Anatomy of an Edit; My Recent Experience.

Putting together a tutorial for VEGAS Virtual Studio 365 has been in interesting exercise.

Over the last few weeks I have been putting together a video-based tutorial for the software MAGIX VR Studio 365. It has been many years since I produced such a thing – of this magnitude anyway – and so I thought it might be interesting, and possibly even helpful, to share my findings.

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By this, I mean the things I learned along the way that in future productions, will ease the development dramatically.

First off though, here is a summary of what the goal was and the tools etc used to attain it.

Task Description

To create a 15 minute video based tutorial on the use of  VR Studio 365, a program to create virtual environments using “spaces” with video, still imagery, audio and text. The tutorial is designed around a wine bar based in the South West of Western Australian in the town of Manjimup called Tall Timbers. The software will be used to create a basis of an interactive virtual world of the premises, its food and wine menus, the locations from which it buys its products and scenes of the attractions of the local area.

The end result can be distributed as a stand-alone product viewing using a VR Player, for embedding in a website or viewed using a VR Headset via a mobile device (smartphone / tablet).

Creation Tools

The core tool for the creation of the tutorial is Vegas 16 Pro, a professional video editing package. Screen shots and animations of VR Studio 365 in operation were created using Techsmith Snagit and audio recorded with a Sennheiser MemoryMic reading files created in Final Draft and played back with Teleprompter Pro.  Subsequent audio files were then edited in Vegas 16 Pro. Some animations were made with Google Earth and all images edited with Adobe Photoshop CC 2019.

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Methodology

The script was created initially using a chapter-by-chapter method, breaking each chapter at a logical point. An example of this is Chapter 1 being an overview of VR Studio 365 concepts including an explanation of VR itself, Chapter 2 a description of the interface of VR Studio 365, Chapter 3 being  the first step of adding the initial VR image, Chapter 4, embellishing that image and so on, with chapters for links, adding video, stills, audio and text to the base image, exporting the project for playback and hints on creating VR imagery.

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Audio was then recorded, screen shots taken and animations of actions etc captured in accordance with the script as well as ancillary images created. The final results were then laid down on the timeline of Vegas Pro 16 sequentially.

What I Discovered

The biggest thing I would do next time is in the realm of cataloguing and documentation of audio and video clips as well as stills.

For example, when recording audio, the Sennheiser Memory Mic software allows the renaming of recorded files in the smartphone app, but when these files are transferred to the PC (I used Bluetooth) for importing into Vegas (or any other NLE), the original filenames are retained in the form of the date and time recorded.

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This means that when going through audio files at a later date, it is almost impossible to know which segment of the project any clip belongs to. Looking at clips chronologically helps somewhat, but if a new take is made, of course this is then out of sequence.

To combat this, for futures I would therefore a) immediately rename audio files on transfer to something meaningful and b) use the Bins facility of Vegas more effectively to catalogue these files.

Similarly, captured animations of VR Studio 365 in Techsmith Snagit need better cataloguing than the default (also date and time based), and again, better use of the Bin facility could have been utilised.

I would envisage such usage to include a separate Master Bin for each chapter, and under each of the Master Bin Chapters, separate Bins for Audio, Video, Stills, Animations, Titles etc. I would also use the tagging facility and Smart Bin functions to make searching for assets easier.

When it came to actual editing, the method I used was to place audio on the timeline and with a combination of cuts, match the video and still imagery to it. While this worked in general, in future I would do this in much smaller “bites” of audio; instead of in 30 second blocks, which could be as many as 20 stills or  4 or 5 video clips if not more, I would do this in 5 second blocks where possible.

Making better use of the tracks facility of Vegas Pro would have been preferable too, although I was studious in track naming and making sure each media type was on a track named after that purpose – eg overlay, lower third, still image, video, 360° image, audio voice over, sound effect, title etc.

For new productions I’ll create a set of tracks along the same lines but have separate “blocks” of tracks for each chapter.

Vegas Pro has an inbuilt – and customisable – facility for regular automatic saving of projects as you go, and I set this saving at 30 second intervals to a folder on a separate external hard drive. I also made sure I did regular incremental saves myself – Version-1, Version-2 etc – as I went along, with the final save at Version 15. This mean that backtracking due to any crashes would be minimal, although thankfully this did not happen.

Two functions of Vegas Pro I did find invaluable in the overall process were Slip Editing and Ripple Editing. If you are not overly familiar with either of these techniques, (as well as Slide Editing), I really recommend getting to know them.

I also made very extensive use of the Contour Shuttle Pro 2. This piece of hardware is simply without peer for timeline navigation, and using its customisable buttons, makes editing (with marking in and out points, splitting tracks, adding edited media to the master timeline, marking regions  etc) so much easier and faster.

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There was one function of Vegas Pro 16 that did annoy me, and that is the facility to scrub thumbnails that are in Media Bins. So many times I simply wanted to drag a clip from a Bin to the Trimmer or Timeline and all it did was scrub.  This a great benefit when in Vegas Pro 16 Storyboard mode, but I wish there was a way to turn it off when not using this. (Apparently a later version of Vegas may allow this).

Conclusion

This project has been a great learning curve and made me want to do more of this type of editing and creation. I learned a lot about parts of Vegas Pro 16 I didn’t know or had not used much before. It also means that any subsequent projects along these lines – and I plan to do many more – will be more fluid in their creation and subsequently much faster to put together.

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