Video Levels (Vegas vs. Premiere)

Marc S wrote on 9/13/2013, 4:36 AM
Hello, I've been using Premiere on a recent project because Vegas could not handle the load and I've discovered some interesting things out about how Premiere handles it's video levels.

1. The default video background in Premiere is 0 IRE unlike Vegas which is superblack (-8 IRE). To fix this in Vegas you need to add a solid color on the bottom track and set it to 16,16,16 RGB or equivalent using the strange new color values they switched to since Vegas 11.

2. When you import a full range (0-255 RGB) graphic or photo into Premiere it automatically maps it to studio levels and it falls between 0 IRE and 100 IRE. In Vegas you need to apply a levels fix or you will have illegal superblacks (-8 IRE) and superwhites (109 IRE).

3. When you create a title or solid in Premiere black is defined as 0 RGB and white is 255 RGB. In Vegas Black needs to be 16 RGB and white 235 RGB or you will get superblacks and whites.

4. Both Premiere and Vegas interpret my EX1 video as studio RGB and the waveform monitors are nearly identical. A properly exposed shot will have black at 0 IRE and white at 100 IRE. Both also allow superwhites on the video clips. Note: After Effects clips superwhites at 100 IRE.

5. On output everything seems to be exported at proper studio levels from Premiere. I tested a white solid on youtube created at 235,235,235 and it was not pure white. I needed to make it 255,255,255 in order for it to be white on youtube playback. In Vegas pure white would need to be made at 235,235,235 to play back properly without clipping because of the level expansion used by web players.

So in my opinion Premiere is doing things the right way and helping users to avoid the many pitfalls Vegas has in regards to superblacks and whites caused with graphics, Vegas titles and solids. Premiere recognizes the format you are using and adjusts it automatically in the same way I am used to doing it manually in Vegas. Part of the problem is that many Vegas users do not know about these pitfalls and it causes problems in their final output. Why not make the Vegas color defaults what most of us are aiming for in the first place—legal video levels?


TheHappyFriar wrote on 9/13/2013, 6:35 AM
It's been argued back and forth here for years. Some consider the old way Premiere does it to be correct, others (myself included) consider the new way Vegas does it to be correct.

The way I look at it is this: if I put something in it shouldn't be changed unless I tell it to. I don't want an automatic feature unless I can turn it on/off. If I put something that's "super" white/black in my project (like something I generated in CG) I don't want any automatic "fixing". Premiere doesn't know if I want "super" anything.

Get with the times Adobe. If Premiere automatically reduced your HD resolution to ~62% of what it was like with the color space people would refuse to use it.
Christian de Godzinsky wrote on 9/13/2013, 8:04 AM
+1 from me

This level "thingy" is something SCS should seriously look into even if it isn't a show stopper. I appreciate the freedom of having a complete control of levels, but how often do we need illegal blacks and whites? Why am I forced to do all the "tricks" adding level FX and backdrop "black" video tracks - adapting different sources with the output every time - to just get it right? A newbie will never get it right, but we old farts have learned to live with it... Why on earth? Chime in if you agree that this should be fixed!

The same is true for the audio levels, going from Vegas to DVDA - you have to be careful not to screw up your levels when decoding to Dolby. In other words, the standard settings don't produce WYSIWYG - or should I say WYHIWYG . There are many threads about this, just search...

These two things are really someof the oddities that should be worked on by the SCS team... You CAN break away from the past - rookies would get it right from the beginning - an we oldtimers would learn the new and correct way how Vegas handles levels (as Premiere)... and everyone would be happy!


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farss wrote on 9/13/2013, 8:12 AM
+1 from me too.

Trying to explain it to new and some not so new Vegas users is quite a task.

