NLEs for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV-capture cards + Xeon PC-build.

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NLEs for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV-capture cards + Xeon PC-build.

Post by studio460 » Wed May 19, 2021 7:55 pm

[Note to readers: I am continually updating these posts to include new information and to provide better, more up-to-date content for those interested in these products, all of which I believe offer a lot of value for your money.]

While pushing the boundary between pro visual-effects and the more bespoke roots of analog video-synthesis tools, I needed some kind of editor beyond iMovie to trim and edit my videos for the content I'm creating for my new YouTube channel.

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Formally known as "Sony Vegas," Vegas (now owned by Magix, GmbH) is a hugely capable nonlinear-editor that's PC-only. Promotional bundles vary and change often. Boris FX' impressive particle-engine unit (part of their Continuum FX-suite) was offered a couple weeks ago, but has now been placed with their "Stylize" unit. Boris' Continuum is an extremely powerful suite of FX plug-ins for Vegas and other popular NLEs, costing a whopping $695 for the full-license.

Various individual components of Continuum (called "units") are bundled with Vegas on a rotating basis as sales incentives; however, note that these included in the bundles are each one version older than the current version offered directly from BorisFX.

Of particular interest, the BorisFX Stylize Unit includes off-register, RGB-effects, plus FXhome's "glitch," and "damaged TV" effects. Also just noticed this feature on their site: "Integrated Beat Reactor for audio-generated VFX;" though it's unclear which particular plug-ins support this (only a few do). The Vegas Suite edition also includes the excellent Sound Forge Pro audio editor which I've loved since version one.

[I had previously been posting/updating various budget PC-clones here (the reason for so many edits), but the best deal I think are the retired servers from HP and Dell (see post below). Excellent build-quality and engineering, far superior to clone-cases, and used, they're truly bargain-priced.]
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Re: NLEs for video-synthesis: Vegas + Boris FX Continuum + ActionVFX:

Post by justin3am » Wed May 19, 2021 8:59 pm

Try Davinci Resolve from Black Magic. There is a free version which is really good. The paid version adds a bunch of visual effects and collaborative file management stuff.

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Re: NLEs for video-synthesis: Vegas + Boris FX Continuum + ActionVFX:

Post by studio460 » Fri May 21, 2021 5:49 pm

justin3am wrote:
Wed May 19, 2021 8:59 pm
Try Davinci Resolve from Black Magic. There is a free version which is really good. The paid version adds a bunch of visual effects and collaborative file management stuff.
Thanks—I have three DaVinci licenses already but haven't tried it yet.
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Re: NLEs for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV capture

Post by studio460 » Fri May 21, 2021 5:52 pm

HDMI-capture:

Since I have the Blackmagic ATEM switcher (which outputs HDMI), I just bought a Blackmagic HDMI PCIe capture card for $199. This will provide higher quality than the webcam USB-capture I/O provided by the ATEM switcher (which is designed mainly for streaming).

The Blackmagic Intensity Pro 4K card includes one HDMI 1.4b input and one HDMI 1.4b output, along with a multipin-port. It's capable of capture/playback of full-HD at 1080p60 as well as UltraHD at 2160p30 at up to 10-bit 4:4:4 resolution. Can ingest directly to ProRes, DNxHD, and various NLEs.

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Blackmagic Design Intensity Pro 4K HDMI capture card ($199).

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Included Blackmagic multipin break-out cable.

The Blackmagic card comes with a multipin break-out cable for 10-bit YUV (HD/SD component analog), S-video, and both NTSC/PAL composite video I/O, plus S/PDIF digital audio-out (no S/PDIF input, however):

miniDV/DVCAM-capture:

Next, I ordered this $59 StarTech IEEE-1394a/b capture card with dual 9-pin FireWire 800 ports + one 6-pin FireWire 400 port. Paired with my Sony DSR-11 DVCAM player, I'll finally be able to transfer my huge library of DVCAM tapes (e.g., raw footage from short films and B-roll of Tokyo and Hawaii). I got the version sold by B+H so I'm pretty sure this one will work (versus the $20 FireWire adapters sold on Amazon):

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StarTech IEEE-1394 low-profile PCI-Express FireWire adapter card ($59).
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Re: NLE for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV-capture cards.

Post by studio460 » Sun May 23, 2021 10:12 am

Xeon PC-build:

Option 1:

Searching eBay, I found an HP reseller that offers customizable refurbished HP servers. I was going to go with the cheap, Xeon PC-clone I wrote about earlier, but it had too few available PCIe slots. HP servers come with a lot of stuff built-in compared with bargain-clones (e.g., more PCIe slots, more DIMM-slots, five USB 3.0 ports, etc.).

One eBay seller in particular offers selectable options and better specs in a refurbished (used) HP Z840 server:

Refurbished HP Z840 server (complete system; multiples of each system available; customizable):

• Xeon 2.5GHz six-core CPU.
• 32GB ECC RAM (4x8; 8 DIMM slots).
• 1TB SSD.
• NVidia Quadro M4000 8GB GPU (about $550 new).

Total system-price: $1,550

This is one of the few eBay sellers which offer configurable system options right on the eBay selling page. They offer good, high-performance PCs, mostly retired, HP- and Dell-branded Xeon servers, often paired with pretty fast video cards with decent memory. Seems a solid, trustworthy seller with ample inventory and competitive pricing. Here's the links to their wares:

Seller link to eBay listing above: HP Z840 refurbished servers.
Seller link: mktllc

Selecting Xeon CPUs with more cores or faster-clock-speeds bumps the price up considerably. Knowing that Vegas and 2D-effects benefit most from a faster GPU, rather than the main processor, I decided on the base Xeon processor. When hyperthreaded, the six-core Xeon runs like a 12-core Xeon anyway. Whether this outperforms a native 10-core Core i7, I don't know.

Option 2:

Things just get cheaper and cheaper the more I look: Quad-core CPU instead of six-core (but faster clock-speed), but this system is nearly half the cost of the system above! Here's a used HP Z440 entry-level server: $499 w/out video card. Buying your video card separately (and used) opens up a lot more options. Although I bought it from a business (not an individual), they only had the one unit to sell.

Used HP Z440 server (w/out video card): $499.

• Xeon 3.5GHz quad-core version-3 CPU.
• 32GB ECC RAM.
• 1TB SSD.
• NVidea Quadro M4000 8GB GPU x4 display ports (bought separately from another seller: $349 used).

Total system-price: $848.

So I just clicked "buy" on option 2. Case is attractive and cosmetically, looks brand-new (actual item photo). Like the Z840, it's also rack-mountable with an optional kit. Seems like a lot of PC for under a grand. I would definitely recommend buying a used HP or Dell retired server, then buying a used video card separately from another seller. You can save a lot going this route.

Now all I need are monitors. I was surprised how cheap decent monitors are these days. My Nvidia card supports up to four monitors, so I'll probably buy a bunch (e.g., decent 24" monitors are as low as $100 each).

Vegas, here I come!

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Re: NLE for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV-capture cards + Xeon PC-build.

Post by studio460 » Thu May 27, 2021 11:32 pm

NOTICE: miniDV/DVCAM-capture card warning!
studio460 wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 5:52 pm
miniDV/DVCAM-capture:

Next, I ordered this $59 StarTech IEEE-1394a/b capture card with dual 9-pin FireWire 800 ports + one 6-pin FireWire 400 port. Paired with my Sony DSR-11 DVCAM player, I'll finally be able to transfer my huge library of DVCAM tapes (e.g., raw footage from short films and B-roll of Tokyo and Hawaii). I got the version sold by B+H so I'm pretty sure this one will work (versus the $20 FireWire adapters sold on Amazon):

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StarTech IEEE-1394 low-profile PCI-Express FireWire adapter card ($59).
DO NOT BUY FIREWIRE CARDS WITH TI-CHIPSETS—ONLY BUY THE ONES WITH VIA CHIPSETS:

B+H only carries the one with the TI-chipset (shown above): Windows 10 Pro 64-bit doesn't recognize it and so I'm returning it for a Via-chipped one. Many of the ones sold on Amazon have the Via chipset (you can see from the chipset from the item photos). Refer to this article for detailed information on FireWire capture cards for Windows 10 machines (including the correct FireWire legacy driver download location): here.

