Using Envelopes in Sony Vegas

There are many envelopes that can be added to tracks, events, and even transitions in Vegas. While each type of envelope can only be added at specific locations, they all perform useful purposes. Let’s look at many of these envelopes, see where they’re applied, and see what they do.

Right-click any video track (a blank area of the track or the track header), choose “Insert/Remove Envelope”, and you’ll see three options. The Composite Envelope will let you change opacity levels of the video track over time. This is exactly the same as the “Levels” slider on the track header but can change over time. Interestingly, you can actually use the Levels slider to add nodes to the Composite Envelope and change the opacity over time using the automation controls. The automation controls can be used on many envelopes and should be explored.

The Mute Envelope also affects opacity. When you add a new node, there are two options: Fully visible or Muted. If you’re only looking for an on/off switch, the Mute Envelope can be useful. Otherwise, the Composite Envelope would be preferred. One nice thing about the Mute Envelope is that it only requires a single node to change from on to off or change from off to on.

The Fade To Color Envelope will let you go between “No Color” (which shows the video as-is), up to the “Top Color” by sliding the node up or down to the “Bottom Color” by sliding the node down. The Top and Bottom colors are set by right-clicking the track header, choosing Fade Color, and then picking Top or Bottom where you can then pick your desired color.

Right-click on any audio track (a blank area of the track or the track header), choose “Insert/Remove Envelope”, and you’ll see four options. The FX Automation option will allow varying the track FX over time. When you click on it, a dialog will open allowing you to choose which FX you wish modified over time and the actual parameter you want adjusted.

The Volume Envelope will let you change the volume of that track over time. This is the same as the “Volume” slider on the track header but can vary over time. This will be added to any track level adjustments and can adjust volume anywhere from off to +6 dB.

The Mute Envelope also affects volume. When you add a new node, there are two options: On or Off. Once again, this is fine if you’re only looking for an on/off switch. However, I prefer using the Volume Envelope for more flexibility.

The Pan Envelope will allow dynamically panning the sound from left to right. Once again, this is the same as the “Pan” slider on the track header but can vary the pan status over time.

When you right-click a video event and choose “Insert/Remove Envelope”, you get the option of adding a Velocity Envelope. The Velocity Envelope will let you adjust the speed of a clip anywhere from 300% (triple speed) to 100% (normal speed), through 0% (freeze frame) down to -100% (full speed reversed). For reversed footage, I typically just right-click the event and choose “Reverse” but the Velocity Envelope can be used for this purpose as well. It should also be noted that there is no corresponding velocity envelope for audio.

If you have added a transition (not just a crossfade created by overlapping two clips), you can right-click the transition and add a Transition Envelope. A Transition Envelope will let you vary how far the transition as proceeded over time. For example, suppose you have a 5 second transition, you wish it to proceed to the 30% point in the first second, hold at 30% for 3 seconds, and then finish in the last second, that can be accomplished using the Transition Envelope. This envelope even allows making a transition go backwards!

Bus tracks can also have envelope. The Audio Bus tracks can have a Volume Envelope, Mute Envelope, and Pan Envelope. These behave the same as their namesakes on the standard audio tracks.

The Video Bus track can also have a Mute Envelope and Fade To Color Envelope which both behave the same as on a video track. However, two additional envelopes are available on the Video Bus.

The Motion Blur Envelope will help make computer-generated animations look more realistic. For example, if you use track motion or event pan/crop to move a clip across the frame, each frame is displayed clearly when no motion blur is applied. Turning on motion blur adds a motion-dependent blur to each frame to create the appearance of smooth motion in the same way a fast-moving subject is blurred when you take a photograph with a slow shutter speed.

The Video Supersampling Envelope will improve the appearance of computer-generated animation by calculating intermediate frames between the project’s frame rate, allowing you to create smoother motion blurring. The effect of video supersampling is less apparent with video that contains fast motion, and supersampling cannot improve the appearance of existing video.

Different envelopes appear as different colors. You can also adjust the color of each envelope. Go to Options – Preferences to the Display tab. From there you can choose each envelope type and specify what color will be used for that envelope.

Once an envelope has been added, no effect will be seen until the value of the envelope is changed. By default, one node will exist at the very beginning of the envelope. Adding additional nodes as needed will allow varying the value over time. There are several ways a new node may be added. For example, you can right-click the envelope and choose “Add Point”. A quicker way is to simply double-click the envelope.

The new node can then be adjusted as needed. Move the node up or down to change the value at that point and time. Move the node left or right to change when that value will take effect.

Sometimes you may wish to change the value of a node but do not wish the time to change. If you hold down the CTRL key while adjusting the node, it will only move up or down eliminating any risk of it changing time.It will also let you change the value in very small increments.

If you wish to change the time of a node without risking changing the value, hold down the ALT key. Any adjustments with the alt key pressed will only move left or right. If you hold down both CTRL and ALT, once again it will only move up and down but will move freely unlike when only CTRL is pressed.

Finally, press SHIFT and you can “draw” on an envelope placing many nodes across time quickly and easily. Experiment with envelopes and you’ll see that they can add incredible power to your editing.


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