Large Project workflow advice?

I know many of you have done some very large projects in Dorico before, but the next couple of months will be my first really large project in Dorico. As we’re just getting going, I wanted to make sure there weren’t any major issues I’m not foreseeing as I get my template and workflow set up. Instrumentation is full orchestra plus smallish jazz ensemble. Unclear what the complete percussion list will be at this point and will likely change as the project is orchestrated. Performance length approx. 45 minutes. The performance by a major US ballet company is in April, parts and mockup audio are supposed to be provided by Dec. 1. I submitted music prep estimate last spring and budget was approved. I’ve both worked on and run many large projects before, although always previously using Finale.

I’ve worked a lot with the composer over the last 20+ years and we have a good working relationship. Composer is writing in Finale and sending me a movement at a time. I’ll most likely be doing initial cleanup, simple edits, and offering suggestions while still in Finale, just in case he ever just wants to send me a new file. Different movements will of course have different instrumentation with some players tacet for that movement.

My thought is to have a default template file with all players set up in Dorico, and all VSTs hosted in a VEPro server project. I’m thinking it’s better to XML over each movement as a separate project, proofread, then add cues and do basic part layout without using any frame breaks. By keeping everything as a separate project at this point, there’s no issue with Dorico potentially bogging down and getting slow, which I really can’t afford as I imagine the composer will have difficulty meeting the 12/1 deadline anyway. Switching between projects is fast with VEP. I can export audio from separate projects for the choreographer to work with, and even though the librarian has asked for parts by 12/1, the mockup deadline is obviously more important as there’s no way any of the musicians will even glance at their parts until months later.

When it’s time to assemble the complete project, I’m hoping I can simply combine the projects for the various movements by importing each one as a Flow. Obviously the score will need to use Condensing. As parts are already roughly laid out, part cleanup at this point will hopefully mostly consist of finding page turns and adding frame breaks. If for some reason Dorico becomes unworkably slow with Condensing and everything in one file, I can always use multiple project files and create page number changes for each layout as needed. I won’t be able to combine multiple Flows on a page using multiple project files without employing some layout trickery, but if I end up using 2 or 3 projects for the whole ballet, that’s probably ok too.

What am I missing or not foreseeing? This is going to eat up a lot of my life over the next 2 months so anything I can do optimize workflow will definitely have a great benefit timewise. Thanks for any advice!

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Todd, will it be important that parts flow movements across partial pages? That is, do movements need to be able to start halfway down a page?

If page turns are not a big issue, I would make a suggestion for separate projects per flow. Really, once the settings are chosen and finalized, very little workflow is compromised. And with a large project like this, computation speed will start to become a significant factor.

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I was planning on it, but no it’s probably not that important. Page turns will obviously be an important issue though, so it’s not really possible to just export everything, assemble in Acrobat, and add page numbers there. Of course it’s also possible to work on parts sequentially, keep a spreadsheet of page numbers and movements, and then manually update the number in each part like I used to do in Finale. Right/left page templates will need to sometimes be flipped with this too. I’ve certainly worked that way before, it’s just a little more effort and the odds of me screwing it up at some point are fairly high, LOL!

If it’s a ballet score it probably isn’t too many movements, yes? I would do it all in one file, not only for the pagination at the end of production, but especially for matching the instrument list as you import more material. The largest project I’ve done so far got a revision a year later, and redoing all the part layouts for small orchestra + voices was actually pretty painless.

That was my thinking too, but as I’ve never done anything this size in Dorico, I’m definitely concerned about speed issues at the finish line. CPU is 5950x with 128 GB of RAM so a pretty capable system.

I also just wanted to mention he likely won’t be writing the Introduction until the end in order to incorporate various themes, so I definitely won’t be able to do any actual part layout with page turns for some time, unless I want to just assume everyone will start the next movement on the right and I’ll add a “this page intentionally left blank to facilitate page turn” on the left or something.

Exactly, which is why it’s still possibly better to split it. That time cost really adds up.

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My experience with large projects (opera scores, 300 pages) is that the problems arise when there are a lot of instruments involved and condensing.
I don’t think splitting the project will be very important, unless your work is condensed and you need it condensed when working. Obviously, it’s important to see the condensed full score when you’re working on the full score. But if you can work as much as you can on another full score, uncondensed (and don’t open the condensed one), you might not suffer from the slow motion thing…
And for the mockup, if you need to tweak ccs, it will be better on an uncondensed score anyway.
My 2 c.

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I’ll definitely only need Condensing when working on the final score. I actually found out this afternoon that the mockup is less important than I originally thought. I didn’t realize he’s already been working with the choreographer so they already know structurally what’s going on for the whole piece and have demo recordings of him playing it on piano. (He’s a Steinway artist.) So the choreography is well underway already. The mockup will still be required, but it’s not like the choreographer will be waiting on me. This afternoon I presented the composer a few different versions of the one movement he sent me already, and he preferred the VSL version, so I’m making up a VEPro / MIR project for that instrumentation right now.

(I know I said “full orchestra” above but it’s a ballet orchestra, so orchestral woodwinds are 2222, brass 4231, etc. The seconds of all the woodwinds double.)

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Coming from musical arrangements (doing it the 3rd year now in dorico), where several arrangers/clean ups were involved:
I think your plan is sound. Clean up as much as possible in original format, import first into a new dorico file, clean up everything there that XML can mess up still (set correct instruments, time signatures, brackets and whatnot). Basically „doricofy“ the whole movement. A good idea is at this stage to have a template in which to import into, which has all the percussion instruments (hard, i know) and paragraph styles/plying techniques etc. that you want.
Also, in that file, apply all these paragraph styles etc. . DO NOT CREATE NEW ONES, if this can be avoided.
Then you will have full control over changing and adjusting them later.

THEN bring it to the full score. Matching players is usually a non issue, except for when the instruments change, such as with percussion. You might need some copying of music there.

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After seeing the first file today, I actually spent some time this afternoon and made him a Finale template to orchestrate into. I figured if I can eliminate as much Finale weirdness on his end as possible, the Finale cleanup and later XML export will go much more smoothly.

Yep, did this too! Percussion is unfortunately the mystery as I’m not really sure what I’m gonna get until I see more files. I’m pretty solid with my Paragraph Styles, but thanks for the reminder to make sure I have all the Playing Techniques configured correctly in the template. I’m gonna take another pass at them now.

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