Voice cues are audible commands that tell an operator when to to fire a shot with a manually fired show. Typically, an operator listens to a voice cue track in one ear, and listens to the music, if present, on the other ear. The voice cues are simple commands like, "Standby... One... Beep!... Two... Beep!"
Finale supports voice cues with an interactive mode for editing and practicing, and also by outputting a voice cue track (wav file) for operating the show. The voice cue track has the voice cues on one channel and the music on the other. To turn the interactive mode on, select "File > Voice cues on while editing". To create a voice cue wav file, select "File > Make voice cues file".
While voice cues are on in interactive mode, you will hear the voice cues while simulating the show. If there is not enough room at the start of the show to insert the voice cues, you will hear the message "More leading time required" at the beginning. If any section of the show has too many cues in too fast succession, you will hear the message "Too fast for voice cues!" at the trouble point. When you hear an error message like this, you should edit the show to simplify or spread out the voice cues. For example, if you have two shots that are very close together but not exactly together, that will require two voice cues, whereas if the two shots are combined into a single shot, then only one voice cue is required.
The voice cue commands themselves are each a number followed by a beep when you are supposed to fire the shot, as in "1... Beep... 2... Beep... 3... Beep..." etc.. If you prefer to fire on the numbers themselves and not have beeps at all you can set the "Show > Options > Voice cues fire on beep" option for just "1... 2... 3..." etc.
Some real world situations require firing shots in rapid succession, sometimes too fast to articulate the numbers. To avoid these tricky situations, Finale will generally articulate only the 1s digit of the voice cue number except for numbers less than 20 and after long delays or complex sections. For situations still too fast to articulate the numbers, Finale uses the word "sequence" followed by beeps instead of numbers, as in "Sequence, beep, beep, beep, beep..."
Simple Manual Firing with Consecutive Cues
Most manually fired shows use a consecutive list of voice cues corresponding to consecutive shots in the show. If the firing system hardware is all located in a central location, and mortars or racks outside of that location are reached with scab wire or extensions coming from the main location, then scripting the show for voice cues is extremely simple. You don't even have to use launch positions in the script!
Most choreographers will use launch positions in the script even in this circumstance because typically shells of different caliber are not all shot from the same physical location, and the explicit launch positions in the script have names that are included in the loading report and firing report, which helps in show setup and operation. But unlike computer fired shows, manually fired shows with consecutive cues don't require adding any firing system units (modules) to the launch positions in the "Edit Position Properties" dialog. You'd generally edit the launch positions to set the name and distance from audience, but just leave the firing system units section empty.
As long as you don't add any firing system units to the launch positions, or if you do then as long as you give them blank addresses, then all shots in the show will correspond to consecutive voice cues. If the firing system hardware is all at a central location at the shoot site and the launch facilities are nearby, then show setup is easy. If the launch facilities are spread out, then during setup the crew at the shoot site will have to run scab wire or some form of extension from the firing system hardware at the central location to the locations of the mortars or other launching facilities.
Advanced Manual Firing with Separately Addressed Firing System Units
The simple shows with consecutive voice cues are predicated on the assumption that the firing system hardware is located in a central location and that the crew is able to handle deviations from that assumption with appropriate wiring at the the shoot site during setup. There are situations where this is not the case.
If you have multiple main launch positions with specific firing system hardware at each, you may have to take into consideration the layout of your firing system hardware while choreographing your show, rather than requiring the crew to figure out how to handle the situation on the day of the event. In this case, you can add your firing system units explicitly to the launch positions by editing the launch positions and entering the modules, rails or slats as described in Export Overview. If you give these firing system units addresses, rather than leaving the address fields blank, then Finale will include a firing system unit address in the voice cues. For example, if you add a slat with address "A", the first shot on that slat will have the voice cue "Alpha 1", and the voice cue command will sound like, "Alpha 1... Beep!" If the slat has address "B", its first voice cue will be "Bravo 1", and so on.
