Discovering the Sony Vegas Pro Trimmer window

by Gary Rebholz

The Trimmer window has been a part of Sony Vegas Pro software from the very beginning, yet it remains somewhat of a mystery to many users since it doesn't occupy one of the "out-front" locations in the default window layout. What's the Trimmer window used for? That's what we'll discuss in this article.

The good news is that, whether you find it mysterious or not, once you dig in you can easily master the techniques needed to utilize the functionality of the Trimmer window. And the more you dig, the more you realize how much easier the window can make your work in some instances. Further, you'll find that you already know many of the techniques used in working with the trimmer window because they work the same way there as techniques you may already use on the main Sony Vegas Pro timeline.

For me, the Trimmer functionality breaks down into two main categories: First, as a teacher, I often use the Trimmer window to set the Sony Vegas Pro interface up to look more like the familiar old-school layout that many editors are familiar with from other NLEs. Second, in my own editing workflow, I utilize the Trimmer tools to help me manage long video files from which I want to extract one or many individual shorter sections to use in a project.

Let's talk in general about what the Trimmer window does and then address those two general functionality categories in order. First, to view the Trimmer window, click the Trimmer tab in the window docking area. At first glance, the window doesn't offer much in the way of excitement. That's because you haven't added any media to it yet. Sony Vegas Pro offers several different ways to add media to the Trimmer window. In general, you can right-click a file or an event and in the pop-up menu you'll find an option to "Open in Trimmer".

For instance, let's go back to the Explorer window and see how it works there. Click the Explorer tab in the window docking area. Navigate to a media file (it could be audio or video, but let's open a video file that contains an audio track for this discussion) in the Explorer, right-click the media file, and choose Open in Trimmer from the menu.

As you can see in Figure 1, this brings the Trimmer back to the front with the file loaded into it. You can see both thumbnails of the video portion of the clip as well as the waveforms for the audio track.

Figure 1

When you load a video file into the Trimmer window, you can see multiple thumbnails representing different frames. You can then preview the clip and add all or a portion of it to your project timeline.

In very broad terms, the Trimmer enables you to load a clip without actually adding it to your project timeline. You can then explore that clip (in other words, preview it, seek through it, and so on). Finally, you can then add all or a portion of that clip to your project. To add the entire clip, first double-click the clip in the Trimmer to select all of it and then drag it down to the beginning of your timeline. Notice that both the audio and video have been added to your project. We'll talk about more options for adding the file in a few moments.

For now, let's turn back to the first functionality category that I mentioned—emulating the old-school layout of non-linear editing applications. Many times when editors make the switch from a different application to Sony Vegas Pro, they experience some discomfort due to the unique approach to editing offered by Sony Vegas Pro. Let's face it; the Sony Vegas Pro interface looks quite different from any of its main competitors. But there's no reason to let that different look stop you from successfully making the switch to Sony Vegas Pro software.

It's really not that difficult to get used to the Sony Vegas Pro paradigm, but if you just can't (or don't want to) let go of your old-school ways—specifically, if you just love the workflow of a source window and a results window—you can use the Trimmer window as your source and edit in much the same way as you always have.

First, let's add a different clip to the Trimmer so it's easy to keep what's in the Trimmer straight from what's on the timeline. Return to the Explorer window and add a different clip to the Trimmer.

Since you can reconfigure the Sony Vegas Pro workspace in virtually any way you want to, let's set things up to look more traditional. Drag the bar that separates the Trimmer window from the Mixer window to the left until you've created a good amount of space between the Mixer window and the Video Preview window as I have in Figure 2.

Figure 2

Drag the right edge of the Mixer window to the left to create a large space between the Master meters and the Video Preview window.

Notice the six vertical dots at the left edge of the Trimmer window. In fact, you'll see these same dots in any docked window. These dots function as a handle by which you can move the window. Drag the window by this handle to the right. As you do, the window gets narrower and narrower, but when you get close enough to the Mixer window, the Trimmer snaps to the same position as the Mixer. If you released the mouse button now, the Trimmer would dock on top of the Mixer and you'd have tabs with which to jump back and forth between the two. But that's not what we want here, so keep dragging (or, if you already released the mouse button, begin dragging again). Drag until the Trimmer no longer overlaps the Master meters and then release the mouse button.

