Well... It Was Fun, But...

Fuzzy John wrote on 11/7/2003, 5:57 AM
A few days ago I came here as a newcomer to Vegas 4 and I was greeted by several nice people. Reading thru previous posts I couldn't help but notice how you people help each other when problems come up. So I was looking up to having a lot of fun using my newly ordered Vegas+DVD package. However things do not seem to go that way.

I evaluated Vegas+DVD against Ulead's MediaStudio Pro 7 and even though the Vegas+DVD Demo had the MPEG plugin disabled, Vegas won hands down. So I bought the retail package (the most expensive software I ever bought).

After installation and activation I loaded a selection of my MPEG clips downloaded from my Sony DCR-DVD300 camcorder using the bundled Pixela ImageMixer software. Upon playing back the timeline I was greeted by silence. The camera records on the Mini-DVDs video in MPEG2 format and audio in AC-3 format. I placed a post in the Vegas Audio forum about this. After that I put up with the slowness of the site and did an extensive search on the subject.

Now my understanding is that even though the specs for Vegas say that it supports AC-3 audio for import, it really doesn't. This really sucks. I spent good money for this software which claims to import AC-3 files. I was not able to test the feature in the demo version because it was locked out. And Sony's return policy does not accept returns of opened software. Nor does the vendor that I bought it from. I saw workarounds to this problem which involve running a converter to separate the audio. But I have hundreds of clips now. Everytime I press the record button on the camera I get a clip. It is unrealistic to use such a converter for hundreds of clips now and in the future.

So I suppose that I will have to convice Sony to break their policy and accept my return. And then I'll go back to Ulead MediaStudio Pro 7 which does not have a problem importing video and audio from those very same clips.



farss wrote on 11/7/2003, 6:14 AM
I'm assuming that you have one of those cameras that record to DVD. Must admit i didn't know that it recorded ac3 audio. That is a very big problem.

You are correct VV will NOT import ac3 audio and I'm certain it never cliamed it would. DVDA will create DVDs with ac3 audio tracks and as you now know VV can encode audio to many variations of ac3.

The problem is that ac3 wasnever designed as an audio format for editing, it's an output only format. It uses lossy compression and does an excellent job of it BUT it's not a way to work with audio if you understand what I'm getting at.

You face another hurdle. The camera is also recording an pmeg program stream, not the ideal thing to try to edit let me tell you. It can be done but not the sort of thing you'd want to be doing by choice. There are some expensive systems that can do this BUT...

This is not the first time cameras have come on the market which are not designed for you to take what they record and then edit it. Sony's MicroMV cameras were a case in point, Sony are now dropping the format after many of those who purchased the cameras returned them demanding a refund.

I don't know how else to put this. The problem really is in the camera that you've been sold. I don't know of any NLE at any price that will solve your problem. There are ways around the problem, as you've said though they are hardly practical as an onging process. Before you return VV, I'd give some serious thought to getting a different camera, certainly the only software I've heard of that can do a decent job of editing mpeg will cost you more than a new DV camera of the same quality and then you've still got to address the audio problem

Fuzzy John wrote on 11/7/2003, 7:45 AM

Thanks for the feedback. Unfortunatelly getting another camera is out of the question at this point. I could not return the one I have (too late for that). And I cannot simply afford getting a second camera and then the motel where I'd have to live for the rest of my life (after the wife kicks me out of the house).

If you go on this site to the page for Vegas+DVD and then to specifications:
on the first page there it says:

Music compilations
Attach audio files to menus
Media file previewing
Import WAV, MP3, WMA, PCA, AIF, MPEG audio, AC-3 5.1 or stereo

I now realize that the page probably only refers to DVD Architect but that is not indicated specifically there. One can easily take that as the Vegas Editor itself can import AC-3. I showed that page to others and everybody agreed that the way it is presented there it is misleading. On top, the fact that the MPEG plugin is not available in the demo until one purchases the package, prevents one from realizing this problem until it is too late. At least Ulead made MediaStudio Pro 7 as a 30 day trial, with all the features enabled.

In my tests and trials I found that if I do not do any intermediate conversions, the output from Ulead MediaStudio Pro was good. There seemed to be very little video degradation. I am not contesting that probably Vegas does it better but I also have to consider the fact that MediaStudio Pro CAN get the sound from the original clip. And that is very important to me because of the 2+ hours of video clips from my son's wedding. While AC-3 uses lossy compression, I feel that it is more than enough for most live sound tracks that I will have. When quality sound is needed it can always be mixed in at edit time from a quality source.

