First thank you for a thoughtful and comprehensive answer, and thanks for your other post on the Surround Panner. My thoughts have been along your lines.
At present, I am just adjusting the levels coming out of the VSTI’s to make them comparable - they were way off. Also, Spiccato samples in Halion Sonic Orchestra are way too loud for the rest of the same orchestra.
Overall, I have say, twenty violin ‘instruments’ (instances of Kontakt, PLay, VSL, Spitfire) many of which are keyswitched, half of which are ensemble patches. Though I recognise that there will be additional mixing. when I actually get to making music, at this stage I just want to make it so that I can pick a solo violin and it can play back at the levels of its bedfellows (analogy: I can think of this as replacing Smith with Bloggs in the chairs).
Secondly, it would be no good at all if I achieved this for groups of instruments but in the orchestra they did not match so that a flute drowned out a Tam Tam (exaggeration) .
I started this 'calibration last night and it’s easier that I thought.
I decided to design in 'one instance of a player (PLAY, Kontakt, etc) per patch (keyswitched where poss) . I did this so that when I load a particular sound, from its disabled state). I don’t have to load a whole multi. I was thinking of RAM.
It turns out I need not have worried too much. Although it’s not possible to load all your violins into one multi, as some are EW, some VSL, etc. It is on occasions sensible to load instrument collections into one multi. With Cubase’s disable function, all this has virtually no RAM consequences. You could go with an idea of one multi for EW Strings, another for Brass, another for Kontakt Woodwinds, but as soon as you enable one multi instrument, it seems to me that the whole player loads into RAM (judging by the appearance of the instrument). On smaller systems this is not so good,but I digress.
The way I am proceeding is simple enough: Load a couple of instruments, compare the activity VDUs in the project window’s track list, use either the master for the instrument’s player, or the gain for the actual instrument, to broadly aurally balance the sounds, add another instrument, bring that in line too…etc. When it gets too Tutti drop a few. Do this across groups instruments. Make sure I compare levels between major instrument sections too.
I have written four bar scale runs in C for all instruments demoing their ranges. I did think about using one instrument as a kind of ‘gold standard’ to work off, say an oboe, but how to compare the loudness of an oboe with a group of Timpani or Double Basses, Aurally?
Level wise, my understanding is that the signal in digital systems does not need to be as hot as analogue systems, so a tad conservative is fine (just a tad) peeking at about -10DB. Can you confirm?
Honestly, I have largely ignored VDU calibration after the sound is in the ballpark, for former compositions, though I understand basic DB/Loudness.
Your point about “the ratio of the direct signal to the reverberant signal determines the distance to the sound source”.
I think it’s a combination of both. As reverb is traditionally added later to the whole mix, I have been thinking about mainly volume. Of course some samples have it baked in to a degree, then of course there are the mic positions to consider - many instruments having options. It get’s tricky. I think this just stays default for now. Anyways I am not too concerned at creating a resemblance to a stage, I intend to play with reality and work in 5.1. Think Filmic.
Anyways, at the moment approximate parity gives me a level playing field to compose with. Achieving this will take me a few days, as I will be checking expression maps and writing them too, where required. I am getting pretty quick, but even so…
The next stage, will be grouping the sounds in the mixer. My final intention is to disable all the tracks except perhaps a set of goto instruments, then, bring in alternatives and extra sounds, as I need.
I hope to achieve group tracks for musical sections (e.g.Brass) in the mixer. I have not got a clue, as yet, what disabling and enabling tracks will do to the routings!
All this work is not in vain. From this grand template, I shall easily be able to create sub-templates, this modular approach pays dividends for large MIDI compositions.
Oh for a wizard Mr Steinberg!