Vegas vs. Catalyst review

Jamon wrote on 12/12/2015, 7:11 AM
I created a sample project in both Vegas and Catalyst.

I imported an XAVC S clip from my Sony RX100 III.

In Vegas I used 32-bit full range, linear 1.0 gamma, and no view transform.
(But I also rendered a 32-bit video levels version, as Catalyst appears to use video levels)

After adding some video FX, I noticed the preview was slower in Catalyst than Vegas. I used Prepare to quickly transcode an XAVC Intra version, and used the relink and replace functions in both to swap the video. Then Catalyst previewed smoothly.

I used the same numbers for the plugins, but some looked differently (because I was using full range in Vegas). I did not try to match the appearance, I just left it however it looked using the same numbers. I tried to repeat the same procedure on both, but the interfaces are different and I did not bother with frame accuracy.

Both Vegas and Catalyst crashed, but Catalyst crashed much more frequently. It must've crashed at least 20 times.

In repeating the same procedure, I noticed subtle differences. I would've preferred Catalyst in most instances, but its pre-release quality made some things annoying and unstable.

A few notes about Catalyst:

* Side panes can be hidden, but they do an animated slide that is slow
* Mark In/Out points don't snap to clip boundaries when moved with the mouse
* Mark In/Out points aren't saved in project for both Catalyst and Vegas
* No Ctrl+Drag to make a copy of a clip
* Projects don't reopen after crash and there's no auto-recovery if you didn't save
* Many of the conventions and keyboard shortcuts are the same for both
* Plugins don't have presets, and I don't care much because it's quick to adjust

One thing particularly annoying was how the Inspector pane changes whenever you click anything, but it does not remember your scroll position. I would have it scrolled down to work on adjusting the video effect parameters, then use the mouse to click an empty part of the timeline to relocate the play cursor to that point in time, and then the clip lost focus so the Inspector switched to the track tab where I clicked. Then I'd click the clip again, and it'd go back to that clip's inspector, but the scroll was reset to the top so I'd have to scroll down again. To prevent that you have to remember not to click in the track, but instead drag the play cursor. Maybe they should change it to only auto-switch to the track tab when you click the far left area and select a track there. I don't know yet, but there's a better way to do it, and it should at least remember the last scroll position you had for that clip's inspector. There needs to be more keyboard navigation for jumping between the Inspector and timeline, so I can change time position and such while quickly adjusting properties in the inspector.

Catalyst doesn't have all the mouse ways to zoom the tracks like Vegas has. That's alright though, because there's more efficient ways it could be done. I used the keyboard shortcuts primarily, Up/Down arrows for horizontal, and Ctrl+Shift+Up/Down for vertical. There should be more shortcuts to do things like, "Auto-fit the entire timeline into view", "Auto-expand the current clip to fill entire view", which toggle back to the previous view when you repeat it. So if I want to adjust a fade more closely, I can instantly make that area as large as possible, then jump back to the overall view.

For the keyframe animation, Vegas is more powerful with a curve editor, and a line visualization. However, the basic way keyframes work in Catalyst is much nicer for some things, because it's actually part of the timeline. In Vegas you have the keyframes in the FX window, and have to use the sync button to use the play cursor in the main timeline. But in Catalyst you go into a keyframe editor mode where it uses the main timeline, and just hides everything except the keyframes. It's easier that way to navigate at which times things occur.

I didn't like Vegas' interface with all the tracks separated that I needed to resize, and all the tiny buttons everywhere on everything, and separate floating panes jumping around everywhere needing management. Part of why I liked the Tracktion audio software GUI is because it put everything on one screen, and there were no floating pieces, it was just all these input elements built into the main interface. Catalyst is somewhat similar, where most everything is right there, and you don't waste time messing with the interface much. You can't resize the panes, or drag and dock things, and that's good, because it'll force them to make the workflow more efficient with powerful shortcut functions, and you to actually learn them and be able to do most things with the keyboard.

Catalyst has a separate fade tool. I pressed F, my cursor changed, I did the fade right on the clip like I would in Vegas, release F, and it switches back to the default cursor. When I went to do fades in Vegas, I had a more difficult time getting my mouse cursor in just the right spot on the clip to drag the fade points. That was easier in the past, but now with UHD display the interface isn't as optimal. I think maybe they changed it too, where you need to hit the corner in a way that maybe doesn't feel the same as I recall from older versions.

When it was time to render, I chose XAVC S for both. But the resulting file from Catalyst would only play for a second, then stop. I could drag toward the end of the clip in some players, but the thing was broken and most of it was missing. In Windows explorer the thumbnail didn't even appear for it. I was trying different rendering profiles to see which one I could match to a Vegas one, and Catalyst even crashed when rendering. But it's a separate process, so I saw the problem report window, and the notification in the top notification area showed it failed, but only for that one rendering process, so the entire app did not close.

One thing interesting about how it renders, is you can continue to edit, or start multiple renders, and it will put them in a queue. Since I was trying to compare rendering profiles, I could start multiple ones then walk away and come back to multiple files done.

I found I'd have to use AVC, and it appears to use the MainConcept approach, so I inspected the resulting file to try to set the Vegas rendering profile to match. It was close enough, and in some parts of the videos where there's no FX when comparing they look identical.

(I figured some of the FX looked different because I originally used full range, and that changes the ranges for the numbers in the FX parameters. So I rendered again using 32-bit video levels, and now they look more similar. If you want to see the full range version, it's .)

I used fades, but Vegas has presets for velocity-curved "smooth" fades. I left some of that in Vegas, because my goal wasn't to make the videos identical, but to see how the process and results differed between applications right now. That the fades can look nicer in Vegas right now is an advantage for it, and something Catalyst will probably have in an update.

I was going to use velocity envelopes to ramp up and down the speed, but Catalyst does not have that, it only has a flat rate control for clips. Another thing I was going to use is the track compositing modes in Vegas, but Catalyst does not have that, only clip opacity, and not even track opacity. There also isn't a reverse clip feature in Catalyst.

