Event / Track Channel Mapping

Not N13 related…

Revisiting an age-old problem. Using library sounds to build atmo and sfx in a multi-channel project, and mismatches between event and track channel count.

When working on large mixes and importing lots of library files which vary widely from 1 to 6 channels usually, the constant problem is that if the channel count of import and track don’t match you might get unusable results. Example importing a 4-channel ambience sound from the library onto a 5.1 track results in two channels being assigned to C and LFE, with obvious problems.

There doesn’t seem to be any way on an event to go in and re-assign the channels to track mapping. If the event has 4 channels, I would love for them to be mapped to 1, 2, 5, 6 - not 1, 2, 3, 4.

There doesn’t seem to be a function for that. In DOP there’s a stereo flip, but not a re-assign.

Same problem exists in ProTools from what I can tell from testing.

I’ve always been setting up separate tracks in the FX folder tree for various channel configs and then use the matching layout when importing library sounds. But it bloats the project with lots of extra tracks.

How do folks deal with this?

PS: I’m suing Soundly as my software and import tool at the moment, but I assume the same is true for other library tools too. As the tool doesn’t know the target channel layout, it can’t adapt the file upon copy.

If you drop the file on empty space, the right channel layout will be created for the new track.

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Thank you. I tried that, but it doesn’t solve the problem unfortunately.

When I drag a 4 channel library track into an empty timeline space it does create a new quad channel track as you said. Which is correct. But if I then drag that event onto a 5.1 track it still maps those four channels to L,R,C,LFE instead of L,R,Lrs,Rrs which I would like to see and which doesn’t seem possible.

In all my mix templates in the Atmo/Amb sections I have to create a few mono tracks, a few stereo tracks, sometimes a LRC track, a few quad track, a few 5.0 tracks, and a few 5.1 tracks to accommodate the various materials I may import. That’s a lot of tracks and they only get sparsely populated.

In my ideal scenario I might have 6-8 5.1 tracks which then can accommodate events with various channel configs but properly map them to the correct channels, not just count from 0…n as it does by all appearance. I don’t mind having to tell it what the correct mapping is, but there doesn’t seem to be a function for that.

The alternative would be a library tool where you can specify the target track layout, and during export it remaps accordingly. Soundly doesn’t offer this, and before I was on SoundMiner and I don’t think it does that either, though I don’t have it installed to check for certain.

I use quad tracks when needed. Route to 5.1 Groups as required.

I don’t think it would be easy to have the software change routing “on the fly” as it encounters different events on the timeline, so I’m guessing there’s a good reason this isn’t standard in these DAWs.


Thx. That’s what I’ve been doing as well, was just hoping there may be a better solution.

That type of mapping does exist in NLEs (Avid, Premiere, Resolve). If you go on any clip you can change the mapping of audio channels in file to audio channels in clip (event). But I understand that DAWs don’t alway encounter that, so it may never have been a priority.

I did reach out to Soundly to see if they would be interested in fixing it on their end (pre-import). They could replace any channels that have to be skipped with a silent channel. So in my example, they would fill channel 1,2 as normal, then fill 3,4 with silence, and then continue with 5,6. We’ll see.

Soundly has a similar issue with their monitor plugin (ReWire alternative), so there may be a double use case to fix that.

Probably what would need to happen is proper tagging of each channel within a multichannel file, and apps then taking that into account. You probably can’t have just the channel number spill the way you mention because anyone with a 3.1 file would have it play back incorrectly. In other words if someone for any reason decided to create a L/R/C/LFE file it would map incorrectly for them. There would also need to be an if/or algorithm to make it work so that only quad files are affected, and 5.1 and above aren’t. Software doesn’t know what the intent is for a channel with just a number and no other indicator so it’s likely a problem that can’t be solved that way.

My guess anyway.

Totally. It can become a mine field.

A possible solution would be that the current behavior remains the default (fill channels from the top consecutively). Then there would be a function (similar to ‘stereo flip’ in DOP) that could either be in DOP or could be in the edit menu. It would take a channel translation template (there could be some presets and you can edit them), which rewires the event channel to track mapping.

