Editing video with Sony Vegas Pro

I’ve been editing video with Sony Vegas Pro for almost 10 years now. During these years I’ve experimented with many different hardware set-ups for Vegas and want to share my experiences of how to get the optimal editing experience with Vegas – now in version 10.

“Why Vegas?” is a question I get sometimes. Why not Final Cut, Premiere, Avid, Edius… They are all good editors, they all get the job done.  It’s a question of habit and what you’re comfortable with. Sometimes, though, when I see others working in their editor of choice I think… well… with Vegas you would have been done by now. That’s the main thing for me – it’s very fast, it very rarely crashes or makes me loose work. It doesn’t get in the way, and very rarely complains about media thrown at it – and will export/render most formats.  Audio capabilities are outstanding, since the origins of Sony Vegas is an audio program – Sound Forge; a lot of audio editing workflow was applied to video editing.

Vegas does not use a custom hardware acceleration board or similar – performance scales with your standard hardware configuration (with the exception of point 4 below) ; CPU – RAM – HDD – Motherboard, Graphics Card etc.. When there is not enough ‘power’ in your hardware to maintain full framerate at your requested preview quality Sony Vegas will do one of two things – reduce preview quality or reduce framerate.

Current release of Sony Vegas Pro is the 10.0d version, which you can test for 30 days from Sony Creative Software

First …. hardware

1. SSD-drive for your system drive

SSD  Solid State Drive  means that there are no moving parts in the harddrive – no discs spinning or heads to move. It will speed up your system incredibly. They used to be ridiculously expensive, but these days they are within reach, and considering the speed effects they do for your system it is very well spent money.

2. Intel i7 CPU on a solid motherboard

You may look at the fancy ‘SLI – crossfire – AI overclock” motherboards but we don’t need any of that. We want stability and one thing mainly – on-board data bandwidth. It is difficult to imagine how much data is transferred between the different I/O units, memory and CPU on the actual motherboard, and in my experience server motherboards provide both bandwidth and stability. Currently, November 2010, AMD is not the performance leader, so go with Intel.

If you are buying a new system try to get a motherboard with the latest X58 chipset supporting Intel i7 CPU and the 6.0 Gb/s SATA-hard disk standard. They also have USB 3.0 and eSATA connectors which will come in very handy when you offload footage from memory cards and external hard-drives.Toms hardware has a great review of X58 motherboards, Gigabyte makes a really nice board called GA-X58-USB3. The price of i7 CPU’s is dropping rapidly.

Model Clock Cores HyperThread L3 cache on-board graphics
Intel Core i7 880 3,00 GHz 4 Yes 8 MB No
Intel Core i7 875K 2,93 GHz 4 Yes 8 MB No
Intel Core i7 870 2,93 GHz 4 Yes 8 MB No
Intel Core i7 860 2,80 GHz 4 Yes 8 MB No
Intel Core i5 760 2,80 GHz 4 No 8 MB No
Intel Core i5 680 3,60 GHz 2 Yes 4 MB 733 MHz
Intel Core i5 670 3,46 GHz 2 Yes 4 MB 733 MHz
Intel Core i5 655K 3,20 GHz 2 Yes 4 MB 733 MHz
Intel Core i5 650 3,20 GHz 2 Yes 4 MB 733 MHz

3. Use an external eSATA RAID5 unit for your media.

Run the unit in RAID5 mode, not only do you get great disc performance, but should one drive fail you won’t lose any data. Make sure your motherboard has an eSATA connector, and plug it in. This will speed up you editing massively as you are not restricted to the read speed of one drive, but the combined speed of the RAID-unit. You can get a RAID5 unit for $75 + harddrives. Some motherboards have on-board RAID controllers that can be enabled in BIOS – check your motherboard’s manual & website. For turnkey external systems I can recommend the stylish  G|SPEED eSATA  and for an impressive price:performance ratio look at SOHORAID SR4

4. nvidia CUDA graphics card for preview & render of mpeg4 / AVC media in Vegas 10.

If you have a CUDA-enabled nvidia video card, Vegas Pro 10 can use your GPU to improve mpeg4 / AVC rendering performance.

GPU-accelerated AVC rendering requires NVIDIA driver 185.xx or later. Sony recommends  using a GeForce 9 Series or newer GPU.
A lot of plugins, additional software and codecs will use this technology in the years ahead – so it’s a good investment.

5. Verify your PCIe (“PCI Express”) speed if you have built/installed your own hardware.

Your motherboard may have many full-length PCIe slots and you might think (as I did that…) since they are full length they are all 16x full speed. This not the case.  A full length  PCIe slot may be 16x, 8x or 4x. If you plug your 16x graphics card into a 8x or 4x PCIe you are in for some very strange system behaviour, in addition to a massive degrading of your overall system performance. Check your motherboard manual and see which PCIe slots that are true 16x!

and now… software

6. Use Windows 7 64-bit edition

The 64-bit edition of Win7 is crucial – and will allow you to run Sony Vegas 64bit edition. Get Home Premium, Home Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate editions – they are all  64-bit editions of Win7.

Not only is Win7 a joy to use (since Microsoft added all great features from the OS X and Gnome/KDE desktop environments) but it also supports a huge amount of RAM and faster processing. Note that Sony Vegas Pro can install & run as 32-bit and 64-bit side-by-side on your system  – some users report that renders are faster using the 32-bit version – not all codecs and drivers are native 64-bit.

7. Don’t install the latest Quicktime Version

Vegas makes havy use of the Quicktime Architecture and Apple Software Updater will prompt you to install the latest version. In my experience this is not a good idea – try the 7.4.5 version for optimal performance and disable/uninstall Apple software update. Get it here http://www.oldversion.com/download-QuickTime-7.4.5.67.html

8. Use a System Optimizer

My tool of choice is the TuneUp Utilities 2011 but there are many other out there. It cleans registry, removes dead links to documents and network locations, removes auto-starting programs and optimizes performance of Windows 7 overall.

Workflow in Sony Vegas Pro 10

9. Render to a physical drive separate from your media drive

Read media from your RAID unit and write renders to a separate drive. Massive speed gain when rendering.

  • Under Project / Properties assign folder for pre-rendered files to RAID unit.
  • Under Options / General – change the folder for temporary files to your RAID unit –  if you have a SSD system drive you want to use that drive instead.

10. Disable the Automatically adjust size and quality, choose Good-Auto

Right click in the Preview window and de-select the “Adjust size and quality for optimal playback” option. This is a new option from v9 and I find it really annoying. Use the Good – Auto preview quality  – in my experience it provides the overall best experience, and you will also enable deinterlacing in the preview          .

11. The manual is great! And the forums.

browsing the Vegas 10 manual will make a difference.

Vegas has a number of very powerful features hidden under the hood which it does not draw attention to.
For example… did you know how to change the default FX chain, where by default you always get EQ, Noise Gate and Compressor? Well, the audio track header has Set Default Track properties on right-click, so…

  1. Click the FX button on an audio track. The Audio Plug-In window appears.
  2. Remove the three plug-ins from the plug-in chain (or add/remove plug-ins as desired) and close the Audio Plug-In window.
  3. Right-click the audio track header and choose “Set Default Track Properties” from the shortcut menu.  The Set Default Track Properties dialog appears.
  4. Select or clear check boxes in the dialog to specify which properties you want to set.
  5. Click OK to close the Set Default Track Properties dialog.

I’ve spent a lot of time with great people on the Sony Vegas forums at the dvinfo.net – if you post a question there you are almost certain to get a very competent answer back.

Good luck, have fun!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Editing video with Sony Vegas Pro

  1. Mr. Dog

    How do you render webm / theora / h264 out of the vegas timeline?

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