So, the next thing I am going to explain is how I pan the instruments properly to simulate orchestral placement for each instrument section. This is the chart I reference when panning my instruments.
Panning is where all of those stereo tracks from Kontakt (see part 1) will come in handy, because these are all sections of multiple instruments within the orchestra. Some people would use mono track for a single section and pan them left or right according to the orchestra sitting chart. That is okay, but what you have to realize that what we’re doing with virtual orchestra is that we’re SIMULATING a live orchestra setup. Those instruments are panned left or right, but their sound travels and expands in multiple directions. That’s why a stereo track is more useful.
Usually orchestras are recorded by using multiple microphone positions. For example: The entire orchestra is recorded with a Decca Tree mic setup that’s positioned behind the conductor and is picking up the full orchestra’s sound. In addition, every section of the orchestra has its own stereo mic pair that is positioned very closely to the performers.
What most audio engineers are doing in a setup like this is simply layering the full orchestra sound with close mic positions, and they mix the individual sections more easily through those close mic setups. Here’s what I do:
I use the full string section from Symphobia (e.g. Sustain strings) and layer it with LA Scoring Strings sustain patches. What I like about this approach is that Symphobia has the “room sound” and LA Scoring Strings are very dry, because of their close mic setup. Now, according to the chart above, I ould pan the Symphobia strings from -100 to +100, and individual sections of LA Scoring Strings I pan appropriately to the chart (e.g. first violins from -100 to -20, Cellos from +12.5 to +73, etc).
I repeat this process for every instrument section in the orchestra. If I was using Symphobia Brass, I would pan it from -37.5 to +37.5 according to the chart, and layer that patch with individual patches of Orchestral Brass horns, trombones, trumpets and tuba panned appropriately to their position within the orchestra. I’ve noticed that Studio One doesn’t have the option for dual panning for the stereo track, so I use Binaural Pan as an insert to take care of that problem. (Note to the developers: Make sure you include this in the next patch please!) [editor’s note: We hear you!]
Although this can be taken care of when bouncing tracks by bouncing a single stereo track as dual mono, this approach introduces a problem. If you’re applying EQ on that stereo pair, you will have to insert an EQ on both mono tracks or route the mono tracks into a stereo submix, and then apply the EQ on the submix.
As a matter of fact, that seems like a good stopping point. Next time, we’ll take a look at EQing our orchestra to minimize competition between instruments for your ear’s attention. We’ll follow that up with a few words on reverb, and how to accurately re-create our orchestra’s cavernous environ.
[Update! For your convenience, here’s the rest of the blogs in this series: