Working with Media Generators in Vegas Pro Software
by Gary Rebholz
Vegas Pro software has always been famous for the wide variety of file formats that it supports. As I covered in a previous article, whether video, audio, or still-image files, the application will accept just about anything you want to throw at it, either right out of the box or in some cases with the simple installation of the proper codec. But one thing that advanced users take for granted and that new users really need to know about early on is that Vegas Pro software can also create its own media for use in your projects.
In this article, we'll talk about creating custom media with Vegas Pro media generators. In this discussion, you'll get a feel for what media generators are and how to use them. If you're a new user, this knowledge is indispensible. But hopefully even you more advanced users will find something here that spurs you into thinking about media generators in a new way and gives you some new ideas for your next project.
Media generators are built right into Vegas Pro software, so you don't have to install anything special to use them. To access the media generators, click the Media Generators tab in the window docking area. The Media Generators window, shown in Figure 1, lists all of the different generators that you can use. Click through the list and you see thumbnail images of presets that you can add to your project. As you'll see shortly, each of these thumbnails can be fully customized so you get exactly what you want.
As you click through the list, you see that several of the generators are graphical in nature. I'll concentrate on these generators in this article. They enable you to create different graphical textures. I frequently use each of the Color Gradient, Noise Texture, and Solid Color generators in my projects. For example, I might be creating a lower-third graphic that I want to lay under a line of text and so I'll use the Noise Texture generator to create something interesting. Or, perhaps I want a solid color other than black behind a section of my video for some reason, so I'll use the Solid Color generator. Once you start using media generators, you'll come up with more and more uses for them.
There are also several text-related generators. I took a basic look at the ProType Titler generator back in the November, 2009 issue of this newsletter. You can find that in the Newsletters archives at www.sonycreativesoftware.com/news/newsletter.
The last generator is a bit of a special case graphical one: the Test Pattern generator. You'll use this if you need to add a test pattern to your video for some reason.
To illustrate how to use generators, let's start with the simplest one: the Solid Color generator. Well, actually, the Test Pattern generator is even simpler than the Solid Color, but it may be too simple to be of much use for our discussion!
The Solid Color generator enables you to create solid-colored objects in your video. Select Solid Color from the list of generators in the Media Generators window. Drag your favorite-colored thumbnail preset into the timeline. This adds an event to the timeline and opens the Video Media Generators window with the controls for the Solid Color generator open inside as shown in Figure 2.
You can use the controls in the Video Media Generators window to adjust the characteristics of the media you've just created. For instance, you can see by the parameter settings in my Video Media Generator window back in Figure 2 that I added the Red generator thumbnail to my project. You can also see that with my cursor located within the resulting event on my timeline, my Video Preview window is completely red.
But you're not stuck with that color just because you chose a certain thumbnail. You can use the parameter controls to customize the color to exactly what you want. In the case of the Solid Color generator, use the Opacity slider to make the color more or less transparent. Or, adjust the R, G, and B sliders to specify a different color. Or click within the color field to choose a new color that way. Or type in specific RGB values to specify your color. Finally, click the Pick Color From Screen button and then click any color on your computer monitors to sample that color and change the generator to that color. That's a great way to create a color that matches some other element in your video.
Use any of these tools to change the color of your media generator now. Once you have your color adjusted, you can save it as a custom preset so that if you ever want the exact color again, you can easily achieve it by choosing the new preset. To save a custom preset, click inside the Preset field to select the current value and type in a new name. For instance, I obviously use the SONY logo frequently in my projects. The official color recipe for the blue that's used in the SONY logo contains RGB values of R:0, G:69, B:124. Many times I'll want a background or other graphical element of that exact color recipe, so I'll create a preset using those RGB values and call it SonyBlue. Once you've entered the name for your new preset, click the Save Preset button. Notice that now your new preset appears along with all of the other preset thumbnails in the Media Generators window and from here on out you can easily add it to any project.
Let's move on to a little more complex example of a graphical media generator and talk about the Checkerboard generator. If you want to use the Checkerboard generator to add a completely new graphical element to your project, you could follow the same procedures you learned for adding the Solid Color generator to your project.
However, you might decide that instead of the Solid Color generator you've already added, you wish you had started with the Checkerboard generator in the first place. If you've already placed your Solid Color generated graphic and edited it into your project, you might not want to simply delete it and do all of that work again with the new generator. So instead of deleting and repeating your steps, you can simply replace the Solid Color generator with the Checkerboard.
To do that, click the Replace Plug-In button in the Video Media Generators window. In the Plug-In Chooser—Video Media Generator dialog box, select Sony Checkerboard from the list of generators, click Add, and then OK.
This replaces the solid color in the event on your timeline with the first default style for the Checkerboard generator, which is a simple pattern of alternating black and white squares. This also opens all of the controls for the Checkerboard generator in the Video Media Generators window.
