OT: CF NEO Scene or AVID DNxHD for editing?

Cliff Etzel wrote on 1/12/2009, 9:30 PM
Perrone Ford has posted over on dvinfo regarding his use of AVID's freely available DNxHD codecs for editing within Vegas Pro. You have to figure a way of getting your footage (in my case, m2t files) converted to one of the DNxHD codecs - he recommends using the DNxHD 36 for my HDV content. Problem is, the only format supported is Quicktime and editing Quicktime files in Vegas is a joke. As far as I can tell, it's more or less crippleware for the PC. I tested most of the day today and found that the performance was dismal - with frame rates of 15 fps at best on my Quad core Desktop - and even worse on my laptop - with preview window set to 1/4 Preview quality.

So I'm left with the only other viable option I can see of editing with Cineform NEO Scene - at the cost of $129.00. Sure, that may be chump change for many of you, but I have to manage my biz finances and account for every single cent I spend and truly need to justify my expenditures.

Given that - is it only me who is experiencing dismal performance with VP8 when using Quicktime MOV files to edit with? It seems that Vegas prefers AVI's - which is something Cineform does. I'm trying to find a way to improve the image quality as I work with color grading my content, adding dissolves, etc. with what equipment I have at my disposal at the present time

I understand that there is an increase in file size going this route, but it seems that HD's are affordable these days, you can get the WD 640GB HD's for less than $75 with free shipping from NewEgg - and Seagate has announced they are releasing a 500GB 7200 RPM 2.5" laptop drive next month.

Any comments?

Cliff Etzel - Solo Video Journalist
bluprojekt | solo video journalism blog


ingvarai wrote on 1/12/2009, 10:47 PM
> It seems that Vegas prefers AVI's
I think this depends on your PC. When running a quad core, or even better, the latest Intel i7 CPU, Vegas is just fine with m2t files as fars as I know and have experienced myself.

> - which is something Cineform does
Cineform does it best because the files are rather small to be AVIs.
Lagarith is free and does AVI, files twice as large (or even larger) than using Cineform I believe.
John_Cline wrote on 1/12/2009, 10:49 PM
My experience with DNxHD is the same as yours, INCREDIBLY slow to encode on my Quad-core and playback frame rates are also incredibly slow.

I bought Cineform NEO Scene and have been quite satisfied. Of course, you can always use Lagarith, it is free and completely lossless, but makes some pretty large files.
johnmeyer wrote on 1/12/2009, 11:02 PM
I just did my first AVCHD project. I simply rendered to Cineform AVI using the built-in Cineform encoder in 8.0c, and then edited those AVI files in 7.0d (because 7.0d has been rock-solid for me, and I don't need anything at the moment in 8.0c other than the AVCHD reading).

Any reason this won't work for you?
John_Cline wrote on 1/12/2009, 11:29 PM
The version of the Cineform codec which comes with Vegas is quite old, v2.8 vs v4.5 in NEO Scene. Also, with the Vegas Cineform codec, you can only write Cineform files from within Vegas. This prevents using it as an intermediate file outside of Vegas. Buying NEO Scene solves this.
farss wrote on 1/13/2009, 2:32 AM
I'm not exactly certain what you're trying to achieve or even what Perrone is for that matter so you might be going to a lot of trouble for nothing. Given that some of my comments might be spurious but you'll need to judge that for yourself.

1) You cannot improve image quality converting to a different codec. What is in the file from the camera is it, it can only go downhill from there.

2) It may be easier to edit using a different codec, converting to Cineform or whatever may or may not help.

3) If you need to render to intermediate codecs then certainly better codecs will prevent any undue loss in the process. This is only true for internediate renders. Cineform is very, very good for this.

4) Other considerations are file size. Sometimes for various reasons you need smaller files and different codecs give better choices.

5) Vegas does not have a 10bit pipeline. Choices are 8bit or 32bitFP. So if you shot 8bit converting it to a 10bit codec to feed into Vegas gains you nothing compared to feeding 8bit into the same pipeline. Other NLEs might be different but I'm yet to see even that.

6) If you need to work in apps aoutside of Vegas then sometimes you might need to use a high quality intermediate codec but I've yet to find the need for that. To work in AE I take a reference file from Vegas into AE. I do my thing in AE, switch off the reference in AE and render out of AE with alpa and comp that in within Vegas thus avoiding any loss to my source.

However if you wanted to do color grading in AE after editing in Vegas then you might need a better than native codec. Having said that I've had some joy getting an AAF out of Vegas and into AE to grade in AE. No intermediate render involved. AE is reading the source media directly but this would only work for a cuts only edit in Vegas.

Hope this give you something to work with. I see a lot of this kind of data shuffling and transcoding going on and not all of it is achieving anything, certainly not if you're a one man show working on a laptop.

johnmeyer wrote on 1/13/2009, 7:25 AM
The version of the Cineform codec which comes with Vegas is quite old, v2.8 vs v4.5 in NEO Scene. Also, with the Vegas Cineform codec, you can only write Cineform files from within Vegas. This prevents using it as an intermediate file outside of Vegas. Buying NEO Scene solves this.John,

That's a good summary of some of the reasons to purchase Neo. You could also add to your summary that Neo lets you capture directly to Cineform. However, I am not sure whether the quality improvements in the newer versions are noticeable to everyone, and the performance improvements may not be important for occasional use, especially to someone for whom cost is the overriding decision metric. It sure sounds to me that just using the incrementally free version in Vegas is the perfect way to go for Cliff.

Cliff Etzel wrote on 1/13/2009, 10:31 AM
The idea I originally had is to improve framerates while editing so that I can get a better sense of the editing flow in the preview window - Since I"m now really beginning to work with more color correction and using dissolves a tad more, my initial understanding was that by converting my m2t footage to Cineform (or any other lossless codec) I would maintain the integrity of the content's quality when applying color correction , etc.

Could I use Gearshift to render out AVI's based upon the original Cineform codec that comes with Vegas and work with those instead of having to go with Cineform NEO Scene? Any reason based upon my response above to need to work with NEO Scene compared with the original Cineform codec installed with Vegas?

Just trying to get a handle here on if I need to spend $, I do it right the first time - and not have buyers remorse later on if theres a free way of accomplishing the same thing. I know it may sound cheap (actually being frugal), but the economy has me tightening my belt and I'm trying not to spend if I don't have to.

Cliff Etzel - Solo Video Journalist
bluprojekt | solo video journalism blog
johnmeyer wrote on 1/13/2009, 1:19 PM

The more I read about Cineform and m2t (and there was a great link a few days ago to extensive tests on lots of intermediate formats), the more I am convinced that most of us probably don't need them most of the time. In particular, given what you are doing, if you are only planning to render from the timeline (i.e., you are not going to render your color correction, and then re-import into a new project and do some more stuff, and then render, and then re-import that into another project, etc.) then I don't think there is ANY advantage -- not even one tiny bit -- to using an intermediate.


Because whenever video from any source is opened in any application on any computer, that video is unpacked into a completely uncompressed format. It doesn't matter what format you eventually plan to render to -- MPEG-2, Cineform intermediate, AVCHD, etc. -- the bits inside of your computer are exactly the same. Thus, as you color correct, or add fX, or mask, or anything else, all those things are working on the uncompressed bits that have been extracted from your DV, HDV, AVCHD, YUV, Cineform, or any other source.

Now, when you render the result, THAT is when things degrade. If you frameserve to another application or save as uncompressed, then you have zero degradation. There are also lossless codecs, but even they may degrade the image, depending on colorspace issues. If you encode directly to the final format in which you plan to deliver, then you are going to degrade the video, but that step is inevitable and has to happen in order to create a DVD or BD disc.

So, going to an intermediate will not -- unless I've totally misunderstood everything -- buy you ANYTHING in quality if you render directly from your original Vegas timeline to your final format. The only place where they will help quality is if you do lots of intermediate renders. But of course, you can avoid this in many cases by using nested VEG files, which basically frameserve that uncompressed video, so you get all the advantages mentioned above.

Just to be complete, the other main reason to use intermediates is to improve timeline performance, something still needed with AVCHD, but quite frankly no longer needed at all if you capture HDV within Vegas (so that it uses its own codec during playback and NOT the Mainconcept code, which it will if you capture using HDV Split or other outside capture apps).

