Cubase's big brother promises new heights in DAW workflow, especially for post-production applications.
Nuendo may rarely grace the pages of this magazine, while its DAW stable mate Cubase is a regular, but why? Firstly, it commands the highest license-only price for a DAW, taking it out of the reach of many home studio or even semi-pro budgets. Secondly, it's tailored for audio-to-picture work in TV/film/video game post-production and soundtrack com position, as well as surround sound mixing and sound design. Nuendo has always been uniquely feature rich, presenting a massive audio workstation environment that I for one have found impossible to match. This richness makes it hard to cover all the aspects of Nuendo, so I shall concentrate on the new features of version five.
As Steinberg have increased the audio-to-picture focus of Nuendo so the emphasis has been placed on associated 'production workflow', and the version five updates clearly reflect this. There are also many additions and enhancements for the benefit of the non-AV user over and above the rewritten program substructure. I have not been able to pinpoint what this latter rewrite may consist of, but multi-core CPU optimization, improved 64-bit support and extra low latency operation under Windows 7/OS X Snow Leopard point to some serious code poking. From my time with Nuendo 5, I can say that projects created in version three have opened without any problems and have run reliably trouble-free with no discernible change in CPU usage or latency performance. Installing Nuendo 5 is quick and simple, and for those upgrading from a previous version, there are very few settings transfer issues - all I had to do was point it to my non-native plug-ins folder and reset two key commands and I was back at work within minutes.
The most obvious change is visual with the interface color scheme and styling given a much needed makeover. The overall layout has remained so there is nothing to wrong-foot the regular user, but subtle changes throughout enhance the user experience and incrementally improve the all important workflow. The high level of user configurability is still at Nuendo's core and has, to a larger degree, been improved upon.
The emphasis on post-production usage means many features are geared towards specific tasks and the repeatability thereof. To this end many setup processes, from track creation to plug-in selection, produce a (user configurable) preset menu. Though there are a plethora of factory presets that can overwhelm it is easy to filter out the ones you don't use or favor your own via a simple rating system. It is also quick to reduce the preset or setup choice dialogues to the bare essentials. For those working with repeated tasks, such as dialog dubbing (ADR) or Foley recording, these presets can speed up and hone processes, which in a deadline based industry, is a worthy enhancement. Another workflow winner Included in version five is Clip Package import export, a function aimed at Foley/SFX artists, though it has many more uses. Essentially it is a simple way to 'bag up' arrangements of audio events/clips spread across multiple tracks and export them as a single file. Thus sounds made from multiple layers can be quickly accessed, previewed and dropped into a new project.
The most Significant workflow development in this update is that of the MediaBay database system, which has been significantly improved visually and functionally. MediaBay allows the user to scan, access and index hard drives for all related media, from audio and video files to plug-m settings and track presets, with the resulting catalog library being available to any Nuendo workstation accessing the scanned drive. Comprehensive metadata-based searching, editing and filtering can seem daunting, especially with multiple hard drives, bull have found the MediaBay a powerful and intuitive tool which has already started to revolutionize my work practice. The metadata fields available for editing and searching can be tailored to a wide range of tasks, especially those in AV post-production. The previewing even has an 'Align Beats to Project' function so audio can be heard at the destination tempo, which really helps with rhythm track creation.
Other post production oriented additions include EDL (Edit Decision List - the timecode/reel data for film edits) import in the CMX3600 format and import/export of CSV formatted markers. The latter function makes good use of Nuendo's multiple marker tracks with data field options for ADR, Foley, dialogue spotting and SFX as well as standard audio editing.
Steinberg have also added a live recording spin to their marketing of Nuendo by including a large Remaining Recording lime display, global track record arming/disarming and, most importantly, a Lock Record function to prevent accidental interruption of the recording. Nuendo also supports the Wave64 file format which has no file size limit, unlike WAV, BWF and AIFF (2GB max).
Plug In, Warp Out
There are a few additions to the native VST3 plug-ins, though two are updates from the VST2 format (Surround Matrix Encoder & Decoder). Adding to the substantial surround capabilities of this program is the Surround Panner V5 which expands the track based panner into a comprehensive placement tool, which with automation can add some powerful effects and movement to the surround mix.
The PitchDriver and PitchCorrect (pitch shifter and pitch correction respectively) add simple but effective elements that have been conspicuously absent from Nuendo in plug-in form. For real pitch adjustment, the new VariAudio function in the Sample Editor provides full pitch analysis and manipulation via an interface not dissimilar to Melodyne et al. This is no half-baked nod to this now ubiquitous process, but rather a powerful and highly editable tool. Alongside the Hitpoint editing (for beat slicing) and AudioWarp tempo matching tool, VariAudio turns the Sample Editor into a powerhouse of audio manipulation that I had previously underestimated and underused. Not so from now on...
The new REVerence convolution reverb plug-in instantly impressed me. This is a well laid out plug-in with a quality set of impulse presets and all the right parameters to tailor the effect, plus a set of 36 'program' slots that can be cross-faded between, which is useful in both post and music production. REVerence can also import any WAV/AIFF impulses from mono to 5.0 surround, so the potential impulse library is limitless.
As Nuendo has evolved the possibilities for audio routing have expanded to the point where almost any setup is possible, particularly with the enhanced Control Room Mixer and new Direct Routing. With the onus on large multi-channel projects, it's good to see the Export Audio Mixdown function expanded to encompass complex multi-channel mixdowns. The output of any combination of channels can be exported simultaneously, and using the range selections from the Marker track list the audio can come from any number of points within the project. This is a powerful time saving means for creating stem mixes alongside final mixes, creating parallel fold-down mixes or exporting a selection of dialog mixes directly to a new project.
Nuendo is an inimitably 'deep' program that is aimed at streamlining many complex audio jobs and as such could easily slide into a quagmire of menus and tick boxes. To its credit, I have found this latest version very well balanced between choice and efficiency, rarely necessitating manual referencing or option searching. Of course, the question of value must be posed, as an upgrade will cost $200 or more (version dependent). This is not cheap but for the regular Nuendo user this is a quality upgrade which justifies the outlay. With regards to a AV oriented audio production platform, Nuendo 5 really does have the best overall feature set, which explains its growing reputation in post production. highly recommend Nuendo 5 to anyone already working in this arena, as well as surround mixing, sound design and soundtrack composition.