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Improve Your Workflow When Working With Video In Cubase

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Scoring for movies or videos is a very time consuming job—especially if you can't put the reference video track beside the main project. Cubase allows you to import video files, and use them as reference in real time. You can also extract audio from the video, and edit the video in the same way as you edit an ordinary audio track.

In this tutorial, I'll show you how to import a video file, edit the video, set the thumbnail cache, set the video engine and other important factors. This will help ease your workflow so you can concentrate more on creating music, rather than all the technical problems that you might face. Let’s get started.

1. Select The Video Engine

Before importing the video file, select the right engine for playback. Cubase uses any of the three engines:

  • DirectShow Video
  • QuickTime Video
  • Video For Windows

Select the appropriate engine, then select the file from the Import Video option in the Import menu. The information about the file will be displayed at the bottom of the dialog box.

If the information about the file is not right, for example, if the values displayed show 0x0 pixels or other vague data, it means that either the video file is corrupted or the video engine needs to be changed. If changing the video engine doesn’t work, then the codec used in the file might not be supported by your system.

One solution is to use a video converter to convert the video file to some other popular video format, then import it again into Cubase. You can also download the required codec and install it.

Tip: If you are re-importing the video into the pool of the project, you should remove the previously imported video file and then re-import the video.

You can change the video engine by selecting the Video Player option from the Device Setup menu.


Usually, the DirectShow Video Engine is the preferred engine for playback of many different video formats. It doesn’t require any special hardware or software support.

For QuickTime to work properly, you need to have QuickTime 7.1 or higher version installed in your system. If you have a lower version that the 7.1 version, the QuickTime engine will not be available.

If you have selected DirectShow or Video For Windows, you can also select the size of the screen for the video.

2. Play Back The Video

Once you import the video files into your project through the Import menu, a video track will be added which will show the thumbnails of the video file along with the audio track if available.

Tip: You can activate or de-activate the Video window by pressing F8 or by selecting the Reveal Video Window from the Inspector.

If the video thumbnails are not shown, you can activate them through the Video option from the Event Display menu. Check the Show Video Thumbnails option from there and set the thumbnail cache to a suitable number.


The video track has four settings which can be configured:

  • Lock: This locks the video track so that it won’t accidently be moved or edited.
  • Show Frame Numbers: When this setting is activated, each thumbnail which is displayed will have the corresponding frame number below it.
  • Snap Thumbnails: If this control is activated, the thumbnails will be displayed according to the frame number. Their position will be based on the location or the frame number, and only one thumbnail will be shows per frame.
  • Mute Video: This setting is useful when you do not want the video to be shown alongside your project. This also reduces the load on the processor.

If you have separate video hardware for playback, you can select it from the Device Setup menu. If video playback isn't smooth, or isn't at the quality you expect, playing the video through external hardware onto a separate monitor will definitely increase playback quality. You can dedicate a separate monitor for the video to be played on.

3. Edit The Video File

Cubase allows basic editing of the video files on the video track such as cutting, copying, pasting, and trimming. You can use the normal editing tools, as Cubase doesn’t have a special video editing unit.

If you use DirectShow, you may face some problems if you have many events on the video track. In this case, try changing the video engine, or the number of events for the video.

4. Extract Audio From Video

There are many ways you can extract the audio from a video file in Cubase. One is to select File > Import > Audio from Video File. You can then select the video file, and Cubase will extract the audio data from the video file and put it on a separate video track. The audio will be converted to the sample rate and format specified in the project setup.

A similar method can be found on the Media menu, which allows you to extract audio from a video file, and put the audio data onto a separate track.

You can also select Extract Audio while you are importing the video through the Video Import option. This method also allows you to split the channels into left and right channels or just combine both of them onto one track.

5. Tips For Proper Playback

  • Once the video has been imported, you have the option to select whether the thumbnails are created or not. Creating thumbnails will help in determining your position in the video file more easily, and will help speed up your workflow.
  • Using a cache file for the thumbnails will greatly improve the playback and reduce the load on the processor. This is because the processor will switch to more important audio editing functions and will show lower quality thumbnails on the video track and the video playback window.
  • Once the processor intensive process is done, the processor will render high quality thumbnails. The processor relies on the thumbnail cache for rendering low quality thumbnails which can be used to reduce the workload. The thumbnail cache will be saved in the same folder as the video file and can be used later if needed.
  • If, after importing the video file into the Pool without generating thumbnails cache, you realize that the thumbnail cache needs to be generated, you can do it from the Pool window itself. Open the Pool window, and select the required video. Select Generate Thumbnail Cache from the right-click context menu, and Cubase will start generating the thumbnails.


Becoming familiar with the video functions Cubase provides will speed your workflow when composing music for video. Setting the default video engine and the thumbnail cache will greatly increase the speed of the video playback. If you have any tips for working with video, let us know in the comments.

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