To be a true bargain, this inexpensive yet powerful video editor needs more refinement and less clutter.
So far, no broadcast television networks have committed to broadcasting in 3D, despite the proliferation of 3D HDTVs. No problem–if you can’t watch 3D TV, go out and make some content of your own with a 3D camcorder and a video-editing application such as Sony’s Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 ($100 as of August 27, 2011). The new version of the software adds stereoscopic-3D-video-editing capabilities to a powerful, albeit somewhat complicated, application.
I See in 3D
Sony introduced 3D editing in Vegas Pro 10, the pricier sibling of the latest version, last year. With Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11, you now get additional 3D modes.
You can edit native 3D content from a 3D camcorder such as the Sony HDR-TD10, for example, or you can create 3D video from 2D content (somewhat effectively); Sony includes a pair of paper anaglyph 3D glasses in the software box. For 2D footage, I found that the conversion was most effective for simple effects like adding 3D titles.
You can also export to YouTube’s 3D format. When you use the app’s new Make Movie feature, the software automatically recognizes that you have 3D content to upload to YouTube and you need only enter your YouTube user name, password, and the usual title, description, and tags for it to upload directly to your account. Finally, you can export 3D movies to Blu-ray using the included DVD Architect Studio application.
The system requirements for 3D editing are the same as the ones for HD editing–Sony recommends a multicore CPU or multiprocessor system. Even so, since the application recognizes the .mvc 3D video format and the .mpo 3D still-image format natively, it doesn’t have to expend any processing effort on converting such files before you begin editing them. I saw no performance slowdowns at all with my dual-core system, except that the system while I was editing a multi-HD-track project. Speaking of which, Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 lets you edit in a few more HD video formats than its predecessor did, including 720-50p, 720-60p, and 1080-24p; but annoyingly, it won’t import or export Flash files, so if you want to put your videos online, you’ll have to upload them to YouTube or another video site that will convert them for you.
Like Sony’s Vegas Pro 10, Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 offers GPU acceleration for encoding to Sony’s .avc format; Sony says that “traditional projects suggest up to 20 percent improvement” in rendering speed. Sony also says that it works not only with “select” Nvidia-based graphics cards, but also with select ATI cards. I saw an average boost of about 18 percent, which is certainly welcome, but it pales in comparison to the orders-of-magnitude boost provided by Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5. Furthermore, Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 accelerates only a single function–compared to Premiere Pro’s nearly application-wide acceleration. For Sony to boast about its GPU acceleration is like Chevrolet crowing about a new model having eight-spoke wheels instead of seven-spoke ones.
What’s Your Title?
A new Titles and Text dialog makes adding animated titles fairly easy. For example, you add your text in a dialog box (not directly on your video canvas, unfortunately) where you specify your preferred font and size, and select from several different style settings, including outlines, shadows, line spacing, and tracking. You can also specify the text’s location on the canvas, as you watch a live preview of it–but you can do the same thing by dragging it around the Preview window. You can adjust the size of the text either by increasing the font size in the dialog box or by dragging on handles at the corners of the text box. But if you do the latter, instead of causing the font size measurements to increase, it enlarges a “scale” setting. I found that significantly increasing the size sometimes resulted in fuzzy text.
Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 is a complex application, even for a consumer-grade video editor, with many powerful tools that will please more-advanced users and intimidate newbies. That in itself isn’t a criticism–I usually recommend that people suck it up and learn how to use more-capable products rather than choosing dumbed-down alternatives–but Sony doesn’t do nearly as much as Adobe does to make its consumer-grade video editor accessible to people who aren’t familiar with it. True, Movie Studio HD Platinum offers helpful Show Me How tutorials that lead the way by opening up the proper dialog boxes and highlighting commands–but the topics covered are the most basic ones, not the ones that will vex people who’ve moved beyond the basics.
Also, some included features–such as the new ability to add audio effects at the bus level (meaning, delivering the effect to external hardware)–seem unnecessary in a consumer-grade product. If you’re connecting external audio hardware to your video-editing system, you probably aren’t using a $100 application to edit video. At the same time, Sony devotes a special command in the Tools menu to outputting video for playback on a Sony PlayStation Portable, instead of sticking that function in the Make Movie settings. In the scheme of things, neither the external audio option nor PSP output feel necessary here.
On the other hand, Sony deserves some credit for allowing users to add unlimited tracks and for providing keyframe capabilities so you can set the strength of an effect or precisely adjust a clip’s position on the canvas. You must click an Animate button at the bottom of an effect’s dialog box to enable these features, but that’s okay. One annoyance: If you add multiple effects, and you want to reuse keyframes, you have to click the first effect, tab to a keyframe, and then click back to the second effect before you can adjust the latter’s settings.
Pro Features, Inexpensive Price
Despite lacking a clear design direction, Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 is a very capable product at a very reasonable price, especially if you want to create 3D movies. It would be even better if Sony stripped out some of the features that are unnecessary in a consumer-grade product, and added better instruction.