VST System Link for Video Scoring

VST System Link for Video Scoring

I recently got this set up and just want to share my experience so far as there isn’t much available online in regard to actual VST System Link use applications and experience. I suspect that more people may be interested in experimenting with this now that you can finally do it with a just single Cubase license.

Happy to say I’ve got it working well enough to do exactly what I had wanted, although the VST System Link is still not working perfectly as advertised and I suspect this is possibly due to the interface incompatibilities often mentioned.

Background: I’m working on video projects that run anywhere from 1 to 4 hours in length where I must take a video and OMF from an editor to score, clean up dialogue/audio, and then mix. Being that I’m wearing several post-prod hats here, it’s very useful for me to be able to work on these tasks concurrently, so I did our first 2 projects in single Cubase 12 projects. Worked out OK (actually much better than I had expected lol), but towards the end of each the project was getting quite large with system performance slowing down and the single long tempo track was like a house of cards, especially if changes were needed along the way. I wanted a way to have something like individual cue sessions with their own tempo tracks tacked to start at timecode points within the main session, and when I found this Youtube video (How To Setup VST System Link for Film Scoring in Cubase & Nuendo - YouTube) it seemed to be basically that. After a bit of trial and error and troubleshooting, I’ve been working with this new setup for almost a month and really like it.

Here’s my basic setup:
Mac Studio M1 Max with Arturia Audiofuse 8Pre running Cubase 12 Pro
MacBook Pro M1 Max with Audient id22 running Cubase 12 Pro
Connected via ADAT (SMUX Double-Speed disabled on Audiofuse to avoid System Link errors) System Link connections are set to ADAT I/O channel 1 and used exclusively for data only.

I use the Mac Studio as the composition machine, with the video and associated OMF imported audio on the MacBook, basically as outlined in the YouTube video aforementioned. For whatever reason, the Mac Studio will only act as a master to the other, the MacBook Pro will follow it, but not vice-versa. Thankfully it’s not a problem for my needs. The Macbook never shows up in the Studio’s System link device list, and the Studio only seems to occasionally make an appearance in the Macbooks device list, never the less, it works solidly as a Master/Slave setup. I set all audio tracks on the MacBook to linear time and there is no need to worry about the tempos between the 2 machines matching, I just leave the MacBook project at the default 120 bpm and make needed tempo changes for each cue in their own project on the Mac Studio.

I’ve also set up an audio routing configuration via other ADAT channels where my Mac Studio composition session goes to the MacBook, is mixed into the main mix, and is sent back to the control room on my Mac Studio to be monitored. When I finish a cue, I print it to the MacBook project and put the name of the cue’s .cpr as the description on the event for easy recall later, if needed. I then save and close the cue project on the Mac Studio and open a fresh one from a template to move on to the next cue.

Anyway, hopefully this might begin to fill in some blanks for people searching for more info on using VST System Link for video scoring as there doesn’t seem to be a lot of info out there about it. For my particular scenario, I think it’s quite useful.