For most composers, a template is a great way to have a positive impact on workflow. Instrument tracks can be loaded pre-balanced, organised, and routed exactly the way a composer needs. With Orchestral writing in particular, a template can be a starting point for nearly every project.
With the above said, each composer will have a different approach to their templates, and it's important to set yours up in a way that works best for you. In this article we'll briefly look into the benefits of an Orchestral Template.
The Elements of a Template
When working with Orchestral samples it's generally good to have everything 'balanced' against each other. This doesn't mean that everything should be the same volume, but that everything should be balanced in the way the instruments would be in a reality. This is probably one of the more difficult tasks when setting up a template. As an example, if your Solo Flute playing at mezzo-piano is overpowering your Trumpets at fortissimo, it's going to sound unnatural even to untrained ears.
There are many ways to start balancing, and often the most highly regarded method is to "mock up" a small snippet of an already existing piece. By doing this, not only do you learn more about writing, orchestration, and using samples, but you also learn to 'hear' how certain instrument combinations sound against each other, and the natural balance between them.
Routing & STEMS
Another great benefit of using a template is how tracks are routed. There are many different approaches here, however one thing to keep in mind is how you will export stems. As an example, if you choose to process the main orchestra bus with EQ and Reverb, but then find that you need to export individual instrument stems, the processing from the main orchestra bus would not be present. This is something to keep in mind!
Mixing & Panning
Similar to balance, mixing and panning can also play a key part in an orchestral template. There are many mixing techniques used by engineers over the decades that define the sound of the orchestra in specific periods. Think of the difference between a 1980's John Williams score and a 2010 John Powell score. Whilst the recording process itself has evolved over the years, so has the approach to the mixing. Depending on the goal, you could want to set up your template for many different genres. There could easily be a significant difference between a template set up for Trailer/Hybrid music compared to a template set up for Library/Production work.
Large templates in particular can be fairly resource heavy. Because of this, many composers choose to use a 'slave' machine to host their virtual instruments. A slave is a separate system which is linked to the main system. Using VEP (Vienna Ensemble Pro) you can link the machines in a template, so that the second machine takes on most of the heavy lifting. You'll have a hard time finding many A-List composers that don't use at least one slave machine. We have many other articles on using VEP on our knowledge base if you're interesting in this route.