Let’s see if I can put this together… I thought about how to make project administration and configuration more efficient and implement a workflow that would at least work for games, probably also FX libraries, and movie effects while working with what Nuendo offers today in terms of functionality. Give it a read if you like, it’s not short, but tell me what you think. Total bogus or some interesting points?
For individual sound effects work I would suggest a mind map UI. It’s easy as data format as it’s just a hierarchical list. You start with your project file, here named “Game X”. You can now add a hierarchy and structure your project. Below you see the categories Player, Enemies, Vehicles, and sub-nodes.
This is all just structure, there’s no sound or track in this project yet. Let’s add sounds. Sounds are marked in blue here so you know where there’s some content.
Clicking on a sound opens a timeline we’re all familiar with. Here you can work as usual: add tracks, groups, FX. Each node has its own (automatically created) group channel (yellow in my example) to add a compressor or EQ. Sort of like adding multiple tracks to a folder that simultaneously is a group channel.
Work on your sound, maybe add sound variations for a game.
When finished, seamlessly go back up one level to the structure view and dive into the next sound. It not only helps you keep the overview, the organisation also helps your orientation. You can quickly dive in and out of individual sounds while always keeping the overview, or regaining overview quickly when you come back to the project after your holidays.
If, at a later stage, your organisation doesn’t prove to be effective, just drag and drop nodes to re-arrange. Like I did here. I created a “Spells” node and dragged all player and enemy spell sounds into it if that’s better for this particular project.
Noticed the music icons? Without “opening” a node you can quickly audition any sound you see. Good after a weekend to quickly listen to and check the work from the week before. No unnecessary diving and clicking into projects, just click the audition button for super fast checking.
The numbers (1/4) mean that you’re auditioning the 1st of 4 sound variations in that sub-project. You can cycle through the variations by repeatedly clicking the audition button. This allows you to quickly hear if the variations you made fit together. As if they were triggered repeatedly in the game. Great for sanity check before you make the round-trip to the game engine. This can save hours of roundtrip time each week.
Overall, this “management layer” allows you to quickly get an overview of a project. For example, what sounds are still missing (no audition icon as there’s no content to play). Re-arranging, renaming, auditioning and diving into a sound for editing.
And regarding playing the variations: Multiple sounds in one node could be detected by looking at the “Folder Parts”. Each Folder Part could be interpreted as one sound event and be split up according to a naming convention when batch exporting. And also be used to jump between the variations when auditioning.
This hierarchy in the Mind Map view could then also be used in the naming convention editor. You could export sounds based on their hierarchy. For example <node_path>_<variation/marker name>
Intelligent Visibility Presets / Track Enabling/Disabling
How could this be implemented in Nuendo? Behind the scenes, it could still be one timeline and one project for Nuendo. Those nodes in the Mind Map could be intelligent “visibility presets” that enable or disable tracks from view depending on the node you open. Only the tracks in the open node are enabled and visible. Everything else is hidden and disabled.
Intelligent Bouncing / Batch Exporting
Similarly, for exporting, you can select the nodes you want to export in the Mind Map view or just select them all. Based on the node hierarchy and naming conventions, Nuendo could export every sound and manage solo, mute, etc. behind the scenes and do a nice, clean export into a directory of your choosing, e.g. the game audio directory.
Managing Load Times of Projects
Because such projects could get big with tracks and plugins, Nuendo could dynamically load only the tracks that are needed in order to decrease loading times of big projects. Opening the project only loads the Mind Map structure, which is super quick. As soon as you click an audition button or open a node, Nuendo would load the necessary tracks and insert effects / plugins and then keep it in memory from there. So it’s very short loading times per node instead of waiting half an hour for a complete project with all nodes to load.
Further Ideas / Not Only For Single Sound FX
Nobody says a node only has to be a single sound effect with variations. As I said, a node is a normal timeline with all its features. A node (and its timeline) could contain a whole movie, too. Or be split up with sub nodes for reels, or scenes. Now this may not sound very sexy yet, but read the next item.
Further Ideas / Collaboration
Probably hard to do. But let’s imagine. Nodes could be a way of working together on a project over network or internet, in a whole team. Nuendo knows what nodes are open. It could lock those nodes when working in a team. Only the engineer that has the node open can work on it. Once the engineer’s done, the node gets unlocked.
Audio Directors could split up the project, creating movie parts or scenes and single special sound effects and distribute work. One could go into a node somebody else works on and view it in read only mode, or open the node you have permission to and continue working on your scenes or FX.
Further Ideas / Super Clip Packages
Nodes could be Super Clip Packages. Currently, Click Packs don’t save insert FX and they use existing tracks to be unpacked onto. Sort of a saved group of audio clips.
What if nodes could also be used as super clip packs. Instead of importing sounds onto many tracks, you could place a reference to another node in your timeline.
Imagine you’re working on a scene and either you or somebody else did a sound effect that is needed here. You could use Media Bay to search the local project for the node in question and insert a “reference” onto a track. This could look like this.
If anything needs to be changed, the original sound designer could just go into his/her node of the project and make the adjustments, automatically updating the master timeline for the scene.
Or if you’re a one man show, for quick access you could also just double click on the “super clip pack” and you’re taken to the node directly.
Like clip packs, nodes have pre-rendered audio bundled so it’s not necessary for Nuendo to load all the tracks and plugins when you put node references on a big timeline. This could keep project and memory footprint and overall system load small.
Further Ideas / Signal Flow
With this hierarchical view on things you really can do many cool things. For example, I find signal flow much easier to grasp in this grapgical style. At a glance you see where audio flows. Easier than looking through a long list of channels in the mixer, scrolling sideways and looking at the routing and sends areas.
Maybe it could even make sense to make the audio flow upwards to the root node by default. The root node would be the Master Output with all master inserts. Then, if I take the “Film X” example from above, there’s the “Special FX” node. You could put a limiter or compressor on there to process all FX nodes below it the same way. Basically, nodes would be group channels with automatic routing. You could grab a large number of nodes and move it below another node and have them all re-route automatically.
I think a mind map UI is easy to work with and understand as it’s very visual: create nodes, rename them, search the map, move entire structures somewhere else and instantly change routing that way.
All this is just an idea how workflow and collaboration could be improved. Personally, that would make my work in games a lot more efficient with the auditioning and structuring features. Good overview, quick playback of sounds, fast iterations by going in and out of single sound effects (stored in nodes), more intelligent (or more automatic) export and routing.