The main reason I will probably finally purchase Cineform is that Neo Scene lets me use applications outside of Vegas (like Deshaker) which must render the results in order to be used inside of Vegas. Thus, without a good, high-quality intermediate, quality loss is inevitable, and saving as uncompressed, when working with HD, results in files which are very large and therefore slow to play on the timeline.

Cliff Etzel wrote on 1/13/2009, 2:19 PM
John - thanks for explaining this in laymans terms :)

So in reality, the quality of the original footage is what's most important. I try to be as careful as possible (although I am still learning how to manage all that's required with shooting video compared to stills). Shooting properly exposed and color balanced footage it seems goes a long way in making sure there is as little degradation as possible - even from lower end cameras.

I'm not a video techie, I'm a visual content creator learning to be a proficient editor.

Thanks again for explaining this in a way that a n00b like me can understand.

Cliff Etzel - Solo Video Journalist
bluprojekt | SoloVJ blog
Cliff Etzel wrote on 1/13/2009, 2:42 PM
The only caveat for me using the Vegas Capture utility is that it seems to want to do scene splitting no matter how many times I tick the Do not scene detect option

Any ideas on that? I've been using HDVSplit to capture my clips - is there that big a difference for performance when laying clips on the timeline between the two???

Cliff Etzel - Solo Video Journalist
bluprojekt | solo video journalism blog
farss wrote on 1/13/2009, 3:11 PM
Vegas will be forced to split clips if there's a break in timecode or a gap in the tape with HDV. It may also do this if there's a major dropout in the tape.
If you take steps to avoid these then you can capture a full tape with no scene splits at all.

johnmeyer wrote on 1/13/2009, 3:48 PM
Any ideas on that? I've been using HDVSplit to capture my clips - is there that big a difference for performance when laying clips on the timeline between the two???Potentially, yes. And it is a BIG difference.

When Sony introduced the ability to play m2t HDV directly on the timeline, it was really slow. Somewhere along the line in version 7, the added a new native HDV reader that was MUCH, much faster. The catch, however, is that the video needs to be captured with Vegas.

Having said this, it is possible in current (8.0c) versions that the HDV native reader may be friendlier to captures from other applications. Fortunately, it is easy to tell whether you are getting the fast reader or the slow reader.


Use the Explorer that is built into Vegas and navigate to a folder that has HDV m2t files that you are interested in playing. Right click on one of them and select "Properties." Scroll all the way to the bottom and under the heading "Plug-in" you should see "Format:" and after that you will either see MainConcept or you will see "Sony M2TS." If you see the Sony format, playback will be really fast. If you see the MainConcept format, playback will be dog slow. I think it is about 3:1 (i.e., not subtle at all).

As for how to avoid the unwanted scene splits (which wouldn't be that big a deal if it didn't almost always involve losing a bunch of frames), Bob's advice is probably sound, although I've never gotten the capture to be reliable, even when I capture live, directly from the camera during a shoot (which I always do whenever I can).
Cliff Etzel wrote on 1/13/2009, 3:59 PM
Interesting you stated how to determine the format.

I always capture with HDVSplit - here's the plugin information for a random m2t file I captured using HDVSplit:

Name: m2tsplug.dll
Folder: D:\Program Files\Sony\Vegas Pro 8.0\FileIO Plug-Ins\m2tsplug
Format: Sony M2TS
Version: Version 1.0 (Build 1378)
Company: Sony Creative Software Inc.

Seems as though HDVSplit is using the SONY plugin according to what you described.

Cliff Etzel - Solo Video Journalist
bluprojekt | solo video journalism blog
kairosmatt wrote on 1/13/2009, 4:15 PM
When you capture through premiere it does not use the Sony Codec. I

Is there any way to change that, or are you stuck with the default once you capture?

johnmeyer wrote on 1/13/2009, 4:17 PM

That's good news about HDV Split. In the first months after Sony introduced this performance enhancement, I don't know if it was Vegas or HDV Split, but Vegas insisted on using the older, slower MainConcept decoder. Glad to hear that this is no longer the case. From all reports, HDV Split is a much better capture app for HDV, just like Scenalyzer is the only way to go for capturing DV.

[edit] I just saw the question about Premiere. I don't think that either HDV Split or Premiere use the Sony codec. Instead, I think that Sony -- somewhere in the development of 8.x -- figured out how to use their reader with "flavors" of m2t capture by other apps.
kairosmatt wrote on 1/13/2009, 4:24 PM
Sorry John, I don't think I understand. I have 8.b and c installed on different computers, and they both crash with HDV from premiere.

In explorer window (inside of Vegas and outside ) they have different thumbnails and use different codecs. And it is crash city on both computers using those files in Vegas.

Are you saying Vegas should automatically use its own codec on any flavour of HDV? Because it does not appear to, unless there is a way to force it.

Or is there a way to set it before hand?

johnmeyer wrote on 1/13/2009, 4:37 PM
I am not affiliated in any way with Sony, so I'm afraid I cannot answer your questions about why Vegas crashes when reading HDV files captured in Premiere. Sorry.
Cliff Etzel wrote on 1/13/2009, 4:45 PM
KM - it might very well depend on the version of PPro you are using

I had a similar problem and here's a fix that worked for me - run HDVSplit on the clips as if you were going to do a scene splitting on them - I had the same problem and it fixed my crashing issues.

Give that a shot and see what happens.

Cliff Etzel - Solo Video Journalist
bluprojekt | solo video journalism blog
kairosmatt wrote on 1/13/2009, 5:55 PM
Thanks Cliff,
I am not familiar with HDVSlit, although most on this forum recommend it. I had originally captured using PPro CS3 because I had a bunch of tapes and needed batch capture. I fixed all of those clips by convert to Raylight with DVFilmaker, and now I stay on top of my tapes and use Vegas' non-batch HDV capture.

HDVSplit sounds great, though, it may be time to look into it.....

BruceDale wrote on 1/19/2009, 4:28 PM
John, I have loved your script for using deshaker from within Sony Vegas. I wonder if you have updated it to use the newest versions of deshaker and VirtualDub that is available?
Also, when I am using it, I find that the resulting video (in Cineform HD) has lost some of its color vibrance, like a gray filter has been placed in front of the video. This seems to be the deshaker that is degrading the video. Have you seen that effect?
David Newman wrote on 1/19/2009, 8:40 PM
"has lost some of its color vibrance, like a gray filter " -- this is a classic Vegas user error cause by the why Vegas previews. Vegas defaults to studio RGB which places black for RGB at 16, not at zero (like you are used to.) When we did the CineForm implementation with Sony, we honor the Vegas request and decode to Studio RGB, we are one of the few codecs that do this correctly. Unfortunately if you used to seeing the contrast, we might look bad. Low constrast means higher dynamic range, and more room to do post color correction. CineForm is preserving more data than someting that looks contrasty, contrast is like salt, you can add it later, harder to take away. Read up on Studio RGB on this forum, there are hundeds of discussions on it.

Here is a starter http://www.glennchan.info/articles/vegas/colorspaces/colorspaces.html

David Newman
CTO, CineForm
BruceDale wrote on 1/21/2009, 9:27 PM
Thanks David for directing me to the solution of my Cineform problem. When I changed the configuration of Cineform in VirtualDub to "Use video Systems RGB" on encoding, it fixed the problem. Now the video created by VirtualDub looks the same as the m2t's in my Sony Vegas project.

I also fixed up John Meyer's script to deshake video clips from within Vegas to work with the new versions of deshaker and Virtual Dub.

BrianStanding wrote on 1/22/2009, 9:53 AM

Are you certain that Vegas frameserves uncompressed video from nested veggies?

When you put a nested VEG file on the Vegas timeline, Vegas renders the VEG before you can use it. When Vegas does this, is it rendering just the audio, or the video as well? If the latter, what codec is it using?

If Vegas is rendering the video stream of a .VEG file, wouldn't this be an advantage of using Cineform over m2t?
BrianStanding wrote on 1/22/2009, 10:50 AM
One other advantage I can mention to using Cineform. Compared to Vegas' native capture utility, Cineform's HDLINK seems much more robust and forgiving of file errors when capturing from HDV tape.

I've had m2t files that VidCap repeatedly chokes on (I'm guessing due to tape dropouts or something) that HDLINK captures (and converts to Cineform AVI) with no problems whatsoever.

Maybe there's some kind of error correction going on in HDLINK's file conversion. Whatever it is, the results are much more trouble-free.