Archive for December 19th, 2008

The end of the road

This is the end of the road for this blog. Seven years on it I got tired of it, I have nothing new or important to add to it, and it doesn’t really make a difference anyway in the grand scheme of things.

On top of all that, my physical health is bad, so I should be catering to it rather than this online life that takes so much of my time daily. My JBQ suggests that it’s perfectly possible to keep up with both my normal life and the online one, but it’s not how I work. Either I give 100% of myself to something, or I don’t do it at all. So the time has come to take care of myself, and to do that, I have to focus on it. So no more blogging and heavy online presence for me.

You can still keep up with me by checking my videos on Vimeo. As long as I keep posting there once a month or so, it would mean that I am still alive and that videography is still my hobby.

This blog might get re-opened some day, depending on the circumstances. But for now, it’s a wrap. Thank you for reading my rants and thoughts all this time, truly appreciated. Take care!

Sony Vegas hints and tips

[Originally posted on, reposted here for archival reasons]

What’s the difference between Vegas Pro and Vegas Movie Studio Platinum
Info about it here. Discussion about it and more details here. There are several DVD authoring applications out there to fill the void of DVD Architect (in case of the OEM version purchase of Vegas Pro 8 which doesn’t include a DVD authoring companion app). I would suggest the freeware DVDFlick which does the basics well. If you are just an amateur or enthusiast, the Platinum version is all you need. It will be enough for your needs, since it’s already the most advanced consumer editor.

How do I learn how to use Vegas fast?
Follow the links here.

Can’t capture from the HV20/30
Connect your camera to the firewire cable (not to your USB cable), put it into “play” mode and rewind the tape. On Vegas click “File” and then “Capture video”. A window will popup asking you if you want to capture DV or HDV. If you don’t get this window you must re-enable it at the Vegas’ preference panel. Select HDV. Then, in the Capture window/tab, click the little down-arrow next to “Prefs”, then “Device” and select the HV20 from there. You can also specify where you want the captured files to be saved. Then, on that same Vegas window, press “play” and then press “record”. You will find your .m2t files on the folder you set it to save, and on the “project media” tab (next to the capture tab). If you still can’t capture, make sure your HV20 doesn’t have its “DV Locked” setting ON, and that the date/time is set in your camera. As a last resort, reset your camera’s settings with the button behind the battery compartment. Finally, you could try capturing with the HDVSplit freeware utility — if HDVSplit can’t capture either, the problem is with your Windows/PC or the hardware of your camera, not with Vegas.

Tape capture stops all by itself
When capturing HDV video, Vegas has the bad habit of stopping the capturing if you moved your window/mouse focus to another application. To change that, click the “Prefs” button on the “Capture” tab and uncheck the “Stop device on loss of focus”.

