Sony’s Vegas Pro® is an excellent creative tool for audio/visual
work. It’s intuitive and powerful, and especially good when it comes
to adding those extra touches that will make your presentation stand out
from the rest.
Vegas 8.1 ramps up the 64 bit & Surround capabilities, but for these
tutorials we’ll stick to something a little less involved. Vegas
Pro 8 gives perfectly good results. You can access an unlimited number
of 24bit/192kHz audio tracks as well as 30 real time effects including
support for VST and DirectX. So that’s more than enough for any
low budget audio promo job like the one I have in mind for this tutorial.
Because we’re concentrating on music and audio capabilities of
Vegas, let’s say we’ve been commissioned to produce a short
audio promo ad. It will be broadcasted at regular intervals between the
music over the P.A. system at a ‘garden centre’ to advertise
their “credit crunch” deals. Sure, we’d all love to
be doing the next Jay-Z album promo for Radio Urban 248, but this is the
real world and Jay-Z just ain’t returning your calls. So in the
meantime, it’s down to the garden centre to earn a few bucks!
We’ve already been given a 30 second voice over WAV file recorded
at a local studio, which we’ve saved to a folder called ‘Garden
Centre Promo’. And now it’s time to open Vegas Pro 8 and get
to work on the project.
Click on ‘File’/‘new’ and check that the audio
properties are set to 44.1kHz with a bit depth of 16. Set the resample
and stretch quality to ‘best’ as we may have to play around
with the duration of the audio files. Click OK and let’s move on.
Jay-Z just won’t answer your calls.
Choosing some music
You preview the V.O. file and they’ve done a pretty good job. It’s
a female artist, good diction, clear, accurate and appealing. What it
needs is a great sounding music bed that’s not too obtrusive and
sits nicely with this pleasant sounding voice.
One good place to look for music that you can legally use would be the
Stock Music collection at Shockwave-Sound.
They’ve never let you down when you’ve needed quick and easy
royalty free music solutions and whaddaya know? This time is no exception.
Within minutes of searching you’ve got a whole ream of quality tracks
that may just be suitable for the garden centre promo ad.
The track that really stands out is called ‘Rain
Or Shine’ by Pierre Langer. It’s a kind of light and airy
acoustic piece that has quite a wholesome feel. The track description
uses the terms ‘outdoors’, ‘nature’ and ‘uplifting’,
which certainly fits the bill for our garden centre clientele. What’s
more, at only 38 seconds it’s a great length for a short promo.
It resolves too, so we won’t have use a fade out, so that’s
Importing the music into Vegas
Initially, there’s no need to commit to buying the track before
we’ve tested it alongside the voice over.
We can listen to the track using Shockwave’s preview facilities.
And play the V.O. file alongside at the same time. At least it will give
a rough idea of whether the two elements work well together.
Once we’re happy that we’ve made the right choice, it’s
time to purchase the track, download it to our ‘Garden Centre Promo’
folder and import it into Vegas.
Vegas can read any number of different audio formats, WAV, MP3, WMA,
PCA, AIF, MPEG audio and AC-3. I’ve chosen to download the track
from Shockwave as a WAV file.
To import into your project, first create an audio track in your ‘track
header’ by either going ‘insert’ and ‘audio track’,
or by right clicking in the track window and choosing ‘insert audio
track’. Highlight the track and go to ‘file’/’open’.
The ‘open’ box offers the option ‘Files of type’.
Make sure this is set to ‘All Project & Media Files’ so
that Vegas will recognise all associated files. Alternatively, you could
use the drop down menu to go to ‘Wave (Microsoft) *wav’ so
that it will specifically recognise that format. But best left to the
default ‘All Project & Media Files’. Browse to find the
‘Garden Centre Promo’ folder, highlight the WAV file and open
it. The WAV will appear on the designated audio track in the timeline
next to the cursor.
Now double click on ‘track name’ in the ‘track header’
and rename the track ‘Music Bed’.
