We regularly hear cries of anguish from people who have invested in a DVD camcorder only to find they cannot edit from it unless they buy a top-end NLE. Ben Longden has just found one that will do the job for around $240.
As many have found after buying a DVD camcorder, most of the supplied packages to edit video and make a DVD are less than stellar. To compensate, if you wanted more than simple edits and cuts you were forced to invest in a major top-end NLE. That is until now.
Son of Vegas
The brains behind the success that is Sony Vegas have produced a cut-down, slightly modified version Sony Vegas Movie Studio, and now with the recently released Platinum edition version 7 the world suddenly is a lot brighter for DVD camcorder users. Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 7 (VMSP7) might be less than a third of the price of Vegas, but it’s definitely not nasty. In fact, it is so good that if I was not a Vegas user, then I would be using this NLE.
Not only that, but this package comes with Sony’s DVD Architect Studio 4 (DVDAS4), a cut-down version of DVD Architect that comes bundled with the full version of Vegas.
Installing the software for both VMSP7 and DVDAS4 is a cinch, but to get the maximum use, make sure you are connected to the Net at the time as it needs to register and unlock you before letting you completely loose with its timeline.
A Vegas clone?
Being a Vegas devotee and regular user, I was startled when opening VMSP7 for the first time. I thought I had clicked on Vegas 6 by accident, the interface (GUI) is so similar.
At second look, on the second breath, I did notice that the entire Track header section at the left was covered with tracks, while Vegas 6 is not – until you put them there, and as many as you want. With VMSP7 however, you are limited to one title track, one video overlay track, and one main video track. As a consequence, using multiple camera vision via multiple video tracks will be pretty difficult, however I assume that such ‘heavy’ users would be using an equally ‘heavy’ editing package in most cases.
Did we mention 5.1?
With the audio, you are limited again to the very basics basic, that is until you set the thing up for Dolby 5.1.
You won’t be able to do a Mike Oldfield and downmix endless audio tracks and come up with a composite ready for splitting up into 5.1 as you can with Vegas, but you can play with the vision and audio of your last surfing trip, and output the sound in 5.1 – including the Low frequency Effects (LFE) for the subwoofer.
There is no necessity to go and spend more money on multiple mics or a 5.1 mic, such as Sony’s either. With careful use of the audio tracks, you can play with the audio you have, and make a 5.1 final version. Not only that, but the editor has a simple-to-use sound panner ready for use with each 5.1 track, so you can design the sound placement in the lounge. You are able to adjust the sound settings for truly professional audio, with the best level being 48kHz/16-bit.
This means, for example, that organisations such as schools are now unrestricted in their creative ability. Certainly, they will want to record, say, the school play and produce it onto DVD, but the music department can now use it as well, to produce CDs of the school choir as a fundraiser, and do it all in house, provided they have a PC or Windows laptop.
Imagine, the small local school choir, on DVD and in 5.1! Mind-blowing, really.
While DVD camcorders are supported, the brains behind Movie Studio have future proofed version 7 by making it HDV friendly. So friendly that every time you open up VMSP7, it will ask you if you would like to work in standard or high definition. Not only that, but you can check the box so you can stick with either, every time you go to work.
SD capture is made by using the ‘external’ Sony Video Capture 6.0, while high definition is an easy-to-use internal function within VMS7, performed in a manner similar to its bigger sibling.
Widescreen 16;9 is supported, and not simply by letterboxing either. If you have stuff in the can shot as 4:3, you are able, as in Vegas 6, to render it out as widescreen with the pixel ratio being altered. Footage shot on a 3CCD camera was striking on a large and decent screen.
If you need a copy for the small screen, say an Apple iPod, then that is not an issue either, as the render options include this for you.
While this is an amazingly powerful and complex package, Sony has recognised this, and peppered the application with simple ways of doing things. At any stage, you are able to access 38 tutorials, from a potted tour of the GUI right through to fixing red-eye on a stills image you have just imported and scanned – without needing something like Adobe Photoshop.
The render option is like that as well. You can get it to do the hard stuff for you, where a wizard-like system asks you what to do; render to DVD, VCD, a file suitable for emailing; save it on the hard drive; print to tape; print to high definition tape, and so on.
Alternatively, you can go into the render options and actually specify the vision and audio quality you need for a multitude of formats, from MPEG4 through to the DVD standard of MPEG2.
And, if you are using VMSP7 just for audio work, it will also convert and work with a plethora of standards, including 5.1 (as mentioned) and MP3.
Attack of the clones
The transitions, trimmer, and vision effects are all stored in the bottom left corner of the VMSP7 main window and accessed via tabs. It is also down here that you select what to import: video, stills, digital camera, CD audio, and so on. There are close to 500 transitions and effects available which is pretty darned impressive, as well as the full blast colour correction tool from Vegas to assist colour matching of vision.
Despite looking hard, I couldn’t see any discernible difference bet-ween the video effects section and the titler in VMSP7 and full Vegas.
A powerful section of Movie Studio where transitions, Vfx and others can be accessedÂ
DVD Architect Studio
With DVDAS, you can design a home page for your DVD, a number of separate sub pages, chapter selection and the like. Not only that, but you can have animated vision on the home page, in the buttons along with your selection of audio.
If you don?t want a button where it pops up, then it’s easy to move it and tweak it. Even if you want invisible borders and acknowledgement lights matching the artwork,Â it’s just a case of selecting the appropriate property with DVDAS.
The interface is the same as the full DVD Architect package, as is the process of producing a disc from the project you have made. There is a special user guide with 25 tutorials ready to help you through the geographic layout of the GUI if it does cause you any problems.
If Vegas 6 and DVD Architect 3 are benchmarks, then this offering from Sony is simply the next best thing, especially at a price around $240. At a third of the price of its big brother, VMSP7 and DVDAS4 are simply too good to ignore.
In short, VMSP7 is smart, powerful and ready for DVD camcorder users, and has the bonusÂ of being future proofed for high definition.