Jim Harvey reviews Vegas 4
Jim Harvey reviews Vegas 4
A Creative COW "Real World" Product Review

Jim Harvey reviews Vegas 4

Jim Harvey Jim Harvey
JHV Digital
New York, USA

© 2002 Jim Harvey and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.

Article Focus:
In the never ending war of which NLE is the best, it appears that Sonic Foundry has quietly set into motion a program that threatens to rock the NLE world and turn it all on its head. Jim Harvey takes a good look at Vegas 4 to see what everyone's been talking about.

Vegas Video has been around for a while. Many people swore by the program, praising its ease of use and ability to rapidly assemble a video into finished form. Many of the "old timers" found Vegas to be awkward with an interface that followed few of the "normal" conventions of higher end editing solutions.

I remember trying out Vegas 3 and just throwing my hands up in despair after a few days of not knowing where anything was. I was and still am a Premiere/Avid editor. The Vegas interface was just completely alien to me. Of course following the rule of anyone who has been involved in computers for over 2 decades, reading the manual was completely out of the question.

As time went on, many of my friends in the business were starting to talk about Vegas as a viable solution to rapidly getting a project up and running. Some were actually beginning to use it exclusively (traitors!) while others would use it to generate quick and dirty rough cuts.

With some prodding, I began to take another look at this upstart editing program. A good friend of mine loaned me his computer loaded with Vegas 3. I made a conscious effort to overlook the fact than nothing was here it was supposed to be. Things weren't called the same name as in my comfortable Premiere. I had to ...gag... read the manual. After much wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth, I finally tumbled to the Vegas Interface. Hey! It WAS fast. Putting together clips was incredibly straightforward. Once I figured out that there were a lot of controls actually IN the clip rather than on a menu, things began to really move along. For simple projects I began to find myself using Vegas 3 to get them out the door. When the "important" stuff came in, I naturally reverted back to the tried and true (and well understood) Premiere and Avid systems. After all, with the Avid, I had color correction, I could use some interesting and effective color correction formulas in Premiere or After Effects to get the look I wanted. Vegas was simply a quick way to get simple things accomplished.

Well, all that seems to have changed with the introduction of Vegas 4. Suddenly the little kid on the block has been working out at the gym and sneaking some steroids on the side. I down loaded the Vegas 4 demo from the Sonic Foundry web-site and found myself completely dumbfounded at the new offering. This package ROCKS! SF has implemented some new features that promise to change the face of NLE systems. Real-time previews are there on the desktop or through the external monitor. Color Correction tools that are as good and perhaps better than those found in packages that are 3 times the cost of Vegas4.

Sonic Foundry has always been known as an excellent audio app provider. The audio tools in Vegas 4 are as good as they get and far outstrip anything found in the other "high priced spreads". Dolby 5.1 mixing tools are packaged right in there which will enable you to create sweet tracks that will just blow you away.

One thing that I always liked in Vegas was the ability to add time-code to the output. This was invaluable when consulting with a client or a workgroup in making the decisions of what gets in and what gets cut. But if that was the only thing going for it, I'd still think twice before I used it for a "REAL" project. (snobbery runs rampant in the editing biz).

Well I am happy to report (actually I'm ecstatic to report) that Vegas 4 is so chock full of new and improved features that the "other guys", the "heavy hitters", are going to be reeling from the blow.

Vegas 4 has REAL color correction now, not some silly little plug in that gives you a different approximation of color correction, but a full on color correction suite. Color wheels, infinite individual adjustments, the ability to stack correction to fine tune a clip and full control over luminance, saturation and hue in a great looking interface.

You can see from the screen shot below, that the Color Correction tools available in Vegas 4 are absolutely amazing in a package this inexpensive.

The clip was taken on a loading dock at Jacob Javits Center in New York City during the New York Motorcycle Show. The Sodium vapor lighting shot the white balance all to hell. Using the Color Correction tools and the split screen, you can see that I was able to salvage the clip and extract usable video from an otherwise useless clip.

Like working with a compositing program? Vegas 4 makes it simple with the addition of video bus tracks. You can keyframe events and effects right on the timeline rather than having to set up the clip in one program and importing it into the final project. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not going to go out and give up working with AE, but there are many times that I just want to keyframe some little event and to be able to do it in the main program just makes life easier for me all the way around. There is also a basic keyframe function that allows smoothing transitions or changing the rate at which events occur. There are also parent/child controls that make masks and transitions and composites work together.

I could go on and on, but to tell the truth, I haven't even scratched the surface of this new Vegas 4. The more I play with it, the more new and amazing features I'm finding. It is truly an incredibly complete package for an equally attractive price.

But the BEST part of the program for my money is the ultimate addition that SF has implemented. Complete Waveform/Vectorscope controls. Oh yeah, I've used plug-ins that allowed you to check a frame for compliance. Vegas 4 allows you to monitor your waveforms in real-time as you preview the clip. Not only that, but you can put up waveform, vectorscope, RGB parade and a Histogram all at the same time while playing clips from the timeline! This is INCREDIBLE in a package this inexpensive. It is going to open up doors that thousands of people never believed that they could go through. Not everyone has a couple of thousand dollars or thereabouts to spend on video editing software. Sure, we professionals have piles of money tied up in our software and editing suites. Vegas 4 will allow a broader range of people to be able to work with their video in a more professional manner. this will also be a great boon for the small guy with a video business who just can't justify all the usual bells and whistles that are out there. All those bells and whistles are right there in one spot.

All this power and it works with a simple 1394 card. Think about it. To get some of the functions that Vegas 4 comes with you used to have to buy an expensive capture card to go along with your software. A 1394 card is way under $50.00 anywhere on the planet.

Vegas 4 comes in two flavors, the standard Video editing package and the video package along with a DVD creator. I haven't used or tested the DVD package, but if it's anything like the Video portion, this will be a milestone in NLE software.

I rate Vegas 4
(4 1/2 Cows). All I can say is "Sonic Foundry....WOW!"

Jim Harvey
JHV Digital

If you found this page from a direct link, please visit our forums or read other articles at CreativeCOW.net