Out of the box orchestral panning. (eg. Hollywood Orchestra)


Active Member
Hello folks

I use Hollywood Orchestra Diamond for my stuff. Aiming generally for a realistic, symphonic, Williams-wannabe type sound.

I know that HO, and most orchestral libraries these days, are recorded in position so should automatically have the correct panning in place.
So I'm just curious how many of you - particularly users of HO - do additional panning?

I'm ok at composition and orchestration, but I'm pretty rubbish at the technical side of audio production, and setting up my template has always been a bit of a nightmare: Things like balancing confound me for days - especially with HO that has huge volume inconsistencies even between different articulations of the same instrument! And my reverb application (using SPACES) is pretty vague and unskilled.
So there is no doubt quite a bit I am doing wrong on the technical front, and it never sounds quite right.
I'm just wondering if I should be experimenting with the panning?
If so should I just be playing with the panning knob in Cubase or would something like Panagement be useful?
Anyone using Panagement with HO?

I'd love to hear and thoughts or suggestions in this area. But generally, yeah, do any users of HO apply additional panning/spatialization?



Senior Member
In my opinion, the best thing you (or any of us) can do, is focus on good MIDI programming first. Once that's right, it's much easier to mix.

A great exercise is to take a recording of a work you like (any John Williams will do) and put in a minute or two of that music using your samples. Spend time selecting the correct articulations for each instrument / section and balancing them (volume and timbre wise) to match the original as much as possible. Put a single reverb on your mix and route everything to that - don't fuss with it for now.

Many of the JW scores are published and you can get a reference recording easily.

It is painful and might take a few weeks, but you will learn more about your samples and their limitations than any other method. Once that's done... if there are mix problems, you can post an example here and get some feedback.

If you have already been through this process and are still having mix issues, I would suggest posting an example so others can hear what you are hearing. Giving blind mix advice is difficult.


Active Member
This is good advice - thank you marclawsonmusic.
I have gone through the process you describe and it is invaluable.
Still hasn't got me to quite where I want to be in terms of a sense of space. But rather than seeking advice specific to me at this point, I am just very curious to know the extent to which additional spatialization effects like panning etc are applied to sample libraries which should have each instrument correctly positioned in the first place.


Senior Member
great advice from @marclawsonmusic, particularly the "don't fuss with it for now."

I am not saying panning doesn't matter at all, but if you are just getting started in the professional arena (or even if you're not), the panning of sampled orchestral instruments is not even on my list of things to focus on.

Who Does it Best?

That said, if you are curious about how the 'big guys' do panning, I find it much easier to hear using headphones than speakers. One composer who does interesting things with panning is Thomas Newman (who does interesting things in general). Not all the time, but if you listen to one of his scores (sometimes just the end titles), they may be mixed like something in between a pop song and an orchestral mix. If you listen with headphones you can really hear what is going on.

Plenty of Ways to Seat the Orchestra

There are, for sure, many ways to seat an orchestra. Here are a few interesting examples: http://andrewhugill.com/OrchestraManual/seating.html

Notice the Philharmonia Orchestra, with Dohnyani's seating, about six down. Cellos to left of conductor, 2nd violins to the right.

But for sure, the most important thing by far is to write good music and not get tangled up too much in seating. It's like those endless discussions of 'early reflections.' I am not saying there's nothing to it, but most people would do better to focus on the notes and generally on getting a decent sound than some of the other details.

Sometimes I read posts of guys who insist that, "you can't really write if you don't know [fill in the blank]." Typically, that leads to misplaced priorities. Write cool music.


Senior Member
It is a valid question for sure.

I think with the Hollywood Orchestra series, you can safely assume that everything is panned correctly. It is probably easier to do more harm than good with too much processing in that area. However, since it is a drier library, getting the reverb right is important. And maybe some EQ to roll off higher frequencies (which also helps create a sense of distance).

If you are not getting a satisfactory sound, it really could be a number of issues... and sadly the best thing to do is post some audio so others can hear what you are hearing (I know that can be scary on here... people can be harsh!)

I am not an expert in mixing, but you are welcome to PM me an audio example if you want a bit of feedback. Or feel free to post on this thread.



Active Member
Well that's realistic (unless they messed it up). A muted French Horn is not going to be as loud as a bell-up French Horn.
It's severely messed up with the strings, less so with hollywood brass. With the strings I've gone down to cutting as much as 9db in one articulation and boosting by 6db in another. The differences are more/less extreme depending on the selection of mics too.


Winter <3
imo - Hollywood Strings already has a very wide stereo image which is great. I wouldn't pan them further.

If you want a narrower or more centralized image try using more of the Mid mics and less of the Main ones, because the Mains have the signal from the outriggers. Same as with Spitfire libraries - use more Tree and less Outriggers - or Berlin libraries - use more Tree/ORTF and less AB/Surround - and you will get a slightly more centered sound.

The only thing I use panning (with Precedence) is for the brass. I like to push the Horns much further left and the heavy brass further back and also a bit more to the right, at least compared to where most libraries have them.


Senior Member
If so should I just be playing with the panning knob in Cubase or would something like Panagement be useful?
Anyone using Panagement with HO?
I use panagement with everything. But I almost never pan with it. I mostly use it to make the stereo width of the signal wider or more narrow. To some degree with pre-panned libraries that creates the impression of moving them around. And sometimes I use it for near/far adjustments and volume tweaks. All of that could be done with other plugins too, but I like panagement.


I'd say, yes, definitely pan more than the default, but according to preference always... I don't think it's that definitive. I'd probably use a combo of all the things mentioned above. But I would also focus on the stereo widening/tightening thing. I think SleepyTime Dual Panner is really good for this (and free). It has both a narrowing and channel panning tool. I think it helps a lot with clarity and faking positioning.

I've attached 2 examples. One has the simple generic panning, the other has the dual panner on all channels either narrowing or panning L/R channels, or both. I think it clears it up quite a bit, making it easier to focus on the different stuff happening and faking section positioning and separation. I feel it sounds more like different bands playing here and there in the room (reverb) rather than tracks stacked on top of each other and feeding the reverb. All of the tracks also have a high-mid cut of about 3-4 db, high pass, some high boost and a low-mid boost. Then just Dragonfly (also free) on the master. They were initially also feeding into a Phoenixverb bus in different amounts but I felt it wasn't needed in the end.

(I even exaggerated the close mic panning on some; Dual Panner is affecting all mics at once)



Senior Member
I rarely pan HO. It was recorded in situation and Shawn Murphy gets paid a lot of money for how he seats and mics an orchestra. I don’t feel the need to substitute my judgment for his.