Sony Vegas is an all-purpose industrial grade video editor. It runs extremely fast and has a wide variety of export formats. It’s relatively easy to learn (compared to FinalCut or Adobe Premier.) If your main purpose is editing simple web videos or DVDs, you can learn everything you need to know about Vegas in under a week.

Its only drawback is that it lacks sound editing, which needs to be done in external software like Audacity. It doesn’t have many special-effects type of filters and is primarily a video editing program, not a motion graphics program.

All that said, Sony Vegas is a great all around pick for video editing. Here’s a basic guide to using Sony Vegas.

Step 1: Understanding the Interface

 

A good understanding of Vegas’ interface is imperative for being able to edit efficiently. Here’s the basic layout of Vegas’ interface.

1) Media Box. This is where you can view your existing media, add new media, manage transitions or effects.

2) Volume Bar. This is where you adjust how loud or quiet the volume is. It also allows you to watch the sound levels visually while previewing a video.

3) Toolbar. Select what kind of tools you’re using to edit your video.

4) Preview Box. Play the video and see how it’ll look after it’s rendered in this box.

5) Timeline. Move forwards and backwards in time in your video. This is where the majority of your editing work will take place.


Step 2: Importing Media

 

In order to edit video, you first need to import video into Vegas. Do this by browsing for media either in Windows Explorer, or in Vegas’ built in explorer.

Anytime you see a video you want to import, just drag and drop it into the timeline. This works from both Windows Explorer and Vegas’ explorer.


Step 3: Navigating the Timeline

 

Editing involves constantly moving forwards and backwards in time, previewing how the video looks like, making changes and repeating the process. In order to edit well, you need to be very comfortable with moving through video.

Here’s how to navigate Sony Vegas’ timeline.

1) Basic Controls. This is how you Play, Stop and Pause video. You can also “Play from Start,” “Skip to End” or “Skip” to Beginning” with these controls.

2) Selection. You can select areas of video to apply effects to, to render or to cut. The area between the yellow triangles is the area that’s selected. Change your selection by dragging the yellow triangles.

3) Cursor. Your cursor determines where playback starts and stops. As you play your video, the cursor will move along showing you where in the timeline you’re currently at. Simply click anywhere on the timeline to move the cursor.

4) Playback Rate. You’ll often want to play your video faster or slower than normal. This will allow you to speed past parts that you don’t need to edit, or drastically slow down parts you want to edit so you can get to a specific frame. The Playback Rate allows you to adjust this speed.

It’ll really make your life easier to learn three keyboard shortcuts. These three shortcuts are:

J K L

 

J – Play backwards.

K – Pause.

L – Play forwards.

Double Tap J – Play backwards at double speed.

Double Tap L – Play forwards at double speed.

Triple Tap L: Play forwards at quadruple speed.

 

You’ll find yourself playing video forwards and backwards constantly throughout the editing process. Learning just these three keys will cut hours from your editing time.


Step 4: Basic Editing: Moving Clips Around

 

Now that you know how to navigate the timeline, let’s get into how you actually edit video.

To move video around, simply click and drag a video clip. For example, if you’re starting with this video clip:

If you dragged the right clip to the right, it would look like this:

If you dragged it to the left, so that it overlaps the first video, Vegas will automatically create a transition called a crossfade. Basically, the two videos would fade into each other, giving it a smooth transition from one clip to another:


Step 5: Basic Editing: Splitting Clips

Let’s say you take a 20 minute long video on your iPhone. In that 20 minute clip are 5 sub-clips that you want to edit separately, put transitions between, apply different effects to, etc. In order to do that, you’ll first need to split that one clip into several separate clips.

First, position your cursor where you want to make the split.

Then either go to Edit > Split or just hit S on your keyboard. The clip will then be split where your cursor was positioned.


Step 6: Basic Editing: Adding Text, Backgrounds and Other Media

 

Often times you’ll want to add in things that aren’t already there in your video clips. For example, subtitles, text transitions, colored backgrounds, special effects and so on.

To do this, first navigate to the Media Box in the upper left corner. In the bottom tabs, click on the tab most appropriate to the media you want to create. For example, if you wanted to create text, you’d click on Media Generator, then Text.

Drag and drop the text style you want onto your timeline. When you do, a text edit box will pop up.

Edit the text to look the way you want it to. The changes will automatically be saved.

The same can be repeated for special effects by going to the “Video FX” tab. Transitions can be inserted by going to the “Transitions” tab. Transitions must be dragged and dropped onto overlapping video.


Step 7: Using the Video Preview Tool

 

To see how your video will look when it’s finally rendered, use the video preview tool in the upper right corner.

You can change the resolution of the video by clicking the drop-down menu. By default, Vegas uses “Preview (Auto)” to save memory and processing power. If you need better quality previews, change the quality.

To see the video preview in a larger screen mode, just drag the video out to the center, drag the corners to enlarge it and set the display mode to “Full” or “Half.”


Step 8: Rendering Video

Once you’ve finished editing your video, it’s time to take your edits and turn it into a real video file. The process is called rendering. During this process, it helps a lot to turn off other programs, as it’s very processing intensive. If you have a particularly long video, you may have to render overnight.

To start rendering, go to File > Render As.

The “Render As…” box will pop up, with a number of options.

First, name your file in #1.

Tell Vegas whether to render the whole file, or just your selection in #2.

You can change the render template by selecting from one of the many selections in #3. These templates are generally all high resolution renders, meaning you’ll have files in the gigabytes, not the megabytes, even for short videos.

This is great for DVD-quality work. If you’re working with DVDs, it’s as simple as selecting the format you need to burn the DVD in and choosing that template.

However, if you’re editing for web, you’ll need to customize your renders. Generally speaking, you’ll want to render out a small sized video that’s highly compressed with decent quality for web work (i.e. YouTube, Vimeo, etc.)

To do this, click Custom, then click Video. Select the Sony YUV Codec.

If you want to get into the technicalities of video editing, there’s a lot you can learn about compression, codecs and how videos are encoded. That knowledge comes in handy when selecting how you want to render your video.

For most people however, Sony’s YUV codec is more than adequate for web videos. The NTSC DV setting is a good choice for DVD editing.

Click “OK” when you’re finished.

Congratulations! You now know enough to do basic editing in Sony Vegas. You now know how to import media into Vegas and edit that media by splitting it up and moving it around. You’ve learned how to move through the timeline by positioning your cursor or playing the video at 2x or 4x speed. You learned how to create transitions, how to add text, how to add effects and other media. You’ve learned how to change the quality of the preview as you’re editing. Finally, you learned how to render a video in both DVD quality and web quality.

 

Michael Rockwell