Using Height Maps with Sony Vegas
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Using Height Maps with Sony Vegas Using the Height Map compositing mode in Sony Vegas opens up a range of possibilities By Jeffrey P. Fisher

As video professionals, we are always looking for unique ways to present information. Titles especially lend themselves to interesting effects. And using the Height Map compositing mode in Sony Vegas opens up a range of possibilities.

This tutorial delves into the powerful Vegas compositing engine and relies on the central Parent-Child relationship concept. Essentially, the parent track acts as primary controller of any child related to it. In particular, the Height Map compositing mode on a parent track maps onto the video track below it. You dont see the parent in this case; it just acts upon and influences the child.

For this example, Im using stock footage from Artbeats (, WE118 from their Water Effects 1 collection. Place this on the uppermost track in Vegas. Create a second video track by right-clicking in the Timeline and choosing Insert Video Track from the pop-up or use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+Q. Drag this track below the first video track.

Double-click the top video to create a Time Selection that matches its exact length. Right-click on the blank track and choose Insert Text Media from the pop-up. This inserts default text that matches the videos length and displays the Video Media generator: Sony Text dialog.

Edit and format the text to taste. Since the top video track obscures the title, you may want to solo this title track to make adjustments easier. Click the (!) in the track header. Unsolo the track when complete.

Click the Make Compositing Child button for the text track. This effectively makes the top video track the parent and the title its child. Notice the top water video still obscures the title.

After creating the child, its track is indented slightly in the Track Header. This makes it easier to see parents and their children. Right-click the top track and choose Duplicate Track from the pop-up. Drag this track below the title track.

Click the Compositing mode button on the uppermost parent track. Choose Custom from the list that displays.

In the Plug-in Chooser dialog box that displays, select Height Map. Click the Add button to insert it into the chain and then click OK to close the dialog.

The Height Map dialog displays where you can tweak settings. This is a fully keyframeable effect. For this tutorial, the default settings work fine. Play the Timeline to see this in action. The water in the parent video makes the title appear to float on its surface and move with the waves. By having the exact same video below the title, the effect is more believable.

To make the effect even more convincing, duplicate the Parent video once again, add it to the top of the Timeline, and set its Composite Level to between 25-35% or to taste. This makes it look as if the title is floating in the water.


If youre looking for a unique look for your video projects, consider adding height mapping to your Sony Vegas toolbox. It works well with videos, logo, and more.


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Jeffrey P. Fisher is a Sony Vegas Certified Trainer and he co-hosts the Sony Acid, Sony Sound Forge, and Sony Vegas forums on Digital Media Net ( For more information visit his Web site at or contact him at

Related Keywords:Height Map compositing , NLE, video editing,

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