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HDV Editing with Sony Vegas Movie Studio+DVD  (12/2005)

    by Douglas Dixon

Sony Product Line
Pro and Consumer
Vegas Editing
Transitions and Effects
HDV Editing
Going Vegas

High-definition is no longer high-end. In just the past year, the HDV format (HD video on DV tape) has gone from a promise to a reality with the availability of camcorders like the Sony HDR-HC1 Mini DV / HDV camcorder at under $1900. And the software has caught up -- new versions of professional products like Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, and Ulead MediaStudio Pro can handle HD material, and the technology is now flowing down to their associated consumer products.

If you're looking to get started with video, and want all the latest formats and technology in one package, then head on over to Sony Vegas Movie Studio+DVD Platinum Edition, with HD video editing, powerful audio, and DVD creation (US $129.95 direct).

Introduced in September 2005, this is one of the new versions of the Studio line of consumer products from Sony Media Software, including entry-level versions of its well-known professional Vegas, ACID, and Sound Forge products.

Sony Product Line

The Sony Media Software product line has a powerful legacy in audio creation and editing, based on the Sonic Foundry products acquired by Sony in 2003.

For professional audio work, Sony currently offers ACID Pro 5 for loop-based music creation (US $319 packaged, $299 download) and Sound Forge 8 for digital audio editing ($319 / $299.96).

For professional video editing, the current Vegas products, introduced in April 2005, are Vegas 6 for standard-def and high-def editing ($479 packaged, $449 download), and Vegas+DVD with the addition of DVD Architect 3 and AC-3 encoding ($719 / $674).

    Sony Vegas Movie Studio+DVD / Vegas+DVD 

The new entry-level Studio consumer line, announced September 2005, features corresponding versions of these applications: Vegas Movie Studio+DVD 6 for video editing and DVD creation (includes DVD Architect Studio 3, $89.95), ACID Music Studio 6 for music creation and mixing ($69.95), and Sound Forge Audio Studio 8 for audio editing and production ($69.95). This is an evolution of Sony's consumer line beyond its previous Screenblast name.

Building on its audio legacy, Sony also has introduced some even lower-priced music tools for quick creations and kids: ACID XMC (eXtreme Music Creation) to record, mix, burn, and share songs and remixes ($39.95), Jam Trax music creation software for kids 10 and up ($19.95), and Super Duper Music Looper music-making software for kids 6 - 9 ($19.95).

Pro and Consumer

Sony also has split the Vegas Movie Studio line into two versions, the full-up Platinum edition with HD support, and the regular Vegas Movie Studio+DVD 6 at $89? The DVD Architect Studio 3 authoring tool is included in both versions. For video editing, in addition to HDV capture and editing, the Platinum version adds 3-wheel primary color correction, hundreds of additional video transitions and effects, and additional audio effects with DirectX plug-in support, Plus there's other bonuses including the Pixélan Software SpiceMASTER 2.5 TFX plug-in from for soft/organic effects, the Sony ACID XMC music mixing software, a Sony Pictures Sound Effects CD, and a copy of the HDV: What You Need To Know handbook from VAAST.

So, what's the difference between the $700 pro Vegas+DVD and the $100 consumer Studio version? The full Vegas clearly provides deeper audio support, including 5.1 surround-sound mixing, full 24-bit/192kHz audio quality (Studio supports 16-bit/48kHz), and Red Book Audio CD mastering/burning. For working with large projects, Vegas provides unlimited video and audio tracks (Studio provides 4 of each), project nesting, system wide media management, and AAF import/export. And it provides advanced pro editing features including envelope automation, application scripting, advanced color correction, and video scopes, plus support for devices including external control surfaces and Blackmagic Design DeckLink boards.

Similarly, compared to DVD Architect Studio, the full version of DVD Architect supports multiple video and audio tracks, subtitles, and built-in media effects to enhance and crop video and graphics. It also adds support for 24p progressive-scan video and AC-3 audio, importing menus from layered .psd files, and previewing on an external video monitor. The full version also provides mastering options for writing to DLT tape and enabling CSS and Macrovision content protection.

But the Studio version is not about dumbing down and removing functionality. Says Dave Chaimson, vice president of marketing for Sony Media Software: "The philosophy really not so much to simplify the interface (though there is some work done in toning things down a bit), but rather to simplify the complexities of the feature sets. Our user interface is probably one of our strongest assets. Customers like the way they can efficiently maneuver around our programs, and the fact that moving from one Studio application to another, is very easy to do. We did build in nearly fifty Show-Me-How tutorials into each application, along with extensive wizards to help you prepare your output."

Vegas Editing

If you've seen Vegas before, Vegas Movie Studio will look very familiar. There are two horizontal regions: the Timeline at the top (with the Track list on the left), and a collection of docked and tabbed windows at the bottom (including the Preview window at the bottom right). You can drag the horizontal splitter bar across the the main window to resize the timeline area, and adjust the vertical bars to resize the windows across each strip. If you don't like the default arrangement, you can drag out the individual windows and tabs to tile them in different positions, or to have them float above the main window as individual pallets.

        Vegas Movie Studio

The nested windows at the bottom left of the screen contain tabs for accessing clips, tools, and effects to use as you are editing. You can start with the Explorer tab to browse your disks for material to import into the project. The Project Media tab then displays thumbnails of your imported clips, with a nice summary of their format underneath. To acquire more clips, the Project Media tab also has handy icons to help assembling the clips you are using in the project: Import Media, Capture Video, Get Photo (from camera or scanner), Extract Audio from CD, and Get Media from the Web (stock libraries of content listed on the Sony website).

Once you've imported some media, you then can start editing together your production in the Timeline. Vegas Studio supports up to four video and four audio tracks. It comes pre-configured with six tracks: the main Video track, with Text and Video Overlay tracks, and Voice, Music, and Sound Effects audio tracks (although you can put any kind of video or audio on any of the four associated tracks).

You can edit and trim clips directly in the timeline, of course, but Vegas also provides the Trimmer tab to help prepare individual clips by setting markers at important points so you can easily select portions of the clip to add to the timeline. Vegas users the term "Events" to describe clips in the timeline.

 Then as your timeline becomes more complex, Vegas has plenty of tools to help layout your clips -- zoom in and out, select and group multiple clips, and controlling ripple editing, adjusting the timeline automatically as you insert and trim.

Transitions and Effects

As you assemble clips along a track, and overlap them, Vegas will automatically add fade in/out transitions. You can easily adjust the fade offset by hovering the cursor at the corner of a clip and dragging. To change the transition, just right-click to select various envelopes and effects, or use the Transitions tab to preview the effect (hover the cursor over the thumbnail to animate it), and then just drag and drop your selection to the timeline. Vegas adds small tags to the timeline to display the transition type and duration -- double-click to display the Video Event FX dialog to adjust the various parameters for that transition.

Similarly, use the Video FX tab to browse video effects to clean up, enhance, or otherwise manipulate your video. You can drag and drop to the timeline, or click the Event FX icon (also overlaid on the end of each clip) to display the Video Event FX dialog, where you can select one or more effects, rearrange their order, and  adjust their parameters. You can also define Track effects, which are applied to all the clips in the track. Similarly for audio, you can apply any of the available Sony and third-party plug-ins as track effects, or apply them to individual clips as non-real-time operations saved to a new file.

    Video Effects    

Next, start layering multiple tracks. Use the Media Generator tab to add basic backgrounds and textures, and to select pre-defined text styles and animated rolling credit overlays. Again, these offer dialogs to define the parameters of the generated graphics and text. Now position and composite the overlay tracks. Use the controls in the track list to set the overall video opacity or audio volume and pan. 

        Text generator

Then click the Event Pan/Crop icon on individual clips to set the position, scaling, and rotation of the overlaid clip. Plus, you can use the same dialog to set keyframes to adjust the parameters, and have Vegas interpolate between them. In this way, you can animate a title or a picture-in-picture effect to grow and move across the screen.

        Event Pan/Crop

HDV Editing

The real excitement of the Platinum Edition of Vegas Movie Studio+DVD is the support for editing high-definition content, especially the HDV format. HDV is simply high-def video, but stored on standard DV media. The video is compressed using MPEG-2, like DVD, but in wide-screen 16:9 aspect ratio, at higher resolution than standard-definition 720 x 480 video ( As a result, HDV video is more aggressively compressed to fit up to 6X more data into the same bandwidth used for DV (25 Mbps), and not much more than used for MPEG-2 on DVD (typically 6 to 8 Mbps). HDV supports two basic formats:

            - 720p (1280 x 720, progressive), at approximately 19 Mbps
            - 1080i (1440 x 1080, interlaced), at approximately 25 Mbps

Vegas Movie Studio can work directly with HDV camcorders and native HDV file format (i.e., M2T MPEG-2 Transport). These are large files, like DV (25 Mbps is around 3 MB per second of video), and take significant power to decode and process, so you'll need a high-end machine to an significant work with them. Instead, it's much more efficient to convert to an intermediate format like CineForm or Windows Media Video (WMV) for your editing. When you are done editing, you then can export directly from high-quality CineForm, or replace lower-quality intermediates with the original HDV video for the final rendering.

        HDV Editing

Of course, this begs the question of how you are going to share and display your final HD production. You can transfer back to your HDV camcorder and display from there. And you can export to SD formats -- you'll loose the higher resolution, but get great quality on DV or for wide-screen DVD. (You also can mix HD and SD material on the same Vegas timeline.) To watch and display HD material on a computer, export to WMV HD format -- you can use 720p for good playback on a wide range of machines, or higher-res 1080i on higher-end systems.

Going Vegas

If you have enjoyed creating movies with some of the simplified consumer video editing tools, then Vegas Movie Studio+DVD is an appealing option for moving up to do more sophisticated video editing. And there's even room to grow further -- you can edit high-definition HDV video with the Platinum Edition, and even have the ability to eventually move up to the full Vegas+DVD.

Sony has taken an interesting approach with the Vegas product family, removing some of the more complex functionality from the Studio products, but retaining the full Vegas interface. In comparison, Adobe went further with Premiere Elements to change the interface to help new users, not only simplifying, but also adding new elements for common operations -- but still providing the same Premiere Pro functions one level away in the menus.

In comparison, Vegas Studio is still Vegas -- you can click back and forth between the two products and not notice glaringly obvious differences. The on-line documentation for Vegas Studio, and the nice paper manuals, actually describes the full Vegas product, with the addition of notes for capabilities only available in the full version. Vegas can open Studio projects for advanced editing, but not vice versa.

The Studio version does remove some of the more esoteric toolbar buttons in the various windows, and adds two buttons on the main toolbar. The nice Make Movie wizard steps you through choosing export options, including saving to file formats, burning to disc with DVD Architect Studio, and transferring back to a DV or HDV camera. The extensive Show Me How tutorials step through common operations, highlighting the associated button or operation for you click.

Of course, the Platinum Edition is a great option if you're interested in getting into HDV editing, and adds other bonuses including the ACID XMC music mixing software. Just be sure that your system has the processing performance and memory and disk capacity to handle these significantly larger files.

Go ahead and try out Vegas Movie Studio+DVD for yourself -- Sony offers 30-day trial versions of its software as downloads from its website, along with other materials including the product manuals.


Sony Media Software


HDV Information