On the upside I'm pretty certain SCS have started to fix the problem with the ACES pipeline introduced in V12. Trying to fix it in the 8bit pipeline would create problems for anyone opening old projects I think.

musicvid10 wrote on 9/13/2013, 8:29 AM
Marc S,
Observations 1-5 are correct and well stated. Your understanding is as clear as I've seen anywhere.
We have done our best over the years to educate, without judging one or the other preview method to be "right" or "wrong." Certainly there are advantages to be able to see whole 0-255 range in the Vegas Preview rather than emulate player behavior, as long as one understands what they are seeing. OTOH, Movie Studio users and even a number of Pro users might want a more "automatic" approach, with preview tied to playback levels, not actual output.

I would think a simple switch on the primary preview would do the trick; we have always been able to do that on secondary monitors. Movie Studio users, in particular, would benefit from this in the absence of video scopes (or the knowledge to use them correctly). One problem is emulating the playback levels correctly. Premiere applies a stock correction afaik, I don't believe it actually scans the source. However, footage flagged as B.T. 601/709 can have levels that are all over the map, and 0-255, 16-255, and 16-235 are three common variants, with only the latter being "correct." According to my own informal survey, over a billion devices in use shoot incorrect 0-255 in an environment that will clip on playback if left untouched, which is usually the case. So one could make a good case for the cameras and devices being the root of the problem, not exclusively the NLE.

Currently, we have two generic workarounds in lieu of a secondary display:
-- Apply a Studio->Computer RGB filter to the primary preview and edit in that space, remembering to remove that filter just prior to rendering. There are a couple of disadvantages here: not being able to see the full source range unless you "pull" it into vision, and the mistake of delivering footage that is not hard-clamped chroma and luminance, as more and more broadcasters are now requiring.
-- Edit to suit in Vegas' native RGB space, and apply a Computer->Studio RGB filter at the output just prior to rendering. I like to say this method is wysiwyg and failsafe, in that it outputs the hard-clamped broadcast levels suited for PBS, for instance. No luminance/chroma slop, no worries. One small disadvantage is a bit depth compromise that might occur if there are negating filters at various places in the chain, and a savvy editor will spot this in the controls and fix filters that would otherwise tend to cancel each other.

So, a preview/playback levels switch on the primary preview would be great in all versions of Vegas. I wouldn't want "only one or the other" in any Vegas version, although I will continue the Vegas way for most of what I do, quickies for Youtube being my main exception.

If you haven't seen it, our (not 'my") tutorial written for Movie Studio users has >25K hits from all servers, so I think at the very least, we're making a few inroads on the education front; it's even becoming a hit with the game-capture crowd.

robwood wrote on 9/13/2013, 12:11 PM
Vegas' native RGB space - musicvid10

Yes! Premiere is YUV, rec601/709, 016-235, etc. Vegas is sRGB. Editing is easier when Vegas is seen in this light.

I've been using it from this perspective for 7+ years editing sRGB timeline with a Computer to Studio filter on the Preview window. Everything is monitored off a Sony BM. Scopes work as expected (as well as 8-bit scopes can).

Renders are fine cuz I rarely forget to delete the Preview filter before rendering (probably less than 10 times in those seven years, can't remember the last... probably jinxed myself now).

That said, if they made a switchable version of Vegas where you could "choose" which colorspace to work in, that'd be cool. MORE OPTIONS PLEASE. Not less.
Marc S wrote on 9/13/2013, 1:25 PM
I can definitely see the argument for having options rather than a strict one way or the other as I do like to make the choices myself. But why on earth should the default background in an HD project be illegal black? Or if I choose a white solid from the media generator why is it superwhite? It seems like the solution would be to have some simple preference options like:

1. Set video background to studio level black.
2. Convert all imported graphics to studio levels.
3. Use studio levels for generated media.

These could be defaulted to on which would cover most users who do not care to know about the level controversy and leave some freedom for those who need/want to use the expanded level range. I was tutoring a Vegas user recently who has been using the program for at least 4 years and she had no idea about the background being illegal black, imported photos out of the legal range and internal graphics like white and black being illegal etc.

