While it is easy to script a show using the standard effects, choreographers generally prefer to use representations of the actual inventory that is available to them. In-house and contract choreographers for display companies typically have access to the company's entire inventory to choose from. They build a show based on a desired show cost or guidelines from a show sales order. Operators choreographing a show that is already boxed typically work from a "pack list" of specific product to be used in the show. In all of these scenarios, the choreographers building shows ideally would like to use representations of their actual inventory. Finale Business Edition makes this possible by allowing you to import product lists into your own "Master Inventory."
If you are an operator or hobbyist scripting a show on your own, Finale Business Edition comes with a free personal account for Finale's inventory management service, Finale Inventory. The personal account does not provide the features to keep track of stock and so forth, which the paid versions of the inventory management service provide, but the personal account does give you the ability to import product lists to your own Master Inventory. Please email email@example.com to set up your account.
If you are working as an in-house or contract choreographer for a display company, then rather than using a personal account on Finale Inventory, you can link up directly to the display company's Finale Inventory account, if it has one. Doing so will give you "live" access to the up-to-date stock levels with ability to filter or sort by stock quantities and show target quantities. Perhaps more importantly, using the display company's account allows the display company to "reserve" the product required for your show from quantity on hand to protect against selling or scripting to product that is no longer available. (For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
In either case, whether you are an independent operator managing your own personal account or whether you are a manager at a display company managing the company account, you need will need to import your product lists to the "Master Inventory" of the account. The procedure for doing this is the same for the personal account and the paid accounts, except the paid accounts also allow you to include the initial stock quantities.
A product list is an Excel file saved in the CSV format. The file should contain a single header row, followed by product rows, one for each product. The header row contains the titles of the columns, which can be in any order.
The command to import the product list is, "Inventory > Import product list to Master Inventory (add or update)." This command will automatically find matching visual simulations of your imported products based on the effect names or optional "Animation Search Phrases". You can use this same command to add products to your Master Inventory or to update products already in the Master Inventory. Unlike earlier versions of Finale, you now have a single Master Inventory that contains all your imported products. When scripting a show for a particular company or subset of inventory, you are able to filter the list to only the relevant products in the Inventory View.
The only required column in a product list is the Product ID. Finale will match products based on the Product IDs, which are unique identifiers. Product rows with new Product IDs will be added; product rows matching Product IDs of existing products will update the information of those products. Display companies typically already have their own Product IDs to keep track of their inventory. You can make up your own Product IDs using letters, numbers, and punctuation.
Your CSV file may also contain: Effect Name, Caliber, Animation Search Phrase, Category, Prefire, Shots Per Piece, Duration, Mfg, Mfg ID, and Price. If you include the Effect Name, the product's Caliber, Nearest Match Animation, and Category will be updated when you import, even if the corresponding columns don't exist. Their values will be inferred from the Effect Name if not provided explicitly. The Prefire and Duration fields are always inferred from the Nearest Match Animation, so whenever the Nearest Match Animation is updated, so too the Prefire and Duration fields will be updated. The remaining fields (Mfg, Mfg ID, and Price) are updated only if provided explicitly.
The Effect Name is the name of the product. It may or may not include the caliber. In the absence of other information, Finale will construct a visual simulation for your product based on the Effect Name.
Caliber is optional because it can also be included in the Effect Name itself. If Caliber is missing it will be extracted from the Effect Name or set to 3" by default. Caliber can be in inches or millimeters or tenths of inches. You can list the units with double-quotes for inches or "mm" for millimeters, or you can leave off the units and accept the default interpretation, which is based on the following rules: (1) If double-quote or " is found in the column header, the default units are inches; if "mm" is found, the default units are millimeters; if "tenths" is found, the default units are tenths of inches; (2) otherwise, if the average value in the column is less than 12, the default units are inches; (3) otherwise, the default units are millimeters unless you have indicated you are importing a Show Director file and the average value is less than 75, in which case the default units are tenths of inches.
The Animation Search Phrase is a description for purpose of finding the nearest match simulation. If Animation Search Phrase is not included, Finale will search for the nearest match based on the effect name. The search phrase can include detailed descriptions, such as "5" Canister Red Chrys To Blue w/ Glittering Silver Serpents Ring" or even "25mm 49 Shot 7s Red Crossette Cake".
