Archive for June 29th, 2009

The Top-10 MUST FIX features for Vegas

Sony Vegas is the editor of my choice, but it’s far from perfect. In fact, depending on what kind of footage you are throwing at it, it might even be the worst tool for the job. This is my top-10 must-fix feature requests that I would like Sony to take care of. While this is “my” list, it is very much influenced by questions and bug reports users online are over-flowing Vegas forums with. In order:

1. MP4/MOV support
MPEG4 footage from digicams and digirecorders (MPEG4-SP and MPEG4-AVC) is a no-go with Vegas. We are talking about super-slow previewing, and crashes right from the minute you populate the project media, or randomly later when you edit. Especially when using KODAK mpeg4-SP footage from their digicams, and you change the window focus away from Vegas, the media are “going offline”, and they don’t ever come back to life (or it takes some ridiculously long time to do). Curiously, AVCHD support is not bad at all on Vegas, but that’s because it’s using internally an optimized decoder for it, while for MP4/MOV it’s using the stock Quicktime or MainConcept decoders that Vegas doesn’t like working with very much. Given that even cheap digicams now do HD (and with good quality too), more and more users are throwing away their home camcorders and go digicam-only. It affects more users than Sony would be comfortable to admit (and don’t let me start in the whole Canon 5D video subculture that’s now very strong). It’s their loss, since these users will have to eventually shop for another editor that handles these formats better.

2. SonyAVC encoder crashes
This is a much reported issue: the SonyAVC encoder crashing reproducibly when exporting in higher 1080i/1080p resolutions. Unfortunately, no fix has been released for it, over a year after it was first reported repeatedly. This is poor support, right there. I stumble on it so often on my own installation and on online forums that I can’t hold back my anger any longer for this bug not getting fixed.

3. No intermediate codec
Vegas ships right now with no serious intermediate codec in its ranks. One has to realistically pony up $500 to buy Cineform NeoHD to be able to export to that codec via Vegas. Unfortunately, using free intermediate codecs, like Huffyuv and Lagarith, they suck compared to Cineform; while Vegas is simply not optimized for the Avid’s freeware DNxHD codec. All these free codecs playback at 5-7 fps, while Cineform is real time. Obviously, this is a case where Sony should pay up for a new engineer to come and optimize DNxHD (and maybe do a deal with AVID too). I don’t hold my breath though.

4. Defaults: Disable Resampling and Interpolation deinterlacing
Defaults matter. This is true for any piece of software. 99% of Vegas’ users’ footage sucks quality-wise because they use the defaults: resampling and blend fields. Both these options create such big amount of ghosting, that it’s not even funny. Blend fields creates ghosting every time there’s movement in the frame (which is all the time for normal users who usually are handheld), and resampling kicks in every time a user slow-motion’s his footage, or he drops his 30p digicam footage on an NTSC timeline. Sony must change these defaults to catter for these users, and let the professionals (who are fewer in number) change these if they have to. At least the pros would supposedly know what to do.

5. Project Properties Wizard
When you start a new project on Platinum, you get this retarted dialog of “how you would like to export”, and then it configures your project properties according to your exporting needs rather than the source footage’s properties. I have extensively explained here why this is the worst idea EVER.

6. Proxy editing
With support for RED’s footage, and even the very demanding Canon 5D format, Sony might need to work in implementing proxy editing. Right now there is a proxy script, but it only works in the PRO version of Vegas, while my own method that works with both Vegas versions, is a bit too complex for most people to put it around their heads.

7. Stabilization plugin
Come on now. Even iMovie got one of these! People just shoot handheld crap all the time. This is a must-have. Buying the third party Boris-FX stabilization plugin for $200 is something a family man (who is the person most in need for it) would never do. This must be part of the default Vegas package.

8. Up to 16x speed, and speed control
Currently, you can only slow-mo or speed up your footage up to 4x. That’s just not enough for me in many cases. In the Pro version there are Velocity Envelopes that allow you to go faster/slower than 4x, but that’s just not precise handling. Then, there’s the whole controling of the speed issue: it doesn’t interpolate interlaced footage like After Effects does to make 60p out of 60i and create smoother slow-mo. Neither it let’s you specify speed rate in percentages (so you can’t shoot a sped-up music video in 30p NTSC and slow-it down at 25p PAL — right now, you have to shoot 30p, slow it down to 24p, and then use a convoluted tutorial to re-time it to 25p, a hot mess).

9. Support for Adobe Bridge
The truth is, Vegas is an editing app, not an effects one. A common problem professionals have is to which format to export from Vegas to After Effects. It would be easier if Vegas was to somehow support Adobe Bridge, so sending and receiving footage from AE is easier. I personally have AE installed, and I can’t get bothered with it just because integration between the two apps is not good. Too much of a pain. And for those who want to get bothered, they might even leave Vegas for Premiere. There’s money in this feature: by keeping your existing pros on your side.

10. DirectShow support
Vegas only has support for encoders/decoders that use the ancient “Video for Windows” standard, rather than the newer “DirectShow” one. Premiere and most other video editors support both. Without supporting DirectShow you can’t use for example, the accelerated CoreAVC decoder, or any hardware-assisted h.264 encoders, or other devices and codecs that use the newer protocol. This terribly limits Vegas to only support older codecs that happen to be installed on the system, and only those who work under the “AVI” world.

*. Joker, wild card: Per-color vector plugin
We need a powerful color grading plugin that let’s you do everything this plugin does. Unfortunately, while this plugin almost does a lot of what’s needed for serious color grading (full control over the rainbow colors), it’s unstable as hell. Even the new version of that plugin, from the same developer, is even more unstable. We need something like it, officially. Especially since Red Giant Software doesn’t care porting their Colorista app on Vegas, this is one more reason to put an engineer working on that. Magic Bullet doesn’t give you control on what I am describing btw.

In conclusion, there’s all the clean up that needs to be done, e.g. fix DVD-import A/V sync issues, DivX/XViD bug fixes with the XViD decoder, more options on the media manager (e.g. visual cues if a clip is already used in the timeline or not), DVDs templates now exporting in lower field only, streaming support in AVC/MainConcept h.264 encoders, VBR encoding in SonyAVC, AVCHD progressive/24p/bitrate editable exporting options, easier re-timing of footage, importing AVCHD elementary streams, more pulldown removal/addition support (e.g. PF24), optimized WMV editing, etc etc. But the above 10 are the most important ones, and the top-5 are what most users would hit before you can even say “huh?”