hard disk or the iPad to free up space.
Vegas Pro Connect isn’t the only new feature that’s designed primarily for professional users. There’s a new Loudness Meters panel to help users comply with US legislation about the volume of adverts. The new Proxy-first workflow lets editors start work while a shoot is still in progress at a different location. When shooting with a Sony XDCAM camera and Sony Wireless Adaptor, low-resolution proxies are uploaded to the cloud directly after capture, ready for download to a PC running Vegas Pro. We’d be interested to see if Sony could adapt this concept for its Wi-Fi equipped Alpha cameras, perhaps transferring proxies to a laptop over an ad hoc Wi-Fi connection.
There’s a strong collection of new effects in this update
So far this is shaping up to be a pretty dry update, especially for home users, so it’s a relief to find some new effects. Seven are ported over from FXhome Hitfilm, and we particularly like the sophisticated light flares and TV interference effects. The NewBlue Video Essentials VI plug-in bundle that comes with the two pricier packages (not Vegas Pro Edit) is worth having too. The highlight is a chroma key effect that’s a significant step up from Vegas’s own. The Tile effect is interesting with its ability to vary the colour, opacity and blur of each iteration of a clip as it’s tiled across the screen. There are two effects that give surgical control over saturation, and various others for cropping the picture in complex ways. We’re still waiting for an effect that can animate graphics around the frame along Bézier curve paths.
This is one of the more modest updates to Vegas Pro, but while the new features aren’t particularly exciting they do maintain an air of elegance and precision that permeates throughout the software. All three versions are reasonably priced, and come highly recommended.