Video display not frame accurate since Cubase 9.5 up to Cubase 10

Hi,

Ever since Cubase 9.5, the video frame accuracy has been inconsistent. I am going to show ways in which this problem exists, and another where it does not happen.

  1. No issues:
  • make a new project
  • leave tempo at 120bpm
  • import video at the beginning of the project
  • the video window should show the first frame of the video without a problem
  • move the video around and place the playback bar at the beginning of video. The first frame of video should appear without problem in the video window
  • splice the video anywhere and remove the chunk on the left. Place the playback bar at the beginning of the remaining chunk. The first frame of that chunk should show up without problem in the video window
  1. Issues:
  • make a new project
  • change tempo to anything that is not 120bpm. Let’s say 95bpm for example.
  • import video at the beginning of the project
  • the video window should show the first frame of the video without a problem if the video is placed at the beginning of the project
  • move the video around (let’s say to bar 3 for example), and place the playback bar at the beginning of the video. The first frame of the video DOESN’T appear in the video window.
  • move the the video around some more and try again, the first frame of the video will not appear.
  • Move the video back to the beginning of the project. The first frame of video will show up again at the beginning.
  • Move the playback bar to bar 4 for example, you should see the video skipping to a new position (as expected).
  • Make a cut to the video at bar 4 and delete the left chunk. The video will again disappear.

Cubase’s video engine seems to be operating at some absolute frame system that always begins at the beginning of the project file. Therefore if you move the video anywhere in the project (at a bpm other than 120bpm - and probably 60/240/etc), the video will not display at the beginning of its region because where Cubase places video frames is quantized to an invisible grid that begins at the beginning of the project no matter what. This is problematic and makes frame accuracy impossible unless the project runs at 120bpm.

All my colleagues have had this problem (running on Windows; haven’t tried on Mac), which has forced most of them to stay with Cubase 9.0.

Can this be fixed?

I would like to +1 this to help raise visibility. I would love to be able to use Cubase 9.5 and later because there are many great new features, but until this is resolved I am forced to use Cubase 9. It is absolutely necessary (and a bare minimum) to have frame accuracy when working to picture, whether as a composer or a sound designer.

FWIW - in your example number 1 above, I DON’T get the first frame displaying when I move the video file along, to anywhere other than 1.1.1.0 (I am using the shortcut ‘L’ to locate the playhead to the start of the video event, to make sure its at the very beginning).

I have used ‘Get Frame Rate from Video’ in Project Setup to make sure the video file is being correctly read (29.97).

Changing the tempo in a new project, and trying again, produces the same results.

Am attaching the video file I’m using, so you (anyone else) can try too.
Cars Passing.zip (497 KB)
The plot thickens…


(Off topic - notice how that video plays with a slightly glitching, ‘stuttering’ effect on the cars exiting the right-hand side of the frame. Play the video outside of Cubase, in VLC or Win MediaPlayer, or inside StudioOne v4.5.1 and its perfectly rock-solid smooth. Interesting.)

That’s very interesting. Perhaps we’re getting different behavior as the video I was using was at 24fps. Either way, not seeing the first frame of a video region when not at the beginning of the project isn’t good.
I’ll try out your video file soon.
I wonder if Nuendo handles video the same.

I just checked if Nuendo behaved the same way and it does.
For sound designers this is not an issue as, working with the timecode ruler, wherever anyone might move their video file would always snap to a frame on the timecode grid.
This is not the case when working on the bars and beats ruler as those bars and beats sometimes fall in between frames.

Bump, if only to raise visibility. Another Cubase update has come out, and we still don’t have a resolution to this issue after well over a year. I’ve submitted multiple support tickets on this subject. This is a devastating issue for anyone trying to work with video and be frame-accurate, and Steinberg’s lack of a fix is maddening.

Bumping yet again. I recently updated to 10.5 in the hopes that this would be resolved, as being able to finally export video is so huge for us. But it’s not. Trying to compose to video and knowing that we can’t trust the video we’re seeing in Cubase to be frame-accurate is incredibly frustrating.

Alex_Temple - it behaves the same in 11 - I’ve found more weird stuff with where frames are located and how things change with tempo and frame rates too… and have written to Steinberg

I see this complaint repeated quite a lot in many forms, and it’s a common misconception.
The video playback is extremely accurate when used with proper video formats.
H264 (AVC) is indeed a supported video format. Still, it’s the most dangerous one for DAW playback as it lets you compress the video so much that real-time decoding becomes almost impossible without dropping frames, not to mention stuttering playback, and a huge waste of system resources just to present the video.
It may sound ridiculous to you, but the smaller the file size, the harder it is to playback it properly. Just like you wouldn’t use highly compressed mp3 or aac audio and should always convert it into uncompressed PCM Audio (.Wav) when you bring it into your project, you should prepare/convert your videos for the best performance in your DAW (any DAW).
Experienced Post-Production users who professionally produce audio-for-video always convert their videos into something that will work properly before importing it and starting to work.
Many pros use a tool I wrote, ER Media ToolKit, when they want to save time and still make sure the video they create will be optimized for DAW work. It is the only video converting tool that was designed especially for pro playback needs.
If you’d like to read more about why h264 is bad for playback, I explained it in more details here:

2 Likes

Hi Sagi,
The issue here is not about playback smoothness but that the start of a video’s region in Cubase/Nuendo doesn’t always line up with an actual frame.
Let’s say that you move the playback bar exactly on a frame somewhere in the middle of the video (with the condition that 1. you’re not at 120 bpm and 2. that the position of the playback bar is exactly on a frame and not a sub-frame) , we’ll call this frame “x”. Make a cut on the video at frame “x”, which then creates a new region starting at that frame “x”. Now move this new region around (on the bars and beats grid so it snaps so the grid), you’ll see that often times what is displayed at the beginning of that video region is no longer frame “x” but somewhere a sub-frame after or before frame “x”.
This also happens when not making cuts to a video. Let’s say (at a tempo that’s not 120bpm) that the first frame of your video is frame “a”. If you place your video at the start of the project, moving the playback bar to the beginning of the video region equals frame “a”. But if you then move the video around (on the bars and beats grid) so that the beginning of the video region is no longer at the start of the project, placing the playback bar at the beginning of the video will often times not equal frame “a” anymore, and what is displayed instead is either a sub-frame before or after frame “a”.