Optimize Vegas for speedy video preview
You can speed up the Vegas video preview with the following tips:
1. Make sure that you use your files with the right “Project Properties” template. If you don’t use the right template, both Vegas’ speed and visual quality can decrease. If you don’t know what files you have, or you are using 24p and there is no available template for that kind of footage, then click the icon “match media” on the “Project Properties” dialog and navigate to one of these files you want to edit. Vegas will read that file and will figure out automatically the format and will fill up the right settings in the “Project Properties” panel. The only manual work you need to do on the Project Properties dialog after that, is to select “interpolate” for De-interlacing method, and “Best” for the Quality option.
2. Set the preview quality (in the preview window) to “preview (auto)“. If you use a single monitor try editing at 1/4 of the original size (that would be 640×360). If you have two monitors and one of the two is a full 1080p monitor, set the preview quality to “preview (full)”. If you are using a full 1080p monitor as a secondary preview monitor, expect the preview speed to reduce, as the graphics card and CPU will have to work extra hard serving you in this large resolution.
3. If you run Vegas on a Mac, make sure that you use Windows on its own partition, and you cleanly reboot to it via Bootcamp. Do not use virtualisers like Parallels or VMWare.
4. It is recommended that Vegas’ temp folder remains on the C:\ drive, but the footage itself on another drive. This way the hard drive don’t have to spin back and forth between locations, as the job will be shared within two drives. I can’t recommend USB/Firewire external drives as on some systems the media become “offline” and never wake up (seems to be a Vegas bug). Your mileage may vary.
5. Right click on the preview tab/window and de-select the “Scale video…” option. Make sure that “Simulate device…” option is selected.
6. Go to Vegas’ settings/preferences panel and on the Video tab tell it to use 4 threads. If you experience random crashes, go back to 2 threads. The fewer threads the more stability, but the more threads the more speed (for a hyperthreaded/multi-processing/multi-core CPU, that is). It’s a trade off until Sony fixes all their multi-threaded bugs.
7. Do not use plugins or pan/cropping if you need every bit of previewing speed while editing. Same goes for transitions and transparent tracks/media. Add all these at the very end, just before exporting, when your cut is already finalized.
8. If you are using the Pro version, stay with 8bit color depth editing and not 32bit. While 32bit editing can offer a tiny bit better visual quality when using plugins or transitions, it is extremely slow to edit as such.
9. Despite Sony’s claims, you need at least 2 GBs of RAM for HD editing. Otherwise, Vegas will start swapping sooner than later and everything will get really slow.
10. Vegas does not use special graphics functions like some other NLEs do. It will work with any DirectX 9 card. However, it does benefit (up to 10%-15% sometimes) from graphics cards that have fast bandwidth throughput, e.g. some of the latest ones from nVidia. Since Vegas version 10+, h.264 mts/mp4/mov/m2ts support is better too.
11. On pre-10 Vegas versions there is also a method to enable dual-core support on the preview screen, by clicking CNTRL+SHFT while clicking to load the Vegas preferences panel. This will enable a secret tab called “Internal” where you can enable preview support for dual core CPUs to speed up things even more. You need to turn to TRUE the option that reads “Enable multi-core rendering for playback”. Use this option with caution, might not be very stable. Don’t use it if your CPU is not an actual dual-core one.

Exporting tips
In the “Project Properties” window, even after having selected a template or you had let Vegas auto-configure itself, there are two options that you want to mess with manually.
1. Set “full-resolution rendering quality” to “Best”.
2. Set “De-interlace method” to either “Blend Fields” or “Interpolate” depending on the content of your video. If it’s a very fast moving video, use interpolate (at the expense of losing half of the resolution, but you get clean shots). If it’s a pretty static video, use “Blend Fields”. While people are swearing for one or the other, truth is that are both algorithms are useful for different things.

You can’t have a single kind of export for every possible need. For example, if you are interested in archiving your project, you might want to try exporting in Cineform or .M2T. If you want to export to DVD Architect, you need to export in mpeg2/AC3. If you want to export for Vimeo or YouTube HD or for your viewing pleasure in your PC, you want to export in WMV or MP4 in 720p.

If you are interested in saving only the media files you used in a project and nothing more (in order to save hard drive space), you can click “File”, “Save as”, and then check “Copy and trim media with project”. This will create a new folder in your drive that will only save the parts of the M2T files and other media you used in the project and not unused media.

No mpeg2/AC3/AVC exporting available, or no M2T support
If your Vegas doesn’t offer you these codecs to export it means that either:
1. You forgot to install the companion application DVD Architect (offers mpeg2/AC3).
2. You pirated Vegas and so these codecs refuse to work without online registration (mpeg2/AC3/AVC h.264).

24p support in Platinum
While Platinum does not have any preset 24p templates like Pro does, it does work with 24p timelines and footage. Just manually set the frame rate in 23.976, or use the “match media” icon to let Vegas auto-configure itself after you select one of these 24p video files.

Please note that Vegas (Pro or Platinum) won’t remove pulldown off of PF24 footage (the format that most Canon consumer cameras shoot 24p as). You first need to remove pulldown using an external utility, and then bring the resulted pulldown removed files into Vegas for editing in 24p mode.

