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Extreme Australian Orchestration

[Updated January 2022]

Hard to believe that I originally made this video in 2013 and it is now 2022! While several things have changed since I made the video below, my process is still the same, so it is still relevant to anyone interested in film orchestration. “What has changed?” I hear you ask. The main thing is that I now use Keyboard Maestro for all my shortcuts instead of Quickeys, which stopped being updated a few years ago. At first I was disappointed with it, as there were a few things it could not do that were easy to accomplish with Quickeys. With some time, patience, and Google, however,  I worked out those kinks and discovered lots of things KM could do that QK could not.

This led to a big change: I did not need the ipad anymore as ‘palettes’ in KM allow me to bring up a list of shortcuts that I can either click or use another key to trigger. This is very similar to subscopes and soft keys in QK. You can also nest these so with a few strokes you have access to many shortcuts in a very organized way, and now my hands don’t leave the keyboard or trackball. I do still use the Ipad for shortcuts when I compose and program in Cubase. The icon controllers are also for programing in Cubase. Gear wise, my setup is still laid out the same, but I have three 27-inch Dell 4K screens and I use the Kensington SlimBlade and the Contour Shuttle Xpress. And there is no landline anymore!

Tim’s current set up.

Finale is still doing things pretty much the same way. I do tend to use staff sets more than re-ordering these days. There are some great plugins by Jari Williamsson that I cannot live without. And some Robert Patterson has made, in particular one that allows you to edit staff sets.

So now, you can go back in time to when I did not know how to edit video and had to do this in one pass with no mistakes. I think it took about 6 goes.

[Original Post: March 2013]

Many people have asked me about how I’ve set up my system and what my orchestration process is, so I decided to add a complete walkthrough to the blog. In this screencast, I have recorded myself doing an entire cue from opening the midi file to preparing the final studio-ready score. You can see how I’ve set up my own system to let me get through the process as efficiently as possible. I should point out that the focus here is on the technical side of things; this is not a video about the creative decisions you will face as an orchestrator. That’s what the rest of the blog is for!

How I set up my iPad.

Here is the touch OSC file. It would take a lot of work to set up for your own use, but it may give you some clues as to how to do it.

Main iPad Screen
ipad main

Hairpin Paster
ipad hairpins


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  1. Hi Tim,

    Thank you so much for the multitude of knowledge you have shared through the years. I find your blog very helpful and enlightening.

    Quick question regarding JW Pattern with Keyboard Maestro.
    I can create a macro to open JW Pattern and select hairpins, but can’t figure out how to tell keyboard maestro to move to the “Select Type” menu, so I can choose diminuendo. The JW Pattern dialog box opens in a slightly different position each time it is accessed, so I can’t just set my pointer to a pre-specified spot, or record my movements.
    Any insight you (or any others who may read this) can give will be greatly appreciated!

    All The Best,

    Lendell Black

    • Have it click the box to reveal the drop down, then use arrows. Make sure the click is positioned relevant to just the JW window. Not sure why yours does not come up the same, mine does. Could also try finding it with graphics or just tabing.

  2. orchestation and all kind of playing in Australia is always FORTISSIMO, just listen to ACDC.

  3. Really gleaning a lot from your experience – thanks for sharing! I’ve experimented over the years with multiple workstation setups trying to find what works best ergonomically. The image of your workstation raises a couple questions: 1. Do you modify your setup when you are writing/composing vs. when you are orchestrating from a MIDI file? 2. What is the purpose of the second keyboard?

  4. Orchestration student here, discovering this late! Thanks for this and other resources Tim; definitely a game changer, as noted by Carlos and others.

  5. Tim thanks for all you have/are doing to help the community of musicians. Do I also need Keyboard Maestro? (or other programs – I have been able to get the OSC layout to my iPad – but still don’t have it working yet. `

  6. Thank you for this amazing blog. I have a general question somewhat relating to the beginning of your video when you mentioned leaving the creative side of orchestration for a minute, and focusing on the technical. I’ve run into some confusion and difference of terminology with “arranger” and “orchestrator”, and was wondering your thoughts, especially when it comes to union and non-union rates. Does the term “orchestrator” imply arranging tasks when asked for, and if so, do you consider that different work and/or charge a different rate for those creative skills as opposed to the score prep? I recently did a job where I prepped all the music from midi files, and the “orchestration” (or arranging) was all laid out by the composer (minus some tweaks and midi clean up). Would I be considered an orchestrator or just a copyist? I’m running into differences of opinion and was wondering what you thought about all this! Trying to read those AFofM music prep charts is a bit confusing. Thanks!

    • Hi, it is often a fuzzy line. In Hollywood, if you make the score, even from very detailed midi or a pencil sketch it is called and paid as orchestrating. Some people will say everything is there in the midi, just put it on the page. Well, for one, in my many years, there is always something that is missing or needs changing for live players. And there is also the skill you use to just put in dynamics and articulations. You have to listen, and apply your training. Copying is just taking one thing and transferring it, without any thought of if it is correct or playable. Arranging is another thing, where you are given a tune or a form and you write lines and parts. Sometimes it is just adding strings over a pop or hip hop track, others it is doing the whole track, coming up with the harmony etc. Hope this helps

  7. […] this feature with another third party program called TouchOSC for the iPad, as shown in the¬?Extreme Australian Orchestration¬?video on his blog […]

  8. I have just moved my site and I believe a few comments have been lost in the changeover. Please post and again and I will answer any questions.

    To answer one of them about what I use to align things. That is the TG Move/Align Plugin, from the full suite, not the free one that came with finale. It allows you to set shortcut keys.

  9. Unbelievable… the amount of time you spent to work through all these complex issues and come up with a setup like this. WOW. I am in awe and so grateful for the time you took to put together a video like this. Thank you so much, Tim!

  10. this is a SEA CHANGE for students (and many professionals). Thanks for this – absolutely sharing with the UM students in 3 – 2 – 1 …

  11. this is a GREAT video, and you are doing a HUGE service to students and others trying to streamline and work better.

  12. Thanks for taking the time to share your workflow. I’m gonna watch the video in slow motion and steal all your tricks! I have a similar setup for composing and orchestral Mockups (I use lemur instead of touch osc), but in finale I don’t even come close to the speed at wich you work. I own you a beer 🙂


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