Creating Picture-in-Picture Effects in Vegas 5

by Craig Anderton

Inserting one picture within another (called "picture-in-picture," or PIP for short) is an extremely useful video technique. For example, with instructional videos, the PIP might provide some kind of detail or close-up that illustrates a point. In a wedding video, the PIP could be a reaction shot of the parents, while in the main picture, the couple is taking their vows.

In Vegas, PIP is a subset of track motion, which itself is a subset of compositing. Compositing simply means to combine more than one image. This could be as simple as putting a text title over a shot, or as complex as overlaying multiple moving objects over a main video.

Track Motion is a very powerful feature, but PIP provides a useful, basic introduction. Here's how to do it.

Picture-in-picture being used to superimpose a CD cover over a video of a live performance.


You'll need two video tracks. Generally the bottom one is the "main" video, while the top one provides the PIP. In the accompanying Vegas 5 screen shot, the PIP is a CD cover laid over a live performance video by one of the CD's acts.

Click on the Track Motion button for the upper track (the one you want to insert). A window appears that's like the usual pan/crop window, and has similar tools. Here is where you set several PIP attributes.

Note the three strips toward the bottom of the window. Click on the Position label, and the rectangle shown within the window can be resized (by clicking on a corner and dragging) or rotated (move the mouse along the circle until the "circle with arrow" appears, then click and drag to rotate). The PIP will change based on these edits.

Also note the toolbar across the top of the window. You'll generally want to lock the aspect ratio and scale around the center of the picture, so make sure the 3rd and 4th buttons from the right are enabled. Otherwise, when you resize, the picture might stretch instead (although that's not always a bad thing).

Like most other Vegas functions, you can also use Keyframes to animate these changes over time. For example, the PIP could zoom in or zoom out by setting a keyframe, then setting a later keyframe where the image is either bigger or smaller, respectively.


Also note two other options in this window: 2D Shadow and 2D Glow. Enabling these places a shadow or glow behind the PIP. In the example shot, the CD cover is dark and so is the background. Adding a light blue glow helps make the CD cover stand out. The glow or shadow is represented by its own rectangle in the editing space, and can be resized and rotated like the PIP itself. Furthermore, glows and shadows can be "keyframed" as well, so that the glow increases or decreases in size over time. And of course, don't forget that the track containing the PIP can itself include various effects, including chroma key, swirl, and other eye-catchers.

Granted, we've only scratched the surface of compositing and track motion…but as you can see, even PIP by itself is a powerful technique.

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