Some software upgrades are about flashy new interfaces and sexy new features, and others have more to do with supercharging the engine under the hood in order to boost the overall performance. This past year, video editing tools have been working on the flashy side with support for working with 3D video, but the real focus has continued to be on the machinery - taking advantage of today's 64-bit architectures to work efficiently with large clips in memory, combined with GPU (graphics processing unit) hardware to significantly speed up video processing.
We've seen this trend in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, with the GPU-accelerated Mercury Playback Engine introduced last year, and with the application available only for 64-bit systems. Similarly, Vegas Pro 10 from Sony Creative Software was released last year with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, and with GPU acceleration for rendering to AVC format.
Now Sony has released Vegas Pro 11, with full-up GPU acceleration for video processing, effects, and rendering, for speed ups across editing, playback, and output. Besides the under-the-hood improvements, the new Vegas also enhances editing with features including sync link, adds new technology including advanced video stabilization, and provides deeper support for editing 3D material including 3D Titler Pro.
Integrating GPU acceleration into video editing software involves several trade-offs, balancing the number of video processing operations that are accelerated, the level of optimization for each effect, and the range of GPU processors and board hardware versions supported - all across different manufacturers, widely varying numbers of processors and associated on-board memory, and different functions available for acceleration.
Adobe's answer for Premiere Pro was to optimize for the NVIDIA line of graphics cards, taking advantage of the CUDA programming interface. With Vegas Pro 11, Sony has taken the approach of using the OpenCL (Open Computing Language) standard for parallel programming, to support a variety of GPU cards from both NVIDIA and AMD, with at least 512 MB of GPU memory. Sony's benchmarks show three to four times improvement in playback performance on mixed-format projects during editing compared to Vegas 10, and two to four times improvement in rendering the final output.
For video editing and playback, Sony reports that the Vegas 11 overhaul accelerates a substantial chunk of the built-in video processing, including crossfades, fades, alpha compositing, framerate resampling, time remapping, interlace processing, pan/crop, track motion, opacity, fade-to-color, and multicamera display. Plus it accelerates over 45 effects, transitions, generators and compositors -- with effects including gaussian blur, black and white, cookie cutter, bump map, mask generator, sepia, lens flare and chromakeyer, plus transitions such as cross effect, iris, and clock wipe.
Plug-Ins / Stabilization
Another aspect of the Vegas Pro 11 retrofit was rebuilding the underlying architecture for video effects plug-ins based on the Open Effects Association platform. This new suspension provides an enhanced interface to allow third-party developers to more easily develop cool new Vegas plug-ins to better smooth your ride.
Sony also uses this platform for built-in tools, including the new advanced video stabilization plug-in, with high-performance shocks to reduce the jittery or shaky video caused by handheld recorders. The plug-in analyzes the motion within a clip on all three camera axes, so you can build on the presets to independently control the precision for pan smoothing (left/right), tilt (up/down) and zoom. It also provides rolling-shutter correction for the JELL-O/skew/wobble effects caused by some CMOS camcorders.
Within the passenger compartment, Vegas Pro 11 includes other enhancements for a more comfortable ride in your editing workflow, including adding a search box to effects windows (including a new compositors window) along with folders so you can more easily find and group plug-ins, and per-parameter keyframing for some effects and transitions. For audio, Sony also cleaned up the mixing console and simplified the master bus window.
But the major new editing feature in Vegas Pro 11 is sync link, a mechanism for keeping events aligned and synchronized across multiple tracks. Sometimes layered tracks are relatively independent, as with picture-in-picture, but other times you need to have secondary audio and B-roll video clips and titles that are tightly matched to the main track. With sync link, you can manually link one or more events on child tracks so that they automatically move together with the main event on the timeline. Meanwhile, you still can edit and adjust the child events independently.
3D is the flashy new feature for this year's generation of video tools, like a rear spoiler designed to add dimension to the car. Vegas Pro 11 has deepened its support for working with 3D material with stereoscopic 3D alignment and depth adjustment tools, floating window controls, and horizontal offset controls for 2D effects and transitions to adjust the perceived depth of effects. And Vegas Pro 11 supports NVIDIA 3D vision hardware to allow editing on single-display 3D computers, including Sony 3D desktops and laptops.
Then to detail your 3D production, Vegas Pro 11 also adds NewBlue Titler Pro for creating stereoscopic 3D titles with animations, professional-style templates, and effects, controlling text down to character level and on the X, Y, and Z axes.