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Do you use a set production checklist when having a deadline?

ein fisch

Could look like

0. Develop an idea / maybe sketch it down
1. Program drums / perc
2. Add the instruments
3. Add automation
4. Mix

Do you (especially professionals working with strict deadlines) make use of something like that? If yes, would you mind sharing it here? Advantage / disadvantage?

I am at the moment trying to get a speed boost in writing music and had that idea, but didn't hear anyone mention that yet. Is there something similar that comes in handy when getting close to a deadline?



Senior Member
Yes! When orchestrating/arranging and keeping track of 100's of cues and the process in each (which cues have been approved, which are ready, which ones have which themes and which instrumentation each requires, which have had their tempo map created, which need prelay tracks and have they been printed, which have been recorded – if striped then which sections – which have been mixed) I really could go on and on.

I have a spreadsheet that is ready and when production starts I tailor it to the production. This file includes general information like frame rate, sampling rate, tuning and format. When asked on the scoring stage I really don't want to guess whether the stems are 442 or 440.

Then I have all the composers, orchestrators and copyists listed and columns for each of the instrument families and tickers that collect cue information (we'll get to that). Also information on which orchestras and recording dates is at the top of the file.

Then all cues are listed chronologically and whatever naming scheme the composer works with. For each cue I can select whether it is score, source, song or stock to keep track of what is to be recorded and what is licensed.
Every time I select 'score' a ticker counts 'cues' at the top. Then the composer name is listed in a dropdown generated from the project info. Sometimes I work on films with two composers so this is nice to have. When the latest version of the cue is approved it is ticked of green and goes to the orchestrators column which works the same way. Then there are columns for PDF printing, stem printing, click printing, cue length (which is also summed in project info based on the cue list) and lastly a recording and mixing column.

I started developing it last year so it's not complete but I'm slowly getting it better for each project.
I'm not a professional, but I've recently been starting to write production/trailer music the past 6 months. My typical process is this

1. Compose piano sketch (Work out harmonies, motifs, especially the general form of the cue)
2. Orchestrate sketch (Nothing super detailed but it's nice to have a plan for when I go to mock everything up so you only have to worry about production instead of composition)
3. Mock-up sketch (Where the rubber meets the road, I always get more ideas for my cue in this stage)
4. Mix prep (gain staging, subtle corrective eq-stuff like that)
5. Mix (balancing, eq, panning, reverb, slight compression)

All in all this takes me about a week to do. But I'm getting faster. It used to take me 2 weeks to write a cue. When I'm really pressed for a deadline I can compose a 2-3 minute cue in a day. I'm positive the professionals on this forum work much much faster. I think you have the right idea though.


I don't mean for this to come off sounding pretentious, but I usually let inspiration take over and the checklist changes from cue to cue. If the spotting notes say something like "love the percussion in temp" first thing I will do is listen to that, and start there...
Other times I'll watch through the scene, start with an idea I have, then expand from there. I commonly throw markers in my sessions as reminders for myself "Action drums in" "Write a melody" "Fix the piano", etc.

Sometimes I'll write one instrument all the way through, and then go back and add another instrument, and another, etc. (horizontal) If something needs to change harmonically, its not an issue at all.
I tend to write horizontally a lot. When I was writing on Star Wars Rebels, that's probably the only time I wrote vertically, working on 2-8 bars at a time, fleshing out the entire orchestration before moving on to the next 2-8 bars.

Depending on the project and the deadline, I usually mockup and rough-mix as I go. Other times I'll write very quick and sloppy. then go back and finesse the cc data to make it sound better.
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