Finale translates letter addresses into the "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, ..." words following aeronautics conventions to make the addresses easier to recognize in a loud environment. If the firing system units have numerical addresses, Finale will ignore the number and in its place use an "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie" word according to the order in which the firing system unit appears in the firing sequence. The first one would be "alpha", the second "bravo", etc. Thus voice cue commands for firing system units are always of the form "Alpha 1... Beep!".
Each address naturally identifies the range of the voice cues that corresponds to the firing system unit. The operator shooting the show may want this information in order to make safety related real time decisions like skipping over a rack near the location of a misfire, or the operator may need this information if the firing system controller requires turning a bank switch knob to select the unit that the array of pushbuttons or switches on the controller corresponds to.
In contrast with the last section, introducing firing system unit addresses inherently moves away from the idea of one big list of consecutive voice cues, toward the idea of a list of consecutive voice cues for each firing system unit, with the address of the firing system unit called out, as in, "Alpha... 1... Alpha... 2... Alpha... 3... Bravo... 1... Bravo... 2..., etc." Depending on the firing system controller hardware, the operator may have to turn a bank switch knob to go from the Alpha shots to the Bravo shots.
Since the firing system units may be at different launch positions, it is possible that some will have unused pins. The voice cues for each firing system unit will run from 1 to the number of used pins in that unit, and then the voice cues for the next unit will begin again from 1. The Alpha 1-3, Bravo 1-3 example illustrates a case of using three Alpha pins before switching to Bravo, even if Alpha represented a slat that contained more than three pins.
Jumping Around, Or Not
While computer firing systems can jump around between firing system units, typically human beings prefer to progress forward at all times because it is simpler and minimizes the chance of getting confused while shooting the show. To tell Finale that you want it to utilize firing system units in a forward progressing order at all times, select the menu item "Show > Addressing options > Address sequentially (for manual fire)". The implication of this option is that Finale will never make pin assignments that force you to switch back to an earlier firing system unit while shooting the show. To illustrate, imagine a shoot site with two launch positions, Left and Right, and a sequence of three shots, Left, Right, Left. Assuming the launch positions have separately addressed firing system units, the firing sequence will be, "Alpha... 1... Bravo... 1... Charlie... 1...", not "Alpha... 1... Bravo... 1... Alpha... 2...", because the latter goes backwards. Since the "Address sequentially" option may require more firing system units than the alternative (e.g., Charlie was only required with the option on), you may or may not choose to allow jumping around.
Firing Slats or Modules in Parallel
A common method of creating fronts of pyrotechnic devices fired simultaneously from different launch positions is to wire firing system units at the different launch positions in parallel so they fire at the same time. Some firing system hardware even supports this technique by allowing you to set the addresses of the slats or modules to be the same in respect to their connection to the firing system controller. Using the same idea, in Finale you indicate that firing system units are wired in parallel simply by giving them the same address. Finale will then assign pins on those firing system units with full knowledge that they fire together. If you choreograph a front in Finale from the respective launch positions, Finale will assign the pins appropriately.
To illustrate parallel firing along with the sequential addressing described in the last paragraph, consider an example with a main launch position, plus six close proximity launch positions used to create a front. Imagine a firing sequence of a single shot from the main launch position, following by a single shot front coming from all six front launch positions in parallel, followed by one additional single shot from the main launch position. To setup the launch positions for this scenario, you must add two firing system units to the main launch position (let's give them addresses A and C), and one unit at each of the front launch positions (give all of them the same address, B). The voice cues for this launch sequence will simply be, "Alpha... 1... Bravo... 1... Charlie... 1..." The single voice cue "Bravo... 1..." will fire off the parallel shot from all six front launch positions.
