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  • Writer's pictureJoe Chris

Templates II: Set Up

Setting up a template, especially a large master template, can be a very daunting task. And as we all strive for an ideal workflow, we will find that a lot of things we thought would be great when setting up actually turn out not to be. And in addition, we are always adding new libraries and tweaking plug in parameters, so our templates are essentially a living thing that evolves and changes over time. Templates can be very personal, so what works best for one person may not for another. That being said, there are a few optimal ideas we can use to help plan and set up our template, at least give us a general starting point.


1. Plan ahead


Before we begin setting up our templates, the first thing we should consider is what we want to include in terms of instruments and libraries. We should also consider things such as what sub-mixes we will have pre-routed, our stemming structure, track naming conventions, color coding etc. Look at the list in the previous post to see the various schools of thought for additional ideas to consider in the planning stage,


2. Add tracks with your desired organization


Once we figure out exactly what we want to do, we can add our basic midi/instrument tracks and start organizing them within the session. We can then add our routing for stems & stripes, sub-mixes, track folders, and any other basic routing or organization we may need.


3. Set up send effects and busses


Next, we should set up some aux tracks for sends and returns. If we have any outboard gear we’d like to incorporate into our template, now is a great time to set up bussing for that. We can also make our basic reverb send structures, with any of the various impulse response or algorithms preset and mixed. If there are any delays other effects you find yourself always using and want to include in your template, this is the time to do so.


4. Set up channel effects


At this point, we can start setting up EQ’s and other channel strip effects that we can use as a starting point.


5. Balancing your template


There are people way more qualified than me to talk about balancing your template, but the basic idea is that you want to have a pre-mixed starting point where the levels of the orchestra are balanced naturally and sound good with each other. This is accomplished with lots of tweaks in panning and volume and messing with the send levels of reverbs and other effects. Generally, the best thing you can do is to do a mock-up with a reference track and try to get it as close sounding to the reference track as possible.


6. Additional items


Once the template is balanced, it is pretty much ready to go. That being said, there are a few extra things we can add that I’ve found to be pretty helpful in my experience.

  • Mix bank I learned this one from Danny Elfman – keeping a mix bank in your sequence is an incredibly useful way to maintain version history without having to dig through files or open older sessions. I create a new track for each revision of a cue, and in the naming convention of each mix track I correlate it to the session’s file name. This gives me a working history of the cue and allows me to quickly and efficiently go back to older versions without having to sort through playlists or folders filled with mixes.

  • b. Parallel compression tracks You may find it helpful to have a full parallel compression send effect set up for each of your stems. According to Anne-Katherin Dern, when done right this sounds quite natural, thickens up the sound, and is in her opinion one of the secrets to the “big Hollywood” sound.


  • c. “Workspace” area Ryan Fogal, an active assistant in LA, relayed to me this idea: If you are working in a score or for a composer where you are doing a lot of sound design work (like recording a violin and throwing distortion on it), it can be quite helpful to have a pre-designated area in your template with extra tracks set up for facilitating this. In DP, I personally incorporated this idea with a separate chunk but you can do whatever works best for you.


If you have any other ideas of small things you add to your template that are “less conventional” like the above, I would love to hear it! Feel free to email me at Joe@JoeChrisMusic.Com or reach out via instagram @Joe_Chris_


This is a very “by the book” way of setting up a template. Often times, a composer may start with a basic orchestral template from when they only had one or two libraries, and develop it naturally over time with the things they find themselves using often (more on this in a future post: “An SDLC approach to Template Organization”). This is how I personally started and think it’s a marvelous way to develop things naturally, efficiently, and optimized for your workflow. I wouldn’t put all of the effort above in if you don’t have experience with larger templates yet, because it is a huge time commitment and you’d want to know your personal workflow best.


The benefit of creating a template in such a highly structured method as above is it makes it easy to grow an expand your template without creating much of a mess. However, similarly to how DAWs occasionally put a “bandage” over things as a quick fix that ends up being permanent, so shall your templates contain similar hack jobs. This is natural, but eventually you will find you may just need to scrap and restart - or at least perform a major overhaul. This is all part of the natural life cycle of software, and a highly structured creation method like this will hopefully 1) minimize the amount of work you need to redo, and 2) help you identify exactly what workflow changes are needed and why.

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