Videoguys' Insider Interview: Sony HDV & Vegas Evangelist Douglas Spotted Eagle

: Hey Spot, you and I go way back – thanx for taking the time for this article.

When you and I first met you were working for Sonic Foundry (the original creators of Sound Forge, Acid and Vegas). A few months later I'm watching the Grammy's on TV – and I see your name pop up on the screen for best Native American recording! You've got one impressive resume! Before we start talking about the latest technologies from Sony, why don't you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you are up too.

HDV Road SHowSpot: Wow…what am I up to...
Aside from a couple new books, including the Vegas 6 Editing Workshop, the Instant Vegas Movie Studio, and the Instant Audio books, we've got our new Vegas DVD series online, as well as our newest products, Ultimate S 2.0, GearShift 1.5, and the new VASST FreeWare products. Plus, we're just about to announce our participation in the I Want My HDV tour with Sony broadcast (oops, I guess I just announced it), so things are a little crazed around here. In the middle of all that, I'm working part-time on a couple small documentaries, one for the World Indigenous Network.

Videoguy: We're very happy to be a VASST partner. You guys are doing a great job spreading the Vegas & HDV gospel. Lets talk about both these two subjects a little more in depth. I want to start with what I affectionately call “the best kept secret in the industry Sony Vegas. You've been using this program since it's origin – as an audio editing application. These audio roots are what gives Vegas its unique interface and workflow. Can you go into this a bit deeper?

Spot: First thing that folks need to know, is that in the digital domain, audio and video are exactly the same. Just bits. Sony Vegas treats video the same way it does audio, in terms of the very exacting processes required. So, things like crossfades, volume/gain, etc, are all identical workflows for both audio and video. The interface is the most open interface in the industry, because audio cats are definitely fickle, and want as much control as possible. NLE manufacturers in the past have always locked users into a specific method of working, and into a specific task-oriented visual direction. Sony Vegas can work that way if you want it to, but the fact that you can ask Vegas to become an extension of your own thought process is a big part of what makes Vegas so unique. If you really want that traditional NLE look, Vegas can give it to you. But in my opinion, that look is klutzy, and it doesn't serve the creative flow as well as Vegas can allow you to work. Personally, I find the interface of Vegas to be less of a barrier between what my mind sees and what comes out of the video monitor.

For example, I don't like the A/B roll look of most editors. Vegas can have that style, but due to screen real estate, I find it easier to have single-track views vs an A/B track view. This also lends itself to the sweetness of the ability to place filters at the event, track, project, or media bin level, allowing me to quickly control what is happening, when it happens, and exactly where it happens without having to look at long timelines for keyframe placement, or wondering which timeline/keyframe dialog I'm supposed to be viewing.

VelocityVideoguy: Two of my favorite features of Vegas are Velocity Envelopes (the ability to change the speed of a clip over its duration) and how easy it is to make eleborate photo montages with 3D transitions and pan/zooms (the Ken Burn's effect).

Spot: Velocity is wonderful. Not only does Vegas sub-pixel accuracy make for exceptionally smooth slo-mo, but the way that the velocity filter works, using rubber bands, is simply elegant. It's easy to see, it's easy to use, and results/playback are immediate. No numbers to guess, no percentages to figure out. And the curve at which each point of the Velocity is variable, so you can easily create the currently-popular Hollywood speed-from-slow-reality look. Add a tad of Motion Blur, and you've instantly got sexy, big-buck effects.

As far as creating the Burns Brothers look, there are a few ways to accommodate this. You can do it by hand, and it's still at least 10 times faster than doing it with any other tool like Stage Tools or Imaginate, or you can do it using automation via Vegas' scripting engine. The Ultimate S 2.0 PhotoMontage tool for instance, can process 9,999 separate images in less than 10 seconds, with all images matched to aspect ratio (regardless of original size or aspect), reduce interlace flicker, matched to markers/beats/length of time on the timeline, complete with user-defined transitions, and direction of the various pan/zooms. You can also control the depth of the pan/zoom. That's one of the biggest points of Vegas for power-producers, the ability to create monster photomontages in seconds flat. Just don't tell your clients how you did it if you bill by the hour!