Vegas can’t read Cineform files
If you remove pulldown with Cineform’s Neo/AspectHD utilities and Vegas can’t read these files then close down Vegas. Go to the C:\Program Files\Sony\ folder and find your Vegas installation. There, rename the cfhd.dll to cfhd.dll-OLD. Then, re-open Vegas. Now Vegas will use the system-wide Cineform codec instead of the old and outdated licensed version that comes with Vegas.

Formats that Vegas doesn’t like editing
Vegas is optimized to edit fast Cineform, DV AVI, mpeg2, AVCHD and some other types of videos. But expect extremely slow editing with MOV and MP4 containers, and WMV. Additionally, Platinum doesn’t seem to like XViD/DivX files (even if a third party codec might be installed it usually doesn’t like it much), while Pro fairs better in that regard. Vegas may have issues with files captured by HDVSplit.

Proxy Editing
If your PC is not fast enough to edit HD, you can use this tutorial to utilize proxy editing.

Ghosting on slow/fast-motion, or when there’s too much motion
Vegas has a pretty mediocre resampling algorithm. If you see ghosting where there shouldn’t be, select the clip in the timeline that shows the problem, right click it, select “Properties”, and then “Disable resample”. Please note that Vegas’ default slow motion technique is not very good. Use this tutorial for best results, if you shot in 50i/60i.

Crash when too many pictures are part of a project
Some versions of Vegas will crash if you have way too many huge megapixel pictures in your project. So for example, if your digicam is 10 megapixel, you will have to resize these pictures to the Vegas project size in order to ensure not only the best quality and speed, but also stability So, first download this batch resizing utility from Microsoft and install it. Then, you must decide on the correct size that you need to resize your pictures to, depending on the aspect ratio of your current project.

Blu-Ray and HD-DVD burning
Vegas Pro 8 and Platinum 9 can burn your current open project on the timeline in a Blu-Ray or plain DVD disc, in HD format. There is no support for menus or other beautifications, just a straight HD burning. A Blu-Ray player is needed to playback the disc back, but not necessarily a Blu-Ray burner. Vegas Platinum 8 does not have this ability, but there is a free alternative way to achieve the same thing. For HD-DVD burns on plain DVD discs, check here.

Tips for AVCHD support
1. Make sure you have installed the free updates for either Vegas 8+ Pro or Platinum from Sony’s website. Without these updates for your Vegas there are bugs & even incompatibilities with some camera model formats.
2. If your AVCHD camera snaps full 1920×1080 video (instead of the usual 1440×1080) and you insert that video on Vegas Platinum 8, Platinum 8 will resize that video to 1440×1080 (because that’s the maximum resolution it supports), and you will lose this way both resolution and quality. You will have to either upgrade to Pro if that’s the case, or get Platinum version 9.
3. Editing AVCHD can be slow as it is a much heavier format than HDV. You can use proxy files, or import your AVCHD files in the timeline, match their format in the “project properties” window, and then directly export one by one your clips to the Cineform format which is much faster to edit (and it’s visually lossless, so you don’t lose quality during the conversion). You will find the Cineform codec under the AVI filetype rendering option: click “custom”, select the Cineform codec in the video tab, and fill up the right options for resolution, frame rate & aspect ratio in that same panel too. When you are done convert all your clips, you start a new project, match your AVI footage in the project properties window, and use these AVI Cineform files to edit. Update: Vegas 9+ doesn’t carry Cineform anymore. You will need to either use proxy files, upgrade your PC, or buy the Cineform NeoSCENE utility ($129, can also remove pulldown, it’s handy).
4. Platinum 8 can not export your edited video in AVCHD format back to the camera. Pro and Platinum 9 does though (at least for Sony cameras).

No way to export h.264 AVC from Platinum 7/8
While Pro has two h.264 encoders under its belt to choose from and Platinum 9 has one, it is a mystery why Platinum 8 has zero. There are several ways to go around the limitation:
Export either in a lossless codec using exporting options that match your source footage (I suggest Huffyuv because it’s supported by the vast majority of applications), or by using a frameserver. Then, use either ffmpeg as per my tutorial here or download the freeware utility “SUPER” which can will work equally well. Here’s how to export with SUPER in h.264 MP4. Even easier, try Handbrake.