But I could use clip opacity, which I did, and the HSL plugin, Glow, Starburst, title generator, solid color generator, and clip rate.

I did use Stabilize, but they worked differently. In Vegas, it needed to be a media FX plugin, and seemed to apply to everything that used that media file. Whereas in Catalyst, I could drop it on a specific clip, and it seemed to only affect it, because when that clip played I noticed the jump in video because it scales and crops to allow for room to rotate the video to make it appear stable. But Vegas didn't have that jump, so I ended up disabling it to make them more similar. It's easy to bypass the plugins, just click the eye icon.

I think a point of the renders is that there's a lot of similarity between Vegas and Catalyst when it comes to the basics. When things are equal, I prefer Catalyst, in theory, if it didn't crash and annoy.

A lot of the micromanaging in Vegas is gone in Catalyst. I have no idea what bit depth Catalyst uses for processing, or the motion blur algorithm. There's not really any settings. It doesn't ask when you import your first clip if you want to match settings, it just does it. I don't know how it's doing color management; there's a "Grade in" option, which I left at Rec. 709, but there's no color space dropdown for the media file like there is in Vegas. All that complexity is missing, and it felt a little weird to just trust it to automatically do things correctly. But the end result is the same. The final render didn't come out with different colors or anything, and I didn't need a hack with a video levels plugin for studio to computer RGB. Everything just worked.

Well, it worked for a few minutes, until it'd crash, and I'd have to restart, re-open the project, do a little more, hitting Ctrl+S after every modification. It seems to save the undo history in the project file though, so after a restart of the app I could still use Ctrl+Z to undo steps that happened before I saved. Maybe some of the Vegas/Catalyst code they're reusing in both apps doesn't like a chipset or something, where it'd work better on other people's machines.

This little sample project taught me that Catalyst is very much like recent versions of Vegas, where it looks like a nice tool to have, and I pay money with that belief, but in practice it's unstable and unrefined. SCS seems to have this pattern I'll call a fumbling release cycle, where it's like a disorganized frantic kitchen with a deadline, where even when food is half cooked they still plop it on the plate and serve it to hungry people. They have a fancy menu, delightful atmosphere, and polite waiters. They even smother the uncooked food in seasoned sauces so it really looks and smells like it should be a good meal. But then when you're sinking your teeth into it, and taste the uncooked goo, you're filled with that mixed feeling like, "I should be loving this, but I'm also not." Yet you're already seated, already familiar, and there's nowhere else to go. So you eat it anyway, and keep coming back, thinking surely it's temporary, they're just too busy, but next time things will have calmed down, and the chefs will get it together, so it'll be the complete dining experience you expected. Except it's not, and I'm impressed with a lot of what they're doing, but also baffled why they can't get the basics perfected before releasing to the public for sale.

Maybe some of the crashing while editing is just my machine. But major things like rendering to XAVC S and the file not even playing? That has to be deeper than some odd hardware conflict.

I like much of Catalyst better than Vegas, but neither actually work for me right now to produce a little video without hassle on my current computer system.

If you like Vegas though, and haven't tried Catalyst, I'd give the trial a shot. There's been a lot of undeserved negativity in this forum about Catalyst, when really if you just compare the screenshots and renders you can see it's very similar, and a lot more simplistic, which can be refreshing depending on which features you use most. If you don't encounter bugs, I could see it being a favorite piece of software, especially once it's refined with more updates, which I'm sure they'll continue to produce in the months and years to come.


OldSmoke wrote on 12/12/2015, 8:12 AM

Thanks for taking all that time to make a comparison. What would really help is to know your system specs; specifically when you mention that CE was slower the VP.

My major issue with Catalyst Edit is that it doesn't preview in a secondary monitor, it's not multi monitor at all and I am not sure if it can do multi cam edits.

Proud owner of Sony Vegas Pro 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 & 13 and now Magix VP15&16.

System Spec.:
Motherboard: ASUS X299 Prime-A

Ram: G.Skill 4x8GB DDR4 2666 XMP

CPU: i7-9800x @ 4.6GHz (custom water cooling system)
GPU: 1x AMD Vega Pro Frontier Edition (water cooled)
Hard drives: System Samsung 970Pro NVME, AV-Projects 1TB (4x Intel P7600 512GB VROC), 4x 2.5" Hotswap bays, 1x 3.5" Hotswap Bay, 1x LG BluRay Burner

PSU: Corsair 1200W
Monitor: 2x Dell Ultrasharp U2713HM (2560x1440)

Jamon wrote on 12/12/2015, 8:20 AM
Sure, this machine is:

Xeon E3-1245 3.3 GHz
64-bit Windows 10 Pro
NVIDIA Quadro M4000
Samsung SSD 850 EVO

Catalyst only does external monitoring with Blackmagic Design DeckLink, Intensity Pro, or UltraStudio device right now. No multi-cam or other such complex features.
JohnnyRoy wrote on 12/12/2015, 9:15 AM
Excellent, well thought out review. Thanks so much for sharing that.

It's a pity that you had stability issues. Growing pains? I'm not shocked that Vegas Pro is faster because I'm assuming that Sony is trying to get as much functionality into Catalyst Edit as quickly as possible and then they will performance tune it later. I can imagine they are moving very quickly to catch up with needed basic features.

It looks like Sony has adopted a methodology known as "Lean Thinking". For those of you who don't know, Lean Thinking is a movement in the software industry (adopted from the manufacturing industry) in which you develop a "Minimum Viable Product" (MVP) and get it out to the public for feedback quickly and then you iterate often to refining it. It doesn't have to be feature complete; it just needs to be usable for some subset of tasks. While that may work in theory, or for products that have no precedence, it doesn't take into account the human trait that "First impressions are lasting!"

Apple found this out the hard way when they introduced the new Final Cut Pro X rewritten from the ground up and definitely a minimum viable product at the time of it's launch 4 years ago. Unfortunately, it earned the nickname "iMove Pro" because it barely had any "pro" features like multi monitor support, tape ingest, I/O card support, etc.. 4 years later, Final Cut Pro X has all those things and more and is a powerful NLE with innovative features like the trackless magnetic timeline that, IMHO, makes editing so much easier and quicker than track-based editors and people are using it to cut Hollywood films again. It just took some time to catch up.