If you are not familiar with MediaStudio Pro, it can edit MPEG video and the AC-3 sound. It can even import the VOB files from the VIDEO_TS folder on the DVD so I would not have to rely on the Pixela software to do that, or some other third party utility.

While my use of video editing software is not at the professional level, I do like to use better tools than what is usually bundled with camera or the Windows Movie Maker.
farss wrote on 11/7/2003, 8:15 AM
I'm not at all familiar with ULead products although unlike some otthers I've never heard anybody on this forum rubbish them and my brief encounter with one of their products left me feeling that for what it was it was rock solid.

I guess what you didn't tweak to when looking at Vegas is that it's primarily a DV editor, certainly you can place almost any form of video onto the timeline and it'll cope with avrying degress of ease. The only thing that you just cannot put onto the timeline is ac3 audio. That had caused me a bit of grief for other reasons but there was some good explainations as to why they decided not to provide that facility from the SoFo engineers.

So if the ULead product can bring both the ac3 and mpeg2 streams in from the DVD from the camera can you then not output that into a format such as DV (ie an avi file) that you could then use in VV?

Alternatively will ULead do what you want and will it output to the format that you require?

I'm mainly trying to find a way to get you out of the hole you're in, if there is something out there that will do what you want I'm certain a VV licence wouldn't be too hard to sell on somewhere like eBay or perhaps even on this forum, under the circumstance I don't think anyone is going to object.

By the way have you actually taken up your situation with Sony, they may be a bit more sympathetic if your entire circumstance is explained than your local dealer.

I should mention I have a bit of a personal interest in this topic, someone I know wants to buy a bunch of these sort of cameras, I've been trying hard to talk him out of it, your situation doesn't make me feel he's heading down a sensible path.

Spot|DSE wrote on 11/7/2003, 8:20 AM
DVDA DOES import AC3, just as that page specifies. Media Studio Pro does decode AC3, and turns it to mush. So great....it imports a compressed file format, and takes an already compromised file and makes it terrible. Not sure of the value there. MSP is indeed a much, much better MPEG editor.
SonyEPM wrote on 11/7/2003, 8:49 AM
Does this particular camera allow you to record audio as something other than AC3 (PCM or MPEG)? If it does, try shoot a test clip with that- and let us know if it loads into Vegas (I bet it does).

Fuzzy John wrote on 11/7/2003, 9:15 AM
I do plan to talk to Sony Customer Service about this and I do hope that they will end up accepting the return. I just got the package last night at which time I installed and activated it. Then I came across the problem. Now I am waiting for the right hour to make the call.

MSP may compress an already compressed format. However in my short test DVDs I noticed very little difference. If I need to have better sound quality from a particular clip I could always use DVD2AVI to extract it from the clip. But I cannot rely on DVD2AVI to extract the sound from every single clip from now on. Besides, mushy sound may be better than no sound at all.

That was the first thing I checked with the camera, but I was unable to find anywhere in SETUP an alternate audio format. Wish there was.


If I could be assured that this may be addressed via a patch to Vegas or even in the next version I would stick with it for now. But as it stands that does not seem to be the case.
Fuzzy John wrote on 11/7/2003, 1:15 PM
Just an update... I did not get anywhere with Customer Service. I suppose I will have to take it higher to the head of Sony Pictures Digital Division or maybe even to Sony Pictures.

Thanks a lot guys for your feedback.

DavidMcKnight wrote on 11/7/2003, 1:28 PM

Wow. The only advice I can give, and I'm sure you are already heading in this path, is to press on the fact that the marketing and specs listed AC-3 as a supported format, and probably the dealer who sold it to you could not confirm if that was import or export, and that yours is a case where the one combination that doesn't work is precisely the one you need.

Hope you get some relief with this, best of luck. However, if you can afford to, keep VV4. You will progress further into DV editing, and at some point you may decide to use a cam other than one that records on a final-output format. If so, VV is the one you want.

Again, good luck!
JL wrote on 11/7/2003, 1:47 PM
Is it possible to capture through something like ADVC-100 from the camcorder's A/V analog out?
Jsnkc wrote on 11/7/2003, 2:20 PM
Just a side note, there are lots of freeware programs that will convert AC3 to WAV so you can just run it through there and then import it. The program Hedac3he comes to mind, might want to do a serach for it.
TheHappyFriar wrote on 11/7/2003, 2:26 PM
Why not just sell the camera and buy a DV camera? IIf it's relatively new and in good working order, someone will probely buy it for $100 under retail. Then you can buy a MiniDV camera between $400 and $500 that would suite your needs.
Fuzzy John wrote on 11/7/2003, 3:46 PM
Thanks. I do like the features of VV4 over all other editing software I tried in the past 2 weeks. However the fact that it does not import the sound from the standard DVD format that my camera records in makes all those features useless. If I end up having a positive experience from all of this and if in the future I get involved with a different format I will be more than glad to take another chance at VV4.