After you import your product list, if the nearest match simulation doesn't look right to you, you can export the product list with the command "Inventory > Export product list from Master Inventory," then edit the "Nearest Match Animation" column in Excel and change its name to "Animation Search Phrase", and finally re-import the edited product list to update the products. You can also create custom simulations, as described below.
The Category field supports seven possibilities: Shells, Comets, Mines, Candles, Cakes, Other, and Non-Choreographed. If you set the Category to Non-Choreographed, it will not show up in the user interface, so you can make a product go away by setting its Category to Non-Choreographed. You can resurrect the product by re-importing the product list to update its category to one of the other six possibilities. Companies using the paid Finale Inventory service often have products in their inventory that are not choreographed items, like e-matches or flares. These products are naturally set to Non-Choreographed so they don't appear in the choreography product, but they still appear in the web-based interface that comes with the paid inventory management system.
The Prefire field contains the product's prefire time, or PFT. The prefire can be specified in the effect name itself in parentheses, as in "30mm Red Peony (2.5s PFT)", or can be specified in a separate prefire column. If neither is specified, the product will assume a default prefire based on the caliber.
The Shots Per Piece field contains the number of shots in a chain, cake, or candle. If provided, this information will be incorporated into the Animation Search Phrase to find the best animation. Alternatively, you can specify the number of shots in the effect name and Animation Search Phrase themselves, e.g., "Ti Salute (Chain Of 10)" or "49 Shot Time Rain Cake." If this field is blank for any imported row, it will not have any effect on that item. Thus if you want to use this column for chains but not for cakes and candles, you can leave the field blank for cake and candle rows. Similarly, you can use this field for cakes and candles and not for chains by leaving it blank for the chain rows.
The Duration field is the duration of a cake or chain, from first to last shot. It is not the duration of an individual effect. Like prefire, the duration can be specified in the effect name itself, as in "30mm 49 Shot 20s Silver Serpents Cake", or can be specified in a separate duration column. If neither is specified, the product will assume a default duration based on the number of shots.
The Mfg field contains the manufacturer name, for searching, sorting, and filtering in the Inventory View. Similarly, the Mfg ID is also useful for searching and sorting, but it has an additional use. When you import a product list, if a product's Mfg ID matches the Mfg ID of a product in one of Finale's standard libraries of products, then the simulation provided by the manufacturer will be used instead of the nearest match simulation based on the Animation Search Phrase or Effect Name.
The Price field contains the price per-device that will be summed into the running cost and displayed in the Inventory View when you script a show. Different companies use the Price field to mean different things. Some use it as the actual cost of the product; others use it as the price to be billed to the customer; still others use it as a figurative cost strictly for purpose of tallying to a quote. How you use this field, if you use it at all, is up to you. Finale will provide you the running cost as you build up your show.
The following is an example of a minimal product list with a single product, as it would appear in Excel. The first row contains the column names, and the second row represents the product.
Product ID Effect Name DM22E002-3 Brocade Chrys w/ Crackle Core
This second example includes many of the optional columns, and three products of different calibers.
Product ID Caliber Effect Name Animation Search Phrase Mfg ID Category Price Mfg DM22E002-3 3" Brocade Chrys Silver Brocade Crown DM22E002-3 Shells $2 Dom DM22E002-4 4" Brocade Chrys Silver Brocade Crown DM22E002-4 Shells $3 Dom DM22E002-5 5" Brocade Chrys Silver Brocade Crown DM22E002-5 Shells $4 Dom
This third example includes only the three columns that would be required to update the price of existing products while leaving their other information unchanged.
Product ID Effect Name Price DM22E002-3 Brocade Chrys $2.50 DM22E002-4 Brocade Chrys $3.50 DM22E002-5 Brocade Chrys $4.50
Product lists often have hundreds or even thousands of products. The import operation takes a few minutes if your list has more than a thousand products, so if you are updating products, it is a good idea to do it in smaller batches of only the products you want to change.
Example CSV Files
The following three example files include (1) a basic product list for choreography, (2) a product list including the extra columns relevant to inventory management, and (3) a packing list for setting a show's target device quantities. Unless you are using Finale's inventory management product, example files (1) and (3) are the only ones that are relevant.