Give Catalyst Edit the time it needs to catch up and I'm sure it will be as powerful as Vegas Pro before you know it. I know that Sony is saying it isn't a Vegas Pro replacement but I'm sure some subset of Vegas Pro editors are going to eventually like it better because of it's cleaner interface as you pointed out in your review (btw, I agree with you that Traction has an awesome clean interface which definitely influenced Cakewalk to do the same with Sonar X).

I encourage more Vegas Pro editors to try Catalyst Edit and give Sony constructive feedback to help shape it's future into the NLE that you'd like it to be. There is also a Sony Catalyst forum on the Creative COW now.

PeterDuke wrote on 12/12/2015, 5:17 PM
If you start basic and progressively add features you are justified in bringing out upgrades and charging for them.

If you start with a fully mature product, you either charge an arm and a leg for it so the company can retire or you have an affordable annual subscription a la Adobe.
ushere wrote on 12/12/2015, 7:02 PM
first thanks to jamon for his excellent summation. also to jr for his observations...

my own are, at the present time, somewhat ambivalent.

i use and like prepare but for 'preparatory' software it lacks one of the main necessities, the ability to burn in tc (most of my clients work with it in one way or another prior to editing) - nor can i burn directly to dvd, which is also impossible in edit too. this is a serious oversight in my workflow.

i have tried a couple of projects through edit and was somewhat disappointed. the built in chroma keyer is far from useful and none of my plugins work within edit - this includes bcc, sapphire, and others. edit is rather like a basic lego kit, waiting for the add on packs in order to build something useful.

though i like the gui it's buttons are way oversized.and a lot of shortcut / key functions are missing compared to vegas, and other nle's

finessing audio is none existent.

i am waiting in the hope (as jr explained) that this is a mvp similar to final cut x's development road map. unfortunately as it stands it doesn't meet any of my criteria as a professional tool and isn't updating fast enough for it to stop me leaning more towards resolve as a (eventual) replacement for vegas.
videoITguy wrote on 12/12/2015, 7:08 PM
While I have great respect for JohnnyRoy as a programmer - I don't think he has sufficiently defined the terms in his comment "( a methodology known as "Lean Thinking". )".

Indeed there are many sub-currents taken into software development over the years.
But actually almost all software is grown from that version1 into a more refined product. PeterDuke brings out a good point about the economic viability of doing anything but to grow the versions released over time.

I do think that the thrust of the OP's post and direction, while commendable for the amount of work put into, this study does not make any case why two different softwares, Cat and Vegas should even be compared ! And - considering they really are not designed to run on exactly the same hardware platform. I find the exercise superfluous to the whole point of either program and this kind of pursuit only leads to infinite comparisons between the two kinds of programs that need not be made at all.
Jamon wrote on 12/13/2015, 3:27 AM
I'm comparing Catalyst to Vegas because I've kept Vegas around as my primary video editing tool for over a decade, and it's losing its utility for me. The only options I've found that might replace Vegas for me are Catalyst and DaVinci Resolve.

I've not yet learned why Resolve does things the way it does, so I cannot know if it is better or not yet. But Catalyst shares some of the same conventions as Vegas, so I can compare them to see if I should use Vegas or Catalyst right now.

I wouldn't want to start a project in Catalyst, only to later realize it would produce worse results than if I started with Vegas. Because the projects are not interoperable, I needed a better sense of how they compare to know which to use for which purpose.

Because others might be in similar situations, I share some of my observations and experience so they might be able to skip some legwork by reading some text for a few minutes. But I'm in a different situation than many here, where I have zero use for DVD features or rendering with old codecs, and video is not my fulltime job.

I have not reached a conclusion. There are so many bugs and dysfunctional design that I'm still a bit perplexed with Catalyst. I'll need to research more to be sure I'm doing it right and the fault isn't my own somehow. I should also compare it more to Resolve.
Jamon wrote on 12/13/2015, 5:57 AM
I recorded the screen to show a bug, but the video was 1920 x 992, so there's bars on the top and bottom in 1080p. I thought I'd use Catalyst to trim the video, and slide it up so instead of bars on the top and bottom, there'd only be a larger bar at the bottom, and there I could put some text captions.

In Vegas, I'd use Pan/Crop. Turn off aspect ratio preservation, and change the height to 1080. Then move the Y position and the video is repositioned.

In Catalyst, I used Crop. I turned on the zoom button, and opened the position map. I held shift, and pulled the bottom part down past the normal boundary of 0 into the negatives. But the mouse movements weren't precise enough to be sure it was fitting correctly, and there was no snapping. (I later discovered you can hold Ctrl while dragging to have finer adjustments) There's also no keyboard arrow controls to finely increment the number and make it fit. Since I didn't know exactly what the numbers represent and the formula to determine what to put there, I had to keep clicking in the text box, and changing part of the number. But it was too tedious and the top of the video screen is right against the interface where I wasn't sure if the line at the top was from a shadow on the interface design or a gap in my video screen. I tried double clicking the preview screen to make it fullscreen to check, and nothing happened. Prepare has fullscreen preview, but I guess Edit does not.

This wasn't working for me, so I rejected the captioning idea, and just opened the recording in Prepare, trimmed it with the mark in/out points, and rendered to 1080p for the internet, then uploaded to YouTube.

I registered for the Sony Community, thinking I'd post there to ask some questions and report bugs. But I dislike the software. It uses a maximum width that is a skinny strip in the middle of my display, then in that strip it uses 2 columns, where the left one even when you're reading a thread is a tag cloud and list of recently solved threads. That's way too crowded when I have no use for clicking tags or other topics. Then each post has share buttons for other social sites, and it's so crowded it's actually difficult to navigate and read. Under the names are graphics of musical notation, like maybe the more you post the more notes it shows? It's actually poor enough of a design where I'm thinking about just posting here instead.
Jamon wrote on 12/13/2015, 6:52 AM
I tried seeing how Prepare integrates with Edit. In Prepare I made a library, which is a file I placed in my folder I created for this comparison project. I imported the video files I used for the edit into the default Media bin.

