Online Review: Vegas Video 3, by Sonic Foundry





    Suppose. You've made the best of your productions ever. You wanna show your work off at Internet. But: you feel that audio alone is not enough to draw attention. Maybe a nice video clip could do the trick. But: how to produce that? Hiring professional video producers to make a fancy clip (what they do best of course) will cost you a fortune. Solution: bring in Vegas Video 3. And a lot of creativity of course. To that respect, video is no different from audio: without true creativity, your production will be not much more then zilch ;-).

    Policy of AudioMac.net is to test software in real time production. For audio that is. We are most certainly no video experts, so we decided not do make it too stupid and start producing videos all of a sudden. In spite of that, we took some of the basic material that Sonic Foundry provides on the installation CD, took one of our earlier audio test productions (made with Acid 3.0) and started fooling around. With one main question in mind: could any music producer enlighten his showoff at Internet with a RealMedia, QuickTime or Windows Media video?


    * A full screenshot of Vegas Video 3 interface. Upper left the main parameters
    for the tracks. Upper right the tracks with audio and video. Lower left the browser,
    where you can assign media files to your production. Lower right the screen,
    where your video will appear.

    Difficult answer.

    The answer is very difficult to give. Looking at the software, the answer is yes. Vegas Video 3 gives you all you need to produce professional looking stuff, video wipes, effects, text editing, color correction, it is all there, nicely grouped in 17 Transition groups, 42 Video FX groups (effects), 4 Background groups and 3 Text groups. Each group contains a bunch of variations on the main theme. More then enough to get and keep you going. The following screenshot give you some idea.


    * The first Background group in Vegas Video 3.


    * One of the 17 Transition groups. Here you determine how one scene goes to the next.


    * Video FX (effects) groups, 42 of them, let you build all kinds of professional
    looking effects into your clip.


    * The first of 3 Text groups. If a text is to tell in your production, Vegas Video 3 has
    enough possibilities to give the text a good appeal.

    The answer becomes more misty when you start digging into the world of digital video, where you (as an audio expert) will discover that there is a lot to learn and understand. Saving your production as a Windows AVI file is no big deal, as this format is the standard for the Windows platform. And even then you can run into strange discoveries. We saved the test production, using a video codec we did not have any idea about it's technical specs. We ended up with a file over 1 Gigabyte long. For a production of exactly 42,03 seconds.... Woooow. Of course, later we discovered that we had taken a far too high quality with a far too high audio sampling rate. We used MPEG 1 with 224 kbps (the streaming rate) and with a video rate of 29.97 frames per second, plus audio in 48 KHz. This is asking for hard disk troubles ;-). The production we saved had great color, resolution and audio quality, but was not usable on the Internet for obvious reasons.

    So we kept on digging further and further, did some other settings and render, and tried very hard to let our so beloved test production loose weight. Where we did go too far, we ended up with a teeny small screen, filled with flying little colored blocks, terrible audio quality, but no recognizable production whatsoever. Let me state clearly here: this failure is entirely our fault, most certain not a dark side of the software. It just tells you that the possibilities in formats and settings and very rich and good. In this respect, Vegas Video 3 is very rich featured. To give you an idea, we give you three screenshots, made during our discovery journey through the formats and settings forest.


    * The Video settings screen.


    * The Audio settings screen.


    * The System settings screen.

    We learned one important lesson while discovering Vegas Video 3: working digital video is a profession, and not something you will learn overnight. Think of that when you consider to start working with this medium: it will take you a lot of time before you will have results that can compete a bit with the professional guys. But: it might be worth the efforts in the end. Working with Vegas Video 3 is really fun, and -user interface wise- easy. The test production we made was arranged in about 30 minutes. Of course, not being video editors, the test production (format Windows Media .asf) totally sucks, but that is not important for this online review. (For those of you who just watched the test production: I warned you... ;-). We found that the use of this software is very intuitive, just like all other products of Sonic Foundry we reviewed in this site earlier. There are not much software developers that can match this ease of use.

    Features and Preferences.