You mean that I should think about buying another piece of hardware when I am trying to get out of the hole that I dug myself into? Maybe when I am out of the hole.

I am aware of those programs and they are indeed a solution that would work, but... At this moment I have upwards of 200 clips that I got out of the camera, so I would have to go thru the conversion process with each and every one. And in the future I would have to do the same thing everytime I press the camera's record button. I don't think that is the way to go. That may be OK if one tried to make bundled software work, but not software such as VV. By the way, it was the inability of the bundled software to deal with the 16:9 format that drove me down this path.

Jsnkc wrote on 11/7/2003, 4:04 PM
I would definately look at selling that camera once you get finished dealing with this little problem. I still can't understand why anyone ever invented those things (or why anyone would buy them), you're basically stuck with whatever is on the disc, you can't really edit it and keep good quality, a lot of the editing software out there won't really work with the files (as you know know). I guess it's all in the marketing, people think it's cool to be able to record right to DVD and they don't really think about what format it is recording in and the very limited options they will have with what is recorded on the disc. I'm also sure that when you walk into your local electronics stores the sales people are pushing these things and don't really tell people about the major drawbacks they have.

Oh well, live and learn I guess!
farss wrote on 11/7/2003, 4:27 PM
I should have suggested this earlier, someone else has already alluded to this solution and I know you're not that keen on it but if you think it through it's not such a bad way to go.

Buy an ADS Pyro A/V link. I've just imported one from the US, cost me USD 149, very cheap. I'm assuming you have a DVD player. You hook the DVD player up to the A/V Link, preferably using its component input, if your DVD player doesn't have that then there's still S-Video or even composite. Now you can convert entire DVDs and all the clips on them to DV. VV is going to have absolutely no problems from that point on.

Technically this mighn't be the best quality solution but hey I know people making commercial release DVDs done this way (shudder!).

Now OK you're up for a few more bucks BUT having the A/V link even if you weren't using VV is a big plus. WIth it you can also capture from any analogue video source such as VHS. Also you can use it to print to tape back to VHS. If you have VV you can also use it to drive your external monitor. I'm assuming your PC has a 1394 port, if not they are very cheap to add.

Even with the ULead solution you've still got no way to go to VHS tape and I bet not everyone that wants to see the wedding has a DVD player.

Of course if you had bought a Digital 8 or MiniDV camera most of them also have A/D passthrough which gives you that capability as well. That's what I've been using my D8 cmaera for, I just bought the ADS box because my camera was on about 20 / day so it never got used as a camera.
RBartlett wrote on 11/7/2003, 5:04 PM
TMPGEnc and some DVD (dvdDecrypter) rippers (illegal in the U.S. to even be downloaded to your PC) have the means to merge files whilst copying.
So if the VOB equivalent files represent a file per clip. You might be able to get a single VOB with AC3 audio that you can signpost with DVD2AVI (also illegal in the U.S. but not through the CSS decode function.) = better workflow?

Depends how important the original timecode is.
I figure the camera saves VOB or VRO files. Both of which won't have CSS protection but that doesn't stop the aforementioned tools being useful.

I don't condone film theft. In some countries these tools can be used for fair-use copy (like home media servers and conversion to your PDA etc).

Quite a few set top boxes record in MPEG-2 with AC3 audio. So it is an acquisition format, just a low end consumer one like microMV. MPEG-2 editing is becoming more important with the advent of HDV cameras. So Vegas had better take a peek at MSP7 for some hints on how to make things go smoothly. My DVD player software seems to manage to scrub better than Vegas does. No complaints in the main though, my DV, PICvideo MJPEG and uncompressed 8bit YUV run through nicel and MPEG editing is a big compromise.

DVD ripping to a single concatenated file would not be a hoop jump in my opinion. I can't say it'll work, Vegas does support dropping a VOB on the timeline for video, audio would need conversion, as a file or on-the-fly using a signpost file/sample-server.

You might need an OS with NTFS if your camera DVDs have a lot of minutes on them.

Then the editing begins.....

PS I think AC3 editing has been crippled as it was perceived that AC3 sources were 99% Hollywood DVD. Seems that this proportion could be changing. At least on the shelves of today's videographers.
Spot|DSE wrote on 11/8/2003, 11:18 AM
Just to clarify, there is no such thing as a 'standard' AC3 stream designed for editing. I don't know what the designers of that cam were thinking, and without intending offense, but whatever you were thinking in buying an MPEG based camera, particularly at the consumer end. MPEG is not intended as an editing format, will always look worse when edited, unless you are working with extremely expensive and high end sources. If you can't see the recompression artifacts when using MSP, then you either don't have a good monitor, or you don't have a good eye. I really don't mean this offensively, but blaming a professional product for a non-professional's camera result, is sorta like blaming the horse because the cart only had 1 wheel.
it's not a Vegas problem, it's a Sony problem. FCP can't read this, MSP can't straight read this, Premiere can't read these files, nor can Avid. It's an oddball camera, and requires odd-ball software. Even this super-happy review of the cam had issues exporting it to QUICKTIME! Quicktime can read damn near anything. Except this camera.
MPEG is simply not a professional editing format. Not even a semi-professional editing format at these bitrates. You're gonna have to convert every one of your 200 clips if you want to be able to happily edit in ANY application, unfortunately. After conversion to AVI or MOV, it's going to be a very soft picture. I just now ran a 6 meg stream in MSP 7.02, rendered it back out as an MPEG of same bitrate. It's color shift is more than 10degrees off.
I understand the confusion if you read AC3 support and figured that it meant import, I'm sure the marketing guys assumed the same thing I did in that nothing imports AC3 and pretty much only pirates play with AC3. But then again, I was unaware this camera output AC3. I'm sure if you call Sony on Monday, you'll find them willing to help you get out of this difficult situation.
In searching the web on this camera though, the caveat in every review I encountered was this very issue. It's on nearly every review and comment sheet I saw. Conversion is required, and it looks weak to begin with, terrible after conversion.
Softcorps wrote on 11/8/2003, 12:10 PM
I have never considered MPEG2 to be an editing format. Yes, I-frame only, high bitrate MPEG2 can be edited, but even that requires recompression for final output to DVD. MPEG2 and AC3 are final user distribution formats and, as far as I'm concerned, once it has been encoded to MPEG2 and AC3, it is pretty much "etched in stone."

With all due respect, sell the DVD camcorder and purchase a DV camera.

rich_aa wrote on 11/11/2003, 3:27 PM
Well I certainly empathize with Fuzzy John -- I got the DVD200 which is the same but with smaller viewfinder.
WIth all due respect to those who are knocking this new Sony format, for us unwashed masses of consumer hobbysts, the miniDVD camcorders are a fabulous concept. We don't have time to Capture tape to our PCs -- with a miniDVD, we take out the disc, whip it into our PCs and there's the scenes ready to grab. FOr those of us who occasionally put some home movies together, we can use a simple storyboard or an easy to learn higher end app like VV to do some editing of the clips and viola, a quick movie! It is the equivalent of flash memory chips for still cams. In fact, the Sony DVD200/300's take 2mp stills too. Yeah, so mpeg-2 isn't the best for editing and it's not good to compress ac-3 -- well for the convenience tradeoff, I am willing to take a bit of quality dropoff. Let's face it, tape is yesterday -- we need new formats for graphic storage -- it may not be DVDs, but it might...

BUT, this ac-3 output of Sony's is so far spoiling all the fun alright. I have been going through all the possibles out there with no success so far. And I am not going to accept a multi step demux-remux -- dont have time. I need an NLE or DVD editing program which will just let me put in the files straight from the disc. Someone said DVD Architect will take ac-3 files -- will it take vob files which have the ac-3 audios?

Interestingly, these Sony's give you 2 recording mode alternatives -- Video which produces .vob files and VR which puts .vro files in DV_RTAV folders -- I think these are like DV RAM files but not quite... Anyway, so far I am not aware of anyone who has been able to make these editable. The Pixela software people were totally jumped by Sony's move to bundle Image Mixer with the camcorders and they freely admit it won't work as advertised.
My take is that Sony has a great product and there will be solutions -- Pixela, for example, has their people coming in from Japan this week to breif them. And, check me if I'm wrong here, but Sony owns VV now, yeah? There probably hasn't been alot of product coordination as yet, but won't it come?

thanks for all the posts -- will aprreciate any tips re the ac-3/vob issue.
farss wrote on 11/11/2003, 3:50 PM
Maybe this the wrong place to be asking this but..

