Dynamics & Balancing in Dorico with VE Pro, mixing in VE Pro: Variables

The following is not offered as didactic but as observational. I put it together this morning to help me wrap my head around the scope of what is involved, to map out and make a record of all the variables I don’t really understand, things I am not at all experienced or good at implementing. All I can do is start walking into the orchard complex and experiment with the lowest hanging fruit. No doubt I have missed some things, or stated them in a way that is less than optimal.

DORICO

  1. Written dynamics
  • p’s to f’s
  • Crescendos, diminuendos
  • Accents
  1. Dynamics Preferences
  1. Expression map dynamics assignments
  • Primary
    — Velocity X-Fade
    — Velocity, sometimes, as with unpitched percussion
  • Secondary
    — Expression, commonly
    — (might in some circumstances be best left unassigned)

SYNCHRON PLAYER

  1. CC Values assigned for Dorico dynamics
  • Master Volume (CC 7)
  • Velocity X-Fade (usually CC 1)
  • Expression (CC 11)
  • Dynamic compression (CC 30)
  • Velocity (when assigned in Dorico)
  1. Curve adjustments (Control tab) made to the above-noted CC’s

  2. Patch loudness

  • Between patches / slots
  • Dynamic layers within a patch or slot
  1. Mix tab
  • A complexity all it’s own

VE PRO

  1. Channel volume slider

  2. Routed volume sliders

  3. Channel inserts

THE PROBLEMS

  1. Inconsistency
  • With so many variables consistency is impossible
  • Between libraries, within libraries, within slots there are inconsistencies
  1. Various dynamic needs
  • Within a project
  • Between projects
  1. Settings that work in one instance might conflict with what works in another

  2. Orchestration

  • Initial balancing of instruments and sections
  • Balancing in musical passages or even in moments

In life it is nearly always the case that things are not as cut and dried, as simple as one might imagine, as easy as one might hope. But for me the best way to learn to swim is to dive into the water, to not set my expectations unrealistically high, and to profit from the wisdom and experience of others. I find this forum so helpful, and I appreciate all those who go to the trouble to share with us what they have learned.

Daunting, to say the least. I would probably add all of the humanization options to the Dorico section, which for me, is sometimes overwhelming.

Long ago, I undertook writing expression maps for EW Symphony orchestra. After many failed attempts do to the sheer overwhelming variables you describe, I broke it down to it’s simplest form:

  • Turn off all humanization in Dorico
  • Don’t ever fiddle with the VST mix tab unless absolutely necessary (I remember a cello marcato particularly loud so I had to lower it slightly).
  • One at a time, work individual instruments building up to a complete orchestral choir: Woodwinds, e.g., create expression maps and use the VEP mixer on the individual instrument channels to balance like-dynamics (p flute, p oboe etc… I used Bach hymns for this process).
  • Also during this phase, I set the panning (nowadays, I use MIR).
  • Create a BUS and route every woodwind to it (easier when mixing other choirs against the woodwinds)

… repeat for every choir in the orchestra

Once the balance is acceptable, create an FX send (I usually have 3, panned L, R C) and start by sending exact levels from/to channel strips. You’ll find small adjustments to the send levels helps with positioning.

For me, the result of the above was a fairly decent template. Once you start really working with it, you will undoubtedly tweak… but for the few weeks I spent on it, I enjoyed many months of enjoyment.

Thanks for your comments der Abgang.

Yes, I’ve turned off or zeroe’d out all Dorico preferences for humanized dynamics. I don’t want them messing with my CC values. And I do have a busing system within VE Pro for overall groups and also certain subgroups where it makes sense. That way I can use individual instrument sliders only to maintain relative balance within a group or subgroup, and use the group sliders to balance between groups.

I appreciate hearing your process. I’m all ears.

Hi, I’ve recently started using VE Pro with Dorico Pro since I have a few VSL libraries. Would any of you know why one Dorico project calls up the VE Pro instrument set when turning on the instruments, and another project doesn’t; only opening up an empty set with the name of the instrument set I thought I had saved.

Can’t tell from your description of the problem exactly what is happening. I’m not sure what you mean by “calls up” or “set.” Taking a guess, perhaps your problem has to do with a Playback Template? If you can explain exactly what is happening, I’ll help you if I can, or no doubt someone can.

Hi,
Sorry for not using the VE Pro terminology; let me start over:
I have 2 Dorico projects. Each project uses VE Pro to get the sounds of the instruments vs setting up individual instrument instances in Dorico.
So when I open one project and activate the instruments, it triggers the necessary instances in VE Pro, automatically. All instruments playback without a hitch.
On the other project, it opens empty instances, which I then have to delete and open the correct instances and activate them/connect them to Dorico manually. Only then do instruments work properly.
Does this make more sense?

I have 2 Dorico projects.