I can no longer edit the above quoted post, so I've noted the corrections here. According to the linked article, this is one of the Via-chipped 1394 cards (i.e., generic model), which works with most miniDV/DVCAM/DVCPRO gear from Sony and Panasonic. I just ordered this "Godshark PCIe 3-port" FireWIre card (again, sold under a number of brand names) off Amazon for $15.99:

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HP Z440 Xeon PC:

It's here! I just received my HP Z440 Xeon PC and Blackmagic Intensity Pro 4K HDMI capture-card [a different FireWire PCIe capture card was ordered (see above), coming tomorrow from Amazon.] This entry-level server came with 32GB of ECC RAM and a 1TB SSD, all for just $499. Looks great! Windows immediately recognized the Blackmagic card and I've already successfully ingested some HDMI-source footage using Blackmagic's Media Express capture software (free with Intensity 4K purchase).

The HP case and motherboard (all completely tool-less!) looks far neater and more well-engineered than any clone I've ever owned. Very happy with this purchase. For those buying new systems, it looks like the AMD Ryzen CPUs (for which Vegas offers unique accelerator-support) outperform Intel Core i9s, but certain Boris FX units offer hardware-acceleration on Nvidia cards exclusively.

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Re: NLE for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV-capture cards + Xeon PC-build.

Post by EATyourGUITAR » Thu May 27, 2021 11:43 pm

if you are already using resolve, check out fusion. it does things that after effects can not do. one time license compared to adobe slowly sucking your blood.
https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/fusion/
WWW.EATYOURGUITAR.COM <---- MY DIY STUFF

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Re: NLE for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV-capture cards + Xeon PC-build.

Post by studio460 » Fri May 28, 2021 1:03 am

EATyourGUITAR wrote:
Thu May 27, 2021 11:43 pm
if you are already using resolve, check out fusion. it does things that after effects can not do. one time license compared to adobe slowly sucking your blood.
https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products/fusion/
I now have about three or four Resolve Lite licenses from all the Blackmagic products I've bought. Haven't even download it yet! Though, it appears to have a fairly steep learning curve, so I'll probably be sticking with Vegas. I used own After Effects (I had a license for the entire Adobe video suite), but I was completely lost, but thanks for the head's-up on Fusion—it looks pretty rad.

But again, editing and 2D-effects aren't my forte. I've used Boris FX on Media 100s before, and years ago, when I was using Sony Vegas, I was able to take to it right away, so those apps are probably more my speed.
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Re: NLE for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV-capture cards + Xeon PC-build.

Post by studio460 » Sat May 29, 2021 2:51 am

Vegas, baby!

After a few installation hiccups, I finally have Vegas up and running on my new HP Z440 machine and it runs great! I just dragged-and-dropped some footage into the Vegas timeline without a hitch. And my memory of Vegas' ease-of-use didn't fail: I was able to stretch the timeline, add tracks, effects, filters, titles, all without referring to the manual. Vegas, if nothing else, is easy.

Vegas offers a lot of versions of its product, but I didn't pony up for the flagship Vegas Post Suite ($499), instead I chose the deeply discounted Vegas Movie Studio 17 which is only $79 since it's the previous version of the current product. Now I'm about to upgrade to Vegas Pro 18 Suite because it includes the Boris FX particle effects unit, and is currently bundled with Boris 3D titler which sells for $199 separately. Note that different "units" of Boris FX are rotated in bundled offers, so you have to time your purchase right to get the Boris FX units you want. By the way, the expiration dates on Vegas' online promotions are real.

