Workflow Efficiency Improvement for Audio Export Operations

The Problem:

When doing an audio export, innumerable user errors are possible: mute/solo track states improperly set, invalid selection range, FX tails prematurely cut off, etc. So, it’s wise to immediately verify that the export was what one expected. There seem to currently be three ways to do this: 1) check the exported audio in some program that’s not Cubase, 2) import the exported audio into a new project, and 3) import the exported audio into the current Cubase project.

The weakness with the first two options is that should problems be found, you are not in your Cubase project where they can be fixed (or in some cases even easily located). The third option does not have that deficiency, but there are other pitfalls. First, you need to name the imported audio and include it in the pool, even if you merely want to just give it a quick listen and have no further use for it thereafter. Needing to delete it from disk and the pool is tedious. If you leave it in the project, you run the risk of forgetting to mute it before doing your next export (trust me – that can happen all too easily). Plus, that next export will require a unique name (or the aforementioned deletion from the pool).

I want to suggest a better mechanism for verifying that an audio export captured what was intended.
A Proposed Enhancement (Short Version):

My suggestion is that a new track type be established: an Export Verification Track (EVT hereafter for brevity). This would be a type of audio track that has few capabilities and many restrictions.

Creation on an EVT would be requested in the export dialog. Such a request would be mutually exclusive with an import-into-current-project request.

EVTs would be temporary and anonymous – they would not need a name and would never require manual cleanup from the pool or disk. There would never be more than one EVT in a project, and an export would remove an existing EVT, as would exiting Cubase.

The EVT could not be modified, could not accept automation, would have no inserts or channel strip, etc.

The EVT would have just two controls: a solo button (which would be an exclusive solo overriding any existing track solo settings) and a level control. You could only listen to it by itself and it could never be accidentally combined with other tracks in any capacity.

That’s the short version. More details follow for anyone sufficiently interested.

A Proposed Enhancement (More Details):

This is just a collection of suggested ideas. There are probably many alternative ways to do this sort of thing that would accomplish the primary goal of making verification of exported audio an easy and efficient procedure. I’m just throwing these out there as a possible starting point.

First, this feature only makes sense when doing exports of the master bus. Audio exports that produce multiple tracks would not allow creation of an EVT. Likewise, compressed format exports would probably put EVTs off-limits.

The EVT track need not (and probably should not) have a corresponding slot in the mixer. Just make the track visible in the project view, with an extremely limited set of functions in the inspector (actually I can’t think of anything other than a level/volume control).

The EVT would be aligned with the content used to create it. The EVT track could not be moved within the track, cut into multiple clips or lengthened/shortened.

Although mentioned above, just to be clear: The track header for an EVT would have only a solo button. When soloed, the EVT would be exclusively soloed. Under no circumstances would it be possible to have the EVT audio mixed with any other track content. It would respond to normal transport controls, however.

The EVT audio would be routed to the standard audio output during playback. This would be via the control room pathway should that be in use.

The EVT would remain present in the project until 1) a new export is requested, 2) the user explicitly deletes it with remove-selected-tracks, or 3) Cubase terminates (normally or abnormally). In other words, the user would never under any circumstance need to do cleanup.

The EVT could be inserted into the project window at a predictable track position, probably after the last track as exported-imported tracks now are. Other options might be worth considering.

That’s pretty much all I can think of now, but other nuances might have been overlooked here.

I 100% agree that Export Audio is a fraught process. However I’m not sure that your solution is the best. I believe that there already is an option to open the exported file in Wavelab and I think that would essentially do what you want, no?

(As an aside, -I- have always wanted a simple ‘Success!’ pop-up window after an Export completes just to show that Cubase think the export went to plan. But I digress.)

And perhaps to digress even more, I would much prefer that the Export Audio process have something analogous to what is known in the printing business as a ‘Pre-Flight’… basically, it’s a program that you run -before- you print a large job to make sure it -will- print correctly. In the case of an Export Audio, it would look at all your settings and warn you if it saw any obvious problems with Mutes, Solos or tails that might get chopped off. I want Cubase to warn me -beforehand- rather than having to audit a 30 minute piece of music after every Export.

Sorry for gassing on. I definitely see the need for checking. But again, I think WL would do the job, unless I’m missing something?

No problem - that was good gassing on, man. :smiley:

The downside to using WL (which I actually do have, so that’s not the issue for me) is that opening WL takes a long time - not as long as Cubase, but with all the plug-ins on my DAW, still an annoying amount of time. Importing a temporary audio file into the current project should be next to instantaneous. The other problem is that should you find problems that are subtle, you are not where you need to be to fix them.

However, that said, yes, WL is better than importing to a new project or leaving Cubase entirely. But for those who don’t have WL, what’s their solution here?

The old, “What about people who don’t have…” gambit. I’ll just say this: When I got into video about 10 years ago, it was like taking a cold shower of truth. Everyone on the Adobe forums was extremely nice and helpful, but they have NO patience with whining about “what if I don’t haaaaaaaave.” Because if yer gonna do video editing, you -have- to have a certain level of kit. Full stop. If you don’t? Get a loan. Rob a 7/11. But do NOT blame Adobe for not making a cheaper software or for requiring you to have x,y,z hardware.

If you want to do songs of a certain complexity (the kind that would require detailed auditing after Export), then you MUST buy Wavelab.

I keep WL open all the time and working this way, the import is almost instantaneous. Maybe give that a try?

The reason I keep banging on about this is because I’ve had at least one mastering session that was a disaster (and several near disasters) because of Export Audio gone wrong. I do long pieces… some 45 minutes. I’ll do an EA, realise I want to change ONE FRICKIN’ NOTE, then re-do the EA. And… something went awry RIGHT IN THE FUCKING MIDDLE. Didn’t notice until the mastering engineering was heads down into it. That cost me $600 -and- a near heart attack. It would be like every time you save a Word document you’d have to RE-READ EVERY LAST WORD.

There needs to be a way to VERIFY AND TRUST ABSOLUTELY that the EA worked properly. And currently? I don’t. Not really. So -my- focus would be on how to get a Pre-Flight Checker to analyze the project and let you know if the EA is going to work or if it did in fact work properly WITHOUT having to audit every last second on baited breath.

Requiring a $550 piece of software (yes, I know it can be had for less in occasional sales) for a simple verification is like needing a bulldozer to drive a nail - a $10 hammer would do the job. I would at least think SB would want to consider allowing Wavelab Elements to get this job done (the manual does not indicate it can be used, but maybe I’m mistaken in this).

Exporting when WL is already open is not something I’ve tried - but I will. I trust your report that it is nearly instantaneous when that is so. I don’t know about your setup, but I do try to avoid jumping about in multiple applications that grab the sound drivers. Way more often than I’d like, I find the drivers get “confused”, making a reboot required. Maybe two SB programs can be trusted to not screw this up, so perhaps the distrust is misplaced in this case.

Still, my simple proposition seems the easiest, no-muss-no-fuss solution. But I do appreciate your perspective on this, ST.

I thought WL Elements was like $29 on various ‘Black Friday’ specials? And yes, at least on my machine (a fairly old Sandybridge) I leave WL open all the time and it works flawlessly alongside Cubase. PG was quite diligent in making the integration between Cubase & WL a big priority in WL 9.0.

I feel yer pain. I keep pushing the WL notion for the simple reason that WL is such a good product–arguably a better product than Cubase in many respects, so why re-invent the wheel?

Anyhoo, may we all get more than what we deserve. :wink: