Some Thoughts on the Use of 3rd Party Software

vtxrocketeer wrote on 2/21/2012, 7:45 AM
Some of the questions on the recent SCS survey asked what third party software I use along Vegas and for what purpose. One of my responses was my need for heavy compositing, for which I use After Effects, an app that I learned within the last few months. I felt a bit like admitting that I had just started to see a mistress, but, oh well, an editor has needs...

On a current project I had a need for lots of compositing to manipulate images and masks from my 3D app (Cinema 4D) and to move media around in 2.5D space (AE uses that term; I think it fits). So I said, hey, I really want to do all of this Vegas (except the 3D modeling, of course). How hard could it be?

To test the 3D aspect of my project, I did a quick render from C4D, exporting various "passes", such as a main image, masks, lights, shadows, etc. In AE, I assembled these on the timeline within about 30 seconds, when I could have been off to the races. But, nooo, I wanted to keep everything within Vegas.

Would you believe that 12 hours later I finally got it to work? Yes, I might have been wearing a pointy cap, but good golly I fought Vegas tooth and nails to make my compositing work. Parent this, child that, set mode to multiply here and add there, what kind of alpha channel in mask -- ooops, I have a luminance mask but no alpha, so have to make one in Photoshop, then add mask generator FX, futz with those settings....

Wow! I got it to work and get full framerate preview at Best/Full, and it does look nice, but, dang, I had to wonder whether I was making this too hard. I mean, 30 seconds in AE and a few mouse clicks and I was there. Maybe I need to learn Vegas' compositing features better, but I really struggled. I realize that Vegas is an NLE first, but it obviously is capable of compositing. Perhaps I just 'contaminated' my thinking by learning the AE way of doing things....


farss wrote on 2/21/2012, 7:59 AM
"I felt a bit like admitting that I had just started to see a mistress, but, oh well, an editor has needs..."

Do you feel that way when you use Word or Excel?
One of the banes of my IT experience is people who use Excel when they should be using Access. Using a tool specifically designed to do the job will always result in less grief in the long run.

"Perhaps I just 'contaminated' my thinking by learning the AE way of doing things.... "

Not for me. I find the Vegas way of doing compositing restrictive once you get beyond doing the basics. I've done some fairly messy comps in Vegas over the years and it took me ages to get my head around AE because I missed some basic concepts but once I got over that hurdle I've never looked back.
The big plus is I have a lot less reason to swear at Vegas. I'm still using V9 as an NLE and for audio editing and mixing. Current project would be helped a lot by having some "things" removed from shots that shouldn't be there, way easier to do in AE than Vegas.
Should I mention I'm also using iZotopes Rx to clean up the audio and I don't feel at all dirty about using that where I used to use SF.

kkolbo wrote on 2/21/2012, 8:15 AM
farss couldn't have said it better.
vtxrocketeer wrote on 2/21/2012, 9:16 AM
Thanks for the reality check and confirmation, Bob. :)

This does remind me of my experience rebuilding my motorcycle a few years ago. I saved myself a LOT of frustration (and probably damage to parts) by purchasing a number of more specialized tools suitable for particular tasks, rather than relying upon my more general stable of tools that I could have 'forced' into service for those tasks. I never regretted those purchases.

In another current project, I used AE very heavily -- again, mainly for compositing -- and Vegas simply to bring final renders and sound together. Worked a treat.

Finally, I was pleasantly relieved in these instances to experience a very stable Vegas Build 521. I used generated media, Sony FX, lots of composited tracks and 3D parenting, some NewBlue Titler Pro, some Magic Bullet Looks, and Photoshop sequences (exported from AE). I only ran into occasional crashes with BCC Fx, and then only while pushing my CPU to 100% on a simultaneous render. Makes me want to stay with Vegas as my NLE...

[r]Evolution wrote on 2/21/2012, 1:07 PM
Bro, post a sample of all this compositing done in Vegas!
I'm very curious to see a comparison of composites you feel Vegas did just as good as AE.

Maybe even post a Screenshot of your Vegas Timeline as AE projects/timelines tend to be very intimidating.
vtxrocketeer wrote on 2/21/2012, 1:26 PM
Sure, I'll post some screen shots and a timeline perhaps later today. At the moment, I'm away from my editing rig.