The Checkerboard generator has a more extensive set of controls than the Solid Color generator and now your Video Media Generators window may be too small to allow all of the controls to be visible without scrolling. If this is the case for you, you can resize the window until you can see all of the controls. To do so manually, drag any corner of the window in and out to make it bigger or smaller. Or, to resize it automatically to as big as it needs to be, double-click the window's title bar. You can see my Video Media Generators window after I've resized it in Figure 3.
Click the Preset drop-down arrow. The drop-down list contains all of the same presets that you would see thumbnails for when you chose Checkerboard from the list in the Media Generators window. This drop-down simply gives you another way to choose the preset you want and switch from one to another.
This generator contains two colors and thus has two separate sets of color chooser tools. Each of these sets works the same as the tools you used in the Solid Color generator. So, if you want black and red squares instead of black and white, use the controls to change Color 2 to your favorite shade of red.
Notice that the top-left square is black. Look closely at the Grid position area and notice the small dot in the upper-left-hand corner. Drag that dot to a new position and watch your Video Preview window. As you drag the dot, you reposition the squares.
So, if you want that top-left square to start with a red square instead of black, you have a couple of options. First, you could swap the colors around and set Color 1 to Red and Color 2 to black, or you could leave the colors as they are and position the Grid position control until you have a red square in that position.
You can use the Tile Dimensions controls to change the size and shape of the color rectangles. Adjust the Width slider to the right and notice in your Video Preview window that this increases the size of the squares. Obviously then, drag the slider to the left to make the square smaller.
As you drag the Width slider, the Height value changes to match, thus maintaining the square shape. If you want a non-square rectangle, deselect the Square checkbox. Now you can adjust the width and height independently.
The Edge Blending controls enable you to dictate the sharpness of the Horizontal and Vertical edges of your rectangles. For a more fuzzy edge between the two colors, move the sliders to the right. Deselect the Proportional checkbox if you want different edge blending values horizontally than you do vertically.
Again, just as with the Solid Color generator, you can save custom presets so that once you've created a graphical look that you like, you can easily add the same look to your projects in the future.
By now you're getting the idea of how media generators work. Let's take a quick look at the other two graphical generators and see how they work too. Click the Replace Plug-In button and follow the procedure you learned a few minutes ago to change to the Color Gradient generator.
With this generator you can specify two or more color points, set their colors, and adjust the spacing between them to create blends from one color to the next. Back in the Media Generators window, select Color Gradient from the list. Look at the preset thumbnails, shown in Figure 4, and notice all of the different gradient treatments. You see simple two-color vertical and horizontal color blends, more complex diagonal blends with more than two colors, linear blends, oval-shaped blends, rectangular blends, blends that give the effect of a textured bar, and more. You can create all of these and more with the Color Gradient generator.
Back in the Video Media Generator window, shown in Figure 5, you see some familiar color controls and you know how to use those. Choose the type of gradient you want to create from the Gradient Type drop-down list. Then, use the Control Points section to define the number of colors you want in your color blend, the colors you want to use, and the spatial relationship between those colors.
The color blend that appeared by default when you changed to this generator contains a simple two-color linear gradient from white on the left to black on the right. To make this a diagonal blend, select the value in the Aspect Ratio Angle setting and change it to 45.0. Notice that the two control points in the Control Points field change position to reflect the new angle. You can also drag those control points manually within the field to position them as you'd like. Do that now.
Notice that as you drag a control point you can change its position both vertically and horizontally in relation to the center of the grid. And of course, if you want exact values, you can type them into the Aspect Ratio Angle and Distance fields.
Notice also that as you change the Aspect Ratio Angle of one control point, you change it for the other as well. But the same is not true of the Distance value. You can change the distance of one point from the center of the field independently of the other point. This changes the characteristic of the blend because the closer two points are to each other, the sharper the blend created from one to the other. Points that are far away from each other create a more gradual, smoother color blend.
Select Linear White to Black from the Preset drop-down list to reset the blend to the simple blend you started with. Below the Control Points field, click the Add a new gradient control point button. You now have a third control point to work with. Experiment with colors and positioning to see what you can come up with. Change the Gradient Type to Elliptical and then Rectangular and experiment some more. You'll soon come up with several creative color blends of your own. It can be helpful to change to the various presets and then look at the Control Points field to see how those blends were created—how many control points were used, how far apart they are, their colors, and so on.
When you're done experimenting, click the Replace Plug-In button again and change to the Sony Noise Texture generator. This may be my favorite graphical media generator because it presents so many possibilities. Select Noise Texture from the list in the Media Generators window, shown in Figure 6, and take a look at the wide variety of textures represented by the thumbnail images.
I'm not going to go through all of the noise texture controls because you should have a good handle on how generators work by now and you can easily experiment with most of these controls to see how they affect the textures in this generator.
The one control I do want to discuss here, the Progress (in degree) control, doesn't really shake things up much on its own, but when you use it in conjunction with the Vegas Pro keyframing techniques, you can really bring your noise textures to life. In fact, you can use these keyframing techniques with all of the media generators to animate the media you create in the same way as we will here.
