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In testing Sony Creative Software’s Vegas Pro 11, I took advantage of the recent arrival of a loaner HP EliteBook 8560w laptop computer, as well as the HP Z800 Workstation (dual hexacore, 3.47 GHz CPUs, 18 GB, NVIDIA Quadro 5000). The EliteBook sports an Intel Core i7, 2.30 GHz, 64-bit, quad-core CPU with 16 GB of RAM (4 GB recommended), installed with an NVIDIA GeForce 2000M video card. Installing Vegas Pro 11 on the virgin laptop was croupier-quick, and the EliteBook was ready to edit in less than two minutes. Strangely, the workstation, which was already loaded with Vegas 10, seemed to completely ignore the Install command from the startup menu, and I rebooted the machine several times assuming I had a dirty boot. Giving up, I left the disk in the machine to do other things, checking on it periodically for two hours before the login screen appeared. Sony should add a progress meter and make the install sense the presence of previous versions. While I could successfully load v10 EDLs into v11, reverse loading isn’t possible, nor is copy/paste between versions.

In the early days of NLE editing, there was software made to run on proprietary peripheral cards that allowed even a single-CPU 386 PC to four simultaneous layers of SD video or two layers of HD video in real time, direct to a suitable VTR or broadcast output. With faster CPUs, NLE software design diverged, and CPU-intensive programs were developed that didn’t require proprietary cards, but did (and still do) require even greater levels of CPU and GPU (usually on the video card, which itself acts as a nonproprietary peripheral) power.

Today, the only remaining NLEs are of the latter variety, and so we editors, like digital sharecroppers, are driven back to the market to buy ever bigger tractors. Don’t get me wrong, the advances in NLE software, especially from leaders like Sony, continue to stagger me with incredible effects and unimaginable utility. But if I didn’t have a continual supply of top-level hardware loaned to me by such generous firms as HP, NVIDIA, AJA, Blackmagic Design and Seagate, I don’t know how long I would be able to keep up with all of the latest advancements.

"With the addition of GPU acceleration, Vegas Pro 11 streamlines the video-editing experience by providing smoother previews and faster rendering times [and] between two and four times faster rendering speeds, with equally as impressive performance gains during video playback," says Dave Chaimson, VP, Global Marketing, for Sony Creative Software.

The NVIDIA cards in both machines are compatible to Sony Vegas Pro 11’s newly configured GPU-accelerated OpenCL playback protocol. A test of this feature can be made by selecting the highest level of preview (there are 12 levels) and watching them full screen. I stacked five staggered layers of 1920x1080i HD footage on the timeline and watched as each additional layer was added to the playback stream. At the "Preview-Full (resolution)" (6th level), the workstation could render home video level of resolution quality without any hesitation. At the highest level, "Best-Full," playback quickly dropped to about 15 fps with superb resolution.

Results on the laptop were nearly as good as the workstation, suggesting that three times more processors don’t get thrice the playback. Unhesitating video was achieved at the "Preview-Half" (5th level) preview, and at "Best-Full," the playback looked like 8 fps. Neither system stopped entirely nor crashed. Testing the laptop’s rendering speeds while outputting a 1080i/24-MXC sequence took 1:48 minutes in version 10 and took 41 seconds in Version 11. Moving to the workstation, the differential was less—25 seconds versus 23 seconds—probably because the extra processors brought rendering on both versions close to optimum.

The new Sync Link feature allows clips (Events) to be grouped together and then slaved to another (Master) event on a different track. For instance, a complex multitrack video sequence can be Sync Linked to an audio clip. Moving the audio clip will move the video sequence, but moving any element in the video sequence won’t affect any other clips. This one-way control feature makes it possible to control large, complex sequences, while simultaneously allowing tweaking of the sequence’s components.

Titler Pro ($300) from NewBlue is a new plug-in Sony is bundling with Vegas Pro 11. You can see an extensive sampler/tutorial at www.sonycreativesoftware.com/support/trainingvids.asp?prod=titlerpro. This may be all you need to watch to get started since the program is easy to learn and deep in features.

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