I wanted to see how the color preparation integrates into an edit. I thought I'd make multiple virtual clips from the original file, and non-destructive edit each of those in Prepare to be a different color.

I selected the video file thumbnail in the Organize tab, and went into the Edit tab. It shows the big video. I looked for how to create virtual clips from it. I clicked and right-clicked everywhere but saw nothing like, "Make virtual clips".

But in the Log dropdown under the trimmer display in Edit is, "Create subclip". I figured that's more for when you're setting the in/out points to make lots of different regions. I just wanted to make multiple full clones of the file to recolor.

That was all there was, so I just left the in/out to the full range, and created a subclip. It asked for name, and I wrote "Blue". Then I selected it and made it look blue. I made another for red.

Since a primary purpose for Prepare is coloring clips, I expected to see easy ways to apply the coloring you did to one to multiple other ones in your bin. But I couldn't even find a "Copy color settings", "Paste color settings" kind of thing.

Instead I had to "Save preset...", navigate to the folder, save it, and then apply the preset to other clips. It seemed strange I needed to save a file. I'd expect that there'd be a "Copy/Paste settings" in both the right-click menu for clips, and the Tools.

In Edit I opened the library I created, and saw the clips. But when I made new ones, or changed them, it did not automatically change in Edit. I had to use Tools... Refresh in the Media Browser. I dragged a colored clip to the timeline.

There appears to be a bug, because only some of the frames in the timeline preview for the colored clip are colored. The rest are the original color. This is depicted in the video below.

I thought I could go back into Prepare, and adjust the color for my colored clip that was now on the timeline. I made it a completely different color, and went back to Edit. I had to refresh the Media Browser, and that updated. But not the timeline version.

So now the color I had only exists on the timeline. The one in the media bin was a different color. How do I make the timeline update to the new color? If I select the timeline clip, and the updated clip in the browser, there's "Replace media with selection" in the Tools menu.

That works. But only because I just had that one clip sitting there. What if I cut it up and it was in a hundred pieces as part of an edit, and I need to change the color? Even if I go through and select all pieces, the replace option is disable for multiple clips.

I'd expect that if I make a subclip in Prepare, and make it red. Then cut it up in the Edit timeline, and it's scattered all over the place, that I can simply go into Prepare, select that same red clip, and use the same color wheels to make it blue, and when I go back to Edit, the timeline versions are now blue.

But it gets worse.

Say I used the XAVC S .mp4 file as the basis for my subclips I created and colored in Prepare. I put the subclips on my timeline, and edited. But that format is not good for editing with, so I want to use a proxy while editing, then swap it back to the original before rendering.

If I did not use Prepare, and simply dropped my .mp4 into Edit and sliced it up, adjusting color on clips in there using plugins, then I can use the Project Relink function to swap that .mp4 with the transcoded version, and it seamlessly updates everything in the timeline.

But when I used the virtual clips I made and colored with Prepare, and had them on my timeline, then used the relink function to swap the proxy file, it did keep my cuts intact and changed them to be my transcoded version. However, all the color was lost.

So in the timeline where I once had blue and red clips based off a .mp4, when I relink to switch the .mp4 with .mxf, all the blue and red disappear and it reverts to the original color. I can hit undo to go back. But the point is, even if I relink again back to the .mp4, the color information is lost in the timeline.

I don't get the point of the Prepare coloring then, when it doesn't seem to integrate fully. I'd expect that when I relink a file, it's smart enough to understand that I'm swapping that original file that the virtual clips are based on, and to reapply the same non-destructive color settings to the new underlying file.

I expect it all to be linked, so changing color in Prepare is really just the same as adjusting a plugin, in a fancy dedicated window. When I make adjustments, it should auto change in Edit just like if I adjusted a plugin parameter.

Otherwise, what's the point of it being non-destructive? I wouldn't use this, because I'd have to commit to the coloring I did prior to editing. If I made it blue in Prepare, then did all my complex editing, and needed it to be green, I'm out of luck, without manually replacing every instance on the timeline.

Also in this video is another bug where the preview sometimes showed the original color, sometimes the Prepared color.

There's another similar bug with audio, where sometimes when playing from the start like that when all tracks were muted, there'd be a burst of audio like it forgot it was supposed to be muted. That one is dangerous, because if you aren't expecting audio, you might end up blowing out your ears when it decides to unmute it.

ushere wrote on 12/13/2015, 7:27 AM
I've not yet learned why Resolve does things the way it does

i think the programmers behind it are appleheads.
Jamon wrote on 12/13/2015, 9:30 AM
I tried repositioning that clip in Resolve. I found that if you select a clip, there's a button right under the preview video that allows you to move it around directly on the screen. Then you can even open the inspector, and set pitch and yaw, and animate it all directly right on the timeline.

The numbers and sliders update in realtime as it plays to show the current values as they animate. In Catalyst, when you slide the playhead, the sliders and numbers change. But strangely, when it's playing, they don't update until it stops.

Resolve seems laggier with the animations. If I drag the playhead then it's slower to catch up than in Catalyst.

I don't know which is better. That popup positional map in Catalyst needs improvement. You'd think that being able to manipulate things right on the screen and timeline would be better. But actually I think I prefer Catalyst's approach with remote controls and keyframe editor mode. Catalyst could use the pitch and yaw controls though.
Jamon wrote on 12/14/2015, 7:17 AM
I'm using a browser addon to modify the Sony Community site so it looks better for me, and am writing a report there. This is a video I'm using to display bugs, but ignore all the obvious bugs for a moment.

This is one of the major new features Catalyst has over Vegas. I never bothered studying how to use the new trimmer in Vegas because it wasn't intuitive for me, and I could continue just cutting up clips directly on the timeline, and save space by hiding the trimmer.

But Catalyst has a combined browser and trimmer that's so simple and intuitive that I might actually use it. You can quickly scan through a video file, set in/out points with keyboard or mouse, and place that cut on the timeline by dragging or double-clicking.

videoITguy wrote on 12/14/2015, 3:17 PM
@Jamon, now your last post above this one, really seems to get it. This is what Catalyst as a feature set is designed to do! Hooray you made this discovery.

As for the trimmer in VegasPro - it is probably one of the best in the NLE business, incredibly intuitive, and easy to use. But that trimmer is an engagement with a full-fledged NLE and is designed as such. Not like the ENG cutter experience you are finding in Catalyst. Different apples for different folks.
Jamon wrote on 12/14/2015, 7:17 PM
Your reply reminds me of how these tools are made for specific industries I have no part of, and how insignificant my opinions must seem to SCS.

Personally I think the old media industries are mostly irrelevant today, in my world at least. ENG used to be important, when they needed vans with satellite dish, and people lugging huge cameras on their shoulders. But today all that equipment fits in a pocketable device, and I'd much prefer to watch a live event unfold through the camera and director of my choice on an app like Periscope, where I can engage directly with the person behind the camera and fellow viewers, instead of an untouchable TV news crew. The only exception is when quality is critical for some reason, in which case I'd still probably prefer to search a site like YouTube for individual perspectives recorded with 4K from their pocket cameras, which is likely good enough.

I see the different approaches between Vegas and Catalyst, and how Vegas can be preferred by an individual trying to manage and do everything all by theirself in one integrated window. I see how Catalyst was designed for stages in a process involving multiple people across different machines.

But they mostly accomplish the same thing, and maybe an individual can use Catalyst to be more organized in their workflow. I think overall those distinctions between targeted applications and workflows are somewhat arbitrary, where as long as a tool is designed to be logical and efficient for one use, it's likely to be useful for unintended purposes by others they didn't design for.

Vegas has more complexity packed together, with powerful features like overlapping named regions and markers, for getting a complete overview of all the subclips you'll create, all while still in the same project you're editing in so everything is quickly connected.

But Catalyst trades some of that rapid messiness for a cleaner and organized approach that might scale better with larger projects. Prepare does not have markers and named regions, but it doesn't rely on them because its dedicated window for creating and organizing subclips might accomplish the same thing, in a simpler way.

There is one major potential problem I see with the Catalyst approach though. Currently they have the Prepare and Edit parts disconnected from each other. If you organize your clips, and make a storyboard from some, then drag that into the Edit timeline, it's a nested timeline on the timeline, which is kind of like a virtual clip group.

Now if you go back to Prepare and change the storyboard, when you return to Edit it does not reflect the changes. You have a nested timeline there with the same name as your storyboard, but the contents are now different between what's in the library, and what's on the timeline. If you then drag the storyboard from the library to the timeline again, same as before, you now have 2 nested timelines, each with the same name, and yet, each with different content.

That gets messy and disorganized immediately. Because if you look at your library and see the "Intro" storyboard, if it was changed in Prepare after dragging it to the timeline in Edit, then what you see in the library is a lie. It's a completely separate thing from the thing on the timeline that claims to be that thing.

The individual clips work the same way, where they said it's intentionally designed that way, but I think it's just lazy programming or possible flaw in planning. Because isn't it common where you might take a clip you colored in Prepare, and slice it up on the Edit timeline, placing it in a busy timeline full of other clips, where it's mashed together with small slices and ones with crossfades to others? Then realizing that coloring isn't quite right, so needing to go back to Prepare and tweaking it? In that scenario, which I imagine is common, you'll end up with a library version of the clip with the adjusted color you want, but a timeline full of slices that are the old version with the color you do not want. To update the timeline clip slices to match your new changes you did in Prepare, you have to somehow manually go into the timeline, find each and every slice, select each one individually and click a refresh icon in the inspector.

The only way I see right now how their approach would make any sense, is if it was guaranteed that once the Prepare coloring was done on clips, and the Prepare storyboarding of ordering them together was complete, that it was final and permanent, where it's like shipping the final product to the editor where there was no case where the editor would need to call the preparer and say, "I need you to change those clips in the Intro storyboard. We don't like the blue anymore, can you give us a green tint instead?"

Because otherwise, any changes that go back-and-forth between Preparer and Editor require the editor to manually find every instance of that clip they used, and manually update each one with a refresh button. To me at this moment that seems like an obvious and fundamental flaw in the entire Catalyst workflow system. At the very least if they want to allow the option for that disjointed way, there should be a button in Edit that says "Sync all from library" to update all the slices on the timeline with the updated library version. There should also be an option then to make that happen by default.

But I'm just an individual bedroom hacker, not an ENG team, so maybe I don't know how it works, and this is actually best for them. For me however, it seems broken, and I want my library and all instances of clips to be in sync between Prepare and Edit all the time. If I want to have a different color of the same clip on my timeline, I should make a new copy of the clip with a different name so my media library always accurately reflects all the clips I have in use on the timeline.

The thing is, I feel like Catalyst might be a favorite tool. Even without being in the video industry, or an "ENG" person, it seems like it has potential to do the kinds of things I did with Vegas, in a better way for modern machines. Except that at the same time, it seems broken with fundamental flaws, that I'm not sure SCS will ever fix.

I get a feeling as if Sony bought up Sonic Foundry, and inherited some talented programmers. Then over the years, the people working there changed, until there were only a couple left from the old group. That they got some new talented designers, and tried new marketing approaches. But when it comes to actually pulling together a quality, stable foundation of code, with a complete system of functionality that is logical and works, it's mainly those old core programmers holding it all together. That they're like the sturdy hotrod engine guys, with a new generation of ricers building a plastic shell around it with neon lights, and the racecar has some impressive new technologies that in theory would be an upgrade from the old hotrod. But it stalls, lacks power, and has dysfunctionality that makes it undrivable in the types of races the old hotrod won. That the talented programmers are unable to make it right, because it's outgrown them, with multiple lousy programmers working on separate features that spoil the package with their rotten code. Or maybe it's worse, and there are none of the programmers who know how to make a stable foundation. Maybe it's all new people who lack skill and are repackaging old code they inherited from talented programmers who no longer even work there. That Catalyst is actually just them taking the Vegas base, and repackaging it in a new GUI built by a completely different group. So it inherits some of the power of Vegas, but also all the bugs that grew over the years as they tacked more code into the monster. Yet no one there understands it enough or what to do with it to ever have hope of making a solid stable product.

