Workflow for Creating Dozens of Individual Sound Effects?

Hi Chris, Thanks for the detailed explanation which clarifies the issues. I guess you must be managing extremely large projects and I fully appreciate how that must be difficult over a ‘monolithic’ timeline, as you say. Just out of interest, how do you navigate to a specific marker for a sound effect? Do you use the locate menu of the Marker track?

RIP Export might help in some cases when you have to go back in and export individual sounds, (and if you need multiple tracks you can tick ‘Mix Down to One Track’ in the RIP window). In my opinion, this is sometimes more convenient workflow when export of cycle markers becomes awkward.

Sounds like a good way of using clip packages.

The joke is, I’m not! The largest project I worked on had 531 sounds. I guess it is a lot, but compared to huge productions it’s probably ridiculous. It doesn’t take an extremely large project to make all the little management tasks add up to be time-consuming. My workflow is extremely iterative and quick. I switch from Nuendo (create sounds, export) to the game engine (implement and tweak sounds) to the game (playtesting). And this extremely quickly back and forth. So I change contexts a lot and all the time. My brain is not very good at multitasking so by the time I come back to Nuendo after a 10 minute implementation and playtesting session, I first need to orientate myself in the project again: Where was I? Where was the sound I just made that needs changes (Nuendo always jumps to 0:00 when opening a project.) And where is that other sound I just noticed needs some work?

In small projects, you also operate on very thin margins. Small indie teams don’t have a big budget set aside for sound. So I hate losing time with management work. It flushes the things I try to remember, all the sounds I heard that need a tweak, the sounds I yet have to do away from my brain. It is distracting. And everything that is distracting annoys me to the point I get angry. Additionally I lose time I don’t get paid for.

The project where I had 531 sound effects was not one single project file. I split it up. But then it was annoying opening and closing projects all the time. There’s currently no ideal solution for me to this. I tried one sound per project, all sounds of a category per project, or all sounds in one project. It’s always a trade-off. I either try to manage overview or manage project files.

And to answer your question, I jump to my markers by clicking on the marker in the marker window. But when you have lots and lots of markers, it’s hard to find the right stuff quickly. Given the super small font the markers are displayed in, and given that marker names follow a naming convention that makes them hard to distinguish:

You don’t need 500 to make that annoying.

Yes I can see the difficulty there and the problem of similar names.

Just a quick thought. Have you considered using multiple marker tracks? You could use a ‘master’ marker track and a ‘working’ marker track.

The ‘master’ marker track has all the markers as you first conceived them.
The ‘working’ marker track is used whenever you are editing a particular sound effect. You copy its marker (ctrl c / ctrl v) from the ‘master’ to the ‘working’ marker track. When you come back into Nuendo later you can locate the sounds you’ve been working on more easily… simply because there are not so many of them on the ‘working’ marker track.

You could then either delete the ‘working’ marker track when you are happy with the sound effects you’ve worked on that day… or hide it. If you want to know when you worked on those sound effects you could name that ‘working’ marker track with the date.

Or you could use some similar system using multiple marker tracks. It might make managing 500 sounds a little easier. (You could even just use 5 marker tracks with 100 markers in each effectively dividing the project into more manageable dimensions along the timeline, or divide according to sound effect category).

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>

  • player_movement_footsteps_rock_01
  • spells_player_spell_1_01

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.

Just intuitively it would seem to me to not be so quick to recall sounds on a click/open project-basis. The more back and forth that’s needed between effects the more annoying it’ll get every time one has to wait for the loading. So in a sense I think it’d ultimately still be easier to contain one type of sounds within one project and at that point I’m also guessing markers is the way to go. This is just me guessing based on intuition though and based on my experience switching between projects…

… though my computer is like 4-5 years old and wasn’t top of the line when I built it… so… running off of an m.2 nvme drive and a fast CPU I’d probably have a different experience… maybe…

Agree. This puts a spanner in the works.

