October 25, 2020

VEGAS 18 PRO Review with Render Times Tested

Magix hit us with their now yearly update to the Vegas line up with Vegas 18 Pro on the 3rd of August to virtually no fanfare. Magix doesn’t require trumpets and whistle to sell this software, they say the software speaks for itself.

Vegas 18 Pro Colour Adjustment

Well, I have been playing with the Beta and now the full release so let’s see what Vegas 18 Pro has got to say for itself.

The first thing I feel when I look at the Vegas 18 Pro home screen is a sense of familiarity and of comfort, things are laid out logically and I have always preferred Vegas to its main competitors, namely Adobe Premiere Pro and for our Mac brothers Final Cut.

Before I get the usual comments, Final cut is a competitor, if you use it then you will be happy to pay too much for a computer and then too much to use the software because someone made an ad with a white background that talked about everything except how useful the software is to live with.

I’ll start by talking about this years “features”, that is to say, what Magix say they have improved over last years offering. Sorry for missing that review, I happened to have a heart attack and die for a while so I cannot compare Vegas 17 here in any way.

I am very familiar with Vegas 16, however, so it’s a great comparison. Having had messages from many of you it does seem as though most non-professionals are on a two- or three-year upgrade cycle with only the most hardcore users upgrading annually.

overview-ai-1-int

Luckily, I am reasonably familiar with Final Cut and Adobe Premiere Pro too so I am going to mentally compare, however, for the sake of journalistic integrity I want you to know I have my favourite and will unashamedly announce my bias for Vegas from the off.

Improvements

I will list the improvements later and explain each if I am able but Vegas 18 Pro certainly feels faster. The interface is smooth and items open instantly. Switching a filter or adding text doesn’t appear to cause the little lags that I suffered from previously. They weren’t an issue but I had not thought about them until they were gone. Now they are I would not want to go backwards.

Adding media was never a chore but again Vegas 18 handled this without skipping a beat. I would often have to sit and wait after an import of multiple files but I added 2 40-minute MP4 files and nothing. I didn’t’ have to wait for anything, the files were available to edit and play with immediately.

Colour Correction Vegas 18 Pro

Scrubbing through the tracks was as simple as sliding the mouse cursor, there was no loading or waiting for the software to catch up. Within a few minutes, my mind was where it should have been when using a good piece of software, it was on the work in hand.

I was thinking about the ways I could improve the video, what filters I could add and before long I was just making cuts and pulling parts of the video I didn’t like.

I added some titles and when I did, I noticed that there were a lot more options, it seems that Vegas 18 is being fleshed out by some very competent people who appear to actually use the software.

This is important because back in the dark ages when Vegas 14 was a Sony software it didn’t always feel like the programmers listened to us or even that they used the software day to day so had no idea what it needed in terms of improvements to the user interface and additions that should have been here all along.

Vegas 18 Pro Colour Match

Below is a list of new features or improvements to previous features that show how far a software can come in a year if you have a team dedicated to making it better. Some are incremental improvements, some are changes that make Vegas 18 easier to use but, depending on your use case I think a few of these improvements could be overlooked when they are actually the most fundamental changes.

Vegas 18’s new utilisation of your GPU for example. Again my first impressions were of speed and fluidity, but this is because Vegas now has automatic GPU detection and configuration which means better user experiences.

Everything is smoother and more fluid because the effect hardware acceleration has on your workflow, and the best part of that is that you won’t realise it, it’s just happening, it’s the software, if you are new to Vegas you won’t know how much better it is, if however, you have upgraded, be prepared to get more done.

Subtle changes have a large impact too, the new audio encoder is a perfect example of this, it isn’t new and it isn’t actually Vegas’s, but it is a significant improvement when using Vegas Capture. In years gone by there were often audio sync issues that caused frustrations and problems for many users.

Vegas 18 Pro Review Car from Video promotional official shot

Never fully revealing itself until after a 5 hour render your audio would gradually lose sync with your video so the longer the video the worse the issue was. That left casual users with two options, live with it and the slew of YouTube comments complaining about it or go back, cut the video into tiny slices and render again still hoping the issue didn’t occur which it often did.

There is a new emphasis on bringing stability to the platform too. Vegas is a professional software option as well as being a real contender to Premiere Pro for power users. Each year Vegas adds new features so could this be the year Vegas finally has enough features and more importantly, stability for the Pros?

Well, actually, maybe!

There are AI driven effects, advanced motion tracking using the new motion tracking panel, HDR support, plenty of elegant and useful colour grading tools and a slew of plugins which will enable Vegas 18 to be a rich and powerful tool for novices and a very capable post-production and editing suite for professional users.

The caveat here, as I have already alluded to, is that stability is king. Its something Magix has addressed but they should never take their eye off of that ball if they want to target the pro user base.

Vegas Audio Editor

There are plans to afoot to offer an extensive cloud-based media management system making use of file transfers, backups and collaboration tools for a subscription fee. This could be a game-changer in the post COVID world of remote working and provided the stability improvements remain after the service launches then Vegas could shake the apple cart in more ways than one.

