Syncing video with Finale playback

Tutorials

In a recent Scoring Notes article, I evaluated options for scoring to video across different notion software applications. To sync Finale with video, MakeMusic still recommends using ReWire, but over time support for this protocol has been dropped by most major DAW’s, leaving Finale without any viable options.

After exploring further since that article was published, I discovered a different approach using a tool called VidPlayMTC that uses MIDI time code (MTC) to sync applications supporting MTC to a video player. Finale happens to be the only major notation program that supports MTC synchronization, making it the perfect workaround for users who have seen their video support slowly evaporate over time.

I was able to use MTC to sync playback with a DAW, but experienced some issues when testing with Logic that could cause the sync to break. I also noticed slight discrepancies in the displayed SMPTE time that could develop. In short, it seemed a bit less stable than the VidPlayMTC tool, which is designed for this exact type of use case. You may find you are able to sync smoothly to video in a different DAW or even Logic with the right score, but this article will focus on using VidPlayMTC, since it is free, and, in the end, the experience most closely resembles the in-application video support found in Dorico, Sibelius and StaffPad.

The process for setting up VidPlayMTC looks a bit different depending on whether you are on Mac or Windows. It looks like a lot of steps, but it should only take about 5 minutes to get set up… there’s never any unique trouble that can possibly arise in getting a specific MIDI set up to work, right?

A very special thank you to Steven Klaus for helping troubleshoot, test and validate this process on a Windows set up.

Use VidPlayMTC with Finale on Mac

macOS ships with the Audio MIDI Setup application. It helps make using a variety of Audio and MIDI based applications relatively easy. While some settings may need to be adjusted, it is generally a smooth process.

1.  Go to the VidPlayMTC web site, and select the green Download – macOS button to download the installer for VidPlayMTC.

2.  Open Finale and select the correct frame rate for your video in Document > Sync and Video Options…

If you are not sure what the frame rate of your video is, open it using QuickTime Player and hit ⌘I to open the inspector.  Under Video Details, the Encoded FPS (frames per second) will tell you what the frame rate is. In the following example, it’s 25 fps.

Finding FPS in the Inspector in the Quicktime Player
Setting the frame rate of a video in Finale

3. With the frame rate now correctly established in Finale, we now need to establish a virtual MIDI bus which can send MIDI messages between different applications on the same computer. This is done using the aforementioned Audio MIDI Setup application.

Find and open the Audio MIDI Setup App on your computer.

4.  Once you have launched Audio MIDI Setup, hit ⌘2 to Show MIDI Studio. If the IAC Driver shows as greyed out, we need to make it “online” and available for use.

IAC Driver shown as offline

Double click the IAC Driver icon and check Device is online (as seen below). If you have never used this tool before, you should have Bus 1 defaulted already, and you do not need to anything else beyond bringing the IAC Driver online here.

Once you check Device is online, close the window (the Apply button will remain greyed out) and you will see the IAC Driver is no longer greyed out indicating it is online and ready for use.

IAC Driver shown as online

5.  With the IAC Driver now active, close and relaunch Finale, and open the score you wish to sync to video. Go to MIDI/Audio > Device Setup > MIDI/Internal Speaker Setup…  then check Send MTC To: and select IAC Driver Bus 1, which should be a new option available in this dropdown list.

6.  Now launch the VidPlayMTC application and drag the video you want from the finder on to the open application. You’ll notice some loss of resolution in the video quality, but VidPlayMTC supports a huge variety of video formats — nice!

7.  In VidPlayMTC, go to Configure > MIDI In… For the MIDI device (defaulted to off) select IAC Driver Bus 1 and hit OK.

8. The low resolution text and graphics within the app do have a retro look, but you can go to the settings (gear icon in the upper left) and select Mode: Stay on top which will detach the window from all the text and lets the window sit on top of your Finale window when working on your score. This gives the illusion of the video running in Finale and removes the unsightly text and icons in the process.

Using Finale with VidPlayMTC

9. Finale and VidPlayMTC should now be synced and playback of the score will correspond to the correct location in the video.

