Will you be using real musicians who need a high end engraving done to ‘publishing standards’?
Generally, you’d start out with musical ideas…the textures, melodies, and instrumentation you’d like to use for a scene. You can do that through composed (bring in elements from Finale if you like)…or, you can improvise it in real time (play it on a keyboard).
Think of it kind of like the old Theatre Organ Anthologies before the days of talking pictures. The organist would create a massive repertoire of musical passages (here come the trolly…oh sweet they are in love…oh how sad that grandma died…the bad guy is getting chased…etc.) Next, he sits there in front of the screen and enhances the story with the repertoire he’s built up, and his instrument(s). He’s got sounds up his sleeve for everything from the “Battle at the OK Corral”, to…“awe, the family just got a cute new baby that loves to spit up on papa”.
Before you set up any ‘live recording’ sessions, you can already have a good mock up of what you’re shooting for with the real orchestra.
Composing melodic themes, textures, and so forth is often a ‘through composed’ process, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes simple is better, and all you need are some percussion accents, or tonal clusters, etc. You can make a bottomless toolbox of moods, melodic ideas, and textures. Make them any way you like, with whatever tools you like. The nice thing about a DAW, is you can paste them together and try different ideas on the fly, and get them to sync perfectly with your video.
If you don’t have a studio full of musicians that need parts printed out…I’d personally skip Finale until the very last stage (if you need it at all) and work Directly in Cubase. With practice and experience you’ll begin to learn what ‘scoring needs’ to 'take care of as you compose to save time later…but initially, you’ve got to learn all about the program…so pick something and dive in It has a pretty good score editor, that ‘to me’ in so far as getting musical ideas into the program, and making them sound as I wish…is a heck of a lot easier to work in than Finale or Sibelius.
In Cubase you get ‘score translation’ abilities similar to Finale and Sibelius for when you need them (I.E. Expression maps that define what score symbols mean and how to translate them during playback), but you ALSO get a key editor (which allows precise and easy control over note durations), easy to use controller lanes (just draw your CC events right there on an automation lane on the track, or in the key editor), and powerful on the fly percussion mapping with a diamond note editor. The ‘logic’ editor is pretty powerful as well, and allows you to build simple scripts on the fly to automate many kinds of repetitive MIDI edits.
Marker and tempo tracks galore. Finale and Sibelius simply can’t compare in terms of power or ease of use when it comes to isolating parts of a soundscape quickly (setting various loop points, arrangement variations, locators, etc.), and having easy and precise control over the tempo. I.E. Imagine you want a big gong sound at the precise moment the villain gets bopped in the head. Cubase would make it super easy to set a marker and ‘resize while time stretching/shrinking’ so all your leading music fits the time line and the gong plays exactly where it should.
Time stretching to hit cues is a breeze in Cubase…just set your marks, lock any events that you do NOT want moved about in time, then drag parts/folders and viola, the timing is automatically adjusted. Again, this is something that a scoring package like Finale isn’t really designed to do as well or as intuitively.
Scoring packages like Finale do have some groove engine capabilities, but they’re no where near as flexible and easy to customize and change as they are in a DAW. I.E. Decide you want more ‘swing’ in a series of measures, and you only want that swing on beats 2 and 4, but to keep a straight feel on beats 1 and 3? No problem with Cubase…just play the ‘groove’ you want (or draw it in if you’d rather), and apply it to the bars you want.
While Finale and Sibelius are pretty easy to use when you stick to the sounds and ‘instrument profiles’ that come with them…things can get complicated rather quickly when you decide to pull in your own samples, or third party sample libraries. Sibelius can actually require that you learn a strange system of patch selection called SoundWorld, and constantly manipulate that stuff in an external program. Finale lets you build sound sets and attach them to various ‘scoring symbols or text instructions’ from inside the Main UI, but again, you can find yourself having to rework all sorts of filters and priority lists.
Cubase on the other hand, makes it easy to assign key triggers, CC messages, or whatever you want to any note using a variety of methods. You do still have to build them as you need them at first, but Cubase has a set of tools that makes it easier to pull in any synths, samplers, or live tracks that you desire. Of course you’ll save things you design as presets so you don’t have to keep ‘reinventing them’ over and over again.
With CuBase, Workflow can vary depending on the type of score you’re doing and your ‘mood’. You can sync up your video, and just play parts right in and worry about scoring later…or, you can sit down and through compose in Score Mode. Whatever makes you happy Scoring packages are going to bind you to a single work flow.
Cubase also supports something called ‘note expression’, which allows you to attach CC like events directly to a note itself (independent of the traditional controller lanes). Hence, copying or moving a note to another stave or measure would bring it’s controller data along with it.
In short…think of Finale as a score ‘interpreter’, that does a pretty good job of trying to guess in ‘generic template terms’ how it should play the notes and symbols you put on the page. In contrast, Cubase makes YOU the ‘conductor’, with total control over every fine detail of the performance. With a DAW, you can control every nuance of each attack, swell, pitch, and release characteristics of each note. You can even fake ‘harmonics’ and put in the sounds of brass valves clattering and musicians ‘breathing’ or sliding their fingers over the strings if you want ‘that much detail’.
If you’re not just responsible for ‘music’ but also other elements of a sound track (doors opening and closing, ambient room or nature sounds, silly sound effects, etc…) again, the DAW is going to give you precise and easy control over what plays when on the timeline.
When it comes to working with surround sound…well, that’s something any of today’s scoring packages are NOT currently set up to deal with. Cubase + Halion 5 is pretty amazing in this respect…pull 7 and 8 track samples right into Halion for sample triggering or granular synthisis, etc.
Most of what I’ve touched on in this particular post concerns working with MIDI or VST instruments in Cubase Pro from versions 7-8.5 (sorry, I’m not experienced with Version 5, but I’d imagine it can do much of what I’ve mentioned above). With those sorts of instruments you can even make radical changes with a few clicks and strokes like…changing to an entirely different key, or shifting from an ‘equal temperament’ tuning system to a ‘Just Major’ system.
Audio tracks can also be time stretched/shrunk, processed, quantitated, retuned, and so forth…but not as easily or intuitively as the stuff you create with a MIDI or VST plugin instrument. You’ll be more limited in how much you can ‘edit’ an audio track and maintain authenticity. This is why recording real musicians should wait until the last stage…where you’d rather get as many ‘takes’ of them playing/singing your ‘score’ as possible so you can pick and choose the best bits of every track and take in the final mix-down…rather than spending time trying to ‘fix compositional and timing issues’, throughout the recording session.