I’m going to do something I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I am going to highly recommend a program that runs only on Windows. In fact, I am going to recommend a program that’s so good, I bought an HP laptop running Windows 7 JUST so I could run Sony VEGAS’ Professional NLE. Nobody is more shocked than me.

As a die-hard Mac guy, this is a big step for me. But enough about that. Let’s talk about the one professional video editor I’ve tried that’s affordable, easy-to-use, and a good fit for photographers who want to jump into editing their hybrid video footage.

Let me say this is a mini-review. I won’t cover all the features of this program. I’ll write about it from a photographer’s point of view.

My main concern as a photographer is how I get footage from the various fusion cameras I own, i.e., Canon 1D MK IV, Nikon D7000 and assorted compact and mirror-less cameras, into a non-linear editor, add sound, special effects, color correction, etc., and then get it out into a usable format. Sony Vegas Pro 10 is how.

I own Final Cut, iMovie, and Adobe Premiere. With the exception of iMovie, they are all over my head. But using Vegas, within an hour, I was able to import multiple kinds of video and still footage onto one timeline, edit the in and out points, color correct, add transitions like cross fades, add simple titles, do some audio sweetening and prepare for output to everything from Apple .MOV files to Windows WMV files to Blu-Ray at the hit of a button thanks to an amazing export template offered in Vegas Pro 10.

Sony Vegas Pro 10 combines video effects, media generators and animation tools to help you produce incredible final footage.

One thing I really like about this program is that it doesn’t matter what kind of footage you place on the timeline, Vegas can handle it. It mixes and matches H.264, Mov, AVCHD, XDCAM EX, RED and many more onto the same timeline then figures out how to make it work on export. The program supports SD, HD, 2K, and 4K workflows.

Of particular interest to my audience will be the fact that it handles footage from the Canon HDSLR hybrid cameras extremely well. The Sony engineers have worked with the CODEC to make sure that the video is very quickly and efficiently decoded. If you’ve worked at the professional level with this footage, you know that it almost always has to be transcoded to get real-time playback during editing. Not so when you’re using Vegas. This was a smart move by Sony. They could have simply provided the advantage to footage coming from Sony branded cameras. They were astute enough to recognize that the Canon cameras own this market and they did something about it. I applaud them for it.

Our test machine, an HP Intel i-5 processor with six gigs of RAM was able to play smooth footage out of Vegas every time. This included Canon footage. Pretty amazing for a $900 computer and a sub-$600 NLE.

While I’ve just covered a few features, Vegas can do lots more, including editing 3D even. The interface is easy, you can add infinite tracks, there is 64-bit support, Closed Captioning Support, video plug-in architecture, image stabilization (that really works), 5.1 Surround encoder etc. Like Photoshop, Vegas has features you may never use, but it’s nice to know they are there.

There are a few things I am not sure I like about Vegas 10. You can’t scrub the timeline. (UPDATE I didn’t realize you can scrub the timeline. Turns out you can. Hover over the cursor in an area of the timeline that does not contain an event and press Ctrl.) The second thing I am unsure about may be a blessing to some people and a curse to others. Sony Vegas 10 doesn’t rely much on the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). If you have a fast computer without a fancy graphics card you’ll be happy you’re not being penalized by the program for that oversight. But if you are a person like me who has invested in faster graphics for your computer, you won’t see much of the benefit when running Vegas.

These are minor quibbles. Considering the fact that I can actually make this thing work, I’m much more focused on what it does do well, than what it’s missing.

I can tell you right now if you’re one of those photographers who bought a Canon 5D MK II or similar fusion camera and you have tons of footage sitting there mocking you from your hard drive, there’s no longer any excuse not to do something about it. If you can get your hands on a Windows machine, Vegas is the answer in my opinion.

The program has lots of power and while it can do most of what Final Cut can do, it’s much easier to learn. I can also say that there’s significant training support available for Vegas. I investigated this carefully because I know most of my audience will be concerned about how they learn to use this software. Vegas comes with lots of cool help files and at sonycreativesoftware.com you can find more free training options as well as free forums.

Sony will even support you while you learn the program for free for 30 days. This 30-day period should be enough for most people, but you can purchase additional tech support to talk you through learning stuff at reasonable prices. For instance – six months of this support will only set you back $150. And e-mail tech support is always free.

In addition to free webinars, a newsletter, and other free downloadable resources, Vegas is tied to other training options. Below is a quick list of resources I’ve already compiled.

The Seminar Series is a collection of training authored by the makers of Vegas Pro 10: http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/vegasseminarseries

Vasst also has a collection of training DVDs and books: http://store.vasst.com/store/sony-vegas-products-32.aspx

Sony Creative also hosts a series of free Vegas Pro training videos on its site: http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/support/trainingvids.asp?prod=vegaspro (Note you’ll have to sit through a few Sony commercials to use this resource but it’s worth it.)

CreativeCow also has a community of Vegas users.

As I said in the beginning, this is a program that is so good, it’s worth buying a Windows machine to use it. At just more than $500 on Amazon, Vegas Pro 10 is a steal. Previous Sony Vegas users can purchase an upgrade at a reduced price. While the serious professionals who edit movies over at Industrial Light and Magic may scoff at the idea that you can use anything other than Final Cut Pro or Avid to edit a movie, I disagree. Especially for those of us who are photographers first, and video editors second, Vegas Pro 10 is a superb, well thought-out, well-supported product that will get the job done. Highly recommended.

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