Videoguy: I'm glad you brought up scripting. I agree with you that it allows users to get so much more out of Vegas. Not only can they create their own scripts and share them with other Vegas users, but they can buy them from Vasst! Tell us more about Ultimate S and gearshift

Ultimate SSpot: Ultimate S 2.0 lives very well up to its name. It simply is the ultimate editing tool. I mentioned the photo montage tool earlier, but there are other tools found as well. For instance, the editing tab assists in capturing image sequences, creating random images ala “Max Headroom style, also assists in creating multiple images for compositing. The Markers tab allows import/export of saved markers files, so you could say….drop markers on stock audio, and import those markers for template-based projects, saving a ton of time. Our Filmlooks are unmatched; we have 5 libraries now. Several films have won or placed at film festivals using our various film looks, designed by myself and David Jimerson. One really sweet feature of Ultimate S 2.0 is the way we assist in saving nested projects. Sony Vegas can't save a nested project while deleting unused media, and Ultimate S 2.0 can. The application can also build a nested timeline, complete with all markers from various veg files, which is another need-to-have feature for those working with nested projects. Our Quadcam tool is unmatched for multiple camera speed, it's simple and elegant, providing users with a variety of options, at no point are you limited to track names/numbers/order. The Lower Thirds tool found in US 2 is hyper-cool, because it allows users to import editable lower thirds, with additional libraries available. for Weddings, Worship, and more. Ultimate S 2.0 comes with more than 55 lower thirds, and you can edit/customize them at will.

On a different side of the scripting applications, we also offer our GearShift product. GearShift is designed to convert M2T files automatically to several formats, depending on user needs. For instance, for the user that has a slow computer, he might prefer editing with DV widescreen proxies, with the correct color matrices applied. GearShift can create those proxies. Or, for the user that has a faster computer, and needs HDCAM output, GearShift authors 4:2:2 YUV files for use with the DeckLink SD or HD cards. Finally, GearShift also converts M2T files to CineForm codec files. It can access these files for conversions from entire tapes, or defined areas of the media, whichever the user chooses. It will convert the M2T files to 2 file types at a time, so for instance, you might convert to HDCAM and DV Proxy at the same time.

Videoguy: Gearshift sounds like a very cool tool to make editing HDV projects faster. Let's talk a bit more about HDV and the new Sony HDV cams that are about to start shipping.

Spot: I've been accused of being a little bold about HDV, but HDV is to DV, what DV was to SVHS or VHS. HDV is the future of affordable, broadcastable HD. While it's not the same as the $100k HDCAM tools, it's also not DV. HD is the future, if someone can't see that, they're blind. With DTV taking hold in under two years, consumers are buying HDTVs as fast as manufacturers can spit them out. Further, we're now at a point where more than a dozen HDTV manufacturers are offering 1080p-capable television displays, so it sorta leaves other resolutions in the dust. This is where Sony really has it together. If you're moving into the world of HD/HDV, look at 1080 as your acquisition format. 1080i60 converted to 1080p 30 is gorgeous, while 720p30 isn't terribly impressive when upsampled to 1080p. Plus, you get the benefit of a sharper picture with the higher acquisition format.

VASST HDV BookHDV is new, and there is a lot of buzz without a lot of thought going into the future of the display formats. I'd caution users and potential buyers, to look at what's happening on the display and delivery side of the workflow, more than anything else, if they want to be future-proof.

Videoguy: No doubt about it, HDV is the future of video. That's why we're including your "HDV - What You Need To Know" book with all our HDV compatible editing software. It's an easy to read guidebook to the ins and outs of the new formats. resolutions and specifications that are HDV.

Let's talk a bit about HDV video editing with Vegas. One of the coolest things about Vegas since the beginning has been it's broad support for a plethora of video formats. Basically if you can get the video to play on your computer, you can edit it with Vegas. No with all the various HD formats, it looks like Vegas is ready for the next big evolution in video editing.

Spot: Vegas brings it all to the table. For the user that wants to be hardware-free, on a slower computer, there is GearShift and DV proxy based editing. For the mid-level user, they can edit in Vegas very comfortably in full HD resolution using the Cineform tools, either coupled with GearShift, or they can spend a couple hundred bucks and get the full-blown Cineform capture app. For the power user that has a monster SATA or SCSI RAID system that can handled 4:2:2 uncompressed, Vegas works very nicely with the Black Magic Design Decklink system and Multibridge. Vegas is totally scaleable, because it meets the demands of all ends of the market. You don't have to run out and buy a new computer, new hardware, new display, new everything just to enjoy the benefits of HDV. It's not like when DV came around, and you had to mortgage your house in the early days. HDV can be done on a simple laptop. In fact, that's what I'm showing on the HDV Solutions tour, editing four streams of HDV (multicamera footage) switching in real-time with Ultimate S and a Contour Shuttle Pro, on a Sony VAIO laptop and external harddrive. No additional hardware is being used whatsoever.