I read through most of your suggested workflow, which seems to make sense. In my opinion some kind of similar hierachical structure within Nuendo might be helpful but, of course, it remains to be seen how such a structure could be succesfully implemented. Where would it live within Nuendo? Do you see it as an extension to Media Bay?

Some might say we already have some of this within Media Bay and also if a project is organised logically and uses multiple marker tracks and other functions. IMO it would still be better to work in one large project for ease of access to all sounds.

It might also be valuable to know how you can get closer to your requirements using the functions Nuendo already has.

What gets loaded when is a technicality. I’m sure there’s a way of making this very efficient.

That’s for sure, implementation is key. My idea isn’t worth a penny, only a clever real implementation of this is. I think the structure DAWs are built upon can only go so far. Working in timelines has become so streamlined and good, there’s not a lot to get out of it anymore. I believe the big opportunities to save time is with all the tasks you do outside your timeline. I would like Nuendo to help me with the management of tracks, projects, naming, and keeping overview.

It would need to be a new part of the software. That’s the point. As our projects get more complex, organization gets more time-consuming while delivery times get shorter and budgets smaller. It HAS to be a new part of the software that re-thinks the paradigm of having a “single timeline with hundreds of tracks” where you have to manage track visibility, group channels, VCAs, mutes, solos and marker tracks manually. Companies concentrate on making the timeline a bit more efficient (Cubase 8.5 window layout hover zones, names of copied tracks are better). But I’m feeling as if this paradigm comes to its limits and doesn’t allow us to work any faster in the future (unless layout hover zones are saving you a lot of time?). We’ve hit a wall. DAWs are like work-horse spinning hard drives, they just physically cannot get any faster. SSD technology needs to come along for the next boost in speed.

I don’t know. I saw the videos Tim Heinrich linked, about James Mather’s Masterclass Sounddesign. I don’t know when he last worked on the Mission Impossible project, but to me he doesn’t seem have the overview over his project. He’s scrolling an awful lot around in his demo project searching for the thing he wants to show the class.

James said the he perfected his template over multiple years. His technique is having a huge template with 12 tracks per sound, 1 group and 1 VCA for control. 10 sounds and you’re at 140 tracks. That’s a LOT of scrolling for 10 sounds. My node idea would get rid of all that. He’d click on a sound node that has a proper, readable name, and could show the class how this one sound was built. And not explain in 2 videos how his audio flows through the channels, group tracks and busses because it’s so complicated.

I don’t want to bend what’s there with force to make it something it isn’t. DAWs don’t allow higher level organization and hierarchy of projects. I believe that, to cope with future project requirements, shorter timelines and competitive budgets, we don’t need new features within the timeline, but outside the timeline.

I think we need to evolve the management part of projects: dividing projects into logical pieces, better overview and search, intelligent and automatic creation of tracks, groups, folders, and visibility presets for game / FX library workflows, a hierarchical structure of projects that makes overview far easier than a single, linear timeline.

In Pyramix not every track is a channel (like with a fader, eq and stuff), you can have multiple track going to one channel (like if it was a group, but in fact, its not a group), and you can close and open those tracks in the channel with a single click as far as i remember. thats pretty cool and a real help for sounddesign purposes.

And there is another feature thats pretty cool too and would help you i think: you can select multiple clips/events and drag and drop them to the library, give it a name and save it. everytime you take this FX from the library your events are loaded in the timeline with all the events and the fades, trim, automation etc…

i hope one day nuendo will get those features! it really improves the daily workflow of sounddesigners.

It reminds me of the time of hardware. Analog tape machines, compressors… You had one wire, and you had to plug that wire into here and that was is. The connection was occupied. You could not just make up new connections or plugs and hardware was limited. And although we live in a software world where almost anything goes - I mean we can split and sum signals on the fly and add inputs and outputs - you see where the strong ties to the past in the software we use today.

I know a few examples from Logic, where you can route a channel to a new bus and Logic instantly creates one for you dynamically. It does all the necessary stuff in the background automatically (channel creation, routing). In Nuendo you have to open the VST Connections window and add a Group/FX bus as if you manually had to plug a new hardware channel to the software before you can use it :wink:. In Logic it’s 1 click. I Nuendo it’s 7 clicks.

