June 2003|Like it or not, all great major league baseball teams are inevitably compared to the New York Yankees of one era or another, who set standards of success both peak and sustained. For similar reasons, all professionally oriented video editors are compared to Adobe Premiere. Here we look at Vegas+DVD from Sonic Foundry ($599.95 download direct), while next month, we look at Ulead's MediaStudio 7.0, two strong contenders that must inevitably contend with Premiere.
We all know that switching from Premiere would be about as fun as a root canal, a bit like asking a New York cabdriver to shift operations to Chicago. One minute you're an expert, the next a novice, suffering the frustration of knowing what you need to do but not knowing how to get it done.
But all of us have a tipping point. At a high level, it can come from one of two areas, efficiency and quality, or from both. In short, show me an affordable product that will help me work more efficiently and produce better video, and I'll make the switch.
The Vegas Value Proposition
By this standard, how does Vegas stack up? Well, from a workflow standpoint, Vegas can't open multiple sequences or projects, but you can open multiple instances of the program and cut and paste between them, something Premiere can't do. This simplifies complex projects and the reuse of previously created media elements. Balanced against this, however, are much longer rendering and re-rendering times than Premiere, primarily when rendering out to DV tape.
The case is much, much stronger when it comes to project quality. On the video front, if you frequently need to color correct your captured videos (and who doesn't) or regularly use blue screen and compositing effects, you'll find Vegas' tools and their output vastly superior to Premiere.
Vegas is even more compelling for audio, with full surround sound capabilities and output in Windows Media 9 and AC-3 compressed audio. It's also the only editor we've seen that can key frame DirectX effects, so you can control intensity over time, and it provides unique tools like voice-optimized time stretching.
While DVD Architect, the authoring component of Vegas+DVD, wouldn't be our choice for a standalone tool, it gets the job done, and the price-performance of the bundle is very compelling.
For the record, we tested Vegas on a 3.06gHz Pentium 4 PC with HT Technology and 512MB RAM running Windows XP Professional, capturing to a freshly formatted 120GB 7200RPM Ultra ATA Seagate Barracuda drive. Our source camera was a Sony VX2000 camcorder, connected to an NTSC monitor to test Vegas' preview out the FireWire port. A surround sound-capable Sound Blaster Audigy rounded out the relevant equipment list.
The GUI is blocky and gray, plain compared to programs like Pinnacle Edition or Apple's Final Cut Pro. There are two main windows, both fully resizable, with the timeline on top and a large area for dockable windows on the bottom.
Initially, the interface is somewhat jarring, especially because pressing the wrong button can obscure panels from sight. Once you get the hang of it, the interface works pretty well, avoiding clutter by docking most windows. Sonic Foundry could speed things along by including a paper manual, but you'll have to either view the Acrobat file on your computer, or print the 314-page manual yourself.
You capture video in a separate applet, which offers both batch capture and scene detection. Since we had just purchased a 120GB drive, we decided to let Vegas do the work, capturing a one-hour DV tape to disk and enabling scene detection. During capture, Vegas breaks each scene into a separate file, but provides no visual feedback so you don't really know whether scene detection is working.
We stopped our initial capture to check, found that Vegas was indeed detecting scenes, and started over, capturing the entire tape without incident.