Video Support in Nuendo and Cubase
The video playback of Nuendo and Cubase (below, only Nuendo will be mentioned) is based on Apple’s QuickTime engine on both Mac and PC. If you are using Windows, make sure to have QuickTime installed (v7.1 or higher). If you are on a Mac, all needed QuickTime components are already in place. Theoretically, all files that are supported by QuickTime are compatible with Nuendo. Thus, if the QuickTime Player can play back your video, Nuendo can too.
Your graphics card needs to support OpenGL 2.0 or higher and it’s recommended to have the latest graphics drivers installed.
What sort of video codecs can be recommended for use with Nuendo?
If file size is not an issue, the ideal choice is an editing codec like ProRes (native format of Apple Final Cut Pro) or DNxHD (Avid's native format). Video files that have been encoded with these codecs play back correctly and run smooth when winding or using the jogwheel. They are also economical in terms of allocated memory per video file. If you are working with DNxHD encoded videos, make sure to download and install the free Avid Codecs LE package. Photo-JPEG and Motion-JPEG are working fine too but use single-threaded decoding only. Note that videos using the above mentioned codecs have a rather large file size.
H.264, also known as MPEG-4 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) allows for small video file sizes but can only be recommended if encoded properly. The problem usually lies in the variety of encoding parameters which can heavily affect the performance of Nuendo.
How to encode H.264 video to work best with Nuendo?
H.264 encoder presets, as offered in current versions of Apple Final Cut, Apple Compressor, Avid Media Composer or Grass Valley EDIUS Pro, usually result in video files suitable for Nuendo. However, since the number of video tools that allow for H.264 export is high, and the H.264 specification includes various encoding parameters, you should take care of the following settings when creating H.264 video files:
- The number of B-frames should not be higher than 3. Anything above will lead to an unreasonably high amount of memory allocation.
- The number of reference frames should not be higher than 2.
To keep Nuendo’s performance up, it is very important to:
- Disable weighted P-Frames
- Disable weighted B-Frames
- Disable pyramidal B-Frames
- Furthermore, if you want your video to smoothly follow when winding or using a jogwheel, make sure to use a key frame interval (IDR) of 1 frame (thus every frame is encoded separately).
How many video files can be used within a single Nuendo project?
With the above parameter recommendations taken into account, you can import at least 20 different video files (with full-HD resolution) into a single project. When using ProRes, DNxHD or Photo-JPEG encoded videos you can import an even larger amount. Note that every video file makes Nuendo allocate a certain amount of memory. If you import too many different video files, the video decoder’s memory limit will be exceeded and the video engine will stop working.
If you are using a lot of different video files in a single project, be sure to run the 64-bit version of Nuendo 6.5.20 (Cubase 7.5.20) or higher.
What can I do if the video file (that my client has sent me) performs poorly within Nuendo?
In case your client is not aware of the above recommendations you should re-encode the video with a suitable codec and settings. Use for example, Apple Compressor (OSX) or XMedia Recode (Windows) to re-encode to the Apple ProRes or Photo-JPEG codec (using the .mov format).
Note that lowering the video resolution (e.g. from full-HD to 720p) also helps to increase the playback performance if necessary, especially on older systems. Video files with a lower resolution will also consume less memory.
If you are still running on Windows 7, it is strongly recommended to have the Aero theme enabled.
How do I find out what codec a video file has been encoded with?
Be aware that the file type of your video file (mov, mp4, avi, etc.) does not necessarily tell you which codec has been used to encode the video. The file type only indicates the used container format (video file format). The actual codec will be displayed at the bottom of Nuendo’s Import Video dialog. Alternatively, you can have a look at the QuickTime Player’s “Movie Inspector” or various other third party tools.
What is a video codec?
A video codec is a compression algorithm that compresses the video into a smaller and easier to exchange data file - comparable with the popular MP3 format. Depending on the codec, several different compression methods are used. Basically, a higher compression rate which results in a smaller file increases the need for a higher system performance to be able to properly decode the video for playback. This fact needs to be taken into consideration especially when the video is supposed to be played back on the same system as the Nuendo audio project.
The different codecs also vary in usefulness for Nuendo because most of them (e.g. H.264) use predictive encoding. Those codecs contain an I-frame (intra frame) which does not need any additional information to be decoded and several P-frames (predictive coded frames) which contain the difference between the upcoming and the last I-frame and thus need a reference frame for decoding. While this encoding method offers higher compression rates, it also increases the workload for Nuendo. On jogging or locating, Nuendo has to move backwards to the last I-frame and decode up to the current frame which might have a severe impact on responsiveness. This is best dealt with by using codecs in which every frame is encoded separately, for example, ProRes, DNxHD, Photo-JPEG, Motion-JPEG and Panasonic DVCPro.
Possible setups for working with video in Nuendo
The most common solution does not need any additional hardware. Once you have imported your video file(s) into Nuendo you can double-click the video event (or press F8) to open the video window which can also be run in full screen on the display of your choice. With Nuendo 6 or higher you can also choose to display a timecode overlay inside the video window.
Some users prefer to use a second computer system as a slave device to source out the video playback. If you have a second Cubase or Nuendo license at hand, you can sample accurately synchronize the two systems using VST System Link. However, the above-mentioned requirements regarding codecs and playback methods remain valid. This solution is a good way to save some resources of the main project system. It is also recommended in case you need two different video outputs – one showing the video with overlays (timecode, swipes, etc.) while the second one plays back the video in sync without overlays, which is especially required by ADR facilities.
Video output using a dedicated video card
For professional connection with video studio devices Nuendo has been tested with Blackmagic Decklink hardware which is highly recommended by many users.
The following cards and devices have been tested for video playback with Nuendo 6 and Cubase 7:
- BlackMagic Intensity PRO, BlackMagic Decklink, BlackMagic Decklink HD Extreme (PCIe), BlackMagic Decklink Extreme (PCI)
- AJA Kona 3, AJA KONA LHi, AJA KONA LHe
On Windows, AJA cards do not support QuickTime and therefore cannot be used.
In order to use your video card as video output device for Nuendo open the "Device Setup" from the "Devices" menu and navigate to the "Video Player" page. If your video card's driver is installed correctly you should now see a corresponding entry in the column "Device". From the column "Format", choose the video format that matches your video source in the project. Make sure your video card is marked "Active" in the rightmost column.
A big thanks goes to Fredo Gevaert for his help with this article!