Sony Vegas Pro 9 review

2 Jun 2009

It's missing a couple of key features, but Vegas Pro is nevertheless highly sophisticated and very quick to use.

Price when reviewed: 
661(£575 inc VAT)
4

Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro dominate the enthusiast video-production market, but Sony Vegas Pro is a credible alternative. It started life as an audio-only application and grew into an esoteric video editor with some quirks but also some unique strengths. Today, it stands up well against the more established competition.

Audio editing remains a highlight. The volume is adjusted and audio effects are applied at three locations: per clip, per track and at the master output. It's also possible to apply independent volume envelopes to tracks, and to fade clips in and out. This might seem like overkill but in fact it's extremely liberating, allowing the user to tackle problems at source.

New to this version is a Mixing Console view, which presents audio track parameters in a way that will feel more familiar to musicians. Adobe and Apple offer separate audio-editing applications for use with their video editors, but Vegas Pro has little need for one.

Another of Vegas Pro's strengths is its streamlined interface. The timeline is extremely quick to navigate and key functions are rationalised to a small set of mouse clicks and keyboard commands. With response to user input taking priority, the preview window and timeline thumbnails refresh without delay.

The preview monitor isn't always so quick to respond, though. As with any editing software, Vegas Pro has its work cut out handling HD resolutions and demanding video codecs such as AVC. It now supports Vista 64-bit, and that's a sensible option for anyone planning to manipulate multiple HD streams. The RAM limitations of 32-bit Windows meant that the software ran out of memory when we tried to render very complex timelines comprising multiple AVCHD clips, high-resolution images and lots of effects.

Various other tweaks aim to improve preview performance, such as an option to allow the software to adjust the preview quality automatically to prioritise smooth playback. It's a smart idea, but we found that the frequent switch in quality was no less distracting than the dropped frames it aims to avoid. A better solution for AVCHD footage is to convert it to a less demanding format such as MPEG-2, but a batch converter tool isn't included. The Production Assistant plug-in serves that purpose alongside various other useful tricks but, at £125 plus VAT, it's not cheap.

There's a good helping of new creative features. Glint, Rays and Starburst are sophisticated lighting effects that work well in both subtle and more eye-catching roles - check out the examples at http://tinyurl.com/vegasfx. Defocus emulates soft focus of a lens, and includes the ability to blow out highlights and adjust the shape of its virtual aperture blades. The Fill Light effect lifts the brightness of shadows to reveal hidden details.

And then there's Soft Contrast, which combines sophisticated contrast manipulation with diffusion, colour tints, vignette and soft corner focus to produce some excellent film-emulation effects. It can't match the dramatic results of the Magic Bullet Movie Looks HD plug-in that was included with previous versions of Vegas Pro. However, it jettisons Movie Looks's limitation to pre-defined templates, with full control over settings.

Most of the remaining new features comprise compatibility and workflow improvements. Vegas Pro now supports video resolutions up to 4,096 x 4,096, gigapixel images and native editing of XDCAM EX and RED footage. Updated YouTube export templates take advantage of the site's recent move to 720p HD. The accompanying DVD Architect application in unchanged, but that's fair considering Vegas Pro 8 users recently received a free update to DVD Architect 5. It remains at excellent authoring tool for both DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

Details

Price ex VAT £575
Price inc VAT £661
Overall rating 4
Ease of Use rating 5
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 4
Software subcategory Video editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Windows XP supported? yes