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Film Scoring 101: Cue Numbering | Ryan Leach

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FILM SCORING 101: CUE NUMBERING

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A typical cue number will look something like 3m14, and there are three parts to it.

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Reel number music Cue number.

1. Reel number
Back in the good old days people used something called film (Google it), and because a single film
reel couldnt hold an entire 2 hour movie, it had to be broken down into multiple reels. Nowadays I
usually get the film as one long quicktime file, and so theoretically every cue would start with 1. But Ive
found that by breaking the film into hypothetical reels, it helps you group cues together.
Consider this list of cues: 1m1, 1m2, 1m3, 1m4, 1m5, 1m6, 1m7, 1m8, 1m9, 1m10, 1m11
And this list: 1m1, 1m2, 1m3, 2m1, 2m2, 2m3, 3m1, 3m2, 3m3, 4m1, 4m2
It may not look like a bug deal, but on a film with 40+ cues every little thing you can do to help make
things more organized and easier to look at matters.
http://ryanleach.com/2012/03/26/film-scoring-101-cue-numbering/

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Film Scoring 101: Cue Numbering | Ryan Leach

2/15/16, 12:09 AM

I typically break the film into 20 minute reels, although the number is arbitrary. It could be 10
minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, it really doesnt matter. But what it means for me is that any cue that
starts from 1:00:00:00 to 1:19:59:23 is considered Reel 1, any cue that starts from 1:20:00:00 to
1:39:59:24 is Reel 2, and so on.

2. m
The m in 1m1 simply stands for music. Its a way of separating the reel number form the cue number.

3. Cue Number
Also pretty straightforward, this is the cue in order according to its reel. 1m1 comes before 1m2 which
comes before 1m3. Not too tricky.
Sometimes while in the midst of scoring you might realize that you need a cue that you initially hadnt
wanted. Perhaps at the spotting session you and the director agreed that the scene was better without
music, but now that theyve heard your kick-ass score they realize they need more of it!
Whatever the reason, if you are in the middle of scoring it can be a really bad idea to renumber every
cue in the film. If youve already had three versions of 2m6 floating around and all of a sudden you
change it to 2m7, you are just asking for trouble. The better solution is to either use .5, or a lowercase
letter.
So if you realize you need a cue between 1m1 and 1m2, you either label it 1m1.5 or 1m1b. Personally I
prefer 1m1b because its a little cleaner looking, but either will work.

Titles
People love to get clever with titles, using inside jokes for the film or just silly pieces of dialogue. I think
that stuff is great for the soundtrack, but I find it much more practical to make the title as clear as
possible.
When you are looking at a list of 30 cues and you want to open the folder for the airplane jump, do you
think it is easier to find The Airplane Jump or Having a Bad Day?
Know what your cue is first, save the clever titles for later.

Conclusion
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Film Scoring 101: Cue Numbering | Ryan Leach

2/15/16, 12:09 AM

And thats pretty much all there is to it, not very complicated but important to have a handle on.

COMMENTS
MARC LAWSON (HTTP://TWITTER.COM/MARCLAWSONMUSIC)
MARCH 26, 2012 AT 10:27 AM (HTTP://RYANLEACH.COM/2012/03/26/FILM-SCORING-101-CUENUMBERING/#COMMENT-67)

Great article, Ryan. Simple and concise.


REPLY
One question do you break up the film into reels or does the director / editor
(HTTP://RYANLEACH.COM/2012/03/26/FILMdo that for you?
SCORING101CUENUMBERING/?
REPLYTOCOM=67#RESPOND)
RYAN LEACH (HTTP://RYANLEACH.COM)
MARCH 26, 2012 AT 10:57 AM (HTTP://RYANLEACH.COM/2012/03/26/FILM-SCORING-101-CUE-NUMBERING/#COMMENT-68)

Hey Marc! I do it myself. Since I usually get one long cut of the film, the director doesnt
usually even think of it as being in reels. I get one long file, and then I base my reels off of
20 minute chunks. I dont cut the film up into sections or anything, its just based on the
timecode.
MARC LAWSON (HTTP://TWITTER.COM/MARCLAWSONMUSIC)
MARCH 30, 2012 AT 11:58 AM (HTTP://RYANLEACH.COM/2012/03/26/FILM-SCORING-101-CUE-NUMBERING/#COMMENT-69)

Cool. Thanks a bunch, man!

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