The Trimmer now occupies its own section of the window docking area. Now your interface is starting to look more traditional. Click anywhere on the video in the Trimmer. You see that the frame you click on shows up in the Video Preview window, which isn't very traditional at all. Traditionally, you'd be able to work in the source window (in this case, the Trimmer) and still be able to see your results video in the Video Preview window rather than the contents of your source window.

By default, Sony Vegas Pro software doesn't work that way, but of course you can change that. Right-click the video in the Trimmer and choose Show Video in Preview Window to disable that option. Now, in the Preview window, you see whatever's under your timeline cursor.

Right-click the video again and choose Video Height Larger from the menu in order to give more space in the window to the video portion of the file. Now your setup looks much more like the traditional layout of other NLEs as you can see in Figure 3.

Figure 3

With the Trimmer repositioned next to the Video Preview window, Sony Vegas Pro software looks much more like other NLEs that use the traditional Source/Results window layout paradigm.

Now let's carry the discussion a little bit further and see how you'd use the Trimmer as your source window. You can see that the Trimmer has a play cursor. This cursor functions just as the main timeline play cursor does. To scrub through the video without hearing the audio, drag the flashing cursor line right and left. You see the video motion inside the Trimmer window.

Scrub until you find an appropriate in point for your video. Press I on your keyboard. "I" stands for in point. Now, scrub later in the video to find the appropriate out point for your clip and type O for out point. This creates a selection of the video between where you marked the in and out points.

Now, click in your main timeline at the point at which you want to add the video you've isolated in the Trimmer window to place the cursor at that point. Back in the Trimmer window, click the Add Media From Cursor button. This adds the selected portion of your media clip to the timeline starting at the timeline cursor location. You've just made an edit using very traditional source/results three-point editing methods. You can see how easily you can work this way in Sony Vegas Pro software if you want to.

Before we move onto other Trimmer techniques, you might want to save this window configuration so that you can return to it later. Choose View | Window Layouts | Save Layout As. Give the layout a name, assign it a shortcut, and click OK. Now any time you want to recall this layout you can simply return to the Window Layouts menu and choose it from the list.

Let's set Sony Vegas Pro software back to its default configuration for the remainder of our Trimmer discussion. Choose View | Window Layouts | Load Default Layout. This sets Sony Vegas Pro software back to its original configuration with the Trimmer docked back into its normal location.

You've already seen one way to add a file from the Trimmer to your project timeline. That technique still works regardless of the fact that you've changed your window configuration, but you have other options too. We'll talk about some of those in the context of my second usage category—working with long video files.

Normally, in reality I don't use the Trimmer all that often. Most of the time I simply drag my files from the Explorer window onto the main timeline and trim them up as needed right there. Most often I find this workflow fast, intuitive, and efficient. But sometimes—particularly when I'm working with long files- I find it more efficient to deal with the file in the Trimmer before I bring it to my timeline. Mostly this is a result of the fact that usually when I'm working with a long file I'm not looking to add the entire file to my project. Rather, I'll most likely want to use different sections of the video here and there throughout my project. In the remainder of this article I discuss how I might approach editing pieces of a long file into my project with the help of the Trimmer.

Use the Explorer window to find a long file- at least several minutes long- and load it into the Trimmer. A moment ago you learned how to select a portion of a file and add just that section to your project. Essentially, that's what you'll do with the Trimmer when working with long files too. However, often times I find it helpful to go through the long file and identify all of the desired areas before I add any of them to my project. The Trimmer features a few different methods of approaching this task.

First, just like the main timeline, you can insert both regular markers and region markers in the Trimmer. For instance, scrub or play through the video in the timeline until you find the start of a section that you want to use. With the cursor at that location, type M on your keyboard to drop a marker at that location. You can name the marker and later use it to quickly find and navigate to that important point in the video.

Similarly, you can create regions. Use the techniques you learned earlier for marking in and out points for a section of the video. Or, simply click and drag the mouse through the video (as opposed to dragging the cursor) to create a selection generally over the area you want to use. Once you've made that general selection, you can drag the beginning and end of the selection to tweak it to exactly what you want. Once you have the selection you want, type R on the keyboard to drop region markers around the area. As with the regular marker, you can give the region a name. You can add as many of both types of markers as you need, thus giving you a great way to identify the important parts of the video file when you start assembling the project later.

Figure 4 shows my Trimmer after I've created a regular marker and three regions.

Figure 4

I've divided my media clip up into three named regions. Note that I did not create a region at the beginning of the clip, but I did use a marker in that area to identify an important location in the video.

Once you've identified the sections of the clip that you feel have potential, you can save those markers, essentially embedding them into the media file itself so that whenever you open that file in the application in the future, it will still contain these markers. This means you don't have to make your editing decisions at this point because you can always open the file later and use the markers to remind you of the important sections. To save the markers into the file, click the Save Markers/Regions button at the top of the Trimmer.

When it comes to adding files to your timeline, the Trimmer offers several methods. You can use the Add Media From Cursor button as you did earlier, or the Add Media Up To Cursor button if you want your newly added clip to stop at the timeline cursor location instead of starting there.

But you have other options as well. For instance, say you want to add one of the regions to your timeline. First, in the Trimmer, double-click inside the region—that is, between the beginning and ending region markers either in the marker bar or within the video itself. This selects the area marked off by the region. Now, simply drag the selected area from the Trimmer to the timeline. When you get to the timeline, you see guide rectangles that indicate the length of the events you are about to add—the same guides you see when adding files directly from the Explorer window. Drop the guide rectangles wherever you want the video and audio events to be in your project.

The Trimmer also makes it easy to add just one of the streams from the file. In other words, just as easily as you added both the audio and video streams together, you can add either one or the other. Back in the Trimmer, double-click within a different region to select it. As you saw a moment ago, this selects both the audio and video streams.

Now, type the Tab key on your computer keyboard. This deselects the audio and now just the video stream remains selected. Type the Tab key again and this selects just the audio stream. Type the Tab key once again to select both streams again. You can toggle through these three selections as many times as you need to until you select just what you want to add. If you're adding just one stream, use the Tab key to toggle the selection accordingly and then just drag the selected portion to the timeline as you did a moment ago with both streams selected.

Although this method of marking off important sections of your file works quite well, the Trimmer gives you another, even more powerful option to help you organize your long files: Subclips. The concept of subclips has a lot in common with the technique of adding regions to your file, but it takes things a few steps further. In fact, although you don't need to, you can combine both methods and that's what we'll do next.

You've already identified important points in your media file with regions. Now let's turn some of those regions into subclips and I'll explain the concept of a subclip as we go along. First, click the Project Media tab in the window docking area to take a look at what's there. As usual, this window shows you any media file that you added to this project. Whether you eventually deleted that file from your project timeline or not doesn't matter—the file still shows up in the Project Media window (unless you go through steps to remove it). Notice that each file you added to the project appears just once in this window's list as you can see in Figure 5.

Figure 5

I've added two files to my project so far so I've got just two items in my Project Media window.

Back in the Trimmer window, let's say we want to create a subclip out of our first region. You learned that you can double-click inside that region to easily select it, so do that now. In a moment we'll make a subclip, but first, what exactly is a subclip?

Think of a subclip as a reference to a portion of the file—much like the regions you've been working with. However, instead of using markers in the Trimmer to identify the portion of the file as regions do, subclips create a completely new reference to the original file—but only that portion of the file that you selected as your subclip—and places it into the Project Media window. Then, you can easily add the subclip to your project later directly from the Project Media window.

An example will make it clear. A moment ago you selected the first region in the Trimmer. With that area still selected, click the Create Subclip button. In the Create Supclip dialog box, give the subclip a name and click OK (if you selected the first region and you had given that region a name, Sony Vegas Pro software will give the subclip the same name as the region, although you can change it if you want to). Note that you don't see anything different in the Trimmer.

Select the second region in the Trimmer and click the Create Subclip button again. This time in addition to naming the subclip, select the Reverse checkbox and click OK. This creates a new subclip with the video in reverse motion.

Now, click the Project Media tab. You can see in Figure 6 that I now have four entries in my Project Media window: The two original clips and the two subclips I just created. Notice also that one of my subclips is identified as reversed.

Figure 6

Sony Vegas Pro software adds the subclips you create to your Project Media window and you can add them to your project from there.

The subclips you've created will sit in your Project Media window until you're ready to add them to your project. When you are ready, you can simply drag the subclips right from the Project Media window to the timeline.

The Trimmer window gives you great flexibility for working with Sony Vegas Pro software. As you've seen, you can use it to set your workspace up in the traditional source/results style of old-school NLEs. And, whether you do that or not, you can use it to manage long files more easily. If you've never used the Trimmer before, give the techniques we've discussed here a try and see how the Trimmer can change your workflow for the better.

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