Or in Logic you can just change mono channels to stereo or surround with one click. Something that’s certainly possible in software, yet in Nuendo it’s completely locked and you have to decide beforehand if you want to work in mono or stereo for that track. This then leads to huge templates with hundreds of tracks like the one of James Mather, where he has 8 mono and 4 stereo tracks per single sound he does. When in fact he could just have a few and then decide, based on the sound he does, what’s needed and with a click switch the configuration of the channel.

I feel like we’re still too much tied to a hardware world in our thinking, although we live in a dynamic, much more flexible software environment.

In Nuendo you have ‘Add Group Channel to Selected Channels’, 'Add Fx channel to selected channels and ‘Add VCA channel to selected channels’ in the mixer which adds group/fx bus automatically.

100% agree. IMO Steinberg could perhaps consider doing an overhaul of the project browser window in order to create a more structured overview with elaborate search functions and visibility presets. In it’s current form I’d hazard a guess that the project browser doesn’t get used a lot, but if it was re-structured it would probably get used all the time. If they could add more vertical columns so you can see all nested data simultaneously and also include search and visibility tools on the toolbar they could come probably come close to some of your requirements.

:blush: Oh gosh, I’m still caught in my Logic past. The menu options are only visible in the mixer, maybe that’s why I haven’t found it in the timeline view. Anyway, I quickly defined shortcuts for that now. Have I missed something for the mono/stereo thing too?

I don’t think so. That might still be needed. Cubase used to have that a long time ago but it got removed.

Interesting. What (technical) reason was there to remove this I wonder?

Not sure there was a reason. Guessing the function got lost as a function of the re-write of the track / channel design.

Well, as apparently there hasn’t been an outcry, nobody seems to be missing it but me. Fair enough.

There’s been quite a few threads on the subject… it would seem there must be a technical reason for its removal (guessing only steinberg can answer that).

Interesting concept Chris.

I’m sure you could build it today if you had time to spend. The wwise and perforce connection ought to be how to be used together with Msp max or the open source alternative.

Your concept as shown above for sure wouldn’t be for me, but I could fully see the usage for some.
But then otoh you are trying to push a node based system onto a timeline. It’s sounds like a less than optimal concept.
If you look at Nuke VFX software it does not at all try to be a linear video editing software. The two different concepts don’t match that well. But then otoh you touch a few brilliant conceptual ideas IMHO.

Clip packages. If clippackages could easily be opened, edited, duplicated etc then you could use a totally different workflow slightly similar to the setup you explained but within the context and User experience of what nuendo already is. And clip packages do contain automation and inserts. It depends on how you “recall” them.
But they do not contain groups and fx channels and would need to do that for this to happen.

Thanks for taking the time to read through all this, ErikG! :slight_smile:

Yeah, in the further idea section I mentioned having the signal flow represented by the node system. I’m not using node based VFX systems myself. I can imagine they’re complex if one’s not used to working with them. But when kept simple they work pretty well.

On the Mac I’m using Audio Hijack from Rogue Amoeba for some things. And they switched to a simple node based interface with their latest version. It’s brilliant and simple I think, check out the video and screenshots.

But let’s say we wouldn’t go that far. In general, my concept is targeted to organise lots of small projects if working on games / FX libs / SFX for movies.

I think it could all work if we could embed a project file as a clip into a project. Nesting projects so to speak. It could look like this. Like folder track data.

Imagine the selected clip was a sub-project inside my current project file. Double click on a sub-project clip and the project opens without re-loading, because it’s not a separate project but it’s embedded. It’s a way to nest projects. Keep it all together while keeping sanity and not juggle hundreds of tracks.

While I think some of the concepts are interesting and useful some of them, like nesting projects are inviting trouble. We still don’t have you know what working properly so imagine all complex routing when nesting, not to mention syncing.

I could see how some “easy additions” could greatly improve it for you though and I wholeheartedly support those.