So, since my home studio is pretty much an overflowing mess with zero deskspace available, I set up my new HP Z440 PC in my bedroom. Also, I couldn't decide on monitoring yet (tons of options!), so I'm using the 65" TV in the bedroom for a display. This is actually working out pretty well:

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CPU- vs. GPU-performance: [Breaking news: AMD's Ryzen spanks Intel's Core i9 in Vegas 18!]

I'm starting to re-think my processor-assessment. My HP Z400 only has a quad-core Xeon (eight cores, hyperthreaded). The retired HP servers with 6- to 10-core Xeons were just a lot more money (almost double). I thought a fast video card was the standard de rigueur for good NLE-performance, but as I learned, apparently not necessarily (see below). One effect took over two minutes to render for a 90-second clip in Vegas, so I can't help but wonder if a faster CPU would've shortened that (hint: it would have).

I just found an article which answers the question: It appears my assumptions were correct. Vegas depends less on a user's GPU-speed and more on the brute-force CPU-speed in your PC. So in retrospect, I would've been better off spending more on a higher core-count Xeon processor than on a fancy GPU [edit: Actually, AMD's Ryzen would've been the better choice; Intel's Core i9, second-best].

Also, Magix' marketing claims indicate unique support for AMD's hardware-accelerated H.264 rendering engine, and a 2020 review of Vegas 18, which benchmarked the both NVidia and AMD GPUs, appears to prove a decided advantage to the AMD chipsets [see the excellent TechGage review here].

The TechGage article offers two GPU recommendations, specifically for Vegas Pro 18:

• Radeon RX 5700 8GB XT
• GeForce RTX 2060 8GB Super

Both are about $450 retail. Though Vegas supports AMD's H.264 hardware-acceleration, Boris FX' plug-ins support NVidia hardware-acceleration exclusively, so pick your poison. I'm still on the fence since the cheap video card the seller included seems fine.

All that said, my new HP 3.5 GHz Z440 is performing quite well—boots in mere seconds, with no long wait-periods, or any notable performance hiccups. Quite happy with this bargain PC—it's certainly the fastest $499 computer I've ever owned!

Vegas CG:

Vegas' character generator is actually pretty good. Aside from standard formatting fare, it has controls for tracking and leading. No specific letter-kerning, but at least it has tracking (overall letter-spacing), and leading (space between lines). There's several good bang for-the-buck budget NLEs on the market, but almost all of them lack letter-spacing control in their titlers (without good letter-spacing, titles often look very amateurish).

A full battery of cheesy text-effects presets (flying, zooming, squeezing, etc.) are also on-hand, built right into a dropdown menu in the titler module. There's no countdown-clock or timer-preset as far as I could tell, but there is a SMPTE preset which reads-off actual timecode. Unfortunately, you can't choose the typeface for the SMPTE display. Again, no manual was required to figure all this out.

Update: I just loaded about 300 words of text into the titler for a crawl (seen in the newest video posted below), and the UI did seem to choke on that many words. Unsure is a faster GPU with more memory would've helped here or not. With too many characters in its titler-window, the app became somewhat unresponsive (i.e., icons in the titler module became unclickable).

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Ooops! Forgot to authorize my VFX plug-in (that's why the the Lego block image is there, indicating the plug-in isn't active). Here's the text-overlay (with an added FXhome film damage filter) without the copy-protection image:

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Again, pretty happy with Vegas' character generator. I'm able to get the type-effects I want, mainly the letter-tracking. Also, Windows has an LED font among its system typefaces (oddly named, "QuiverItal"). If I were a top-drawer motion graphics designer, I'd be using After Effects, but I'm not. Vegas' CG is serviceable enough, and if I'm so inclined, Boris FX does offer an After Effects-like titling engine plug-in for Vegas.

Vegas add-on packs:

As I mentioned, I just authorized the FX Ignite pack that was bundled with my Vegas Movie Studio 17 purchase, so a lot of the film damage and video damage effects were blocked-out (i.e., "Lego'd" out). Now I have full access to all the effects in the installed plug-in folder (it's horrible to "see" effects you can't really use!).

