Hands on With Sony Vegas Pro 12

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Regular visitors will know that when we’re not writing about gadgets, we’re busy filming them for our YouTube channel. Over the years we’ve experimented with a variety of video editors and for the last few months we’ve been checking out Sony Vegas Pro 12 – which is aimed at the professional end of the market. We imagine it could also be an attractive choice for those have outgrown Sony’s Movie Studio and who don’t want to start from scratch with the likes of the more expensive Premiere Pro or Final Cut.

If, like us, you are new to Sony Vegas Pro (SVP), then it can all be a little overwhelming at first. As soon as the software loads, it’s immediately apparent that you’ve stepped up a gear (or three) in terms of features and complexity when compared to the more consumer level products such as Power Director and MAGIX Movie Edit Pro – both of which compete more closely with Movie Studio.

Sony Vegas Pro 12 largely focuses on further improvements to software’s workflow. There are over 20 changes in this area alone, including an expanded edit mode. This enables you to see ‘in’ and ‘out’ frames via a split-screen preview and there’s also the ability to identify unused, available frames from within the timeline.

Expanded import options
Expanded import options

Proxy editing has also been introduced. When full frame rate playback is difficult to achieve, this “Smart Proxy” feature will automatically and dynamically replace clips on the timeline with high quality, edit friendly HD proxies. As you’d expect, the software still uses the original media files to ensure a high quality final render.

Another workflow improvement is the ability for users to hold the shift key (for trim) or ctrl+alt+shift (for adjacent trim) while dragging an event edge to quickly ignore event grouping – this allows for fast “J” and “L” cuts.

Similarly handy are the new rectangle/square and circle/oval masking tools which make it easier to mask sections of your media. FX masking is also available which, by masking an effect rather than the image itself, enables you to easily blur or pixelate an area of a video clip – handy for those situations when you want to obscure a face, logo, etc.

New Color Match plugin
New Color Match plugin

There are a number of new plugins, including “Color Match” – which enables you to match the colour characteristics from one clip to another. Using this same technology, there is also the new LAB Adjust plugin which takes advantage of the L*a*b colour standard to provide precise control over the colour characteristics of your content.

Those looking to swap to Vegas Pro from other editors will appreciate the “Project Interchange” feature. As you may have guessed from the name, this enables you to exchange projects between SVP and other popular video editors. The conversion engine currently supports Final Cut Pro 7, Final Cut Pro X (albeit export only), Avid Pro Tools 10 as well as Premiere Pro and After Effects CS6.

Having produced a number of videos that feature colour effects, titles and transitions – we still feel that we’ve only just scratched the surface of what SVP has to offer. That being said, I’ve always preferred to have too many tools and plugins rather than be left wanting. The learning curve, while pretty steep, is certainly achievable and that’s coming from someone who has mainly dabbled with more consumer level products in the past. Within a few days of playing around (and regular use of the undo button), I quickly found myself appreciating some of the “power” features which are often lacking in cheaper, slimmed down programs.

LAB Adjust plugin
LAB Adjust plugin

Some user reviews have identified various compatibility and stability issues, but we didn’t encounter any of these and, apart from a strange EULA acceptance “nag screen” each time we started the software, SVP was very stable and handled rendering and effects in its stride. For those interested in such things, our test system was  a Dell XPS 8300 (i7-2600, 8GB RAM) running Windows 8 Pro (64-bit) with a AMD Radeon HD 6800 series graphics card.

All in all, SVP 12 gets the thumbs up from us. It’s a powerhouse of an editor and this is reflected in its price. Those with a smaller budget and who can live without DVD Architect Pro and the ability to encode their audio in Dolby 5.1, may wish to check out the new “Edit” version of SVP 12 which comes in at around £180 cheaper. We’d recommend checking out this page on the Sony site which gives a handy comparison of the two Pro versions as well as the consumer-focused Movie Studio range.