Interesting comment about dry orchestral instruments. It's been my modest experience that three factors come into play when using and 'positioning' orchestral instruments.
The first is panning, but it's not first in the positioning conundrum.
I actually start with a simple delay. (two tracks of the same wave, one a few ms behind the other, at a lower volume. Both are mono, and i define these as the louder signal being the 'front' signal, and the other signal being the 'rear' signal.) That sets the metre distance away from a predefined listening position, approximately 10 metres 'behind' the central conductor's post, in the body of the hall. And because sampled strings behave a little different to live strings, the delay is often 'unrealistic' in defined distance. What i mean by this is the tone of strings, being quite different to tonal characteristics of Woodwinds, or Brass, appear in normally defined delay distance to be behind the overall orchestral aural image. This presents an ongoing challenge in positioning, and again, in my modest experience, requires a good deal of dumping visual perceptions, and going with the ears, so to speak. We see orchestral strings at being at the front of the orchestra, but in terms of samples, and delay, we hear them quite differently. In normal circumstances, with generic delays, or IRs, strings sound in an incorrect fashion, hence my returing to a simple recording technique, ergo, manual delay.
The next step is panning, and i often 'ride' the pan of the rear signal delay, once the front delay signal is postioned, to not only strengthen the aural position of the instrument, but also create a little width. If the rear signal is perceived as being half a metre either side of the front signal position, then this gives width to a mono signal, without the angst of trying to compress, or narrow a stereo signal.
The third step is mike bleed, and i continue to experiment with this even to this day. When we hear an orchestra live, there is extensive aural bleed between instruments and sections, particularly in full orchestrations. But when we record, there is an urge to minimise this bleed, usually with an intent to work on a particular instrument recording with out the complication of added aural bleed from something else.
It continues to be my opinion that doing this...'removes' something essential from a recording, and highlights the 'unreality' of sample recordings.
So, i've been building templates to at least partially, reintroduce a more natural element to recording, by bleeding a little of instruments into those around them to varying degrees. (based on experimentation.) For example, and i'll express this in percentages, if i have a flute recording, i will bleed approximately 25% of the flute signal into the oboes, usually sitting alongside. And on the other side, i will bleed approximately 15% of the signal into the 3rd trumpet. (I have my flutes and oboes to the rear of the clarinets and bassoons in my normal orchestral setup. This gives the flutes and oboes a slightly more 'ethereal' sound, and reduces the strong tonal influence the flutes, and particularly oboes, have when adjacent to the violas and cellos.) And further, if i want a particularly 'mystical' flute sound, i bleed lesser degrees of percentage into instruments sitting one removed from those adjacent to the flute. so the English Horn, for example, will get approx. 5% of the flute signal, and the second trumpets the same. This might seem complicated, but i made it easier by drawing a picture of a full orchestra, then carefully drawing circles around each instrument in degrees. So the flute has two 'rings' of varying percentages, and i take careful note of where these rings intersect other instruments, and adjust the bleed accordingly.
I would stress here, that i do this AFTER i've made all adjustments to the recording, including any automation. It would be too complicated to try and balance these three degrees at once. (And there may be a clue here for those building Daws, to including some sort of 'automated' recording component that positions instruments and bleed. Perhaps a GUI of a user defined ensemble setup, with 'sizable' circles around each instrument, that automatically, by percentage, introduce bleed to varying, user defined, degrees.)
This seems a lot of work, and it is, but with practise, and the building of GOOD templates, the process can be automated to at least a certain degree.
I've also had some interesting discussions about this approach with good audio engineers, who by nature of their craft find the idea of deliberate 'mike bleed', an anethema to everything they've learnt. But they've also failed to convince me that this experiment is of no use, and with continued experimentation, i continue to be confident that something will come of this, even if it's the birth of a unique 'Alex" sound, hehe.
Again i stress here that most of my recording is mono, and that helps make the delay and positioning technique easier to handle.
So what about strings, who stretch across a stage?
I have 3 and sometimes 4 mono recordings, each of them recorded a little differently (for the sake of 'human' playing) for each violin section, including at least one solo violin. (for a more 'live' capture of starts and finishes in phrases. sometimes my solo player hangs on a note just a fraction longer, or comes in a fraction early, and he does this from different positions within a section throughout a piece, so these 'human' moments don't all come from the same player and position.)
Add to this the mike bleed method, and we can quickly build up a section which sounds more realistic, and without the whole section layering that occurs when you record one full string section over the top of another. 14 players in a section remain 14 in aural perception, and are not doubled or tripled in numbers.
All these tips are just my opinion, and should be treated as such. As i wrote, there are those who see this as...bad recording practise, so i urge some careful reflection about which direction a user would wish to take, or importantly, what degree of 'live' a user wants to put into a piece or work..
i write all this because it's my belief, based on what i've written, that we have a need for a good convolution plugin or programme,that offers the added component of a positional relationship for instruments, and the bleed interaction to surrounding instruments, by user defined degree. Just by nature of this setup, we'd need a fairly extensive GUI that presented an easily identifiable 'picture of where our sound is going, with realtime adjustment.
I continue to live in hope!