Put the file at 00:00:00 in the project window. If you wish to move
it, simply grab it by holding down your left mouse button.
As soon as you’ve imported an audio file it’s a good practise
to make sure there is a good sturdy limiter plug-in on the output level.
Most professional music files will peak at 0.00db, but to be sure that
your project never exceeds this, Vegas provides a number of plug-ins with
limiting in mind.
Go to your master mixer and click the master effects icon. Choose a limiter
or peak master plug-in and set it to 0.00db (they normally default at
this setting). Doing this will avoid any nasty clipping or peaks later
Preview the music using Shockwave-Sound’s
Importing the voice over into Vegas
At this point, let me mention Vegas’s Project Media function. It’s
a way of grouping together all your media making it available at your
fingertips for immediate use. You can drag and drop files from the ‘media
bins’ into your project window easily and efficiently. And this
can often cut down on time spent on project management. It may be something
we will refer to in greater depth in later tutorials. For this simple
exercise, its use is limited.
Check it out by clicking on the ‘Project Media’ tab above
the project window.
Now that we’ve got our music bed lined up, we can import our voice
over into the project window. We do this in the same way that we imported
the music bed, but onto a separate audio track that we can name ‘Voice
Our project now consists of two audio tracks. The ‘Music Bed’
and the ‘Voice Over’. These are the only files we require
for this project. Once we have saved the project as a .veg file to our
‘Garden Centre Promo’ folder we can begin work on the project.
Preparing the ‘Voice Over’ file
By clicking on the exclamation mark in the ‘track header’
of the ‘Voice Over’ track, I can solo the voice and play it
without hearing the music bed as well.
I notice from doing this and also looking at the waveform, that there’s
a few seconds of dead air at the start of the voice over file that need
There’s a number of ways to do this. You can right mouse click
on the file to reveal the drop down menu. Here you will see the options,
‘open in trimmer’ or ‘open in Sound Forge’ (this
is dependant on you having Sony’s Sound Forge designated as your
assigned audio editor). These options are perhaps better for more detailed
editing. For a simple thing like this, it’s easiest to remove the
dead air from the audio file whilst it’s still in the timeline.
Do this by grabbing the start of the file in the ‘square icon’
zone (see illustration) and pulling it towards the right until the edge
matches up with the very start of the waveform.
If need be, you are also able to ‘scrub’ in Vegas by grabbing
the curser and pulling it back and forth. For those who may be used to
analog editing (fairly unlikely these days!), this is a useful and familiar
method. But the accuracy of the timeline really out weighs the necessity
for such things. (But it sure makes a nice sound, don’t it?).
OK, we’ve done a quick snip, so now we’ve got a voice over
that begins immediately at the start of the file.
Now the voice over file no longer starts at 00:00:00, so we need to drag
it back to the start in the project window. Here’s a tip while dragging
files around in the Vegas project window. Make sure the ‘auto-ripple’
function is disabled first. (That’s ‘ctrl+L’ on a PC.
Or you can click on the ‘auto-ripple’ icon on the toolbar.)
It’s a great function, because it means you can shift all your media
around in one go, just by grabbing one file. But if you leave it on, you
can displace everything in your project unintentionally, which is a real
So with ‘auto-ripple’ disabled, we can drag the shortened
‘Voice Over’ file back to 00:00:00.
Grab the start of the file in the ‘square
Deciding on duration
OK, things are looking good for our garden centre promo ad. We have a
project set up that includes a voice over and a music bed and we’re
ready to mix and match the elements so they sound good together.
We’ve established that our voice over is 30 seconds in length,
while the duration of the music bed is 38 seconds. Unlike radio or TV,
where duration is of paramount importance, the broadcasts produced for
this garden centre are fairly loose and the brief was to make the promo
somewhere between 30 and 40 seconds in length.