Do these two Dorico projects connect to the same instance for the same instruments? If so, the issue is probably that only one VEP VST can connect to an instance, meaning, when the second project is opened, the plugin connection will be refused and the VEP VST will not connect.

Try closing the first project before opening the second to test the theory.

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A screenshot of what your VEP Server instances look like with both projects open would help clarify as well.

I often find that if I’m not connecting to Channel 1 of my VEP instance, then Dorico doesn’t connect and I have to connect manually. For example, if my woodwind VEP instance has Picc, Flute, Flute, Oboe as channels 1234, and I’m not using Picc in that project, then applying my playback template doesn’t connect correctly, and I have to manually connect to the VEP instance. Is that what you mean?

Project 1 without activation of instruments:

Same project with instruments activated. You can see all instruments loaded up automatically in VE Pro after I clicked on the Activate Project button in Dorico.


Project 2 without activation of instruments:


Same project with instruments activated



Now it doesn’t load up anything. This behavior is different from when I first started my question.
Now when I click the “e” button in Dorico-> Play-> VST and Midi window, I get

so I have to load the instances in VE Pro first, then click the “e” button, and I get this

From here I select the 2 servers needed ( VSL VEP7 SYzd Percussion & VSL VEP7 SYzd Percussion Wood), activating them for the Dorico project.
Does this help to understand what I’m trying to understand?

Hi @algae592009
I am not sure if this could be the cause of your issue (or maybe is totally wrong what I say):

in your last picture, it shows that your VEPro plugin is set on Decouple All (the orange and red icons). This means that the settings of your VEPro server and the assignments are not saved in your Dorico file. So opening a file, without having before opened your saved .vep64 project (with all the contained instances that are used by the Dorico Project) directly in the VEPro server app, result in not assigned instances in the plugin.

Can you (after reopening VEPro server app without anything loaded) show a screenshot of the VEPro plugin, in Project 1 after the instrument activation in Dorico? (I suspect that it will show that it is in Coupled mode, where the 2 icons are grey, so the plugin knows the assignments, and connects correctly the instances.)

Here more informations:
https://www.vsl.info/en/manuals/vep7/preserve-decouple-connect-and-disconnect

(also in your fourth pictures it seems that VEPro has some problem finding your "Vienna Instruments Pro"samples, because of the red rectangles…)

OK, I see the red rectangles in the Vienna Instruments Pro (solo strings). It seems to work and I can’t find why it’s doing this, yet.

About the Decoupling, for some reason the manual explanation is confusing for me.

So if the lock icon is off, Dorico won’t remember these instances?
Decoupling is not clear for me, in terms of what it actually does: do I need to activate it or not, so Dorico remembers the needed instances and loads them up automatically?
I’ll need to tackle this again tomorrow. I really appreciate your insights into this matter.
Thank you.

The Icon of the VEPro plugin activates the Decouple state (Decouple is on if icon is orange.
(this works also in connection with the Preserved icon (that looks like a lock), see below):
Here the official video that explains many aspects:

An here my attempt to explaining it :slight_smile: :

Possible instance/plugin status scenarios:

  • Coupled if icon is gray: the DAW (Dorico) saves, embedded in its project file, all informations, assignments, etc. between DAW and VEPro server. You don’t need a template in VEPro server, because every time you open your project in the DAW (Dorico in this case), the DAW will send to VEPro server (that must be running, with nothing loaded) all the informations, and the instances will be magically recreated and connected.

PRO: you don’t need to maintain a template in VEPro server
CONTRA: bigger file size, and saving times in the DAW:


  • Decoupled if icon is orange: the DAW doesn’t saves informations, assignments, etc. : you need to have VEPro running and you have to load a previously saved project (.vep64 file format) as sort of template with all the needed instances loaded, before you open your project in the DAW

PRO: smaller file size and saving time in the DAW
CONTRA: you need to save and maintain a template in VEPro with all your needed instances, channels, settings, and load it before you open your DAW Project


  • clicking on the three vertical dots in the plugin Decouples all instances (and turns red): all instances are Decoupled
    PRO: even smaller file size and saving time in the DAW
    CONTRA: as before


The preserve/unpreserve Lock has this function:

  • if the lock is grey (open), the instance is Unpreserved: when you delete an instrument assigned to that instance, or close a Project where that instance is present, the instance disappears from VEPro server.

  • if the lock is blue (closed) the instance is Preserved: when you delete an instrument assigned to that instance, or close a Project where that instance is present, the instance remains in VEPro server (but will of course be disconnected).


The system is really well thought through, but it takes time to learn how to use the different possibilities. In general my suggested workflow is to create your template in VEPro server with all the libraries that you use, save the VEPro project and call it “my orchestral template 2024” or something like that. Then in the DAW (Dorico), prepare all your instruments and assign/connect them to the already present instances/midi channels already present in VEPro server, Decouple all, Preserve all. Save a Playback template with all the Endpoint configurations, and the desired settings, including expression/drum maps, live stage settings etc…
So you can close your project and open another project, load the Playback template in Dorico and you don’t have loading time, because VEPro remains with all instances loaded in the background. Before opening a project in the DAW you need to open VEPro, load your saved template in VEPro, and when you open your DAW (Dorico) project, everything will connect nicely. And the DAW file size and saving time are also minimal.

