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Topic: Adjusting GPO Pan Settings to Accommodate Different Listener Positions

  1. #1

    Adjusting GPO Pan Settings to Accommodate Different Listener Positions

    If you’re like me, you’ve always used the default GPO Player Pan settings for your orchestrations, and they work just fine. Last week, I decided I wanted to experiment with different listener positions, some closer to the stage, some further back in the house. So I developed a method for determining different pan settings to accommodate various listener positions.

    First, I used the orchestra seating arrangement on Gary’s GP Interactive Tour. Then I picked a somewhat arbitrary point in the center of the audience, a place where I would like to sit if I could sit anywhere in the concert hall. From that starting point, I measured maximum and other key angles from dead center stage to various instrumental sections throughout the orchestra. As you’ll see, my choice of “ideal” seating position and the maximum angle derived by it, will be immaterial, as you’ll be able to change pan settings to accommodate any seat in the house, as long as it’s somewhere along the front to back centerline.

    The maximum angles, left and right, determined by the seat I chose turned out to be 36 degrees, with all instruments falling at various angles in between. Since GPO Player maximum pan settings range from 100 left to 100 right, I first divided the max pan setting of 100 by my initial 36 degree max angle to come up with a conversion factor of 2.8. This factor I could apply against all the intermediate angles to determine the pan settings for the remaining instrument sections.

    The max pan angle of 100 (left or right), to my way of thinking, is the equivalent of standing on the conductor’s podium. By substituting different values of maximum pan in the formula, we are able to interpolate pan values incrementally for seating positions that gradually move further into the house, toward the rear of the hall. This Orchestral Pan Settings file shows the results: the orchestral seating arrangement with my initial angle measurements, the table of maximum pan settings and angle conversion factors, and seven charts showing instrument section pan settings for maximum pan positions of 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, and 40, representing listening positions at the conductor’s podium (100) gradually moving further out into the hall.

    Depending on how you setup your GPO instances, you may also be able to set individual pan settings for players within a section. For example, if you’ve loaded four GPO Player slots for the trombone section, use the pan setting on the charts as a center of the section and add or subtract a few clicks for each player left and right of that centerline.

    The seating position of the Harpsichord and Piano represented in the graphic depict their use in an orchestral or ensemble context. Naturally, if these instruments (or any other instrument for that matter) are used in a featured solo context such as a concerto, you would want to move their pan position almost center.

    This whole topic has dealt only with the left to right panoramic placement of an orchestral sound. To convincingly render an orchestral track, one needs to give some thought to reverberation scheme, which together with relative loudness between instrumental sounds, helps determine the orchestral depth of field, so to speak. While this is certainly dependant on the listeners seating position, generally speaking, instruments at the front of the orchestra will have a somewhat more dry reverb mix than those seated at the rear of the orchestra. While my musical sense tells me that this is less true the further back in the hall one sits, it may be worthwhile to experiment with slightly different amounts of reverberation applied to different orchestral instruments sections, based on their proximity to the front of the stage. This is not to difficult to do if you’re using a sequencing program and you’ve segregated your orchestra into GPO Player instances by instrument families. This should give the overall orchestral sound more depth.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Orcas Island

    Thumbs up Re: Adjusting GPO Pan Settings to Accommodate Different Listener Positions


    This is much needed in the midi orchestration community. Although the default GPO positions are useful in some situations, what if you want to change your location in the audience. and in many instances this is needed .

    If you change your position in the audience, the relative pan positions will also change. Glenn has gone through the trouble and meticulous care to shows how to get optimal orchestral panning based on different listener positions and usesangle measurements, a table of maximum pan settings and angle conversion factors in this pdf guide.

    The chart that is very clear and concise. I personally will find it very helpful once I get back to making music again.

    Thanks for doing this Glenn.

    Gary Garritan

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Kauai, Hawaii, USA

    Question Re: Adjusting GPO Pan Settings to Accommodate Different Listener Positions

    My $0.02 --

    I think that is it okay to have a bit more "extreme" view of the orchestral spread, myself. As a alternative, I enjoy the view from the vantage point of the conductor standing at the podium and prefer hearing directional things from a complete spread -- not just limiting it to a total of 70 or even 90 degrees. I guess it's like the same preference on equalization in a piece, too -- one thing doesn't work for everyone. For example, if a piece uses both piano and harp, I would opt for them being more than 40 or 50 degrees apart (assuming a 180-degree spread from left to right). Similarly, if marimba, xylophone and celesta were participating, I'd generally like them to have a clear space rather than be bunched together.

    While the view that Glenn outlines in his post does represent a more typical "audience view", I think a survey of modern stereo recordings would show that there is more of a sense of directionality that would be yielded from this "15th row" approach. I also believe that you have to view the stereo reproduction (spearkers) as putting out an image of your "orchestra spread" that is further modified by the listening space. Of course, we could get into the whole "binaural vs. stereo" debate, but let's not!

    *MY* orchestra enjoys a clear presence of various instruments "speaking" from various places within the aural space, to the degree that two channels allow. I think there is also room for completely ignoring the rules (look at what folks like Ives, Mahler, Glass, Adams and others have specified for the positioning of the instruments -- they tend to break the rules). Personally, I still prefer First Violins left, Second Violins right (with Violas and Cellos slightly further in on left and right sides, respectively). I frequently carefully position my 4 or 5 French horns with a few degrees separation so that they "speak" from slightly different spatial locations.

    Different strokes ... don't get me wrong: the chart and discussion is a good "starting point" and I thank Glenn for that along with Gary!



  4. #4

    Re: Adjusting GPO Pan Settings to Accommodate Different Listener Positions

    Gary & Kevin,

    Thanks for the remarks & appreciation!

    A few words of clarification. The pan angles (settings) shown in the chart for Max Pan = 100 represent a listener's position at the conductor's podium, as it uses the maximum pan settings allowed by the GPO Player (100 Left to 100 Right). Charts with lesser maximum pan values (90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40) move the listener progressively further away from the podium, into the hall.

    Also, the angles shown represent an angle to the center of a section to accommodate the simplest GPO Player setup (one slot per section). So, for example, allocating one instrument slot to Fr. Horns, since you can only use one pan setting you would use the pan setting shown. For a more realistic result, if you populated four slots for Fr. Horn 1-4, you would need to alter the pan settings for each player, setting each a bit left or right of the center angle.

  5. #5

    Re: Adjusting GPO Pan Settings to Accommodate Different Listener Positions


    This is very interesting. I haven't done as much playing around with imaging as perhaps I should. This gives a good starting point for experimenting. Thanks.

    Much appreciated,


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