BTW: musicvid10 - Love your tutorial and have watched it many times. It was part of my education on this whole level fiasco in Vegas. Handbrake is an awesome find as well especially when needing to de-interlace.
Marco. wrote on 9/13/2013, 2:49 PM
"But why on earth should the default background in an HD project be illegal black?"

Though in an 8 bit system black below RGB 16 doesn't make any sense relating to displaying or broadcasting there is some reasonable usage for RGB 0 black when doing different kind of compositing. E.g. Vegas' black background not only is color black but also is transparency.
Marc S wrote on 9/13/2013, 3:03 PM
"Though in an 8 bit system black below RGB 16 doesn't make any sense relating to displaying or broadcasting there is some reasonable usage for RGB 0 black when doing different kind of compositing. E.g. Vegas' black background not only is color black but also is transparency."

Ok, this would be something I have not done. Perfect example of the need for these changes to be options. Sony... are you listening?
Marco. wrote on 9/13/2013, 3:36 PM
Yes, I think we would argue for decades about what's right and what's wrong but we probably all agree about the value of having options to choose which way we want Vegas to do the video level processing for us.
NormanPCN wrote on 9/13/2013, 3:52 PM
So one could make a good case for the cameras and devices being the root of the problem, not exclusively the NLE.

This is what makes me edit full range with computer to studio on output. My GoPro Hero3 Black is 0-255 with MediaInfo stating BT.709 for color.

At first I thought my player was whacked, since Vegas looked fine, until I realized what was going on.
Laurence wrote on 9/13/2013, 5:21 PM
Because it still uses VFW, and because the levels on some codecs are screwed up when using VFW, Vegas also screws up the levels on some codecs. This is (in my opinion, but a very certain one) the reason for the difference between the levels before and after ProDad products like Mercalli SA which you see in Vegas but not in Adobe products. Certain codecs (MOV clips from certain cameras like Nikon and Panasonic) as well as GoPro clips are stretched in VFW products like Vegas and VLC. I absolutely hate this, but Vegas can't fix it without either giving up on VFW or abandoning it in favor of a more up-to-date approach to reading codecs.

With my Panasonic GH3 I can get around this by shooting in the AVCHD modes rather than the high quality MOV modes which get stretched and often clipped by VFW. With my GoPro, I can get around this by either using Cineform or processing first with the excellent ProDAD ProDrenaline which rewrites it's processed files into a format which Vegas doesn't screw up.

With my Nikon DSLR, I have to run a cRGB to sRGB color correction filter to undo what VFW does to the footage. If I stabilize the shots with Mercalli SAL 3, I don't use this correction because the processed footage levels are in a format that VFW and Vegas doesn't stretch.

HDV and XDcam footage are fine level-wise in Vegas.
musicvid10 wrote on 9/13/2013, 6:50 PM
Vegas "could" have an option to put in generated text and graphics at Studio levels. I wouldn't want it preemptively, though. My filter goes on the output. Likewise for imported graphics.

Internal "black" is a different matter. What we see as black is really not, it is pure alpha, so adding a 16-16-16 blocking track is still necessary at some stage if we are going to deliver compliant 601/709.
amendegw wrote on 9/13/2013, 7:12 PM
Of course, 0-255 on the Vegas timeline will render to 0-255 when rendering to Windows Media Video (WMV). I see many of the names in this thread are painfully aware of this as they have been involved these discussions ad nauseam. I only mention this in case some new user or Google searcher happens upon this thread.


