Although a loyal Vegas Pro user, I acquired the latest Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition for a couple of reasons. One, because it’s pretty capable in its own right. And two, because I enjoy answering questions on Sony Vegas message boards, but felt a bit unhelpful when it came to ones about Vegas Movie Studio (or VMS). I was never entirely sure what features were available in it or what quirks the program had. And with me writing tutorials that may be of interest to VMS users as well as Vegas Pro ones, it’s especially important for me to know how the programs differ.
So, for your reference and mine, here are 10 differences between Vegas Pro 8 and Vegas Movie Studio 9 Platinum Edition, the two current (as of this writing) members of the Vegas family. Most of these will apply also to Vegas Movie Studio (the regular non-Platinum edition).
This is not meant to be a List of Reasons Vegas Pro is Better than VMS. These are just some of the differences that will affect common tasks — and in particular one’s ability to follow a standard tutorial found on this site. In no particular order, they are…
Where’s the File Menu?
While Vegas Pro makes use of the standard File menu found in 99.9% of PC and Apple computer software, VMS instead has a Project menu with most of the same options. Also note that Vegas Pro’s File menu has an “Import” item which cascades into several mediums from which to import. VMS’s Project menu lists all of its Import options right there at the first level of the menu. So if I state in a tutorial to go to File > Import > Media, you VMS editors can translate that to Project > Import Media.
Can’t I Just Start Editing?
I suppose VMS has my best interest at heart, but I find the New Project Wizard kind of annoying. A Vegas Pro project starts off with default properties, and I can start adding tracks and media immediately. VMS is kind of needy in that it first asks several questions about my project. And it won’t let me add a thing until I’ve gone through its hoops. Not major hoops, mind you, but still… At any rate, if I begin a tutorial with “Start a new project, insert a video track, and add X, Y, and Z,” don’t panic if you’re operating with Vegas Movie Studio, Just know that “start a new project” involves going through the program’s series of questions first.
How Many Tracks Do I Get?
Vegas Pro owners are spoiled by an unlimited number of video and audio tracks. I’ve yet to work on a project with more than a dozen tracks, and I don’t forsee that any tutorial I write here will require even close to that. Just the same, it should be noted that VMS does have a limited number of tracks. As of VMS 9.0, that limit is four video tracks and four video tracks. That’s actually pretty good; I think the last time I tried out VMS, it could only hold two video tracks and one audio track.
Where Did They Put That Envelope?
Keyframes are one way to automate changes over time. Another is the use of envelopes. Composite Level, Volume, Fade to Color, Velocity… Whoop, scratch that last one. VMS doesn’t have velocity envelopes. Or mute envelopes. Or transition progress envelopes. Personally, I think Sony should add these into VMS. The velocity envelope, at least, sounds like a must-have, based on how many VMS owners I’ve seen want to know how to slow down / speed up their video. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask, does it?
Cinescore for Free?
Score (no pun intended) one for Vegas Movie Studio. I was impressed to see that it comes with the Studio version of Cinescore, Sony’s music generation software. I paid a decent sum for the regular version of Cinescore as a separate program. Even if Cinescore Studio has fewer features than full Cinescore, it’s a nice bonus. I even assumed it was only the Platinum Edition that has this, but a visit to the Sony site tells me that, no, the standard edition of VMS does also. Nice.
Updated Sept 18, 2009: While the Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition that I have did include Cinescore Studio, I’ve just discovered that Sony now includes Sound Forge Studio instead. Which one you get will, I imagine, depend on where you buy the package and how old their inventory is. Weird.
What is this Bezier Masking You Speak Of?
Imagine, VMS users, being able to “cut out” a shape from an event video — any shape you can draw — so that the event(s) below show through. And then being able to “cut out” another shape. And another. That’s Bezier masking in a nutshell. Did I mention this shape can be keyframed so it can change over time? Oh yes, it can. (Hm, this here is sounding a bit like A Reason Vegas Pro Is Better Than Vegas Movie Studio. Sorry, can’t helped.) Well, at least you still have the Cookie Cutter FX.
Okay, But What’s a ProType Titler?
In Vegas Pro 8, Sony introduced a text tool far more advanced than the old faithful but limited one that Vegas and Vegas Movie Studio users have known. It’s a bit complicated, powerful, and quite flexible. And it’s not available in Vegas Movie Studio. I will be writing about the ProType Titler soon, and while some of the end results I work toward may be possible using the standard Text generator (and other VMS tools), it would take quite an effort. But fear not, VMS fans: I have been a defender of the original Text generated media while other Vegas users scorned it, and I will still not abandon it.
What Do I Do When I’m Done Editing?
One handy feature in VMS is the Make Movie Wizard. Yes, I’m put off by wizards in general (it’s probably the dopey hats). But in a pinch, Make Movie removes most of the guesswork when you know what you want but not quite how to get there or you just want to do it quickly. This wizard not only gets your movie into the format you want, but also assists you in delivering it to DVD (via DVD Architect Studio), to the web (Youtube and Sony’s AcidPlanet), or into an e-mail. So if you want your delivery process to be more automatic, VMS has your back. In this respect, Vegas Pro makes you work hard for your money.
Why Is Customize Disabled?
If you don’t want to use the Make Movie Wizard, VMS Platinum has the same Render As option as Vegas Pro does — although it’s on the Project menu rather than the File menu (as previously discussed). But there’s a hitch if you’re rendering / encoding to MPEG2. If you ever have a need to customize an MPEG2 template in VMS, you’ll find that the Customize button is disabled — even though you rendered an AVI (or even an MPEG1) the other day, and that button was ready to go. As far as I know, this is all about money. Sony pays a licensing fee for every MPEG2 encoder it includes in its software, and I suspect it costs more for them to include customization. This probably is not something they’re willing to do for a product as economical as Vegas Movie Studio.
You Paid How Much?
Okay, maybe I’m cheating here. But speaking of price, and since much of this list does come off as bemoaning what’s “missing” from Vegas Movie Studio: One can’t ignore the difference in price. Deals can be found, but generaly speaking, Vegas Pro costs about five times as much as the Platinum Edition of Vegas Movie Studio. And while I do prefer Vegas Pro, I’ve also watched VMS move closer and closer to it in its feature set. Sony better be careful. So far, VMS has been a logical stepping-stone for new editors before they eventually buy Vegas Pro. At the rate it’s improved, though, many may find that VMS is all they need.
For a more exahaustive (but less wordy) list of the differences between Vegas Pro, Vegas Movie Studio, Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition, and the unfortuantely-named Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Pro Pack (really, Sony? The product naming wasn’t confusing enough already?), visit Sony’s Vegas Family Comparison page.