Last week's promotion included only one element of the rather pricey Boris FX package ($695): Its particle-engine; though, pretty powerful with an excellent, cube-based UI-design, so it would've been nice to have. I only got a license to "FXhome Ignite Advanced VFX" pack (not the ActionVFX pack with gunfire, explosions, etc.) I thought I was getting. Again, Vegas' product line-up can be pretty confusing—you're not really sure what's in the product or needs to be purchased separately from the marketing copy on the site.

Still, good, since I definitely wanted all the glitch and video damage filters included in the FXhome pack. Though not as organic as say, MVIP, the glitch and damage filters each have a cool set of sliders to modify and they're definitely fun to experiment with. I'll post some screen-grabs and video clips as soon as I create something since I only just authorized the plug-in a few minutes ago.
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Re: NLEs for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV capture

Post by studio460 » Sat May 29, 2021 9:31 am

Vegas Movie Studio 17 + Ignite FX: NLE test clip.

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Blocked by YouTube:

YouTube pulled my video due to a "nudity and obscenity" violation of its terms of service. Stupid bot. It's the same girl I've been posting. She is fully clothed. [This happens three more times (all unblocked after appeal).]

New upload: All glitch-effects and titles created in Vegas Movie Studio 17 + Ignite FX.


New clip with FEMA emergency alert title-crawl added.

As you can see in the clip, the crawl works pretty well. Crawl-speed is adjustable from a million miles-an-hour to barely moving. Next, I'll use the titler's built-in preset designed for making vertically-scrollin screen credits to create scrolling "computer code" displays (like the screens in sci-fi movies).

Futuristic UI-design:

I really like that android/Voight-Kampff visual aesthetic and plan to shoot new footage specifically to that end (as opposed to the two-minute shoot above). Those kinds of "future" screens where sexy robots and others talk into videophones or are observed by cameras with lots of science-ey looking graphics overlays with edgey-looking glitching and color-grading (e.g., the android "video mugshots" from the original Blade Runner, the CCTV images from Ex Machina, etc.).

It's also been tediously overused by such turkeys as Eagle Eye, and has become an ultra-boring scifi-movie trope, often used as a cheap character exposition-tool, as seen in Interstellar.

To those ends, the Vegas titler has some applicable motion-presets I'm anxious to explore. The ancillary use of video has always been an interesting mode as an alternative to traditional narrative cinematography. Of course, After Effects or Boris FX' Title Studio module ($199) can pull this stuff off with much greater finesse.

The current king of futuristic GUI-design for movie screens is the work of Chris Kieffer on HBO's Westworld (see article here). Though I'm far from being anywhere near his level, I really admire his precise graphic style and convincing emulation of futuristic technology displays.
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Re: NLEs for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV-capture cards + Xeon PC-build.

Post by studio460 » Sat Jun 05, 2021 6:35 pm

Realtime-modulation of NLE video-effects:

I have a large archive of miniDV/DVCAM footage I've shot over the years that will make great source-material for further manipulation. But I just realized that if the output of Vegas' preview display is sent to an external recorder (or screen-recorder), any of Vegas' effects may be modulated live, for generating video-synthesis effects. I posted a version of the clip earlier which had a really neat Vegas RGB-halftone effect applied (which would be cool to modulate live), but the CODEC simply couldn't handle the high-frequency detail and introduced a ton of artifacts (e.g., macro-blocking, etc.).

Ingest issues: After dozens of re-boots, driver re-installs, an HP serial-port patch install (and its requisite Microsoft .NET libraries), and lastly, upgrading my HP motherboard's BIOS, I finally got my VIA-chipped FireWire PCIe interface to work in my new PC. Some newly ingested video from the "control room" has been added to this updated edit (this edit has no audio):



In contrast, the Blackmagic HDMI capture card has been working without a hitch from day one. Although it used to show up in device manager (with no errors), it's since disappeared while I was trying to get the VIA-FireWire card to work. Yet, the Blackmagic card still works flawlessly. You need to use Blackmagic's capture-app, Media Express, to actually use the card. It works, but it has an annoying bug—you can't rename the capture file (i.e., you can't type anything in the filename dialog box).

