• Price: £349 plus VAT

  • Company: Sony Creative Software

  • Pros: Editing performance with HDV is much improved, and the interface is more configurable than before. Strong collection of effects.

  • Cons: The interface is still less configurable than some competitors, and will remain opaque to those familiar with other editing applications. No support for HD optical formats is provided in DVD Architect 4.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

Vegas has an unusual history. Starting life as a multi-track audio-editing tool from Sonic Foundry, it has since reinvented itself as a video-editing package, and was later acquired by Sony’s media software development arm. It’s emerged as a genuine contender in the video-editing market.

Improvements in Vegas 7 are more to do with core usability than flashy new features. Native HDV support has been significantly revamped. Previously, Vegas used a Cineform plug-in, with the MPEG-2 transport stream converted to intermediate files. Although Vegas could handle MPEG-2 directly, this wasn’t smooth enough for editing. Sony has rewritten its MPEG-2 decoding engine so that HDV can be edited natively. Aside from FireWire, HD can be captured from AJA and Blackmagic cards, and Vegas now supports XDCAM as well.

Interface layout

Vegas has previously eschewed the usual arrangement of having the timeline at the bottom. You can now swap this over, although the option is buried in a preferences box under Window Docking. The interface is still not as easily adjusted as most of the competition. You can drag windows around, but not all windows behave the same way. You can save up to ten interface layouts, but we’d have liked to have seen some preset layouts.

It’s now possible to scale preview output onto a secondary monitor to fit. This is particularly handy with HD, as you don’t need an expensive monitor that supports HD resolutions.

Sony has enhanced clip timeline placement with colour-coded snapping. As you slide a clip on the timeline, the nearest snap-to point glows a different colour. Different snap-to objects – such as clip-in and clip-out points, gridlines, or markers - have different colours. If you’re using XDCAM, you can use markers from the footage itself, such as an audio cue.

Aside from the editing application itself, you also get a Boris Graffiti titling plug-in, Red Giant’s excellent Magic Bullet Movie Looks and a 30-day trial of Cinescore, a sophisticated loop-based music creation system. The most significant extra is DVD Architect 4 - a disc-authoring application. This now supports scripting and random playlists. You can place navigation buttons on video, add animated motion to the images in a slideshow, and even have graphical subtitle tracks.

We certainly found Vegas’s editing performance very competitive with Premiere Pro 2, particularly with HDV. The range of effects available is comprehensive and full of configuration power. There may not be a killer feature to win you over from the competition on its own, but Vegas does have plenty to offer if you’re willing to give it a try.