Saturday, April 15, 2006

Sony Vegas NLE Updated to Version 6.0d

Digital Media Net visited Sony Pictures Digital Networks headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, where Sony product managers demonstrated an update to its Vegas nonlinear editing software that the company will be demonstrating at NAB 2006. Aside from the usual round of bug fixes and housekeeping, Sony Vegas 6.0d continues its tradition of handling a variety of files, where its developers have added support for Sony's PlayStation portable (PSP) as well as support for video files for the iPod. It can also can encode and edit H.264 files for a variety of devices from the iPod video up to HD.

Vegas developers noticed soon after last year's release of version 6 that there was a lot of interest in delivering video to handheld devices, especially right after the release of the Apple iPod video. As a result, Sony developed a content creation tool set specifically for those types of files, and the first part of the demo showed Vegas 6.0d exporting files directly from the timeline for the Sony PSP and Apple's video-capable iPod.

Sony has an obvious leg up on its competitors with its own PSP, where it uses a specially-developed Sony encoder to render PSP files into a form that can be played on the PSP. In the demo, this function was demonstrated as a simple file save, where after the clips were edited, it was a simple matter of going to the file menu and selecting Render As, and then selecting the PSP Format. It's quite easy to use, where a wizard takes care of the basic functions just as it does for any other file rendering functions in Vegas. There's a template included for easy one click rendering, or users can adjust the pixel aspect ratios and compression parameters to their exact specifications. Sony demonstrated the workflow of encoding footage into the PSP format using this wizard, a quick and easy process of rendering to the PSP format directly from the timeline. Then, using the optional Export to PSP routine, the rendered file was placed onto a PSP in a decidedly uncomplicated process.

Also included in the Vegas 6.0d update is the ability to export directly to the iPod video format from the timeline. This is part of Vegas's new H.264 coding and decoding routine, which renders files in almost any resolution up to and including high definition. At their lower resolution, files can used by an iPod by dropping them into iTunes, where they then can be placed onto the iPod. This process uses the AVC (advanced video codec) H.264 codec for the video, and AAC (advanced audio codec) for the audio. Vegas is not only able to encode into this format, it can also open files that are encoded in this format as long as they are not using digital rights management (DRM).

Sony didn't forget its MiniDisc users with this update to Vegas, either. The software is now able to encode audio into the ATRAC (Adaptive TRansform Acoustic Coding) format, which is a proprietary Sony compression algorithm used for Sony MiniDisc and other Sony music players. The codec was specifically designed for low power consumption, and at its highest compression rate can record extremely long stretches of audio at very low file sizes. Vegas now lets users render out these ATRAC audio files in a variety of bit rates. Also available is a separate plug-in in the ATRAC format used in the Sony flash memory-based music players. Sony mentioned that this ATRAC capability will be popular with game developers.

Vegas also moves closer to a completely tapeless workflow with this update, where standard-definition Sony XDCam file editing is now supported. The workflow enables users to copy files off XDCam disks, and then edit that footage in Vegas. This is obviously the first step in a progression that will lead to the ability to edit high-definition XDCam files as well.

With this update, Sony Vegas further enhances its ability to handle a tremendous variety of video files, including DV, HDV, DigiBeta with DeckLink support, HDCam, PSP, DVD, CD, Web video, iPod video, and DVCPro25. An obvious weakness with this strategy still remains Vegas's inability to directly edit DVCPRO50 and DVCPRO100 files, including DVCPro HD. When asked about the absence of support for this file format, Sony pointed to third-party developer, which has developed a $150 product called Raylight that creates a virtual AVI of the Panasonic DVCPRO100 MXF file. That software is used to get the files into Vegas, and once they're inside the application, they can be edited as usual, even though the large file sizes make for some cumbersome rendering without hardware support.

Summing up, version 6.0d is nothing revolutionary – it's an incremental update to Sony Vegas, where there are a few more file types that can be handled within the already-versatile application. The company will be demonstrating these updates at NAB 2006, along with a few other surprises in what the company says will be a technology demonstration of things to come.


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