Nuendo 5: A real alternative to Pro Tools for audio post-production

I’ll confess it has been a while since I took a long hard look at Steinberg’s Nuendo. When the audio post-production package was first released in 2000, Steinberg were aiming squarely at the Pro Tools’ market share. They promised a real alternative for both professional recording facilities and post-production, and it was announced alongside Nuendo-branded interfaces from RME and Apogee.

Sadly, at the time, it failed to make the impact Steinberg had hoped, partly due to the perception that this was just Cubase with extra features, and also due to a lack of sync and controller options that could measure up to Avid’s offerings. Over the next few years (somewhat confusingly) Cubase and Nuendo continued to leapfrog each other with features. While the post-production community didn’t really jump on the Nuendo train, it gained a lot of uptake among sound design departments in computer games companies.

Fast forward ten years: the landscape has changed markedly and Steinberg have released Nuendo 5. Apple’s Final Cut Pro and the revitalised Adobe Premiere have carved a huge chunk out of Avid’s user-base, allowing smaller film production companies to compete successfully, without massive outlays on editing stations. Many of the larger TV production companies have folded, with their experienced engineers setting up shop for themselves.

Avid’s Pro Tools HD may still be the post-production platform of choice for the main studios, but Nuendo 5 may have just quietly come of age to offer a professional standard of audio post for the rest of us. Here’s an overview of why every video production company should take a good look at Nuendo for its audio post needs.

What is Nuendo? In short, Nuendo is an audio production environment which allows a near infinite number of audio tracks with full automated and clip-based mixing. It offers native surround support for formats from 5.1 right up to 10.2 and fully synchronised in-session video playback with a vast array of online and offline sound processing plug-ins for realtime mixing. Nuendo supports media exchange, audio up to 192kHz and full hands-on control from a variety of control surfaces.

Native and cross-platform. Like all high performance digital audio workstations, it requires a pretty hefty machine to run at its best, but you can run it on a Mac or Windows machine. In other words, you’re not bound to an audio production platform based on your preferred OS. No hardware restrictions mean you have your choice of audio interfaces and converters based on your needs.

Full interchange support. Nuendo can handle media exchange formats such as MXF, OMF, XML and also reads CMX 3600 EDL lists provided by the video editor as well as exported and imported CSV formatted spotting and ADR lists.

Full resolution video playout. Nuendo uses the QuickTime codec for video playback and can play out via FireWire or through Blackmagic or AJA cards.

Video follows edits. In edit mode, Nuendo will scrub the video with the edit, so you can trim from the beginning or end of a region. When performing moves or copies, the video will follow the cursor.

Centralised storage of sound libraries. Nuendo has an impressive feature called Media Bay – a fully searchable dynamic database that can be used to catalogue audio files. Media Bay can work with local storage and networked volumes meaning that sound effects databases can be stored centrally and accessed by multiple users. Its speed allows the user to search for sound files, store multiple searches, preview files and set regions for import.

Multiple marker tracks and cycle markers. Nuendo allows the creation of multiple marker and cycle regions so you can work easily on dialogue, foley or SFX. Uniquely, marker information can be imported via .csv files, meaning the video editor can use a spreadsheet program to provide all the notes with timing points. The sound editor can then import these directly into Nuendo where they will appear as markers complete with all the notes. Great for EDL and post conforms too.

Single-pass batch export of all stems. Once a project is finished, Nuendo allows you to export or bounce your project faster than realtime, using the full processor power of the computer. Not only can it bounce the full mix, it can simultaneously produce bounces of all your stems, so you can have a finished mix, your dialogue stem, audio stem, SFX stem etc. This is a huge advantage that Pro Tools users are longing for – no more bouncing in realtime. One bounce for every stem means you can output all of your audio files for a half hour TV show while you have a cup of tea, rather than it being a two or three hour job.

Clip-based editing. The most requested feature from users of older Avid audio systems is the ability to edit volumes of clips without using a realtime mixer. The person doing the mix for a show will typically not be the person editing the audio, so they don’t want to inherit a session chock-full of automation. Nuendo offers clip-based volume control so you can adjust levels without ever touching the mixer.

Comprehensive control room monitoring. Nuendo’s monitor matrix lets you choose to listen to the full mix or individual stems, busses or outputs at the click of a button.

Clip Packages. Nuendo allows you to group sound clips together and save them as clip packages so that complex sound effects made up of multiple sound files can be reused without having to be rendered first.

Jog and shuttle control for transport and editing. Deep integration with Euphonix controllers means that these can be used not just for mixing but also for editing via the jog wheel.

SystemLink and SyncStation. SystemLink allows multiple Nuendo stations to be harnessed for really large projects, with sample accuracy. Steinberg’s SyncStation allows for control of multiple devices including decks and consoles.

Although far from exhaustive, the list of features above shows that Steinberg are really paying close attention to the needs of the post-production community. But will Nuendo replace Pro Tools? It’s hard to say, with Pro Tools being so firmly entrenched in so many existing facilities. With the features on offer, those setting up new ventures will be hard pushed to justify the expense of an HD system over the cost of a Nuendo system – particularly with Nuendo’s ability to exchange files with Pro Tools.

If you would like more information or to arrange a demo, please call 03332 400 222 or email our team at

Rob H
Rob H
Call us: 03332 409 306