Also, I didn't say that that I felt compositing in Vegas is just as good as in AE. I said it looked "nice." I huffed and I puffed and I . . . got things to work in principle.

In reality, however, the achieved image in Vegas still is a bit off, whereas in AE it is bang on perfect. And dead simple to achieve. (Before I got AE, I used to watch AE tutorials for inspiration and thought so many times,"Dang, why can't it be that simple in Vegas?!") Some things are. This isn't one them.

I suspect my travails related in large part to the way that Vegas handled my specific images and masks as output by Cinema 4D: for some reason, AE handles these perfectly, e.g., I can easily composite just one layer of shadows onto an image in AE, but all the masking/parenting/composite mode hoopla in Vegas resulted in double application of some shadows, which appear more rich than I intended.

No one in the world but me would notice, OK? Even so, getting there in Vegas was a PITA. And if "there" was simply "nice" when I could have "perfect" in a tiny fraction of the time, well...

Back later with images...
farss wrote on 2/21/2012, 2:39 PM
"I suspect my travails related in large part to the way that Vegas handled my specific images and masks as output by Cinema 4D:"

Years ago I discovered that Vegas has problems with images output by Vegas.
I'd built a simple comp in Vegas with shadows and bumped one of the tracks to a new file and bought that back into the comp to save CPU load etc and much to my alarm found the result was dramatically different.
Comp'ing the elements from Vegas in AE gave the correct result and it was exactly the same as the result I got in Vegas before I'd bumped them out.

Tech Diver wrote on 2/21/2012, 2:58 PM
I have no qualms about using 3rd party software to get a job done. I do a great deal of compositing and Vegas is essentially an editor. As such, I use Boris Red as much as I use Vegas. Furthermore, since Boris Red is a Vegas plugin (as well as a standalone application) I created presets that I can drop onto my clips from the FX menu, making for a nice tight integration.

In contrast, I use Particle Illusion as my particle generator, which runs only as a standalone application. It is a bit of a bother with regard to workflow, but it does a fairly good job in creating some neat effects on the rare occasion that I would need such things as smoke or a flash of light. For rain or snow, I prefer Boris Red. I had the financial resources, I would purchase Krakatoa from Thinkbox, which is a true 3D particle modeler (if you haven't seen it, go to ; you will be absolutely amazed). Another tool on my wish list is Twixtor. However, I would need it so rarely that I cannot justify the purchase.

I used to also have the old 32-bit Movie Looks plugin that was included in Vegas 6 and 7 but have since removed it because I can completely duplicate all its effects with the Boris Red three-way color grade filter and glow/diffuse filter. I have made presets for my favorite "looks" that I can drop onto any clip or track.

Anyway, this has just been my long-winded way of saying that I make ample use of 3rd party software as necessary.

vtxrocketeer wrote on 2/21/2012, 4:47 PM
As promised, I pasted below some images of what I've been working on.

1. A frame grab from Vegas. The TV is a 3D model that I created and lighted in Cinema 4D. It is not animated, but stuff on the "screen" will be animated, such as the TV static you see here. I used a textured background simply to show the shadow that the TV throws.

2. My timeline in Vegas to produce the image above. Tracks 1-3 are irrelevant. Tracks 4-10 are where the business resides. They're pretty self-explanatory if you can see the details and the timeline thumbnails.

To pull off the illusion here, I needed to do two more things. First, the light thrown onto the TV creates specular highlights that I needed to preserve in Vegas to show, among other things, the reflection off the screen. That's track 5.

Second, I needed to distort the images that appear on the screen to preserve the perspective. That's where Vegas' 3D track parenting comes in -- tracks 9 and 10. Track 9 is a dummy track that I used simply to create the geometry. For this, I temporarily dumped onto the timeline a checkerboard gen media, which gave me horizontal and vertical reference lines. Then I played with the 3D parameters until I got the checkerboard to look like it "belonged" on the screen. Once I was satisfied, I deleted the checkerboard and created child track 10. This way, whatever I place onto track 10 adopts the correct geometry, sans a little resizing via event level pan/crop. I thought this was pretty slick once I figured it out.

3. Finally, essentially the same comp in After Effects. I swear it took me about 2 minutes to set this up. The blue screen is just a solid that I did not rotate in 3D space to account for the TV's perspective. Obviously, this would have taken about 15 seconds to achieve.


P.S. This was my first use of Dropbox for posting images here. Super easy.