I'll be updating the linked clip above as I ingest more raw footage and continue with the edit. Really having fun re-cutting this footage with Vegas and my new set of effects plug-ins (despite the CODEC's annoying shortcomings). Unfortunately, this was shot with a 2/3" camera, so there's far more depth-of-field than I would prefer. If I shot this today with my Sony FS100, all the shots would appear far more "cinematic."
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Re: NLEs for video-synthesis: Vegas + HDMI/DV-capture cards + Xeon PC-build.

Post by studio460 » Sat Jun 12, 2021 2:44 am

New information regarding Vegas' NLE:

For the last several days I've been really digging into my new Vegas NLE and really enjoying the creative avenues it's opened up. And after hanging out in the Vegas forums for a while, I've gathered some newly learned information to share.

1. Magix releases a new version of Vegas every August (so a new version is coming soon!).
2. Magix does not recommend NVIDIA Quadro-series GPUs for use with Vegas (AMD's GPUs tend to perform better).
3. Buying multiple licenses of the $49 version of Vegas Movie Studio 17 gets you more FX plug-in packs at significant discounts.
4. The current Vegas Movie Studio 17 Platinum promotion with BorisFX' Stylize Unit 2020.5 includes a few "Beat Reactor" plug-ins:

The Boris Prism plug-in is an RGB-offset effect. What's notable here for video-synthesists is that Prism is one of the select Vegas effects which has an integrated "Beat Reactor" feature (i.e., audio-reactivity). Plus, the plug-in's UI appears to be loaded with features. I haven't tried it yet, but it looks super-cool:

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5. Also included in the current $49 Vegas Movie Studio 17 Platinum bundle is NewBlue Post's Elements 3 Overlay FX-pack. While the pack only includes a handful of effects, they're pretty powerful PIP-style effects. One in particular is Image Mapper. Among a bunch of other FX, this effect also allows you to pin the four corners of a video clip to create a DVE perspective-effect.

Here's a floating-screen effect I created with just a few mouse-clicks. Note that's a motion-video clip in the DVE box, not just a still-image. With this, I could composite another track with a luma- or chroma-key of, say, a group of people, positioned/scaled to be small in the frame in the lower-left, standing and looking "up" at a virtual big-screen in the sky. Pretty neat!

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6. Purchasing strategy: The best way to buy Vegas is to start collecting multiple copies of Vegas Movie Studio 17 Platinum. Magix rotates the bundled effects, so over the course of a month or two, you could potentially buy several $49 copies of VMS and get several different add-on bundles at 50%-75% discounts, all of which will work in either copy. The only gotcha is that they're all the prior version of the current standalone-product sold by their respective developers. As soon as you buy the $49 license, you'll be inundated with offers to upgrade to Vegas Pro 18 (the current version) for only $99 (normally $399).

But, wait!.

Wait until this coming August when Vegas 19 is released. Then, upgrade to Vegas 19 Pro or Vegas 19 Post Suite, their top-line, premium suite of products. The premium-priced Post Suite includes an AfterEffects-like application, Vegas Effects, which is a pretty sophisticated compositing/VFX program from Magix which includes high-level 3D/2D rendering/compositing/motion-tracking/image-mapping/effects-generation tools, a particle/fire/lightning-engine, plus over 800 other effects and filters.

It won't be cheap (likely a few hundred dollars), but will still be less if bought as an upgrade. Vegas Effects (not to be confused with effects plug-ins) is a standalone VFX-application which "links" to the Vegas NLE, and is essentially the same commercially available VFX program also still sold by original developer, HitFilm.

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Also, a Magix representative has already confirmed on the Vegas forum that a new version of the Vegas Effects application is due in the next couple of months, likely timed with the pending Vegas 19-release (though, it will lack a few of the features available in the HitFilm Pro version of the product). But by buying it this way, it's like getting the Vegas part of the bundle for free!
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