Sony Vregas 5.0 + DVD test and review

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Sony Vegas 5.0+DVD

As most competing prosumer editing programs grow more alike, Sony's Vegas refuses to conform. Its approach to DV marks it apart and could make it a must-have program

Competition is still fierce in the prosumer video editing market, and most software developers seem intent on conforming to a specific type of workflow and user interface - largely based on a model set down by Avid with Media Composer. Pinnacle's Liquid Edition already comes from the same background as Avid, having been developed by Fast for the high-end broadcast market, but the model has also been adopted by Canopus with Edius, and even Adobe has applied a more high-end feel to the interface of Premiere Pro. Amid all this conform-or-die panic, Sony bought Sonic Foundry, and its very individual DV editor, Vegas.
Vegas began life as an audio editing application, and hasn't significantly changed in approach or attitude with the addition of video editing tools. Video enthusiasts crossing over from other editing programs are almost certainly in for a steep learning curve, but those coming from an audio background should be up and running within minutes. Its audio-centric approach to DV could be the program's biggest strength - sound is a hugely important part of the movie-making process and badly neglected by the majority of DV editing programs.
Vegas+DVD is a bundle of two programs - Vegas 5 for editing, and DVD Architect 2 for DVD Video authoring. When we looked at the previous pairing, Vegas 4 impressed us greatly with its support for 24-bit audio as well as its intuitive and tactile 5.1 surround-sound panning. DVD Architect 1 added Dolby stereo and surround-sound AC-3 encoding and a reasonable (but rather limited) DVD authoring program. With V5 of Vegas, Sony Pictures Digital [Media Software] has decided simply to build on the strengths of its predecessor, while DVD Architect 2 has seen a substantial overhaul in reaction to strong competition from Adobe Encore and Ulead DVD Workshop 2.
As well as the main application, Vegas's installation process provides a network rendering engine that can be installed on up to two other computers. The program also needs Microsoft .NET Framework 1.1 to be installed. This is provided on the retail CD, but anyone buying online should be prepared for an extra 23MByte download on top of the main application. Vegas and DVD Architect need to be activated, too, otherwise they stop working after 30 days.

Vegas 5 is a good DV editor in its own right, but its unorthodox approach could discourage a lot of experienced editors familiar with the more established Avid-style interface. On the other hand, Vegas's audio tools put most of its current competitors to shame and we're sure that (from a video enthusiast's perspective), Vegas will present a much easier learning curve as a movie-orientated sound editor than most dedicated audio programs. Now that it's possible to use almost any DV editing program on a system with an OHCI FireWire port, there's no reason why users can't have more than one program installed on their systems. And, even if Vegas 5 is not the first-choice video editor, we still consider it a must-have program.
We're highly impressed with DVD Architect's logical and intuitive interface. Purists will be disappointed by its inability to import and use ready-made menus in Adobe PSD format, but for DVD authoring from scratch, the program is generally excellent. Its lack of support for commercial replication processes is a worry, though - not only because it leaves Architect several steps behind Encore and Workshop, but also because it causes 'Vegas+DVD' to fall way short of its potential.
This software bundle could represent a killer package for finishing off movies. Its surround-sound mixing tools are intuitive and genuinely easy to use, video and audio editing tools are strong, and network rendering can be a huge help with colour grading and video filters. From there, taking the finished project to DVD with Architect would be a logical step, but without support for DLT or copy protection, commercially-minded users will have to author their discs in another program, bypassing Architect altogether. Doubtless Sony will eventually respond to market pressure and bring Architect in line with its competitors. Until that time, Vegas+DVD is an excellent package, but falls sadly short of its potential to be phenomenal.

Peter Wells

Read the full review in August 2004's Computer Video magazine.


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Reviewed in this issue:

Sony Vegas 5.0+DVD
Roxio VideoWave 7
Ulead VideoStudio 8
Panasonic NV-GS200B
Reflecmedia ChromaFlex
Epson Stylus Photo R200
ADS Tech Instant DVD 2.0

In August's news:

Double-Layer burning arrives with a bang

MPEG editing in Premiere Pro

Apple Motion graphics

Edirol editor upgrade

X-oom video tools

High Def Final Cut Pro

TV-style theme music

Liquid Edition freebie

Cut-price ProCoder 2

Free After Effects plug-ins

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