Due for launch in October 2020 it will only be a few months until we find out for sure but Vegas has priced this service aggressively at $19.99 per month so watch this space for updates.

Servers

This will be a great way to take advantage of another feature, nested timelines. Nested timelines can be created from any event in your main timeline and shared as independent projects so you could share just a portion of a project with a co-worker or collaborator and still maintain authority of the master project.

There are a couple of great filter additions worth mentioning too, Denoise and Flicker Control. Denoise is perfect when you have shot in too low light. The footage will often be grainy and noisy and the filter will transform the footage into something usable. Equally, the Flicker Control Filter is ideal when you have shot near neon or fluorescent lights, the filter will reduce or even completely remove the flicker but adversely you can also use it to add the effect to video. Zombie Morgue anyone?

Take a look at the full list of announced new features and changes and every user will be affected, those of you who just render out gameplay videos will be able to work faster as well as being able to dive into ever more powerful features as your familiarity with the software grows, the power user who will see their workflow change as a result of the work under the hood and the pro who can trust the software to work predictably when it’s needed.  

Magix has somehow done all this without alienating their current user base by keeping the interface familiar, attracting new users and drawing a line in the sand to challenge the establishment.  

Something that gave my broken heart a joyous little beat was seeing how tightly Sound Forge 14 is integrated with Vegas 18.

Sound Forge Pro is an incredible audio editing software and integrating it so tightly with Vegas was another masterstroke. It means that we can edit, repair, denoise, remove distortion, add effects and master the audio from a project from within an event right in the Vegas timeline.

If you purchase the suite there is even support for encoding and decoding surround sound. I didn’t get to use the suite but here is the official blurb about it “Use the panner to automate tracks and buses and produce breathtaking soundtracks for DVDs and Blu-ray Discs. Apply surround effects to track level or directly to the sum. This way you can exercise full control over your mix. To finish, export your project for encoding into Surround format”.

Vegas 18 Vectorscope

File management has had an overhaul too. VEGAS Prepare will let you organise your media library so that you can add collections based on different criteria you set. You can then add searchable tags which are perfect for a large or complex project and you can then search using Vegas prepare or the hub explorer.

I wasn’t able to play with this feature due to time constraints and availability, however, as I understand things, all you have to do is keep the two libraries synced and everything will stay nice and organised.

Colour grading improvements include a user-adjustable skin tone selection for Vectorscope, for those unaware, Vectorscopes are a way to measure the colour components (chrominance) of a video signal as well as the hue and saturation, which, along with the waveform monitor, used to measure luminance or brightness, makes the colour grading improvements an incredibly powerful tool and, for the pros, is essential for effective colour grading. Add in the camera-like logarithmic exposure tool in the colour Grading panel and power users will have incredible control and accuracy.

This is true even in HDR which is significant because everything seems to be getting HDR these days. I know all the phones, TVs and monitors in my house came HDR-ready and when I asked what HDR was and why I needed it only one person, in the Apple store of all places, knew what they were talking about.

For those people in Currys and PC World, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is essentially a more perceptible contrast between the darkest and brightest parts of a video or image. Your eyes will see that whites are brighter and blacks are darker than SDR has traditionally been able to display so the old video adage of you can have all the brightness with less of the image is no longer true.

The advent of 4K has meant a real shift towards HDR becoming the standard and means that Vegas 18s improvements are all the more important. HDR content can preserve the details that would have been lost using old standards like Rec.709.

Vegas 18 will only support HDR10 which has become the standardised format for HDR however, Samsung has released HDR10+ and there is also Dolby Vision.

HDR10+ works differently than HDR10. It sends dynamic metadata, which allows screens to set up colour and brightness levels frame-by-frame so whilst HDR10 aims to produce 1000 nits of peak brightness, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision support up to 4000 nits currently and in the future, Dolby vision will be able to support up to 10,000 nits. It’s always dangerous going down these routes of explaining things but a nit (nt) is a unit of measurement equal to 1 candela per square meter or 1 cd/m2. A typical HDR TV will have an nt value of 450 to 1500 nits or 450 to 1500 cd/m2.  

I won’t get any more detailed but I think you can see that HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are superior to HDR10 and it’s a potential miss for MAGIX as, in my opinion, HDR10+ will become the new standard and support for it before the competition would have given them a very important edge.

I asked MAGIX the question and the response was that “VEGAS Pro 18 contains HDR support for HDR10 and HLG formats. At this time, we do not support HDR10+ or Dolby Vision”.  Asking for clarification I read between the lines and I think if either becomes the standard it will get support. I still think being first would have paid dividends.

We also now have automatic detection for IDTs which will be great for multi-camera setups or colour grading footage from several different dates or locations. Previously you had to set these up yourself for ACES and ACEScc, again for the unaware ACES and ACEScc are the colour spaces for motion picture production which enable accurate exposure compensation and colour balancing, this is great because it will now be even easier to match different shots and cameras while maintaining colour control and sync.