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musicvid10 wrote on 9/13/2013, 7:25 PM
Since handbrake and wmv got mentioned in the same thread (a first here I think), I remembered I haven't pointed anyone to my list of absolutely must-have features for the long-awaited next handbrake version 1.0.
wwaag wrote on 9/13/2013, 8:43 PM
This has always been confusing to me so please correct my ignorance (gently). My current project includes AVCHD from Sony Handycam (16-255), AVCHD from Panasonic FZ-100 (0-255), HDV from Sony HC1 (16-235) and rendered output from Proshow Producer (16-235). So in this case, I would apply corrections only to the AVCHD footage--reduce output from Handycam to 235 and reduce output levels from Panasonic to 16 and 235. Likewise, if I use stills and/or titles, then a 16 to 235 levels correction should also be applied to those events. Is this about right? And finally, is there a way to accurately determine the output levels from one's camcorder? I believe the levels stated above are correct, but wouldn't bet the farm. I recall reading a thread sometime back, but have searched and can't find it.

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musicvid10 wrote on 9/13/2013, 8:46 PM
You're going to have to put filters on every track and use the scopes and your eyes to normalize levels. Your desired output is 16-235.
VidMus wrote on 9/13/2013, 8:52 PM
17. Start the dishwasher when encoding begins

What happens if you forget to load the dishwasher first?
musicvid10 wrote on 9/13/2013, 9:40 PM
Uhh, there's an app for that. . .
Kimberly wrote on 9/13/2013, 10:09 PM
[I] In Vegas you need to apply a levels fix or you will have illegal superblacks (-8 IRE) and superwhites (109 IRE).[/I]

Can we observe the -8 superblacks and 109 superwhites on the scopes in Vegas? Or is this observed on an external scope? I can only see 0-255 on my scopes in Vegas -- unless there is a setting that changes this.

Great discussion!
Laurence wrote on 9/13/2013, 10:18 PM
Something above 255 or below 0 is just gone. That is what I would expect and what I in fact see. What is inexcusable is that if I use the mov format from my Nikon D5100 or Panasonic GH3 and the RGB values go above 235 or below 16, they will be stretched by Vegas (or any other VFW program) and they are clipped as well. If there are blacks below 16 or whites above 235 in these mov formats, they are still there in Adobe products and can be scaled back into the legar range, but they are gone forever if you use Sony Vegas and no color correction filter is going to bring them back. That is why I avoid using these formats directly in Vegas.
musicvid10 wrote on 9/13/2013, 10:19 PM
0 IRE = 16 RGB
100 IRE = 235 RGB
That's not absolutely precise because iRE is an analog voltage reference, but you can see the full 0-255 RGB [-8,108] in Vegas.
Laurence wrote on 9/13/2013, 10:30 PM
>That's not absolutely precise because iRE is an analog voltage reference, but you can see the full 0-255 RGB [-8,108] in Vegas.

With AVCHD from my GH3: yes. With MOV from the same camera: no. The levels are expanded out as if I was putting a sRGB to cRGB filter in line and anything above 235 or below 15 is clipped. In any Adobe product, AVCHD and MOV from this same camera look identical and video is at the correct sRGB levels. You can see the same difference in these formats with VLC vs WMP. VLC will expand the MOV levels, WMP will not. This is not for every MOV format, just some. Unfortunately this expansion does happen with the MOV formats from both my Nikon DSLR and my GH3. Once I get the money together for an ultra wide lens for my GH3 I will stop using the Nikon entirely. With the Panasonic, the levels look fine so long as I avoid the MOV formats. If I was using Premiere (or any other editor which didn't use VFW) both the AVCHD and MOV formats from the GH3 would be scaled equally in the editor.
VidMus wrote on 9/14/2013, 12:09 AM

Is there an advantage to using MOV instead of AVCHD with those cams even with premiere?

How much does that affect the final video?

Seems like there would be a better work-flow with AVCHD and Vegas.

I do not care TOO much about what is between. The final video/results is what matters most to me with the least amount of time and effort.

NickHope wrote on 9/14/2013, 12:21 AM
Laurence, I have never heard of a format in which superblacks/superwhites are rescued/retained in Premiere Pro but not in Vegas Pro, even with correction. It would certainly be interesting to see a short pair of original AVCHD and MOV clips from your GH3.