But the devil is probably in the detail with all parts of the software assuming that there aren’t any gaps in the channel mapping, etc. So doubtful we’ll ever see that. In the meantime we either just need to improve the import function or live with an abundance of sparsely populated tracks.

But if I can tell Soundly from a drop-down that it’s target track is 5.1 or quad, or LRC and it converts the file as it copies it over into the Nuendo project, that’s a point where this can be done relatively risk free.

As coincidence would have it, in the avalanche of Black Friday email I came across an interesting plugin: Sound Particles

It’s a plugin that allows you to re-arrange the channels in a track. Now the best way would be if I could just have a few DOP presets and use those to re-rig the imported event. Tried that, but unfortunately, once you open DOP on a quad event, DOP doesn’t know that it sits on a 5.1 track and you don’t get 6 output channels. As great as DOP is in many ways, it also has quite a few short comings still.

But I was successful adding the plugin as a track-insert and then just doing a render-in-place to commit the re-routing.

The use case would be, keep plugin in insert slot on amb tracks, which are all 5.1 or whatever your biggest library material is. Bring in any material onto them regardless of channel layout, select the mapping the plugin and render in place. That’s a few clicks still, would be nice to streamline that further.

But at least it declutters the project from having 20-30 amb tracks just to provide all the different channel formats that might come from the library.

Speaking of channel level control, also came across this plugin which can be useful on a Atmos bed track for some fine tuning. Gives channel level HPF/LPF and fader, also quick solo capability. Decently priced.

Can use it on any multi-channel track/bus/group, like 5.1 as well. Not Atmos specific.

I tend to ignore BF sales. But these two seemed worth adding.

To be honest I would’t expect DOP to be aware of or concerned with track configuration…
It is a clip based tool, and as far as I know clips and tracks are completely independent in Nuendo.

It could be there as an option, maybe, but wouldn’t really make sense as a default.

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Correct, not as a default.

But similar to routing from a track without 1 to a track without layout 2, or having plugins that can transpose channel layouts (like up/downmix plugins), there are use cases where applying such plugins or processes may be useful (this being just one example).

Thus if DOP had the option for a plugin to find out what the track layout is, and output to that spec instead of the clip spec, that would be useful. But I’m not holding my breath on that happening.

Hi, this is a common issue in most DAWs except Reaper… they don’t care what you throw at it (in my limited experience). I don’t know if it is flawless in reaper though.
However I have a tip. I work mainly in post for cinema and don’t really like to use quad or 5.1 files, but sometimes I have little time or it is a simple room tone.
In soundly (and Soundminer that I mostly use) you can select which channels you export to your daw.

What I do is the following:
You select and export the fronts (LR) to a stereo track. Same for the Rears (Ls/Lr) and/or Center: all go to separate tracks (stereo and or mono).

This way you can easily tweak the spatial image (no expensive plugins needed!) and have full control. It takes a bit more time, but it is very handy.
I started doing this since I worked with mixers who hated lcr/quad/5.1 tracks in their templates (too much overhead!). And I learned that it is actually much better.

Obviously this is a routine that needs some getting used to and is dependent on how you setup your routing and workflow. I mostly just checkerboard (AB) the ambiences and never run into issues this way. Hope this helps!

I don’t think this will be easy to setup on the developer site. The thing is, library developers don’t always perfectly write their metadata. I always use the ixmlTrackLayout field so that when things are exported, the DAW or the user can know what is residing in which track making things much easier.
Soundminer support this perfectly (soundly not!) and it works great. I create libraries for a small part of my income and could not live without Soundminer.
it is not cheap but I highly recommend it over the very basic feature-set of soundly.

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Thanks @klfnk2020. That’s an interesting approach, and I can relate to the junking up of the templates with different formats. Makes it much less readable. I’ll experiment with your idea.

I do have a license to SoundMiner and used it for a long time, but don’t care for their UI too much. I’ve migrated to Soundly since then and have been quite happy. But your point about the library quality is well taken. I used to backfill some data on SoundMiner all the time too.

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