Dorico possible features for film scoring

I bought Dorico one year ago and I am really happy with it and how is evolving…also really fast I have to say. I am sure there are many many more features that are still in development and will make Dorico more powerful and versatile.

I was just wondering if there were some film scoring features on the horizon. One big problem that still hasn’t been solved yet is the process of exporting Midi (or xml) files from the DAW to the score editor…and actually this is weakest point in the entire film scoring process.
This is a very long and boring process that always require to quantise all the midi informations in the DAW; and then, once imported, basically force the orchestrator to rewrite the score from scratch (most of the time) into the score editor.

If Dorico could solve, or improve this “technological gap” that would make all the film scoring guys very happy.
In my dreams I would love to have Cubase connected somehow to Dorico with the ability to share midi informations…or something similar.
So I would just need to quantise the midi parts in Dorico, without having to export of change anything in Cubase.
I know that Cubase and Dorico share the same playback engine, so maybe there is a chance!!!

Any thoughts?

Hi, MicheleBus, welcome to the forums.

Just a note on your last paragraph: a “playback engine” is (put simply) the way a software puts together all the numbers that will drive a speaker at the end of the signal path. The two underlying data models that store actual — manipulable, relevant, musical, what have you — information are very different. It’s a challenge that may very well be tackled somehow, but it’s not as linear as everyone seems to think (if you’ll excuse me the reference to past discussions here).

Best thing in my opinion - and I’ve said this before - would be to have a well developed Play function inside of Dorico, that would allow you to tweak your VSTs to make them sound as good as possible. They’re all different and they all respond differently so you’ll have to create your own expression maps (and maybe share them with others).

As to the quantization of midi notes going from DAW to music preparation, even if the midi in Cubase and Dorico were somehow “linked” (I don’t know how) you would still have the problem of a midi score with all kinds of whacky notelengths, instruments that in real life might sound different so you’d have to re-assign them, dynamic markings which may be off, technique text that needs to be added. Typically this is done by film orchestrators or people who are specialized in music prep, not the composer.

Hi LSalgueiro, thanks for clarifying how the playback engine works. It looks like a difficult challenge but if you say that it can be done, I hope this feature will be implemented in the future. In my opinion, this would be the natural evolution in the integration between DAW and Score Editor.

To answer Peter, yes! a better Play function in Dorico would definitely allow you to tweak VTSs. But you would be able to create only good small/medium size mockups, and if you are using only orchestral instruments. For bigger mockups and more complicated hybrid music, I don’t think Dorico would be suited.

The problems arise when you have to write music for picture because you need more advanced features:

  • tempo map to sync the music and a video engine

  • sound design and audio processing capabilities if you are writing an electronic or hybrid score: for bigger mockups where you need to layer multiple instruments and also work with other sounds (like synths or real recorded instruments)

  • all the features that a DAW has for music production: tracking, recording, editing, automation, mixing, exporting…ecc

I think the “somehow linked” Cubase and Dorico would bring out the best of both! You would need to create a project in Dorico that mirror the orchestral instruments you have in Cubase (this is not easy depending on how you work in Cubase…but anyway), and once you can access Cubase midi information directly in Dorico, you would be able to tweak all whacky notelengths (without having to export midi or xml files), and basically using the Play function to adjust and polish the score. As you said all the dynamic marking, techniques and texts would have to be added anyway, but in this case
you are working in parallel with the DAW, integrating composition with orchestration with score preparation (huge time saver).
Imagine if you are both composer and orchestrator, you would be able to write music in the midi domain, build the score, and mix the music at the same time!!
Or if you are an orchestrator you could work side by side with the composer and write the orchestration in the same moment the music is written.
Mine is probably a futuristic vision…but I would love to work in that way :smiley:

Michele, it is definitely in our plans to try to close the “technological gap” you describe when moving from the DAW to the scoring program. Adding a more functional Play mode is really orthogonal to this need: it may allow some projects to be completed entirely in Dorico without the need for taking the music into the DAW to tweak or shape the performance, but of course the reality is that most large projects involve multiple people, normally using different software. Although it’s unwise to make sweeping generalisations, composers tend to work in DAWs and then hand over either MIDI or stems or some combination of the two to the orchestrator, whose job it is to shape that into a workable score. It’s unlikely that we will see those kinds of composers starting to do their work in Dorico directly, so bringing MIDI and other data from the DAQ into Dorico as a starting point is likely to be the way of things for some time to come.