Use VidPlayMTC with Finale on Windows

VidPlayMTC is compatible with both Windows 10 and 11 used in much the same way as it is on macOS. The difference is mostly in the setup of the Virtual MIDI driver needed for Finale to drive the video playback in VidPlayMTC.

1.  Go to the VidPlayMTC web site, and select the green Download – Windows button to download the installer for VidPlayMTC.

2.  Open Finale and select the correct frame rate for your video in Document > Sync and Video Options…

If you are not sure what the frame rate of your video is, right-click on the file. In the Details tab, under Video, you will see the frame rate. In this example it’s 30 fps.

3. With the frame rate now correctly established in Finale, we now need to use a virtual MIDI Driver which can send MIDI messages between different applications on the same computer.

Windows does not include a MIDI driver like macOS’s IAC driver as part of the operating system. Instead, you first need to add a MIDI driver if you do not already have one installed. After testing different virtual MIDI drivers, loopMIDI from developer Tobias Erichsen worked best in syncing Finale with VidPlayMTC. Like VidPlayMTC, loopMIDI is compatible with both Windows 10 and 11.

To install:

4.  Once you have installed loopMIDI you need to add a port within the driver.

In the bottom left hand corner of the loopMIDI window, hit the + icon and name your port.

Note: you must leave loopMIDI open when syncing Finale and VidPlayMTC.

5. With loopMIDI now installed and open, close and relaunch Finale. Then open the Finale score you wish to sync to video.

Go to MIDI/Audio > Device Setup > MIDI Setup…  Check MTC and select loopMIDI Port in the MIDI Out > Device section, which should be a new option available in this dropdown.

6.  Unlike the Mac version of Finale that is OK with keeping the selected VST available for playback for use with VidPlayMTC, the Windows version of Finale requires selecting MIDI/Audio > Play Finale through MIDI in order for this sync to work.

7. Go to MIDI/Audio > Device Setup > Send MTC  and select it.

8.  You’ll find that the playback device in the ScoreManager has updated if you were using VST playback previously. The ScoreManager may now be showing loopMIDI as the playback device at this point, which will cause nothing to playback for audio.

To fix this so you hear playback in Finale again, you’ll need to select each instrument back to a default SmartMusic SoftSynth option in the ScoreManager. You can select the SmartMusic SoftSynth channels you have available (“SmartMusic SoftSynth 2” or “SmartMusic SoftSynth 3” for example) as the playback device to reestablish playback.

9.  Open VidPlayMTC and go to Configure > MIDI In…  Select loopMIDI Port as the MIDI Device source.

VidPlayMTC will also ask you to set up Audio Out, but you can leave it as “no selection” and it will work, as all audio is coming from Finale in this setup. However, if you need to hear existing audio from a video in addition to the audio you’ve created from Finale, you’ll want to add an Audio Out option.

10.  In VidPlayMTC, select the document icon to the left of the settings/gear icon (as seen below) and choose the video file you wish to use.  You will now see the video ready to be played.

9.  The low resolution text and graphics within the app do have a retro look, but you can go to the settings (gear icon in the upper left) and select Mode: Stay on top which will detach the window from all the text and lets the window sit on top of your Finale window when working on your score. This gives the illusion of the video running in Finale and removes the unsightly text and icons in the process.

10.  Finale and VidPlayMTC should now be synced and playback of the score will correspond to the correct location in the video.

Some other notes

Finale’s displayed SMPTE time is always accurate and synced with the video. It is best not to turn on the SMPTE display on VidPlayMTC during playback as it can show slight discrepancies at times.

With Windows, VidPlayMTC recommends downloading the LoopBe1 driver (versus the loopMIDI app discussed above) but I experienced some issues with this driver consistently muting itself during playing for unknown reasons, causing the sync with VidPlayMTC to suddenly stop (as seen here).

On one occasion when testing the Windows process, loopMIDI muted itself for reasons that are unclear during playback. If you find loopMIDI has muted itself (as seen below), you can unmute by hitting the circle icon in the bottom right hand corner. Once loopMIDI is back to being unmuted, the playback sync with Finale and VidPlayMTC will work again.

VidPlayMTC offers a Finale plug-in, but it requires adding a middle C at or just before where you want playback to begin for it to work, which makes it more difficult to use than using the standard setup.

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