What makes Sony Vegas the best for editing music videos
This article may sound very biased coming from someone who has always used Sony Vegas for video editing, but there are a number of key features that will prevent me from switching to any other video app.
My history with Sony Vegas
I first started using Vegas around the time it was first released back in the late 90s. At the time it was an audio only app used for multitracking. I guess DAW would have been a good description. I had already been using Soundforge and was also familiar with Acid. Compared to other multitrack audio apps or DAWs that were already popular back then such as Samplitude, Saw, and even Cubase, Logic & Cakewalk, Vegas was a breath of fresh air. The user interface was just so simple and intuitive. It made the job of recording extremely easy. As a result, a number of projects were recorded using Vegas in my backyard studio Cytasia. The Dominion crew of the time that included Espa, Mass MC, DJ Bonez, Torcha and a number of others, all had their tracks recorded using Vegas at Cytasia. The most notable probably being Mass MC’s Mastermind Alliance album.
Then there was video
Around that same time I’d begun editing video. Something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Ever since watching a Bomb the Bass music videos ten or so years earlier, and later seeing videos by The Future Sound Of London that included 3D animation. Around 1999 I bought my first DV camera, a Panasonic DX100. Along with that I bought a Canopus DV Raptor firewire card for capturing the video. It came with a copy of Premiere LE, a limited feature version of Adobe Premiere. I used that program for my first attempt at a music video in 2000. Although that particular video doesn’t actually use any DV video footage (It’s all 3D with photos as backgrounds), it was rendered out using the DV Raptor .avi codec.
That video was pain to edit. In fact it was Premiere LE I hated. It was seriously flawed. The workflow, everything about it irritated me. I tried a trial version of the full version Premiere as well, but it sucked too. Funnily enough, I tried out a trial version of Premiere CS4 sometime just last year. Ten years on, and it still sucked! So much so that the 30 day trial version I installed was wiped clean from my computer within 30 minutes of installing it. I just just couldn’t get past the interface.
Anyway, back to the story. After editing that 3D video I was seriously looking for a better video editing solution. I already knew that Sonic Foundry (who released Vegas before Sony took over) had just released Vegas Video, a version of Vegas that you could edit video with. I was curious about that, except I knew it didn’t support my DV Raptor card which had the advantage of enabling video to be previewed in realtime using Premiere or Canopus’ own video editing software. Instead, Vegas used OHCI firewire, which was to become the standard for DV. So originally I had dismissed Vegas Video as an option.
Then one day I was thinking to myself, what if Vegas Video let you edit video and have the clips snap to a beats and bars grid? My mind was racing, as I thought that would be incredible, especially coming from a music production background and being able to edit video clips in the same way as audio! I installed the trial version and discovered that yes, it was possible!! Not only that, but during editing, the video could be previewed in real time! Back then, this was clearly a breakthrough. No other software let you edit video and preview it in real time without additional hardware, or having to render chunks of it first. Even dissolves and crossfades could be previewed in real time. In any other program you clearly had to render them first, which would take ages and waste hard drive space. It took Adobe, Apple, Avid and other companies years to catch up.
Other features that made Vegas stand out. For a start, early on there was only a single preview window. Previewing start and end points was achieved by dragging the ends of clips on the timeline. Need a crossfade or dissolve? Just drag the ends of two clips over the top of one another. It couldn’t be any simpler. Even now, the other companies still haven’t made transitions as simple as this. Well, not that I know of. Lets not forget that you have always been able to drag almost any type of media file onto the timeline in Vegas and not only will it play, but it will be automatically be resized to fit the project. It has always worked like that too from the beginning. In comparison, look at the latest CS5 version of Premiere. After all these years they have only just enabled multiple formats to be loaded and played the timeline, but you still have to manually resize them! Apparently Final Cut Pro isn’t any better either. To be honest, I feel sorry for the die hard Mac guys who have never used Vegas due to their hatred of Windows.
So how do these features make editing music videos better?
Well, for a start there’s the measures and beats grid you can snap clips to. This makes a huge difference, although only for music with a fixed tempo throughout the song. Actually, this means everything to me. My workflow goes like this – Firstly I will determine the tempo of the music, normally using Beatmapper in Sony Acid Pro. Once I’ve found the exact tempo, I’ll set that in the properties in Vegas and ensure my timeline is set to measures and beats. I’ll also ensure that quantize to frames is turned off, and then set my grid snap to either beats, 1/8, 1/16, or 1/32 notes. And that’s about it, making editing to music so much simpler. Editing to a measures and beats grid is something you can’t do in any of the other big name video apps right now. I can’t see it being added to any of them anytime soon either. Vegas has always had this feature from when the program was audio only and needed to be synced to MIDI gear. Which is still possible of course, as is burning audio CDs from the timeline in Vegas. Another feature you’ll most probably never find in any other video app.
Now what are the real benefits of being able to edit music videos to a music grid? Well, too many to name actually, but I’ll mention a few. When recording music, many artists will just record just one chorus and then copy that to other locations in the song where the chorus plays. In Vegas this will work just the same for video. For example, if I get stuck looking for footage to use for a chorus at bar 53, I can easily copy across a few unused clips from another chorus, perhaps at bar 29. And never have to worry about aligning them, because I know they will already be in time. In one video I did, there was a huge passage that we hadn’t shot anything for. Filling that space was simple. All I did was copy across other unused takes, always chopping them at the very start of a bar, so they always lined up perfectly.
Another bonus of editing to a measures and beats grid is slowing down or speeding up parts. If I want a part to play at quadruple speed for a length of one beat, all I need to do is slice one bar of video, hold cntrl and drag either the start or end of the clip to a one beat length. It will snap into place on the beat. Simple! I find working like this a whole LOT easier than using any kind of time remapping tools. It opens up a whole new world. Lets say you’re editing a stop motion video to music. This would also be a lot simpler with Vegas. You could just edit each frame to a 1/16 note grid and each movement would be locked to the music. Although of course if the music uses some weird time signature, it might not work so well.
Other great new things that can now be done with Vegas
Late last year I bought Boris Continuum Complete 7 for Vegas 10. This opens up another whole new world of possibilities for us Vegas users. A pricey package, but all of a sudden we can now do things that would previously only be possible in a program like After Effects. Motion tracking for example. A feature I used to track the lens flares to the footage in this video. There was no sunlight at all when I shot that, so being able to track those lens flares really made a difference. One of the Boris guys in a recent webinar said that he rarely uses After Effects anymore, as most of his work can now be done in Vegas.
There are MANY other advantages to using Vegas for music videos, but way too many to list here. I’ve covered the most important though. But I’ll say this, when you’re editing to a beats and bars grid, edits can easily become so much more complex. On a number of occasions I’ve drastically had to scale back the number of edits in a music video. It’s just so easy to get carried away and end up making edits to almost every beat or 1/16 note. As was the case with the first proper music video (if you could call it that) I edited back in 2001, just using holiday footage I shot in the Philippines. It’s not just me either, I’ve seen other people using Vegas who always manage to pull off some amazingly complex edits using it.
Lastly, lets not forget how simple Vegas is to learn. When I first set up a copy for my wife on her computer, she was up and running with it almost immediately, and has used it for her music and videos. Other programs like those mentioned earlier in this article I still can’t even figure out!