In which case, as pleasant of an idea Catalyst is for the product design, and as nice as it looks and almost works, it might just be a pretty plastic shell over a broken machine nobody will ever fix. If you barely use the thing, maybe it works nicely. But in my experience, it's obvious to me this thing is well below the standard of quality that was expected for even a 1.0 release in the past. Even with the latest update, Catalyst was very easy to discover bugs with, and feels like a beta product that SCS would be paying me to test, without expectation to have it ready for initial release for several more months.

I like some of the aspects of SCS software, and feel it is a better fit than some alternative ecosystems like the new Adobe CC culture. I did choose to use Vegas for many years over alternatives for a reason. But it's like I'm in denial and not wanting to admit that SCS isn't capable of pulling it together anymore. It seems more like a problem with something in their business organization that's made their attempts fall short in the later years. I have no idea about any of that, so it's all intuition. But maybe someone there should look to see what has changed, and consider restructuring, or changing some of the people who work there. Otherwise I fear nothing will improve, and shortly will be the new Vegas update that still has old problems, and in 3 years I'll still be waiting for updates to Catalyst that might finally make it a polished pleasure to use.
ushere wrote on 12/14/2015, 8:25 PM
jamon, would be interested to read your thoughts on resolve...

i come from the old school, and whilst vegas is perfect for me as an indie producer it wouldn't have ever made the cut for collaborative efforts - far from it indeed.

i'm thinking cat is trying to become a 'collaborative' tool, but it sadly lacks the very basic necessities to be 'collaborative', as some of your experiences have shown. for my part i'll continue harping on about lack of burn-in tc in prepare, and the total lack of even an export codec for dvd in both apps. optical might be dying, but it's far from dead as yet.
Jamon wrote on 12/15/2015, 2:40 AM
I think it's better if they stay forward-thinking with Catalyst, and ignore older standards and optical media. I think they'll update Vegas soon to look better in modern systems with UHD displays in Windows 10, among other little changes. That will go a long way for making Vegas relevant again for years to come. Then anyone still wanting to work with their old projects and workflows can keep Vegas around, even when they get a newer PC with high-DPI.

I've been avoiding Resolve because it's so advanced and mature already. I'm afraid it'll win any comparison to Vegas or Catalyst, but there'll be some small things I dislike that I'll never have any chance at influencing. Maybe my perception is incorrect, but Vegas previously had that reachable small independent kind of feel. Like Tracktion is for audio. I've used other bigger name audio software in the past, like Cubase (avoiding Pro Tools), but Tracktion being partially a smaller toy made it more pleasing for someone like me.

I've heard people refer to Catalyst as a toy, as a desperaging remark. I've even heard people talk of Vegas that way. But I prefer toys. To me, a toy that is compatible with high-quality formats is more comfortable to play with than a rigid bloated professional app aimed at big industries like Hollywood. Tracktion was a lot more enjoyable to use in my bedroom studio than Cubase was. Just like Vegas was a lot more enjoyable than Premiere.

I'm thinking of Catalyst as the cute toy for newer cameras with neat formats like 4K and RAW. Its simplicity right now is a feature to me, where although Resolve is similar in some ways, it's more like a Cubase/Pro Tools (but more modern like Ableton Live). It's packed full of menus and options, and it's part of a bigger Hollywood type scene, where spending inordinate amounts of money on things is normal. Resolve is free, but it still partially brings you into that world.

It's ironic how today people producing media for broadcast and mass distribution might have a better chance at being relevant to use their camera phone than invest in all this expensive studio equipment. Most people have never been fully aware or appreciative of the microscopic details that become mountains in the eyes of the old media scene. You can reach a bigger audience for cheaper producing for a tablet than theater.

In the end, our lives are short. Our eyesight and hearing are failing as time passes, and most of our recordings of memories are better spent experiencing the moment than capturing with recording equipment. When it comes to producing art for expressive release, the simplest most fluid extension of our human form is what works best. When it comes to reaching an audience to share a message, the quality has never been a critical factor.

But I still like the PC, and am not content purely with an iPod Touch for all media production. I'm still willing to pay $1K on a "prosumer" camera to play with, so I can see what neat things it can do. But to work with new gadgets requires a software that fits well into that flow. I only have an RX100M3 right now, that tops out at 60 FPS XAVC S at 50 MBps. But Vegas felt better working with my older camcorders.

Part of that is just the newer conventions for graphical interface, influenced a lot by the RAW photography tools. With Vegas, I could use it to rewind my tape camcorder, and start capturing over FireWire to obtain a file to work with. It's rooted more in that era, when for photographs I'd use a scanner and Photoshop. Whereas today, I plug in an SD card or USB cable, and RAW files are imported, where software like Capture One uses a different type of interface to work with than Photoshop.

Catalyst is simply the Capture One for video to me, with Vegas conventions I'm familiar with. Vegas is like Photoshop. I still use Photoshop CS6, but its interface is microscopic on my UHD display, and it's not working for me to feel comfortable using anymore. As soon as I can find a replacement, I'll ditch Photoshop.

With Catalyst, it's a similar workflow to RAW photography, where you import your digital media, and play with some simple knobs to tweak the contrast and color, then export for uploading to the web, or copy to SD card or USB flash drive to give to someone.