Although I can’t say for sure when we will be able to really solve this need, the goal is to make it possible to more intelligently handle the material imported from DAWs so that you can teach Dorico about the MIDI data it sees and map specific tracks in the incoming MIDI file onto particular instruments and indeed onto specific techniques belonging to those instruments, so that your starting point after bringing the music into Dorico is a more workable score without hundreds of staves with fragments of music scattered between them.

Yeah – I don’t think that established A list Hollywood composers are going to change their workflow even if Dorico had the most magnificent Play engine, though of course, you never know, lol. The “typical” workflow is that a composer creates a soundtrack, oftentimes using huge custom built templates in a DAW, not only with orchestral instruments but also synthesizers, external hardware, maybe pre-recorded acoustical instruments, voices, etc. While doing all this they pay close attention to the picture which plays back in sync with the program.

Once everything is approved, and there’s buget for live orchestra, it’s crunch time for the orchestrator(s) and copyists - they get the midi sessions, audio stems, and all the film cues are transcribed into scores and parts in time for the recording session. One very busy and in demand film orchestrator - Tim Davies, who uses Finale btw - told me he doesn’t need or want the picture as he doesn’t want to assume any responsibility for any sync issues which might be related to changes in the picture (which happen all the time). He prepares the scores and his assistants prepare parts, based upon what he gets from the composer, and that’s it. It’s the composer’s responsibility to make sure everything is in sync, and that he (Tim) is working off the latest version.

Here are two youtube links to the workflow of two A list composers whom I greatly admire, James Newton Howard, and Alexandre Desplat.

James Newton Howard:

Notice how good the midi mockup sounds — they obviously spent a lot of time making it sound as good as possible.

Alexandre Desplat:

It’s an artist video produced by Arturia, but gives a good idea how he used one of their flagship hardware synths on several scores. Notice, by the way, 5 minutes into the video, how his orchestral template is set up - very much similar to the traditional orchestral scores (woodwinds - brass - percussion - strings, broken down into individual instruments). He’s a “one man show”, does his own orchestrations, and conducts too. And despite all this, he still manages to do several feature films per year. A very hard worker, who lives and breathes film music every waking hour.

Wow, is that Ableton Live running as the host in the James Newton Howard video?

No, that’s probably Cubase, see the Spectrasonics interview below. Cubase is among the most popular DAW programs with film composers (along with Digital Performer and Logic for mac users). Hans Zimmer is a well known Cubase user, and everyone at his company Remote Control uses Cubase as well for compatibility purposes (in addition to PT which they use to render final stems of cues).

I meant the image shown on the screen to his left, not the main screen at the center. I called it a host because he crossfades what might be the output from Cubase — the mockup — with the actual recording, as if they were sharing a transport. The GUI looks a whole lot like Live 8, which I found surprising. He must prefer to keep things separated: Cubase for sequencing virtual instruments, Live to sequence synths and tie everything up.

Thanks Daniel. I am glad to hear that improving the communication between the DAW and Dorico is part of the plan.I know is very difficult to completely solve this problem, because every composer uses midi and orchestral virtual instruments in different ways (all the articulations together in one track, articulation in multiple tracks, layers of different orchestral libraries), but a stronger export function will definitely improve this process!!
For now, I think I’ll buy a vertical screen and try to improve my skills in Cubase score editor, that would help me to achieve my goal to compose using the midi editor and the score editor at the same time.
I have an animation movie coming up in June and I will probably need to orchestrate (and maybe additional music as well) around 90 minutes of music. I always used Sibelius for this task, but this time I think I’ll use Dorico. After the 1.2.10 update, I feel I’ll be able to do everything I need to do to orchestrate a full-length movie. Let see what happen…

Yes, James is using Ableton Live 9. In this video, it looks like is disconnected from Cubase, but when he composes he probably uses it rewired to Cubase for sound design and electronic stuff.

Also love the conductor stand that he mounted on his desk!