    We already mentioned a collection of the many features in Vegas Video 3, both for audio and video. In this respects, this new version has a lot of new stuff compared to Video 2 we reviewed earlier. When it comes to high leveled editing your video's audio, you will need a separate editor. Vegas Video 3 has a built in "menu connection" to SoundForge 5.0 (if installed). You can set any preferred audio editor in the Preferences. Speaking of features: you can burn you video production directly to video CD (VCD), or produce an audio CD from the audio tracks. Even the new DivX standard is a choice in the Preferences, so that you can burn rather long productions on a CD. Mentioning all features here would be boring. Better rush to www.sonicfouncry.com, and choose the software info corner for Vegas Video 3. There you will find the complete list of features.

    OK, just a few of the newest that catches our eyes: nondestructive editing, audio support up to 24-bit/96 kHz, realtime previewing (Sonic Foundry calls this Dynamic Preview) and editing (no need to render in between), all affects and transitions can be customized and saved so your hard work does not get lost, new encoders for MPEG-1 and MPEG 2, Windows Media File Editing, support for RealMedia commands, Red Book audio CD burning, dual processor DV rendering support (for the lucky ones that have such a heavy machine), video batch capture with scene detection, print-to-tape from timeline, rendering to 21 formats of audio, video or animated graphics formats, and much more.

    Importing media.

    Vegas Video 3 is capable of grabbing video coming in through video cards, scanner or digital camera. VV3 supports TWAIN, which -in the graphics world- is a very well method of connecting your scanners software to production software. TWAIN is a world wide standard. And or course, audio can be grabbed from an audio CD as well.

    Saving.

    What we liked very much is following new feature. When you save your video project, you can do in in either of two ways. The first one just saves the project file (with all parameters in it), and leaves the source data (such as audio, video and images) on it's original places (hard disk, network drives, CD's. Whatever). The second one is much better, though taking more hard disk space: it saves copies of the media you use in your video production within the production folder containing the Vegas project file. Even with two choices: the complete source file, or just the parts you use (trimmed). Very good. This way, you always have the bits and pieces of your production in one and the same hard disk folder. No lost files any more.

    Powerhouse hardware.

    All features, needed for digital video editing on a professional level. Be aware that your PC (there is no Mac version) should be capable of fast performance, and should have fast hard disk (7200 rpm). Here the tech specs are more or less the same as with audio, and maybe even more demanding: now you would work with audio and video at the same time. So, fast graphics card is important too. For testing purposes, our good old Pentium II at 350 MHz was good enough, but got boring rather quickly. Sonic Foundry gives in their website a minimum of 400 MHz processor and 128 MB RAM. If you are serious about using Vegas Video 3, grab out the bucks and buy a much more heavy PC. Otherwise the software (and the irritation) will turn against you ;-).

    Conclusion.

    I will be honest with you: I haven't figured that out yet. I am an audio guy. If I start working with digital video, I at least want to get the same level of results I get when I fool around with audio productions. And -as we learned in the past few days testing Vegas Video 3- that most certainly will take substantial time.

    Working video is a totally different trade, which needs a total different package of skills, compared to audio editing. We audio guys create images in our minds and the minds of our audience. Video guys visualize their fantasies on the screen, for everyone to see. Something completely different, right? We audio guys help video producers by delivering supporting music, that creates the needed atmosphere (very often underestimated, even in toady's multimedia world, unbelievable...). So: a warning: don't get started with Vegas Video 3, unless you are deadly serious about extending your studios activities to the DV area.

    But if you do, we can recommend Vegas Video 3 as a very good and rich featured tool. Its user interface is clear and easy (like in all Sonic Foundry products). Editing en creating is very easy. Choosing the right codecs and formats when rendering your production needs professional knowledge and skills. Take that time. And if you do, Vegas Video 3 is a very good choice. VV3 is a very good value for money.

    In our rating scheme from 1 (very bad) to 10 (excellent), we rate VV3 a 9,5.

    Pricing and info.

    We saved the best for the last: you will drop off your studio chair when you see the price for this digital video work horse. We browsed through some websites of competitive software, and did fell off the chair. Go and check pricing and trial download
    on the producers website:
    http:/www.sonicfoundry.com/.


    All reviews in AudioMac.net are written by Peter J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.

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    11.10.2002