But I'll read the Resolve manual, and dive into the software to compare, before laying this video tool research project to rest.
ushere wrote on 12/15/2015, 3:18 AM
thanks jamon. a very interesting and insightful viewpoint...

you made some very valid points, but i think you over simplified the complexity of producing a 'commercial' product. however, be that as it may, i still feel cat edit is, as yet, far from a competent nle that can deal with the necessities of complex production. as a simple editor it's fine, just as is nearly any other respectable modern nle on the market, and whilst 4k and upwards might well be becoming the norm and require more modern 'code' to handle such formats, the people usually involved with such material are going to require a great deal more than what edit can offer out of the box. my first stumbling block was chromakeying. the inbuilt keyer is next to useless and as i've pointed out, none of my (expensive) plugins work in edit. audio is also nonexistent, etc., etc.,

i am hoping scs are working on both vegas and cat, they certainly need to publicly support vegas whilst cat is being developed so that vegas users can make an orderly transition and other professionals can see a rapid development program that will bring edit up to a 'professional' standard sooner rather than later.

in the meantime i've adapted my workflow to something along the lines of using vegas as my chopping board > resolve for the slow cooking and garnishing > then back to vegas for the snap, crackle, and pop (or rather the avoidance of such ;-))
Jamon wrote on 12/15/2015, 9:15 AM
It's certainly complex. I'd like to use Unix for multimedia production, and there are many open source video editors. Kdenlive has some similarities to Vegas:

There's also Pitivi:

And OpenShot:



And more. Plenty of effort has gone into it. But last time I tried some, the interface was lacking, or there was some other big problem. Kdenlive seemed most promising because it's packed full of features, but it crashed, and I didn't give it or the others much of a chance because it seemed like the quality of video renders and GUI wasn't as high as the commercial software on Windows could produce.

Obviously a lot goes into this type of software, and it's not easily replicated by just anyone. One of the luxuries of being able to use a closed-source final product where development is conducted in secrecy like with Sony Vegas is you can critique things where you're ignorant of any technical complications that might've forced the developers to make compromises leading to what isn't perfect.

But for the user, it doesn't really matter what work went into a tool, only if it gets the job done and doesn't frustrate you in the process. Maybe I should take another look at the open source projects again, because my idea that going back to Windows and the newest Vegas being a highly superior option doesn't prove to be completely true. It looks like Resolve could run on Linux, but apparently you have to pay $30,000.

A part of why I was leaning toward Sony software is because I liked my RX100 camera, and when I was comparing photo editing software for its camera raw files, I noticed a significant difference in quality between the officially endorsed Capture One for Sony, and others. I thought it might have something to do with Sony sharing more specifics about the hardware and data format with the developers of the software, and I thought it was possible that would also apply to video with Sony Vegas and Catalyst, especially with their RAW formats.

I'm curious why you go back to Vegas after Resolve. Is it because you have more video effects in Vegas? That was one thing I noticed right away, that the effects list in Resolve was empty.
Jamon wrote on 12/15/2015, 4:02 PM
I read some of the Resolve manual, and started testing the software. While reading the manual it was obvious that this is in a whole other league. You can even use a central SQL database on a remote project server for multi-user collaboration.

There's a lot of similarities between Catalyst and Resolve. As I've said before, it's obvious the influence on the design. Even down to the scroll wheel not zooming in and out on either software. But Resolve has way more functions.

I liked the one where you can automatically synchronize audio and embed it into a clip. I created a media bin, added a video file, and .wav with external recording. Because I wanted both audio, I chose the option to append the track.

It did it, but when I went into Edit and played the timeline with the clip, I heard it was off by a bit, so it sounded like a delay effect. I went back and tried using the dedicated waveform tool they have for synchronizing audio to video.

But it kept hanging. While Catalyst crashes a lot, Resolve seems more stable, however instead of bugs it has performance issues with the default configuration on my machine. I experienced slowdowns multiple times doing different things.

Besides the performance issues, the tool just didn't feel comfortable for me. I am used to audio software where I like to zoom down to the sample level, with the track height full screen, and match timing perfectly.

Which is my major issue with Resolve. It's like most other video editing software in how it does not handle audio editing well. It has audio in a separate area on the timeline, and I cannot easily grab it and work with the audio.

That is a main reason why I preferred Vegas over others. That is a big reason why Catalyst is more comfortable to use than Resolve. For synchronizing audio in Catalyst, I created a nested timeline, and zoomed in deep, using my 4/6 number pad keys to shift the audio until it matched.

There are ways both Vegas and Catalyst can improve their audio editing. Vegas Audio was okay way back in the day, when it was the first of its kind to offer certain features for slow computers of the time. It was simple and got the job done. But a lot evolved since then, and Vegas had more video additions than audio improvements.

But Catalyst is still more comfortable for audio work on the timeline than Resolve.

In Resolve I had to drag a transition to clips to make a cross fade. Or put them on separate tracks, and set the fade out on the top one, and fade in on the bottom. Maybe there's a way to do that differently, but in Catalyst and Vegas I just slide one over the other.

The video scopes look differently in Resolve. The scopes in Catalyst are prettier than the ones in Vegas, but whether someone prefers Catalyst or Resolve style I guess is subjective. The Catalyst ones use harsher colors, with Resolve softer pastel. Resolve has a more glowing colored pencil kind of look. Resolve also has more color controls.

Resolve does queued renders like Catalyst, but in Catalyst they're done in the background with only a notification of progress. In Resolve they show a dedicated rendering screen where you watch its progress like in Vegas. But Catalyst lets you continue editing your project while it renders, or starting more renders as it renders, and Resolve does not, it locks you in once you start rendering.

There are things to like about Resolve. There are many advantages in the GUI, and keyboard shortcuts, etc. It's a lot more feature complete if you're a professional, especially if working in a business team who need a complete networked setup to churn out video content daily, using expensive pro hardware.

But so far, surprisingly, I prefer the idea of Catalyst. It has less, but there's less getting in my way. The timeline feels more flexible. It can be made more fluid, with more controls over it, like mouse scroll wheel zoom, and larger track height maximization, possibly with ability to maximize a single track at a time while collapsing the rest, etc. There's ways to make the timeline very expressive in how it can be controlled, which makes it more like what is nice about using the audio MTR style Vegas has.

