Under the Hood with Vegas: Understanding Preferences
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Under the Hood with Vegas: Understanding Preferences All good editing systems have a surprising level of flexibility that often goes unpublished By Mike Jones

As with all software editing systems, Vegas has a large array of adjustable and selectable preferences that control the way the application behaves and functions. Many of these can be left alone from installation and really don't need to be changed. However there are a number of preferences that can be adjusted to improve the performance of Vegas or to better suit the way you wish to work, the type of material you work with or the type of computer system you are running on. This guide will step you through the more important settings you can adjust in Vegas.

The Vegas preferences are accessed in the usual way by selecting the 'Options' drop down menu and then 'Preferences.' A window will open presenting a series of tabbed pages that house preferences for different aspect of Vegas.

General Tab
The first tabbed page is the General preferences and most of these are tick box selections to activate or deactivate the preference. Many options here can remain unchanged but the important elements you may wish to alter are:

-Automatically save trimmer markers and regions with media file
This setting will ensure than any markers and regions set in the Trimmer window are attached and embedded to the video clip and thus available with that clip in any other projects and between editing sessions.

Make spacebar and F12 Play/Pause instead of Play/Stop
By default, pressing the spacebar in Vegas starts the timeline playing and pressing the spacebar again stops playback and sends the playhead back to where it started. By selecting this option you can make the playhead pause on the spot when you press the spacebar while the timeline is playing. This is generally much easier for editing and locating points in your timeline while previewing as it aids a more tactile editing by feel watching the preview and finding the cut point by instinct and reaction to what you're watching.

 

Build 8-bit peak files
When an audio file is loaded into Vegas and placed on the timeline, a waveform display is generated for it. Vegas is an incredibly accurate audio editor and this waveform is drawn and created as a graphic file with a great deal of precision. However if you're running Vegas on an older or less powerful computer this process can also use a significant amount of system resources, particularly if the audio file is very long. By selecting this option Vegas builds a less accurate but more efficient audio waveform, made from 8 bits of information per sample rather than 16, that will allow Vegas to run quicker on older systems.

Enable Media Manager
The Vegas Media Manager is one of the most comprehensive media library management tools on the market and allows for an incredible level of search and tagging functionality for audio and video assets. However, the Media Manager uses a large amount of computer system power when activated and running and is primarily designed to be used with a vast stock media library such as that employed by TV studios and video production houses. If you don't have such a media library that is tagged and referenced you may be better served by disabling the Sony Media Manager which will free significant system resources, allowing Vegas to run faster.

At the bottom of the General Tab is a Temporary Files Folder and this specifies the location on your hard drives where Vegas will save the numerous temporary files created during the process of editing. Ensure that this location is not a network drive but a local, physical hard drive with plenty of free space; preferably a secondary drive or RAID.

Video Tab

Video Tab
Dynamic RAM Preview
This is the first setting on the video tab and allows for a specific amount of memory set aside and dedicated to RAM-Render previews. A RAM-Render is used on the timeline of Vegas in situations when you have a sequence that has too many effects to playback smoothly in the preview window. By using a RAM-Render (SHIFT+B), Vegas buffers a part of the timeline into RAM as a temporary render, allowing you to see the preview in real-time. The amount of RAM dedicated here is the amount kept aside for such temporary renders. The more RAM here the longer duration of the RAM renders you can make on the timeline. However, dedicating RAM here removes it from general use by Vegas in other areas and can reduce system speed. Unless you use the RAM-render feature often Vegas will perform faster with this setting on zero, particularly with final renders. Changing this will depend on how you work, what type of productions you make, and how powerful your computer system is.

Preview Device Tab

Preview Device Tab
In this page you can set the external preview device that you may wish to use to monitor your video on an external screen. There are a number of options for this but the two most common (and inexpensive) are OHCI IEEE 1394 (FireWire or i.LINK) and Windows Secondary display. FireWire preview allows you to view your video on a TV screen by sending the signal out via the FireWire cable, into the camera and then out of the camera via the analogue AV cable into a TV set.

If choosing this option change the ?Conform output to the following format drop down menu to match your TV system, either PAL or NTSC.

If you have a computer with a dual-head graphics card and two computer monitors attached you can use one of them as a full-screen preview monitor for Vegas by selecting the Windows Secondary Display option.

Audio Tab

Audio Tab
In this page there is an option to ?Import audio at project tempo. Vegas has the ability to tempo and pitch-correct audio files to conform with a particular project tempo. This is much the same as working in a loop sequencer like Acid. If this tick box is ticked, any audio you bring into Vegas will have its tempo changed to match the project. It is generally best to have this un-ticked until you specifically need it or you may find your voice over sounds like chipmunks.

Display Tab
The default Vegas interface places the Timeline window at the top of the screen and all other windows including Preview and Explorer at the bottom as tabbed panes. This is the opposite of most other computer editing systems which traditionally place the Timeline at the bottom and all other windows at the top. In the Display tab you will find a tick box option to ?Dock windows at top of main window and this will invert the default Vegas layout to place the timeline at the bottom. Many editors who have come to Vegas from other editing systems such as Premiere and Final Cut Pro often find this is more familiar. There is also an option to ?Position tabs at top of docked windows and this is recommended if you are inverting the interface to put the timeline at the bottom.


Editing Tab
Enable looping on events by default
By default Vegas will loop audio and video events meaning that when you drag on the edge of the clip on the timeline past its actual length it will loop and repeat. For Vegas users or those who are experienced with audio tools like Acid and Audition this is a logical function. But for more traditional editors its can be very unfamiliar and off-putting. Un-ticking this box will prevent this from happening.

Preserve pitch when stretching audio events
Vegas has the ability to pitch correct audio files independent of tempo which means that if you apply slow-motion processes to video clips that also have audio the audio will stretch with the video. With this tick box ticked the pitch of the sound will be maintained despite the stretch. Un-ticking the box will mean that a stretched event drops in pitch.

New still image length
When still images and photos are added to the Vegas timeline they will be inserted at a default length of 5 seconds or 125 frames at 25fps. If you wish for your still images to have a different default length you can set that here.

Having used and reviewed virtually every editing system on the market and working with a wide variety of video makers I am often surprised by how many editors don't really know the inside of their NLE. In many cases the result is simply that they're not getting the best out of their tool. All good editing systems have a surprising level of flexibility that often goes unpublished. Getting familiar with the preferences and options of your NLE can be a major step to a more efficient workflow and these simple options above can make a big difference to how you work with Vegas.


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Mike Jones is a digital media producer, author, educator from Sydney, Australia. He has a diverse background across all areas of media production including film, video, TV, journalism, photography, music and on-line projects. Mike is the author of three books and more than 200 published essays, articles and reviews covering all aspects of cinematic form, technology and culture. Mike is currently Head of Technological Arts at the International Film School Sydney (www.ifss.edu.au), has an online home at www.mikejones.net and can be found profusely blogging for DMN at www.digitalbasin.net


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