Troy Choi talks LA LA LAND IN CONCERT and Ultimate Ears

LA LA Land was the surprise hit of 2016 swept the Golden Globes, won six Oscars, and made a net profit of about $65 million. Starting in 2017 and heading into 2018, the film has emerged from the cinemas and hit the road for a series of events known as La La Land in Concert, encompassing screenings of the film that incorporates a live orchestra, jazz ensemble, and choir.

The tour’s primary mix engineer, Troy Choi, has been “hands-on faders” for 90 percent of the run, including shows on every continent, all using local orchestras and choirs as well as, in most cases, local musicians for the jazz band that is so crucial to the film’s sound and story.

We were very lucky to have Troy take a little time from his hectic schedule and talk to us a little about the production.

Hi Troy. First of all, can you tell us how you got involved with LA LA LAND in concert?

It was a pretty simple start. I got hired by 3G production which is one of the biggest production company in the US. And now I work for them as full-time engineer. I run 90% of the whole tour schedule.


How involved are you in the day to day production?

We do pre-production before we go to a new city. Checking riders and equipment list with local audio/video company. I do chat with local audio company regards audio setup and monitor setup etc. So when we get the new city we pretty much are ready. Absolutely we do have a meeting with a local vendor if we need.
Many people think that it is just fun to go to different countries, yes it is a great experience, but it is very tiring. In reality, we get jet-lag all the time, the next day we have to do a rehearsal and show and so we get a lot of pressure from all the people and more.
When we land on a new city, - go to a hotel - fight against jet lag - next day go to the venue- sound system tuning - rehearsal-beer time- show day- go home or go to another city. Sometimes we have a day off between city and city, so then I change my mode to tourist. It is great but there are many dark sides to this as well. lol.
La La Land in concert UE Ultimate Ears

How do the shows work?

Basically, we play the movie from the beginning as a normal movie, but we have a live symphony orchestra, jazz band, and choir. All the music from the movie is 100% live. You Watch the movie and listen to the music by a live symphony. So all the musicians have a mic and earbud because they have to listen to the click to sync with the movie clips.


What are some of the challenges in using pickup musicians at every stop?

well, luckily I have a great orchestra at each stop. It is an academy award music, so orchestration is beautiful. But the pickup jazz band at every stop is not easy every time, so this is definitely a challenge. Sometimes we travel with original players but it does not happen many times due to budget. Jazz part of this music is not easy at all. Even still, original players from movie soundtrack are saying ‘Did I play this? It is so hard.


What is the live sound setup like?

Always I request big console like Digico sd5,7. Because channel counts are easy to over 90, sometimes more than 100 -110. For the most times, every single player has a mic and 2 mics for harp and 2-4 mic for piano something like that. And I used many different PA systems at each stop. And most important audio setup was a click system setup.W e need to sync 100% music and film. Every player used click system at all times.


How do Ultimate Ears fit into your production work on this project?

Like I mentioned before, click monitor system is one of the main parts of the audio set up. Ultimate Ears provided the UE PRO Remastered to composer Justin Hurwitz and primary tour conductor Erik Ochsner and Randy Kerber who is the original piano player in the movie. Justin, Erik, and Randy are key persons of this performance. I send them a click and music that they want to listen. They said it was amazing sound and solid. Also, I traveled my UE 5 PRO, UE 11 PRO demo in case. I provided those to some jazz players who can be a little picky. They loved it! It was guaranteed solution for me.


Tell us how you mix for different cultures or countries? Do people have different mix expectations?

Well, I expected that situation, but since I have been to many different countries, I’ve decided to mix like the movie. Nobody has complained so far. Only thing some people asked to me was that ‘ I want to listen more orchestra’ or ‘ I need more dialogue’ . There were no complaint about the style of mix.


How did you prepare for that?

I would like to say one word ‘Respect’ I knew already about some country’s culture like Japan and Germany. For other countries, I would say that I respect how they work. I was trying to talk a lot with then local staff and get along with them. After that, we could build believe in each other. 

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