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Panning/Cropping in
Sony Vegas 3.0
Douglas Spotted Eagle/VASST Instructor ©2005 Sundance Media Group

HDV:What You NEED to Know


You'll first need to capture video, or import still images. After capturing video or importing a still and placing it on the timeline, each clip or still will contain a small crop symbol. Notice in the figure 1, that the image in the monitor screen does not entirely fill the video preview area. By clicking on the cropping tool, a dialog will be opened which allows the user to entirely fill the preview screen, and match the image view to the aspect ratio of the preview screen.

Figure 1

This is particularly useful when creating videos of scanned-in still photos or cropping unwanted content from a video image.

With the crop dialog open, right click on the image inside the crop window, and select “Match Output Aspect.” (fig 2)



Figure 2

This will cause the image to be cropped to a size that will completely fill the preview area. Now, the preview screen is completely filled, with no black background showing. (or whatever color the default background may be set to) Now, the aspect ratio of the photo appears to be correct, even if the photo itself really isn’t. This will assure that all imagery mixed with DV and other graphics can be made to completely fill the viewing screen at all times. However, this accomplishment isn’t without it’s specific issues; we no longer can see the entire image that comprises the photograph as seen in figure 1. Notice that the gramophone has lost the overall view in figure 3? The viewer is now forced to see only the part of the gramophone that the editor allows them to see. Useful in some situations, but not in others. Wouldn’t it be great if the still image could move? Almost as though a camera had been used to capture the image rather than a scanner?

Figure 3

We can create that movement, by the use of ‘keyframes.’ A keyframe is a marker that is placed on the timeline, telling the computer what to do with the image at a specific, ‘key’ point in time, and at what point we wish to manipulate the ‘frame’ contained in the image. This is how still images are made to appear as though they were captured with a moving camera.

Right click again and select the cropping/panning tool again. (or click on the cropping tool icon found on every clip or image on the timeline) Make sure the ‘sync cursor’ is engaged. This will allow Vegas to automatically track movements or view selections. Now, simply move the selection/crop window to a new position. The keyframe tool will automatically insert a keyframe, telling the timeline that at a given point in time, the photgraph should be cropped differently. Zoom in on the photo, zoom out of the photo, placing keyframes at each point of movement. Notice in figure 4, the added keyframes. To see how this works in real life, click here to  view the streaming media file. The file is a series of still photographs with movement applied via the keyframing tool. All photos were scanned in with an inexpensive Epson scanner. Coloration and movement applied by Vegas 3.0.

Figure 4

This same technique is applied by producers of PBS specials, wedding videos, and broadcast, to create the illusion of movement. Even if the image is exactly the correct aspect ratio, no one really likes looking at a static photo on a computer or television screen. Even the tiniest bits of movement are far more interesting to watch than a static photo.

What makes this really great, is that the pan/crop tool can also be used to correct bad camera movement to a limited extent. It may also be used to generate camera movement where the camera is static, or not moving at all. If the clip is tripod shot and static of a soccer game for example, then the camera movement could be generated to tell the viewer where they should be looking. A word of caution, don’t zoom in too much, or the pixels will become too large and the colors, detail and intensity of the clip will wash out. This tool should be used in a subtle way for video. Still images can usually handle larger zooms, if the resolution is set high enough on the original photo. Photos generally are considered best at 720 x 480 or larger for video; in most cases, I save my photos at double that, if I know that I’m going to be doing much panning/cropping on the photo. When importing still images to the Vegas timeline, use PNG, JPG, BMP, or GIF formats rather than a TIF format. Tiff formats require Vegas to call out for an external reader, and it slows down render time significantly. You won't be able to read .tif formats if you don't have the Quicktime reader/player installed.

One last note, Vegas' pan/crop tool may also be used to crop or pan on video sequences. Perhaps a locked down camera should have had a slight zoom. Vegas can create that zoom using the above techniques. Or, reverse the sequence and use Vegas to pull out of a shot. Either way, it's a great creative tool. Be aware that it's quite easy to zoom in TOO far and your images will pixelate from the resolution loss. Use an external monitor to always know just what you are really getting.

Now, go create some killer video, and make it move!

Happy Editing,


Instant ACID


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