Voice Cues and Cue Markers
Show designers often use numbered Cue Markers on the timeline to group together a set of items that are to launch or break at the same time. Under some circumstances, the numbers of the cue markers will correspond exactly to the voice cue numbers, but not always. Voice cue numbers always correspond to the printed reports, wiring instructions, and physical reality, so you really don't need to care about the numbers on the cue markers on the timeline, but if you are wondering why they may be different or if you want to make them the same, here's what is going on.
Voice cues are based on the numbers of the actual pins that are electrified to launch the fireworks. Cue marker numbers on the timeline are simply counting the cue markers starting with the first being number 1. Based on these definitions, it is easy to see why voice cue numbers and cue marker numbers might be completely different. However, there are also circumstances in which you might expect them to be the same, and these circumstances arise in one of the most common ways of scripting manual fire shows.
If your firing system consists of a single firing board with consecutively numbered cues shared across all launch positions as described above in "Simple Manual Firing with Consecutive Cues" and if you lay down cue markers for each firing event in time, you might expect each consecutive cue marker to consume one pin on the firing board -- hence cue marker number equaling voice cue number. This logic is sound, but additional details matter. The numbers can be out of synch if (a) you have an extra cue marker without a shot attached to it, (b) you have an extra shot not attached to a numbered cue marker, (c) you have two launches that occur at the same time and launch position (and are thus part of the same shot) but are attached to two different numbered cue markers, or (d) you have items of different calibers on the same cue marker and have not set the option "Show > Edit > Options > Align prefires on cue markers (for manual fire)."
If you want to repair any such issues (a) through (c) to align the cue marker numbers with the voice cues, pull up the firing view from the File menu and look at the "cue" column and the "pin" column. To fix problems, drag the numbered cue markers on the timeline slightly to make sure the correct fireworks are attached to them. Regarding (d), if you are going to attach multiple items of different calibers to the same cue marker then it is important you set the option "Show > Edit > Options > Align prefires on cue markers (for manual fire)" before creating your show. This option will cause the cue markers to align with their first break, and subsequent breaks to occur after the cue marker such that all of their launches occur simultaneously. Without this option set, the items would require separate pins and multiple voice cues.
Sequences and Simultaneous Cues (Advanced)
Some pinboard type firing system controllers can support firing a fast sequence of shots by swiping the probe across a run of pins, making a brief electrical connection with each one. Obviously independent voice cues couldn't possibly represent a fast sequence like that, because there is just not enough time to represent each shot in the sequence with a separate number and beep (let alone react to hearing those beeps!). However, a combined voice cue command can prepare the operator in advance for doing the swipe, and with a little practice the operator can learn to match the speed of the swipe to the desired timing of the sequence in the choreography.
Whenever Finale encounters shots at intervals closer than about one second, Finale combines their voice cues into a sequence. For example, Finale will say, "Sequence... Beep, Beep, Beep!" rather than "1... Beep... 2... Beep... 3... Beep" if the sequence of three shots is fast. When the operator hears "Sequence..." the operator prepares for a sequence of beeps in rapid succession.
For extremely fast sequences of 1/4 second intervals or even shorter (like 1/20th second!), the beeps will blur together on the voice cue track. Not to worry though, at rates that fast the operator is not reacting to the beeps individually. He knows that he has to swipe a sequence of shots, he knows how many, and if he's practiced listening to the voice cue track then he has a sense of the timing. The voice cue "Sequence... Be-ee-eep!" is a perfectly understandable instruction if you know what's coming.
The need for simultaneous cues is rare because the natural method of triggering simultaneous launches is to connect them to the same pin on the firing system unit, or to fire slats or modules in parallel by wiring and addressing them together as discussed in the section above. However, for the rare circumstance that the choreography and site layout require the operator to trigger two independent shots at the same time, Finale will combine the voice cues for the simultaneous shots using the word "Together", as in "Together... 1 Dash 2... Beebeep". The beep sound in these "together" voice cue commands is different from a normal beep, using two pitches to indicate that the "beebeep" represents more than one shot.