TiN/AlTiN, TiN/CrN and CrN/AlTiN multilayer coatings have been deposited by the cathodic arc evaporation technique. The period is in the range 7-200 nm for a total thickness of 3 μm. The period's control of the nanoscaled hard films is achieved, a priori, by way of a simple geometrical calculation and, a posteriori, via both X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy on cross-sections. Microstructure of the as-deposited coatings has been investigated by means of X-ray diffraction and transmission electron microscopy in connection with the decrease of the period λ. For lower periods (multilayered coatings), the fcc structures which derive from each nitride are observed while only the superlattice structure is found for nanoscale layered films (nanolayered coatings). Microstructure evolution with the period is investigated for the three systems and the differences are comment. Tribological behaviours and cutting performances are studied in [C. Ducros, F. Sanchette, submitted to Surf. Coat. Technol.]. © 2006.