Videoguy: Like I said, the ability to edit footage from all formats is one of the major strengths of Vegas. I've always been amazed at how well Vegas does with a slower machine, and yet how it will take full advantage of faster machines for even better workflow.

Spot: Well, speed helps too. Vegas is optimized for working with dual core systems already, while other manufacturers are just catching up. I'm working in the studio with a dual core, dual processor system based around the AMD 275 processors, and with a hardware SATA controller, this system simply screams. I'm pretty pleased with my 3.4HT laptop too, but man, sometimes it seems Vegas thinks faster than I do when I'm on the dual 275 beastie. Intel has some cool new offerings too, but I've not had the opportunity to work with their new dual core systems yet. One thing that's certainly nice, is the cost of dual procs is dropping faster every day. Having SuperMicro offer a motherboard for AMD also makes for very sweet, stable systems.

Videoguy: It certainly looks like the nest big leap in computer performance is upon us. Lets get back to talking about Vegas. You're one of the top experts in the world for Vegas editing. In addition to the VASST Tour, heading the DMN Vegas forum, and participating on many other forums, you create some of the best training stuff around. Would you care to share a couple of your favorite Vegas editing tips with us

Spot: A few tips...hmmmm...

  • When color correcting, always start with the black and white filter coupled with the levels filter, with the image totally greyscale, to set the correct exposure. It's easier to see exposure in black and white.
  • Always look at masks-only when setting up chromakey or using secondary color correction for color pass. This allows correct viewing of the area being processed.
  • Try tossing a duplicate of an image on a new, upper track. Add Extreme blur to the upper track, and then put the upper track into the Hard Light or Screen compositing mode. It'll give you a very nice, sweet feel to most footage. Use Hard light for lighter images, and Screen for darker images. Or, experiment with other compositing modes.

Videoguy: Sony has just released version 6.0c of Vegas. It's a pretty significant upgrade.

Spot: Sony Vegas 6c launched without a lot of fanfare, but the truth is, version 6c could easily be considered a .5 upgrade, even though Sony doesn't offer .5 upgrades. Vegas 6c is an update filled with a number of new features, and some fixes for specific issues experienced by users of older DV equipment.

  • Import of DVD camcorder MPEGs/AC3 files
    This update allows users that own DVD-camcorders to import the media directly from the camcorder.
  • XDCAM support
    Another new feature that is necessary for the broadcast industry is the import of XDCAM full-resolution files.
  • Export to Sony PSP
    If you have a Sony PSP device, you can now print directly to the PSP device from Vegas 6c.
  • MPEG 4 export
    Sony Vegas 6c also now offers users the ability to render directly to MPEG 4/AVC/H.264 file formats. H.264 is the delivery format of choice for high definition movies, but also may be used for standard definition, and may be played on most computers, and many set top players.
  • Optimized m2t playback
    Vegas has been significantly improved in terms of how it manages the transport streams and optimizes playback/editing of them. This is good news for HDV camera owners that don't want to take the time to convert the m2t files from the HDV camera into a 4:2:2 format or DV proxy.
Videoguy: Thanks so much for your time and your contributions to the Vegas editing community. I know our readers will find this article very informative. We've got some very exciting promotion going on until year end that I'm sure our readers want to know about:

Sony has just launched a new $50 mail-in rebate program for Vegas6. Even cooler you can save an additional $100 if you qualify for the compettive rebate!

Even cooler - we just lowered our price on Vegas+DVD Production Suite to $499.95!!

Spot: NIce offer! I'm doing the math now. If you're an old Adobe Premiere user you can buy Vegas6+DVD for $499.95, then get an additional $100 back with the competitive upgrade coupon. That brings down the price to under $400!!

Videoguy: How about we extend a special offer to them on Ultimate S as well?

Spot: Why don't you include the complete set of Vegas training DVDs and Trial versions of Ultimate S & GearShift FREE with every Vegas purchase in October & November!

Videoguy: WOW! That's a fantastic idea. We'll also offer folks a special price if they instantly upgrade to the full versions of Ultimate S! And for all those Vegas 6 owners who are reading the article simply because they love Vegas and they want to learn more about it, we'll offer the complete VASST Vegas training and Ultimate S for a bundle price of $199.95!!

Spot: Always my pleasure to talk with you, Gary. Thanks for the great tips you always have out there for the video editing community on your website. It's great to see that you guys don't just sell this gear, you actually use it. I think that makes a huge difference in how you put together product bundles and special offers for users. Thanks so much for not just being there, but for knowing the needs of users and actively participating in the communities!

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