Something everyone will want to play with is the new Motion Tracking panel. Using planar motion tracking it’s easier to track objects that are moving and changing perspective.

I used a little gameplay footage from Grounded, a new game by Obsidian, and was able to track an ant as it went about its business. I am not overly familiar with motion tracking and in the past when I have attempted to do the same sort of thing the tracking wasn’t that good unless I made constant adjustments.

Not now though, the ant was tracked as it moved all over the screen, coming towards the camera and off into the distance with the word “ant” I had creatively anchored to its head. Most impressively was that it did not lose its place once.

It was a really satisfying experience and my mind raced with ideas about the things I could do so I anchored the text “another ant” on a separate ant and then there were two ants moving about the screen with the text anchored to their heads.

There I sat, a creative genius.

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Render Tests

I didn’t have as much time as I usually do for testing but I did check out some render times for my personal use case which will be useful to gauge how your system will shape up only.

My PC is using Widows 10 Pro 64-bit, with an Intel Core i7 4790K @ 4.00GHz, I have 16.0GB of Dual-Channel DDR3 RAM @ 666MHz on an MSI Z97 GAMING 7 Motherboard.

More significantly I have a 4095MB NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 SUPER
and was writing to a 3726GB Seagate SATA drive at 7200RPM .

I had a 32:29 recording I had made with Shadowplay. The footage was recorded in 2160 x 1440 at 60 FPS. The file size was 10.1 GB before I cut it.

I cut a 10 minute section which I rendered twice.

Once using MAGIX AVC\AAC MP4, Internet UHD 2160p 59.94 fps (NVIDIA NVENC) and once using MAGIX HEVC/AAC, Internet HD 1080p 29.97 fps (NVIDIA NVENC).

I would ordinarily render using a customised template of the MAGIX HEVC at 30 or 60 FPS depending on the footage. I prefer the HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding) as it replaced AVC and has 25% to 50% better data compression without losing quality.

The test are gauges for you to get an idea of render times and are not a comparison of each.

Vegas 18 Pro Render times

As you can see rendering a 10 minute video at 1080P using HEVC is fantastic as the output file size is only 890MB from a file that would have been approximately 3.4GB.

I then decided to do a few tests of a 1 minute section of the same footage. Again the render settings were not adjusted and I also tested the time a QSV (Quick Sync Video) would take which meant I had to enter the BIOS and enable the IGP (integrated graphics processor).

The yellow bar above represents the same footage with a Picture in Picture overlay, a Colour Correction (very light saturation), Black Restore, and in a few places an S_Glow, Pixellation in places and some newsprint effects. I also added a couple of transitions to test any differences. I think there is enough information here for you to make sense of so hopefully you can draw a conclusion about your own potential render times.

In summary

What did Vegas 18 say then?

Vegas 18 Pro feels like a huge leap forward for the software and I love the direction MAGIX have taken. There are subtle changes, huge changes and hidden changes and yet the software still feels like Vegas.

I think Vegas 18 Pro is the best version of Vegas I have ever used and is definitely worth an upgrade from any version before it.

Is there enough here to tempt a pro user? I think so, I have been incredibly impressed by Vegas 18 Pro. I have not used Vegas 17 but comparing to Vegas 16, Final Cut and Premiere Pro I think Vegas 18 Pro is arguably the best editing software currently available.

I do not edit video for my job, however, YouTube maestros and Power Users will not need a feature they cannot find and the stability improvements and wealth of additions will certainly attract Professional editors.

There are so many new features that I have added a list below and don’t forget, these are the new features, Vegas was already a competent editing software.

Vegas 18 Pro official image from video Video Editing Text  Vegas

Feature List

  • New Motion Tracking panel which now has
  • VEGAS Capture improvements
    • Capture folder configuration
    • New audio encoder
  • HDR improvements
    • Hardware encoding available for HDR presets
    • Automatic selection of IDTs based on metadata
  • VEGAS Hub pane
  • New plugins
    • Style transfer (initial samples available with the models installer)
    • Flicker reducer
    • Black Bar fill
    • Denoise
    • Colorize (available with the models installer)
  • Color Grading improvements
    • Dockable Color Grading panel
    • Logarithmic exposure tool (“Camera Exposure”)
    • Improved Auto contrast
    • Skin-tone line for Vectorscope
    • Combined RGB display
  • 30 new fonts
  • New presets and animations for Titles and Text
  • Optional trim handles for timeline events
    • (Option is accessible in event hamburger menu)
  • Timeline cursor location storage saved with project files
  • Plugin window replacement (Video FX, Media Generators, Transitions and Compositors
  • Full range Read/Render support in 8 bit project
  • Incremental Save
  • New render progress dialog
  • Exportable preferences
  • Video engine performance improvements
  • GPU Driver update utilities
  • Automatic GPU configuration for hardware acceleration

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