But even as it is now, besides the bugs and crashes, I feel more comfortable in Catalyst than Resolve. I recognize how Resolve is nice software, and it's close to being something I'd use, but it's not quite there, where Catalyst is a better fit for me right now, if it didn't crash. I probably will never need anything like an external SQL server, or export to tape, or many other complexities. So assuming Catalyst will continue to add basic features that aren't too extreme, like compositing modes for tracks, and smooth easing curves for fades, etc. then Catalyst could probably turn into what I'd prefer, even over Resolve, because SCS has a history partly rooted in the audio way, and Resolve is more rooted in the commercial video coloring way. That means I doubt Blackmagic Design will be as freely able to make Resolve's timeline behave the way I prefer, which Catalyst already mostly does.

I didn't test quality yet though. I'd like to see final renderings of the same settings in Vegas, Catalyst, and Resolve. If one were significantly better than the others, then that could factor into the decision of which to use.

I guess most video editing software is designed for video editors, where they're mainly just thinking about how to splice things together to get a seamless flow in the storytelling, to connect dots between scenes in ways that naturally fit with our minds so we don't perceive gaps, but magically piece together a continuity.

Whereas in audio multitrack recording, it isn't just about splicing together cuts, it's also about layering. That gives a depth that isn't necessary in video editing. There are whole other areas in video, for special effect artists, who use compositing and many more layers, where it becomes more similar to music production. But these video editors aren't made for that.

That is what set Vegas apart, that it didn't set limits on the vertical. All tracks are created equal, and you can freely resize them while having 20 stacked on top of each other. They can be audio, for multitrack mixing. But they can even be video, with masks and compositing to blend them in artistic ways.

That is why Vegas was so flexible for the one-man-band. Someone who does a little music production, or a little multitrack audio mixing with multiple mic sources, and a little graphic design, has a more flexible tool that doesn't make presumptions. If you want to do 2 track video editing, you can. But the option to expand out to infinity is there.

Resolve is more like how I remember Premiere to be. Not as limiting, but still, why are the audio tracks grouped with a separate scrollbar? That's uncomfortable. In Vegas I can zoom out, squash the tracks together, and fit over 50 on screen. I think that's a major part of the feel of Vegas, that this is even possible.

Catalyst looks prettier, but isn't as productive, because it can only fit 9:

Resolve beats Catalyst, with 20 tracks, except it's weird how they're fenced off in their own part of the screen.

Tracktion can fit 56, but then the mixer controls disappear. 42 is more usable, and the functions for auto zooming and fitting tracks are better than Vegas:

wombat wrote on 12/15/2015, 5:51 PM
Thanks for that analysis Jamon.
I guess some of us have been spoiled over many years with the scope and quality of audio tools in the Vegas line of software, going back to before Sony took it over from Sonic Foundry some dozen years ago.
It would be difficult for me - a one person setup - to move to any editing system that did not offer well integrated, sophisticated sound manipulation tools.

ushere wrote on 12/15/2015, 11:40 PM
@ jamon - i go back to vegas simply for final audio mix. as you've discovered, resolve isn't too hot in the audio dept ;-(

oh, and i should add that awhile back (2>3 years ago iirc) i had a play with the linux editors. unfortunately they all appear to have the best of intentions, but most are simply not 'professional' enough - by that i mean they're not terribly reliable once you move on from basic cutting and they're not necessarily backed by any serious 'company'. much as i like, admire and use floss and foss software (handbrake springs readily to mind), in general they get to a certain stage whereupon the originator looses interest, cannot move on without considerable coding effort, or commercial incentive. i think with the advent of resolve as a free 'entry' level editor many commercial nle's are going to have to seriously examine their competitive advantage when asking for an editors credit card details ;-)
Jamon wrote on 12/16/2015, 3:43 AM
I just discovered something interesting, that to me is telling about the state we're in with Catalyst vs. Vegas.

Open up Vegas, drop in a clip, put it on looped playback and start adding invert effects to the clip. When you invert twice, it should be back to normal in appearance. So what happens when you keep inverting? Each 2nd one should negate the previous. You put one, it's inverted, put another, and it's normal and should be exactly like having no effect at all. I got up to 100 invert effects applied to a clip in Vegas before I stopped bothering to add more, because it previewed fast throughout.

Open up Catalyst, repeat the procedure. 2nd invert effect and it's stuttering. 4th and it's single digit FPS. 6 and it's a slideshow. I'm not measuring the FPS accurately, but you get the idea. Point is, even with only 2 inversions it's struggling. (When I repeated it later to record, it was a little faster, but I only made it to 8 inverts before it was brought to its knees.)

That speaks volumes to me.
UKharrie wrote on 12/16/2015, 6:02 AM
Could we have Catalyst Section?
EDIT - Ooops! I see there is one.. Perhaps a new section should be in RED for a few weeks, that would make it stand out, sorry.
EDIT-2...that section redirect me to Sony website where I can learn about just about everything - is this part of closing-down Sony Creative, I wonder?

I tried to fathom the free Catalyst Browse - via a Publicity quick-view on this website( Since, all I know is Nowt ), but before halfway through it wants me to upgrade!
Also it stopped briefly waiting to "buffer" - maybe it is pushing too much data. . . .?

I've never noticed this with the "Tutorials" for other Sony Software products, previously.

I wonder that this new-way isn't to get Sony onto the Cloud = yet somehow that was part of Sony Software advantage - at least your pixels are safer on yr own HDD. No doubt "Marketing" will have a super plan . . . but be aware that any Great Change may allow folks that were Loyal, to think about jumping ship
- since learning "new" is going to be a huge jump anyway and from these "Reviews" I'm reading - I don't really understand why we've been working "the wrong way" in the past . . if indeed CAT really is so different . . . . as these "Advertisements" appear to be saying.

Clearly Sony Software has ben putting a huge effort into Catalyst {CAT} - I just hope it goes well.
Grazie wrote on 12/16/2015, 6:22 AM
C'mon Jamon, spit it out: "That speaks volumes to me." - I'm still waiting to hear from you what you are "implying"?