For Social Media Video On The Cheap, Sony Vegas Movie Studio 11 Is Kind Of A Big Deal

You've done it.  You've decided to take social media video into your own hands.  But the cheap Flip video camera you bought is making you the laughing stock of YouTube.  But it doesn't have to be that way.

I've long recommended Sony's Vegas Movie Studio product line to social media videographers looking for a versatile and powerful editing program without spending a lot of money.  Movie Studio 9 HD has been my favorite of late, because copies could be had as little as $20 online.  While I invested in Sony Vegas Pro 10 for my own work, Movie Studio is essentially Vegas Pro under the hood with some features removed and some hand-holding added in.

Now Sony has upped the low-cost ante with Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11, which has just been released.  The software is listed at $99 suggested retail, but can be found for around $85 on Amazon as of this reading.  Upgrades for previous Movie Studio users start around $65.

So why does Movie Studio 11 matter to the thrifty social media video producer?  Sony's entry-level offering now carries over some key features from its big Pro brother.

Image Stabilization.  Cheap Flip cameras are notoriously prone to shaky video.  The smaller the camera, the more sickness-inducing the end result.  Even those cameras that have electronic stabilization built-in rarely do a good job smoothing up common handheld jitters or broader walk-and-talk motion.  Sony ported the image stabilization of Vegas Pro over to Movie Studio, and it does a reasonably good job of it.  It's can be good for smoothing out the rough seas of your caffeine-riddled hands.

White Balance.  If you've ever seen a pro videographer at work, you may have seen them tell someone to hold up a white card in front of the camera while they do color calibration.  No, chances are your cheap camera doesn't have this feature, and it could result in washed-out or weird coloration in your video, or different shots from different cameras not matching up properly.  Another Pro feature brought over allows you to set white balance on a video clip after the fact, bringing colors back to the natural realm and keeping your video looking spiffy!  You simply find a place in your video with something white -- a shirt, a white piece of paper, a white wall, etc) and click the eyedropper tool on it, and voila!  They also carried over a secondary color corrector plugin to further tweak your colors.

GPU accelerated rendering.  Rendering HD video is slow.  It really points out the virtually instant obsoleteness of your computer when you're waiting an hour to render a three-minute YouTube video.  Now Sony has added in the ability to harness your graphics processor to speed up HD video encoding.

Additional tracks.  Before you had to wedge your assorted video elements into three tracks.  Now you have a slightly-roomier ten to play with.  A small but very welcome change.

There are a few other "ooo ahh" features packed into the latest version of Vegas Movie Studio for the more creatively-obsessed cheapskates out there too!

Stereoscopic 3D Editing.  Yes, the big flashy selling point of Vegas Pro 10 comes to Movie Studio 11.  Break out those red/cyan paper glasses, my friends!  You can now edit 3D video, whether it's from a 3D camera (there are cheap handheld 3D cameras now) or a pair of cameras fixed on a common subject.  It also integrates with YouTube 3D.  Imagine the possibilities!  (Note: If you buy a boxed copy, they appear to be including a pair of 3D glasses in the box!)

Dolby 5.1 Surround mixing and encoding.  If you're really into giving your audience a powerful experience, you can now mix and encode 5.1 surround sound with the built-in Dolby Digital AC-3 encoder.

Blu-ray Disc authoring.  OK, this may have been in Movie Studio 10, but it's still a pretty cool feature.  DVD Architect Studio 5 is included, and it allows you to create dynamic DVDs and Blu-rays.  With Blu-ray burners and media getting cheaper by the day -- burners can be had for less than $100 now -- having that capability is a pretty nice bonus.

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