FOR FILMSCORE COMPOSERS - TEMPO MAP DISCUSSION

I’ve been using Cubase for over 10 years now, and recently upgraded to the most recent Cubase Pro 10. I’m starting this discussion because while there are a lot of features I love about Cubase, I’m constantly finding myself held back by the restrictions of Tempo Mapping. I’ve read through the manual, posted about this before with no concrete solutions, watched youtube tutorials, spoken with Steinberg support over the phone, but still I’m surprised there isn’t an easy solution, and only time consuming or restrictive work arounds to such a vital component of film scoring. Does any one else struggle with this same issue? Here are the issues I face constantly.

  • If you’re in the middle of working on your score, and realize you need to change the tempo of a given cue, if you change the tempo, no matter if your tracks are set to Linear or Musical mode, everything after that change is moved out of place. Because even if your midi tracks stays in place, your film has moved. And there seems to be no way to select a mode for your movie track. No matter what you do, something moves so I find myself unable to make a simple edit and having to spend extra time finding some other way or making a new project for just this one cue to make the change.

-Sometimes I realize I need a few extra bars of lead into a new tempo, but I’ve already started writing. If you do that, everything needs to be dragged and dropped into place and now your piece may not even line up to the downbeat. I know you can cut and move around the actual movie, but if you have cues blending from one to the other it’s sometimes makes this really difficult.

-You decide a certain cue would work perfectly elsewhere, but if you’re using midi and that other cue has a different tempo mapped to it, once you drag it over, the music is in the wrong tempo, and often difficult to get synced to a downbeat. And as with the issues above, if you change that tempo, you’ve completely screwed up the tempo of all cues after. I am familiar with using the Time warp grid which help you stretch where you want the down beat to fall but again, same issue applies where it completely screws up the rest of your session.

-If there is an edit change to the final cut of the film, it can be a complete nightmare.

Q: Is there no way to detach the tempo from the tracks so you can just make your tempo whatever you want, whenever you want without adjusting any component of your session? The tempo mapping is often essential for quantizing and lining multiple tracks up correctly, but is there a way to use it without it being so restrictive?

How are you other film score composers working around this? Is there a solution I’ve missed? If find that no matter how much you prepare in advance, setting up your tempo map first before writing, there’s often some need to change the tempo, whether by the directors request or your choice during the writing process. I waste hour and hours fighting with my DAW that eats up valuable creative time when the DAW should be providing the space to work creatively with out restrictions on basic necessities of scoring.

Thanks for your help and discussion!

I usually prefer to have the whole film as one big video, as opposed to several individual cues lined after another. Since there are usually some parts without music, you can use them to set up tempos for next cues.

I tend to start by setting the video and a marker track both in linear time mode. Then I use the markers to mark the frames or important events in film that need to be hit musically. Sometimes I put some kind of place-holder hits to those points for extra auditory marker too. The music tracks I always have all in musical mode. Then it’s just a matter of Time warping the grid and working with tempos in general. All this is before I have composed anything at all. At this point I’d just have a click track going to determine what kind of tempos are needed in different parts. Not simple by any means but doable. I do believe some workflow improvements in that area could be added. You can also use the markers to position musical cues with “snap to events”.

-If there is an edit change to the final cut of the film, it can be a complete nightmare.

THIS! I don’t think I’ve ever worked on a project where they didn’t need to tweak the cut after the supposedly “final cut” still.

TBH, I don’t really know what Steinberg should do to address the problems here. We do have the tools to cut/paste/stretch and otherwise tweak the material. The problem often arises from the fact that when you need to cut one beat from a middle of a cue, for example, cutting stuff is simple but fixing the resulting inconsistencies in MIDI CC data can be a nightmare in full orchestral cues.

One simple(?) fix that comes to mind would be adding the ability to lock the tempo track and allow only part of it for editing, basically telling the program that “regardless of whatever I do in this part, keep everything outside this range where it is”.