The Hitachi camera that records to DVD would seem to record PCM audio.
Wouldn't that be a better camera to achieve what you're looking for?
rich_aa wrote on 11/11/2003, 4:17 PM
I tried the Hitachi -- didn't like the output at all -- very contrasty, harsh, imho.
I really like the quality of the Sony output.
btw, for those who don't want to do ANY editing, you just finalize the disc and pop it into your set-top player and theres a dvd menu of all the scenes and a sldeshow of your stills. Again, unlike tape, you have immediate access to all the content.
In the VR mode, you don't even finalize -- just pop it into your PC and start editing the scenes (well, theoretically...)
farss wrote on 11/11/2003, 4:53 PM
That's what really attracts us to the camera as somethng to hire out.
But the ac3 thing is killing it, what about when the client asks if we could just cut this bit out or even put clips from several disks onto one DVD.

Doing the value add (editing....) is where the money is but Sony have kind of screwed that for us. Obviously they went to ac3 so they could push the bitrate up for better quality video. Shame they broke everything else in the process.

Seems the Hitachi camera can also record AVI to DVD-RAM, that would be much easier to deal with but I've taken your comments re quality on board.
BillyBoy wrote on 11/11/2003, 4:54 PM
I agree with you Rich. Sometimes some here seem to forget that Vegas and video cameras aren't just for "professionals". I'll go out on a limb and say such cameras have a good chance of being a hot seller in the coming holiday season. I also bet there are going to be quite a few LCD monitors and DVD burners under the Christmas tree too.
Fuzzy John wrote on 11/12/2003, 9:29 AM

I don't whether I will repeat anything that you already know about the VRO files. The VRO files are not directly editable. The Pixela software will import the clips as MPG files, one file for each time you pressed the record button. They do not seem to be compressed judging from the fact that the combined size of the MPG files is just about the same as the size of the VRO file. I had difficulty reading the VRO files into my computer though until I realized that I needed to have Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 installed with Drag To Disk. All of a sudden my computer read the mini-DVDs. Supposedly you can rename the VRO file (as well as the VOB file) with the MPG extension and then you will be able to use it as a regular MPG file. I did not try that. In my playing around with Ulead MediaStudio Pro 7 I used their VR plugin to import the MPG clips from the source VOB and VRO files. Again it looks like no recompression took place. Actually the MPG files produced the Ulead's plugin seem to be identical to those generated by Pixela.

In order to avoid the return of Vegas+DVD I tried all other alternatives suggested here to use my MPG clips. Uncompressed AVIs are simply too big. Compressed AVIs took a toll on the picture quality. The best image quality I got was by using the MPG files directly and importing each sound track as a WAV file generated by third party programs from each of my 200 or so clips (pain in the ass to do that). At this point I came across another problem that Vegas seems to have when editing MPG files. I know that the MPG files are not meant to be edited, but again, the Ulead software does it much better. Straight cuts between clips are very jumpy out of Vegas compared to clean cuts out of MediaStudio Pro 7. And this is yet another problem one finds out after purchasing and opening the software package since the MPG plugin is disabled in the demo.

I am not really trying to knock Vegas. In my playing around with editing software I initially decided for MediaStudio Pro 7. At that time I was not aware of Vegas. When I came across Vegas I liked its interface and way of doing things much better that MSP. I took another 10 days or so to test the Vegas Demo before I decided to make the purchase. Then I got bit by misleading specs on the Vegas+DVD web page and by problems with portions of the software that were locked out in the demo. Even now, if Vegas was able to import the AC-3 sound into the editor and if the MPG editing was improved I would definitely give it another try. But as it stands now, Vegas is useless for me and all I am trying to do is to get Sony to accept the return of the opened software. I am not trying to make money on it, I am not trying to get compensation for damages. Also, Sony controls the registration and the activation of the software and they would see immediately if I try to use the returned software at a later time.

Maybe now that Sony owns Vegas they will make it work with their cameras, DVD camcorders or not, and get rid of Pixela. Bundle a stripped down version of Vegas with their cameras.
vitalforces wrote on 11/12/2003, 1:08 PM
FuzzyJohn: Possibly a Duh question but: I looked at the Sony specs for your camera and it says it has a USB 2.0 connector. Are you dropping your camera's disc into your computer's disc tray? If so, why not plug into a USB 2.0 port (PCI cards with USB are about $25-$30 if you don't have one in a PCI slot) and capture what you've got? Or does this camera only output MPEG and AC-3 no matter what the interface?