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Live Sound

‘La La Land’ Live Show Hits the Road

FOH engineer Troy Choi mixes live music to La La Land screenings around the world.

Los Angeles, CA (May 10, 2018)—Last year saw the film musical La La Land take home a slew of Oscars and clean up at the box office, and now the film has began its own roadshow, touring the world for screenings where all music is performed live by a local symphony orchestra, jazz band and choir. Mixing the show at most stops is Troy Choi, who’s been requesting a DiGiCo SD7 or SD10 desk each time.

The only recordings are stem files for general dialogue plus sung vocal tracks for stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, some background vocals, which are mixed with the live choir, effects and a click track to keep everyone in sync.

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“Most of the time, I mic every single musician, so total channel count is easily between 90 and 100 inputs,” he said. “And, many times, I don’t have enough time to check and tweak each input individually, so it’s important to have a mixer that always sounds good ‘as is.’ I use SD7s and SD10s, and both of those consoles are ‘gain up, fader up, sounds great with minimal processing.’ The sound is fat, smooth, and never harsh. Many channels run with no EQ changes other than a high-pass filter. That’s helped bring a lot of success to this tour.”

One of the features that Choi uses to manage inputs is Control Groups, of which he uses 24 in total. “Control Groups mixed with the ability to customize fader layers is crucial to wrangling all of these inputs. I’m a bit of a micro-managing kind of mixer,” Choi said, “so I need to have a pretty significant level of control over workflow. The faders in the center of the SD7 allow me to set up a workflow that makes it super-easy to control all of the Control Groups with.”

The challenges go beyond just the music, and the whole character of the music portion—and Choi’s mixing decisions—can change based on myriad influences. “For example, when we did the shows in South Korea with the full band from the soundtrack, I ran the band inputs hotter because the people that came to those shows came to see that band,” he explains.

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Other shows outside of the US, where the film was presented with subtitles, wanted to hear more orchestra, while audiences in the English-speaking world may want to hear more dialogue. Choi, who has a background as a drummer and reads music, did the first shows of the tour with a copy of the score next to him to keep track of where they were.

“The score has so many musical parts that bleed right into dialogue,” he describes. Eventually, he memorized the score. “For the first gig, I had the score open right in front of the desk. But, by about show 22, I had it memorized.”

DiGiCo •