To demonstrate, let's create a cloudy sky effect. Select Puffy Clouds from the Preset drop-down list. Check the Video Preview window for the results. It looks like a few nice, soft clouds in a relaxing summer sky. But play your project and it doesn't take long to realize that these clouds don't feel very realistic since they just sit there. Real clouds never just sit there! Watch a cloud for a minute and you realize that it's constantly morphing into another shape. And it's probably also drifting across the sky whether leisurely or more aggressively.
Well, you can use the Progress (in degrees) setting along with keyframing to make your clouds more realistic. As usual, the keyframe controller area starts off with one keyframe at the beginning of the timeline. And currently, the Progress (in degrees) setting is at 0.000, which is just fine. Click to place the cursor at the end of the keyframe controller timeline. Now, adjust the Progress (in degrees) slider. If you want softly wafting clouds, make a small adjustment—say, something around 0.400 and press the Tab key to finalize the change. Play the project and notice that now your clouds gently morph into different shapes.
For even more realism, select your second keyframe again and change the X and Y offset values. Again, for a gentle sky, make relatively small changes to these values. Play your project again and watch as your ever-morphing clouds drift lazily across the sky.
For a more sinister, stormy sky, increase the values for the Progress (in degrees) and Offset settings on your second keyframe. Then change Color A to something more menacing, like a greenish/grayish/black. The key is to experiment and have fun discovering what you can come up with!
What happens if you've created this type of animation and then decide that you want to change the length of the event that holds the generated media? Particularly, what if you make the event longer? Well, let's see what happens.
In the timeline, the event that holds the generated media you've been working with lasts for 10 seconds. That's the default length that Vegas Pro uses for any generated media that you add to your project. But you might need the media to last for 15 seconds or six seconds. So, naturally, you change the length of the event that holds the media and you make the event last for as long as you need it to. Do it now; drag the right edge of your generated media event to the right so that it lasts for approximately 15 seconds. You don't need to be exact, just drag it out so it's about half again as long as it was originally.
In Figure 7, I've made my track taller and zoomed in a little so you can see what my event looks like on the timeline. Notice the notch in the top of the event. Experienced Vegas Pro editors will recognize this notch as the indication that the event is longer than the media it holds. By default, when the media is not long enough to fill the event, Vegas Pro software loops the media so that it starts over from the beginning. To see this, play your project and notice that when the play cursor reaches the notch in the event, your clouds start over from the beginning and the generated sequence begins to repeat itself.
If you have a static piece of generated media, like a non-changing solid color, this poses no problem. But in this animated case, it probably isn't the effect you're after. To solve this problem, go back to the Video Media Generators window. The informational fields across the top of the window give you the frame size (which is dictated by your project size settings at the time you generated the media) and the length of the media. To solve your looping problem here, you could figure out exactly how long the event is and then change the Length value to match it. Or, better yet, you can let your computer do what it does best and calculate the exact length for you!
To do that, click the Match Event Length button in the Video Media Generators window. This button, which by the way is a new feature in Vegas Pro 9 software, automatically adjusts the length of the media to match the length of the event that holds it. Notice that the new length is reflected in the Length field and that the event no longer has a notch at the top of it.
One other thing to note though is that now your second keyframe no longer sits at the end of the event. So, drag the keyframe to the end. You might also want to check and make sure the Offset and Progress settings you used still work the way you want them to now that the keyframes are farther apart.
One last thing I should mention: If you've closed the Video Media Generators window and later want to make adjustments to your media, you can always reopen the window and get to work. Click the window's Close button now. Every event that holds generated media contains a Generated Media button. Click your event's Generated Media button to reopen the Video Media Generators window. Now you can make additional changes to your media.
So, now you have a good understanding of how to use the graphical media generators that come included with Vegas Pro software. The fun doesn't have to stop here though. Get creative. The media you add to your projects with the generated media tools behave just like any other media once they're in your timeline. This means you can use the Pan/Crop tools to change the shape of the media or create pan/scan/zoom effects. Use track motion to reposition your media in 2D or 3D space. Or add video effects to alter the look of the media even more. For instance, add the Sony Rays filter like I have in Figure 8 to create the illusion of the sun breaking through a stormy sky in streaks of sunlight.
In other words, use your imagination; in combination with these generated media tools, you'll come up with all sorts of interesting effects for your videos!
For more training resources, including free training videos, visit the training zone at www.sonycreativesoftware.com/training. For more training articles like this one, check out the newsletter archives at www.sonycreativesoftware.com/news/newsletter.
Gary Rebholz, is the training manager for Sony Creative Software. Gary produces the popular Seminar Series training packages for Vegas Pro, ACID Pro, and Sound Forge software. He is also co-author of the book Digital Video and Audio Production. Gary has conducted countless hands-on classes in the Sony Creative Software training center, as well as at tradeshows such as the National Association of Broadcasters show.