Singapore’s Mocha Chai Laboratories Design World Class Sound with Pro Tools | S6

By in Audio Post, Pro Mixing

Singapore-based Mocha Chai Laboratories (MCL) may be a young company but it has already established itself as the go-to choice for post-production for local filmmakers.

Having joined the ranks as one of the top guns in the local arena within a short span of five years, the facility has also garnered an impressive international portfolio that includes blockbusters such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014), and Train To Busan (2016).

MCL’s sound department also worked on Art Through Our Eyes, a collaborative effort between five award-winning directors from Southeast Asia that commemorates Southeast Asian artworks.

Showing no signs of slowing down, MCL’s most recent leap forward saw the introduction of the first Dolby Atmos® dubbing theatre in Singapore. In fact, it was the first in the world to be equipped with Christie’s Vive Audio. The theatre is now a state-of-the-art facility that allows MCL to tackle cinema sound mixing, on top of its usual colour grading services providing local filmmakers with a total package for post-production – right at home.

These recent upgrades motivated the decision to replace the Avid System 5 with a new Avid Pro Tools | S6 in June this year.

“We were looking to build a dubbing theatre that would attract sound mixers around the world,” said Chai Yee-Wei, founder of MCL who is also a filmmaker. “With that in mind, S6 was probably the option mixers were most comfortable with.”

The facility is a long-time Avid user and its pro mixing solution, considered integral to their success, now includes the sophisticated S6 M40 console equipped with 24 faders, along with Pro Tools | HD MADI, Pro Tools | HD OMNI, and the Pro Tools | Ultimate (formerly Pro Tools | HD) software.

A recent addition to the talented team at MCL is Lim Ting Li who joined in February 2016. Lim is a sound designer with 12 years of experience under her belt along with multiple accolades from the Verna Fields Awards in Sound Editing at the 2014 MPSE Golden Reel Awards and Best Sound Designer at London’s 2013 Underwire Festival. As the studio’s director of sound, Lim manages all sound projects and oversees each part of the audio post-production process including the dialogue edit, Foley, additional dialogue replacement, sound editing, and final mix.

Lim has been using Avid Pro Tools since the beginning of her career: “It was, and always has been the industry standard for sound in films,” commented Lim, “As filmmaking is a constant process, being on such a widely used platform allows for ease of collaboration amongst my team of editors. We’re able to easily share sound ideas, and also react quickly to any unforeseen changes.”

When developing an Avid pro mixing solution, Lim considered Pro Tools | HD MADI and Pro Tools | HD OMNI as the clear go-to choice. “They’ve both proven to be reliable on small and large scale projects,” explains Lim. “We use them in the dubbing theatre, as well as the sound edit suite.”

Besides product reliability and popularity, the solution had to aid in alleviating a wide variety of sonic challenges. “The challenges I face with every film are different,” Lim recalls. “For some films, it would be how to create a bombastic soundtrack without creating a wall of sound, while other films could require delicate attention to the dialogue. I suppose the constant challenge amongst every film is trying to translate what the director wants sonically and pair the project with the right team.”

Fitted on a 180-degree rotatable desk in the dubbing theatre, the Avid Pro Tools | S6 became the studio – and Lim’s – preferred console to work with. This was for a number of reasons, not the least being that it is able to handle such challenges and, of course, because Lim is no stranger to the previous Avid System 5.

Given the similarities between both mixing desks, “it was a natural progression to get acquainted with the S6,” Lim explains. “While there’s always the debate between analogue and digital in this day and age, the S6 has all the advantages when it comes to cross continental workflow.”

A seamless marriage of form and function, Lim praised not only the invitingly sleek design of the console, but also its convenience. Pivotal features such as the master module and extensive visual feedback are singled out because these features allow her to “stay on a mixing board without going back and forth to the editing station, saving valuable mixing time.”

Another game-changer is the S6’s modular control surface, which allows for multiple reconfigurations, and module expansions. “Being able to customise the functions of each module leaves me with multiple options literally at my fingertips, Lim enthuses. “For example, I can control the Dolby Atmos Panner with the joystick module, or quickly access all EQ parameters on any track using the Expand Zone mode.”

The large-scale S6 M40 console delivers the freedom to control as many as eight audio workstations at a time and can retain mix data within Pro Tools as well – a crucial function for Lim who adds, “we frequently work with overseas partners, and it’s important to us that they’re able to work on an identical session anywhere in the world.”

“Although picking up the S6 was a very intuitive and fast process,” said Lim, “I still have so much to learn, and have yet to use it to its full capabilities. I learn something new with every mix!”

The studio’s future plans include collaboration with Dolby, and Rhode & Schwarz that will feature a series of workshops in Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. These workshops will demonstrate MCL’s expertise in HDR delivery.

Next up for the facility is the chance to work with Singapore’s godfather of the music industry, Dick Lee on his first upcoming feature-length movie, Wonder Boy, which stars Benjamin Kheng, frontman of local pop-folk outfit The Sam Willows. The biopic film will be shot in Malaysia with Kheng portraying Lee’s younger self. “Knowing how this film will be a great showcase of his talents and music, Mocha Chai Laboratories is looking forward to flexing the S6 muscles in the Dolby dubbing theatre,” enthuses Chai.

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