The example file includes two shells, a cake, and a finale chain. The first example file illustrates a variety of ways to specify information, such as including the caliber in the effect name or specifying the caliber in a separate column, etc. You can test a CSV file before importing it with the command "File > Verify CSV file for import". This function takes your CSV file as input and creates a "notes" file that shows you how Finale is interpreting the data in your file. The notes file begins with the original columns and then tacks on additional columns to the right showing Finale's interpretations. The names of the interpretation columns all begin with an asterisk, e.g., "* Item Name". You can look at the notes file in Excel to verify that Finale is interpreting your data correctly.
Updating Products With Custom Simulations
After importing your product list, you can try inserting them into a show to see what the simulations look like. If a simulation is not accurate enough for your needs, you can make a custom simulation by editing the firework in the Sky View (clicking on its edit button) and then saving your edited simulation to the product using the menu command "Inventory > Save selected simulation to product in Master Inventory." You can save it over the original product it was taken from or any other product, selecting the product by its Product ID. Saving the simulation also updates the Caliber, Category, and Name, so if you are saving a simulation over a different product, make sure to change its name before saving.
Once you've saved a custom simulation to a product, the custom simulation will be used instead of the nearest match simulation based on the Animation Search Phrase or Effect Name. Furthermore, the custom simulation will determine the Chain number of devices, as well as the Prefire and Duration, which are all displayed in columns in the Inventory View. Immediately to the right of the effect name column in the Inventory View is a column labelled *. This column indicates whether a product has a custom simulation. If a product does have a custom simulation, it will have an asterisk for this field; otherwise the field will be blank.
Even after creating custom simulations, you can re-import your product list to update other properties of the products, as in the third example above, which updates the prices of a few products. Updating your products by re-importing will not remove the custom simulations, which will continue to define the Chain number of devices, Prefire, and Duration. The only aspect of a custom simulation that is affected by re-importing your product list is Caliber. You can remove a custom simulation with the command, "Inventory > Remove saved simulation from product in Master Inventory".
Creating custom simulations is a craft that requires time and practice. You can make use of simulations that other people have made and saved publicly. To save your simulation for other people to use, select the command "Inventory > Save selected simulation to My Fireworks." You can view or delete the simulations you have saved with the command "Inventory > Manage My Fireworks." You can add fireworks that other people have created to your own My Fireworks with the command, "Inventory > Browse / add public simulations to My Fireworks." After creating or adding simulations to My Fireworks, you can insert them directly into shows as fireworks or you can select them and save their simulations to products in your Master Inventory as described above with the command, "Inventory > Save selected simulation to product in Master Inventory."
Exporting and Re-Importing To Update Products
If you have a product list of hundreds or thousands of products, it is more practical to adjust the simulations by editing the Animation Search Phrases to find a good nearest match. You can do this iteratively for a complete product list after importing it by exporting the Master Inventory ("Inventory > Export product list from Master Inventory"), then opening up the file in Excel and looking at the Nearest Match Animation. If the Nearest Match Animation is not right, then edit it in place to better represent what you are looking for. After reviewing and fixing the Nearest Match Animations for all your products, change the name of the column to "Animation Search Phrase" and save the file from Excel as a CSV. Finally, import the file into Finale to update the products in your Master Inventory. If the changes you made to the Nearest Match Animations are minor, you are likely to find a good match, but if they are major there is no guarantee the new match will be any better than the original. To verify the new matches are what you want, export the product list from Finale again and look at the Nearest Match Animation column.
Bear in mind that if you've saved a custom simulation to a product, the custom simulation will be used instead of the nearest matching simulation based on the Animation Search Phrase or Effect Name. Re-importing your products will not remove the custom simulations. If you want to remove a custom simulation, use the command, "Inventory > Remove saved simulation from product in Master Inventory".
You may have to repeat the export-edit-import process a few times to get satisfactory simulations for your products. You can choose how important the accuracy of the simulations is to you, and adjust your time accordingly. For some people, rough approximations are just fine. For others, accuracy is a high priority. The time you spend is an investment in your choreography tools.
Deleting Products from Master Inventory
You can remove products from Master Inventory, as it is shown in Finale PRO and Business, by setting their category to "Non-Choreographed". To remove a collection of products all at once, import a product list that contains two columns: Product ID and Category; include a row for each of the products you want to remove, specifying its Product ID in the Product ID columns, and specifying Non-Choreographed in the Category column. Later if you want to resurrect any of those products, you can import a product list that changes their categories back to any of the other six possible values (see Category above). When you set a product's category to Non-Choreographed, it won't disappear from inventory until you relaunch Finale.