Saturday, April 19, 2008

(Re)Learning Finale, Part 5: Graphics aggravation.

(You might wish to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 first.)

From brackets to braces

Maybe the best time to write about problems I'm having with Finale is not immediately after I've given up. I'll go into some detail, but the punchline is: Finale's graphics import feature is horribly, horribly broken. Really, horribly, horribly broken. I mean it. I will also preface my remarks by saying that I can, in fact, import scanned images. It's just all the rest of them I'm having problems with.

Let me paint a scene for you, dear reader:

I am trying to duplicate a particular older style of bracket. It looks like this:

You'd think this wouldn't pose a huge challenge, right? You'd be wrong. Very, very wrong. Why? Because everything is many times more difficult to do than it needs to be.

Gamely, I decide to brave the braces editor within Finale. After futzing around with it for a while, I realize that I can't alter the point in the middle of the brace. It's permanently fixed at zero width. This is fine for virtually all circumstances except mine. I also realize that this is a setting that probably fewer than four people have ever noticed existed.

I will insert the disclaimer at this point that it is actually impossible to tweak brace curves in Sibelius as it is simply a stretched font character. One can change the font for the brace or tweak the actual font character itself, but it's not exactly built into the program. I would have to take the next step to achieve the desired result in Sibelius as well.

As I am fairly set on getting this particular brace style, I load up the old standby, Adobe Illustrator. It is the work of ten minutes to create a suitable brace. My copy looks like this:

Pretty good, don't you think? I thought so.

The game is: let's import something into Finale. You are not the winner!

Let the fun begin. Getting this brace into Finale, a feat which I have yet to accomplish satisfactorily, has taken the better part of an hour of effort.

Try 1: copy the shape from Illustrator into a new document in Photoshop. Save it as a TIFF. Try to import into Finale. I get a rectangle in the shape of my image's bounding box filled with rainbow sparkles. My jubilant attitude starts sinking.

Try 2: Save the same file in Photoshop without layers. Same result. My smile turns upside down.

Try 3: Save the same file in Photoshop with a Mac byte order. Same result. My smile turns inside out.

Try 15: export the shape from Illustrator as a Legacy EPS file, version 8. No font embedding. Upon importing, it somehow mass-duplicates across my page in a frenzy of gibberish. Exciting, but not exactly my goddamn brace.

Try 30: Print the Illustrator file as a PDF, then import the PDF into Photoshop. Rasterize the image. Save as a TIFF. Import to Finale. Now it just gives me a black box. I have long since become the staring-ahead mechanically-trying-different-combinations-
of-random-crap guy.

Try 60: Export the Illustrator file as a WMF (Windows Metafile). Import into Finale. Magically, there before me appears my long-sought-after brace! I am momentarily ecstatic until I realize that a jagged travesty of my brace has usurped the rightful position of my lovingly-tweaked beautiful curves. I print the page (on paper!) to see if it is just a screen artifact. It isn't.

I still have the option of printing the brace on paper from Illustrator, scanning it in, then importing the file into Finale. But then I would have to deal with paper artifacts on the finished file. It may just come down to that.

By the way, I just tried to import one of my many TIFF files into Sibelius, just for funsies. No prizes for guessing what happened.

I am displeased. Very displeased.


L Lineberger said...

Matt - I have enjoyed reading about your sincere passion in re-creating print music that is up to the standards of true masters of the past. You would fit in well with MOLA - Major Orchestra Librarian Association. They are as passionate as you about print music -- they are an organization that is trying to affect real change to the multi-faceted catch-all composer/arranger/publisher. I look forward to meeting you.

Matthew Maslanka said...


Thank you for your kind words. I am looking forward to meeting you as well. I have the MOLA short guide to preparing scores and parts and have found it quite useful. Do they have other similar publications?

Andy Fitzsimon said...

Matt, this is a great article.
I've been scanning the web for a few good uses of curly braces and brackets and you've certainly come up with the goods.

what can I offer in return for your appreciation of great design?

I guess i would suggest using spiro lines in inkscape instead of adobe illustration. the line type makes designing that much easier.

have fun on your journey mate, it's been great to read about your passion.

Matthew Maslanka said...

I'll check out Inkscape. I'm curious to see how much easier the braces turn out to be. Thanks for the link!