So, for this exercise, let’s say that we’ve decided that
the promo will be 35 seconds in length. This means, of course, that we
will need to reduce the length of the music by 3 seconds from 38 to 35
seconds. For this we will need to rely on Vegas’s timestretching
Timestretching in Sony Vegas
Timestretching is a way of compressing or stretching out the audio without
altering the pitch. A key use for this might be strict radio or TV commercials
where the duration has to be exact. Or a remix where you want to alter
the tempo of the vocal but keep the same key. There are lots of different
applications for timestretching and in Vegas it couldn’t be simpler.
For minor adjustments to duration, tempo or for BPM matching it’s
perfect. And you can stretch audio on-the-fly in real time, so you can
hear the results instantly and adjust accordingly.
So let’s alter the duration of the music from 38 seconds to 35
seconds without altering the pitch.
First highlight the music file.You can set the timestretch attributes
on each separate audio file by right mouse clicking on the file and highlighting
‘properties’. Here you will notice a tab for ‘audio
events’. Set the timestretch/pitch shift to ‘classic’,
then take a look at the stretch attributes. There are 19 attributes that
you may be familiar with if you have used Sony or Sonic Foundry timestretch
plug-ins before. Each algorithm has a different overall effect on the
way the timestretching behaves and consequently how it sounds. But generally
for music, the ‘A03 Music 3 (less echo)’ attribute will be
the best one to use. Certainly in this case, where we are stretching (or
rather, compressing) an entire mixed track. Experiment with each attribute
when you have time. It may help you make decisions about timestretching
in the future.
Once you’ve set the attributes, you can move on with the timestretching
Press control and a wavy line appears under the icon
Here’s how you do it. First, highlight the audio file and magnify
to a reasonable size using the zoom tools in the bottom right hand corner
of the project window. Then position your mouse curser at the end of the
file and run it up and down the far edge. You’ll notice the attached
icon displays 2 different modes. When you are close to the top right angle
(where there’s a blue triangle), the curser displays a curved icon.
This is the ‘fade’ function. To alter the fade offset you
would need to grab that blue triangle and push it backwards. But for timestretching,
you need to move your mouse curser out of that zone and down the vertical
edge of the file. You’ll notice that the icon alters to a square
shape. This is the area we’re interested in. Hover the curser about
midway down the vertical edge and press the ‘control (Ctrl)’
key on your PC keyboard. You’ll notice a wavy line has appeared
under the square icon (see illustration). Now you’re in timestretch
mode. Keep that control button down and grab the edge of the file (a blue
line will appear signifying your start point). Drag the vertical edge
backwards (to make the duration shorter), or forwards (to make it longer).
Yep, it’s that simple. If you preview the track while altering
the duration you will hear the effect instantly with no processing time.
You’ll also notice that a yellow box has appeared in your timeline.
The numbers in the box signify the amount that you are stretching in seconds,
frames, samples, measures or beats. Whatever mode your timeline is set
to, in fact. If you wish to alter this mode, right mouse click on the
timeline to reveal a drop down menu displaying your options and alter
Of course, there are limits to just how much timestretching is acceptable.
For a start, the composer will have chosen the tempo of the music for
specific reasons. Stretch it too much either way and it may alter the
mood. Also, there’s the technical aspect to consider. Listen carefully
to the track once you have stretched it. Although the algorithm is exceptionally
good in Vegas, there will be degradation of the sound. Most algorithms
will work well up to 130%. Vegas goes way beyond that and still sounds
good. But it’s a personal choice depending on your project and the
acceptable levels of sound manipulation.
For this exercise, I simply grab the end of the music bed file, press
‘control’ and drag the file duration back from 38 to 35 seconds.
In the next part of the tutorial we will be looking at how to mix audio
files using manual and automated mixing. We’ll also be checking
out FX processing and plug-in applications. As well as the rendering process
and CD burning facilities. That’s in part two of this ‘Working
with audio in Sony Vegas tutorial’.
Pro product page at Sony Media Software
Music by Pierre Langer at Shockwave-Sound.com
More in this series:
You may proceed to Part
Two of this series.