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Reviews: A professional video editor comparison showdown

Choosing a professional high-end video editing application can be a daunting task. Matt Nawrocki compares Avid Media Composer 6 to Sony Vegas 11.

Congratulations, you have decided to step up in the world of video editing and ditch your trusty Windows Movie Maker for something more professional and high-end. Of course, who knew that picking the right editor for the job could be such a daunting task?

In this article, we will examine two high-tier prosumer/professional grade video editing suites on the Windows platform in an epic battle for the fittest of them all. Our contenders in this match are Avid Media Composer 6 and Sony Vegas 11. We will look at features, the user interface, ease of use, product support, and, of course, price.

Features

Make no mistake about it. When it comes to hardware support, an extensive plugin library, and a wide range of special effects, Media Composer takes the crown here. Media Composer is also best suited to long projects, since project workflows can be worked on with multiple Avid-powered systems. Media Composer also supports some of the more exotic HD formats in addition to the standard fare of AVCHD and H.264 video.

Vegas Pro, however, is getting better with each and every release. But it doesn't have all the bells and whistles suited to top-of-the-line professional productions. That being said, smaller productions or projects that won't require many additional plugins will find Vegas Pro to be more than sufficient for their needs.

Winner: Avid Media Composer

User interface

Both video editors share a commonality in terms of the arrangement of the window elements within the work area. You have your dual video preview windows; the track layout area for your various video, audio, and effects tracks; and an area for files used to build your entire creation. The organization and layout of the workspace is coherent and clear enough in both applications.

Winner: Tie

Ease of use

On the flip side of the coin, in contrast to Media Composer's robust feature set, I have found Vegas Pro's workflow arrangement to be much easier to work with. Since Avid's solution has an emphasis on team collaboration, the binning system and workflow sharing options tend to get in the way if I am taking on a project solo and working on a single machine.

Some of the effect options, toggles, and settings were a bit more apparent and out in the open when I laid my audio and video tracks down, and I could knock out my draft production faster. Overall, the learning curve for Vegas Pro is on the easier side.

Winner: Sony Vegas Pro

Product support

It seems that, due to the fact that Media Composer has been around for much longer than Vegas Pro, the company provided support, as well as support provided by community forums, seems to be somewhat more in line with Avid's products. That's not to say that Vegas Pro has no good foundation in this area. It's just that the industry leader is going to get more attention overall.

Winner: Avid Media Composer

Price

With Media Composer coming in at roughly $2,499 for just the software alone as compared to Vegas Pro's more modest $600, there's simply no contest. For those looking to save even more money, Sony also offers Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum which, although a somewhat more stripped-down version of Vegas Pro, costs significantly less, clocking it at roughly $95, and is a great product for starting out. The project files are also compatible with Vegas Pro, so you can take a project started in Vegas Movie Studio HD and move it into Vegas Pro.

Winner: Sony Vegas Pro

Bottom line

If you ultimately are looking to do projects that can be completed by one person with less effort, Vegas Pro should handily fit the bill. If, on the other hand, you are looking to work on a more massive project that could potentially involve more than a handful of people and you have the money to burn on software licenses and Avid Digital Mojos, there's no denying the power and prowess over digital footage that can be afforded by Media Composer.

Also, as a quick honorable mention in my quest to find the best video editor, let's not forget Lightworks by Editshare. Designed originally as part of a turnkey media editing system back in the 1980s, it is being updated and adapted to modern versions of Windows. Although it is currently in beta and is missing some features, you can't go wrong with the price tag of $0. You read that right. It's free.

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About

An avid technology writer and an IT guru, Matthew is here to help bring the best in software, hardware and the web to the collective consciousness of TechRepublic's readership. In addition to writing for TechRepublic, Matthew currently works as a Cus...

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