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Feature: Film Score Arranger

Josh Wolfer

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I've been doing a lot more score work and I'm having a few difficulties with Cakewalk that could be resolved with this feature. Right now, Cakewalk is very much designed for a single "works" project and although the projects can handle tempo mapping and time signature changes fairly easily for a song, the work flow is very challenging from a scoring context (Visual Sync). 

I need to experiment a lot with tempo especially, but also time signatures, in order to figure out what belongs where in context to the film. If I already have the musical piece "figured out", I might set a section to the tempo, say 120bpm for example. But as I'm reworking the mood, I might need to change it to 121 bpm. This is fine if I'm working in a linear fashion from start to end, but I'm not. I'm jumping all over the place. See my screen shot here:


I started with Jett's theme (as marked by the arranger bar). This has a set time signature and bpm. Now I'm working on the Main theme. Any changes I make to the main theme, completely screw up where jett's theme starts, because Cakewalk is all about the musical time instead of the absolute time. Every change in the main theme area affects all other music further along. 

My current workaround to this is to set ALL of my clips in Jett's theme to "Absolute time", instead of "musical time". This at least allows me to make changes to the other prior sections. And then when I'm done, I have to re-setup jett's theme area with the previous tempo and signature at the start of the first clip in Jett's theme and then change all of my clips to be "musical" instead of absolute (so if I need to move things around or change jett's tempo, the clips all stay relative and correct). 

As you can imagine, this is incredibly painstaking. 

The good news is that Cakewalk over the years has been leading up to the functionality I need. 

  • First came Ripple Editing.
  • Then came Arranger, with movable arrangements (basically advanced ripple editing)
  • Now we need the Film score arranger!

What I'm proposing is that there be an option to make it so the Arranger sections essentially become their own tempo / signature scenes that are locked to "absolute time". This would have major benefits:

  • You could easily make changes to earlier sections and NOT affect the later sections, because the later section is locked to an absolute time and no changes to the previous section affect it. IE: I can change the main theme BPM and at the beginning of "creepy atmosphere 2", the tempo / bpm for "creepy atmosphere 2" take over.
    • If I decided to move "creepy atmosphere 2" later in time, Cakewalk just automatically extends the previous "scene" boundary to the new point. 
  • This would allows for EASY realignment during film edits. It's VERY common that a score writer doesn't get a locked film. They may add a few seconds or even frames here and there and I need to EASILY re-align the score to the new time. If the scene is locked to absolute time, I just find the new start and slide the film score arranger scene to the new start and BAM. Done. No tedius resetting of the tempo to get the start point re-done. Today, I have to do a lot of "set measure / beat at now time" in order to get the "scene" to start where I want it. Tedious. 

I have a suggestion to make this as simple as possible. Have a "default project tempo / time signature". This will set the project frame of reference. Using my screenshot example, we'll say 100 bpm 4/4. Any part of the project that DOESN'T have a film score arrange scene assigned, gets this bpm / tempo. All arranger sections have their own assigned tempo / bpms. So in my example case:

  • Main theme (purple) : 145bpm 4/5
    • Start: 00:00:08:07 (absolute time)
    • Finish:  00:00:35:28 (absolute time)
  • Creepy atmosphere 2 : 111 bpm 4/4
    • Start: 00:00:53:23 (absolute time)
    • Finish: 00:01:21:16 (absolute time)
  • Jett's Theme : 113 bpm 4/4
    • Start: 00:01:37:11 (absolute time)
    • Finish: 00:02:43:15 (absolute time)
  • Everything else without a arranger assigned: 100bpm 4/4

I would legitimately pay $300 of my own money to see this implemented. I'd get the money back incredibly fast with the streamlined flow from scoring money. Please Please Please consider this. 

I've been using Sonar since v1 and I'd like to keep using it. I've found that for most aspects of film (ADR, dialogue editing, sound editing), it works just fine. But scoring is a real pita. 

Thank you for your consideration. 

Edited by Josh Wolfer
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Hm, I'm also in film scoring. Your Workflow is something unusual 😏

What you are looking for works in Cakewalk with Markers:

Start with Tempo 100bpm M4/4

Maker Main Begin: 00:00:08:07 - Lock  to SMPTE, Insert Tempo Change 145bpm and Insert Meter/ Key Change 4/5
Marker Main End: 00:00:35:28 - Lock  to SMPTE, Insert Tempo Change 100bpm and Insert Meter/ Key Change 4/4

Maker Creepy Begin: 00:00:53:23 - Lock  to SMPTE, Insert Tempo Change 111bpm
Marker Creepy End: 00:01:21:16 - Lock  to SMPTE, Insert Tempo Change 100bpm

etc., etc.

The only thing we need is a Tempo Curve, to change the Tempo smooth. See this post:


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First, thank you for the response. I was unaware of smpte locked markers. This is nice. I still think SMPTE locked arranger sections with their own parameters would be EXTREMELY helpful to me. 

It's still not working the way I'd like. Here is my example. Tempo of my section is 116 bpm, rest of project is set to 113.


If I change the 113 bpm temp before this section, it complete screws up the alignment:


As you can see, the marker stayed in the correct spot locked to film (smpte) but the audio did not. 

The only way I can make this work right now, is if I lock each clip to absolute time, instead of musical time. But if I do that, the musical time is now no longer relevant. It doesn't start on the correct beat and the section is now registered in the new tempo, which I set to 90 bpm


The only way I'm aware that I can get around this is to lock all the clips to absolute time, and then re-insert my tempo / key changes at the marker start, and then change all my clips back to musical time. 

This is a royal pain in the *****. And the feature request I'm asking for would completely make this change trivial in work flow. major head ache saving. 

If I'm missing something, let me know. I don't think I am. 

But thank you for teaching me about markers locked to absolute smpte time. This is an improvement. 

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7 hours ago, Josh Wolfer said:

Also, even If I can lock clips, I have found no way to lock automation nodes. So that gets screwed up too.

My only recourse is to not automate until the arrangement is done. But that's a pain too. 

You can set the time base to Absolute for automation in the track properties.

We did actually consider different time bases for Arranger sections (or even at the arranger track level), but the whole feature was huge as it was and we had to stop somewhere.

It does seem like a very useful feature though, so we'll keep in under consideration.

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So a friend of mine showed me Logic's Beat Mapping and it would work perfectly for this. 


Essentially, he creates a marker and that marker is tied to smpte time and designated the start of measure X. 

You can set measure at now time, which gives part of the fix here, but it's not tied to a maker. You can't move it around. I think that's the missing piece. 


I still think this would be wonderful if the arranger pieces worked in the way this feature request describes, but copying beat mapping to markers like Logic does, would he a nice middle ground. 



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