This is a workflow that works good in a DAW like Cubase. In Dorico it should work similarly, as explained, with the extra steps of creating the Playback Template in Dorico. This takes time and creates some maintenance and attention, and is recommended for big and fixed VEPro templates (if you change your template, save it with a new name and save a copy of it in the specific corresponding Dorico project folder, because if you change something in VEPro template, older projects of the DAW may be not work as expected, in decoupled mode).

That’s why I use VEPro in Cubase, and Note Performer (with NPPE) in Dorico :wink:

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Regardless of the (de)coupling … your problem is that 2 VEP VSTs can’t connect to the same instance, i.e., you can’t have two activated projects connected to the same VEP server instance, hence the “NOT CONNECTED” in the connection dialog.

@derAbgang I tested this with two identical projects whose setup is so that they use the exactly same instance in VEPro (I opened twice from a template and saved with different names) and it seems that this cannot be the reason of the issue that @algae592009 is having (but maybe I am totally wrong…):

Dorico doesn’t connect two projects simultaneously: if you activate a second open project (clicking on its switch button, or just bringing the deactivated projects in foreground, if the option of projects switching/activation is not set to never for subsequent projects in the Preferences/Play/Projects activation) Dorico deactivates the first project, and after a short time connects the new project, to the same instance as before, and VEPro server works nicely with this switch, connecting correctly to the very same instance/s. (And this actually worked with both Coupled and Decoupled modes, because Preserved was active: of course you have to begin with a Project that has the VEPro plugin in Coupled mode, to let the correct instances magically appear in VEPro server, or otherwise open VEPro server first, and load your saved template/instances there, before you open the Dorico Project)

The only thing that one should avoid is to have Decoupled mode and Unpreserved at the same time: switching the projects form an active projects whose VEPro plugin is in Unpreserved status, makes the instance of VEPro server disappear, in the very moment that the first project is disconnected by Dorico. And if the second project that you activate is in Decouple mode, then it will load an instance with the correct name, but this instance will be empty, with no channels loaded (because in Decouple mode there are no informations about the channels etc… saved in the Dorico file itself). So generally use Decoupled always with Preserved mode…

So I worked on this issue yesterday and found that now with preserved and decoupled turned off, the problem project is working fine, recalling the two instances it requires to playback the player parts in Dorico.
I understand then, that the project saves the VE pro info/data.
I appreciate the feedback all of you have given me here.
This is one of the biggest reasons I really like Dorico; the people and their willingness to support and share with others.
Thank you.

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FWIW, I always use coupled mode in VE Pro in the modern day. I used to use decoupled mode because saving used to cause it to take 40 seconds in coupled mode. In a newer version of VE Pro, just in the past year or two, VSL did something that decreases the save time very substantially when coupled, and now it takes about 1 second to save my DAW or Dorico project in coupled mode. The larger file size then becomes the only reason to use decoupled mode. Given that most people have large amounts of disk space available, this is not generally a concern.

One other thing I’ve found is that saving a VE Pro project inside VE Pro while it is connected to Dorico or a DAW often results in VE Pro crashing when reloading the project, as some plugins seem to get confused if the connection is there to the server project when they are saved but not when they are reopened. This becomes a big problem if you are using it in decoupled state as then your only copy of the project is in the project file, which you might not be able to reopen now. If you don’t also have a version of the VE pro project in the Dorico file itself (by using it in coupled mode), or saved a backup of your VE Pro project in another folder and/or with another name, you could lose your entire VE Pro template this way. When I’m saving my VE Pro project to a file, I make sure that I quit Dorico first before hitting the Save button in VE pro itself so that nothing is connected to the VE Pro project when it is saved, which ensures it will open correctly.

In my case, I discovered this issue when I happened to hit the “Save” button in VE Pro while Dorico was running, which replaced my original working VE Pro project with a copy that I couldn’t re-open in VE Pro without it crashing. I was about to panic because I had done a lot of work in VE Pro and thought I’d have to redo everything. Thankfully I didn’t lose anything because I use it in coupled mode and so my Dorico file had a backup of the same template, which did open correctly, simply by starting an empty VE Pro session and then opening my Dorico project.

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I honestly found the last few releases have left the Pro server pretty unstable (Windows 11). Simple things like creating a folder and dragging it brings the entire application to a standstill (not always, hence, unstable). Also, the fickleness of the network broadcasting algorithm forces me to have to hand type the IP and server instance into the connection dialog which always occurs after an update.

… but yes, saving server projects is much quicker than in the past.