Exporting to ATF

Overview

To export a script for your ATF firing system, you first need to set up your show with launch positions and configure the launch positions for your firing system equipment. All fireworks in your show will need to launch from configured launch positions. Any fireworks not on a launch position or on a launch position that has not been configured for your equipment will either be ignored in the exported script or will appear as assigned to default equipment.

Once you have added and configured your launch positions and scripted your show, you can select "File > Export firing system script > ATF" to export the script for ATF.

Configuring Launch Positions

For ATF m156 modules the simplest configuration for launch positions is to add a single firing system unit to each launch position, each firing system unit representing a single slat of a module. Finale will assign shots to the pins on that slat until exhausting all pins, and then Finale will automatically generate an additional slat for the same module at that launch position to accommodate additional shots. Finale will continue in this manner, adding slats, until exhausting the number of slats per module, and then Finale will add slats for the next available module number, and so on. ATF m32 modules are simpler to configure because they do not have slats. For m32 modules, each firing system unit represents the module itself. When Finale exhausts all the pins on an m32 module, Finale will go on to the next module number.

Setting the Address of the Firing System Units

To configure the launch position, click on its edit button. If you have Finale PRO that will take you directly to the module window. If you have Finale Business Edition that will take you to a plan view window of the launch position, which has an "edit modules" link near the top; click that link. In the module window the link "Add firing system unit" in the lower left. For purposes of configuration, the firing system units for ATF m156 systems are slats, with addresses like 1A, 3B, etc., where the numerical part of the address refers to the module and the letter part of the address refers to the slat. Each module has 12 slats plus the on board range of pins, yielding 13 ranges of pins in all, A-M. The address is not case sensitive, and if you like you can include a dash between the number and the letter, like "1-A". The firing system addresses for the ATF m32 modules are simply one or two digit numbers, like "1" or "99".

Since Finale will automatically generate additional slats for the same module, and then skip to add slats for the next available module number, the simplest configuration is to begin with a single slat "A" for a different module number on each launch position, e.g., 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, etc. That's all you need to do, as Finale will add additional slats, and by implication additional modules, as necessary. If you want to add multiple firing system units to launch positions manually in order to have more control over the use of your hardware, you can do that too, but remember that the firing system units represent slats, so you have to add the slats individually.

Finale will always add additional slats to a launch position based on the last slat in the list. For example, if you manually add to a launch position two slats, 1A and 3B, the first automatically generated slat will be 3C (based on 3B, ignoring the 1A).

For m156 firing systems, you have to let Finale know that your hardware has exactly thirteen slats per module (counting the on board range of pins) so Finale adds the right number of slats before skipping to the next module number. You can convey this information to Finale in two ways, either by including the word "m156" in the firing system unit description, or by including the phrase "[slats 13]" (including the brackets). This information will cause the module numbers of the automatically generated slats to increment after the thirteenth slat, e.g., 1A, 1B, 1C, ..., 1M, 2A, 2B, etc...

Setting the Other Firing System Unit Parameters

The other firing system unit fields you need to set, in addition to the description and address, are first pin, number of pins, and matches per pin. ATF m156 slats have twelve pins, 1-12. The matches per pin field specifies the maximum number of ematches to be assigned to the same pin. The number 1 is safe for any firing system. Numbers greater than one may be okay for your firing system depending on whether you are connecting your ematches in series or parallel, and depending on the length of your wires. Please consult your ATF documentation for choosing the value for the matches per pin field if you use a number different from 1.

Accounting for m156 Electrical Constraints

The ATF m156 modules have an electrical constraint that affects scripting, so if you are using m156 modules you have to tell Finale by including the word "m156" in the description field in the "Edit Position Properties" dialog of the launch position at which you are using the m156 slats (for each slat!). Including this word will also indicate to Finale that the valid slat addressing range is A-M, in case you are relying on Finale to add automatic slats to the launch position after exhausting the slat or slats that you've added manually.

The m156 electrical constraint is a requirement for a 1/15th second pause between shots on the same slat or shots on slats with different slat letter addresses. Finale will automatically introduce this pause when exporting an ATF script whenever shots are too close together, so you don't have to worry about creating an invalid script. You should be aware, though, that the m156 is not capable of shooting simultaneous shots on slats with different letters. If you want to make a front of simultaneous shots at different launch positions, you should put slats with the same letter at each of the positions, and then the slats will operate as if they are wired in parallel.

The ATF m32 module does not have any such electrical constraint, so you do not need to include the word "m32" in the description field of the "Edit Position Properties" dialog, but you may choose to do so anyway to avoid confusion.

Troubleshooting

Errors on Every Line

If the ATF software reports errors on every line of the script, you may need to use the task manager to close the application if you get tired of clicking okay for each line. The cause is most likely something wrong with the script, so the first step is to load the script (a ".sho" file) into Notepad and examine it by eye. Compare it to another sho file that works and examine the differences. If you don't see anything wrong, go back into Finale and create an abridged version of the show with just a few shots, export, and try that abridged sho file. Several common problems are addressing the m156 modules incorrectly in Finale in the launch position "Edit Position Properties" dialog (see above section), or not having launch positions in your show at all, or having one or more fireworks launch without a launch position. You can press control-F or select "File > Toggle firing view" in Finale to turn on the firing view in Finale, which shows you if any launches are not assigned to modules, which is usually a telltale sign that the launch is not on a launch position.

Comm Port Error

If you encounter a comm port error while loading an exported script into the ATF software, the cause could be a problem in your script or it could be a problem with serial port communication between the ATF software, your computer, and the ATF hardware. The first troubleshooting step is to load your exported script (a ".sho" file) into Notepad and examine it by eye to see if anything is blatantly wrong. You can compare it to example ".sho" files available from ATF.

If the file passes that test, then the second step is test your communication port with the ATF software on its own, without the script. Launch the ATF software again without a script and select "Set > Comm Port". Set it to port 1. If the software does not complain, then the comm port is probably not the problem. If it does complain then go to each of the ports 2 through 4 until it stops complaining. If you can't get any comm port to work, then at this point you probably need to contact ATF for assistance.