Lawo mc²66 console used to record ‘Valerian’ score

Sound engineer Peter Cobbin was recently given a Lawo mc²66 audio production console to record the score for Luc Besson’s forthcoming sci-fi blockbuster movie Valerian, which will hit cinemas worldwide this summer as the most expensive movie so far produced in Europe.

Production company Europacorp supplied the console, which was set up in Studio 104 at Radio France’s auditorium in Paris with the Orchestre National de France and French Oscar Award-winning composer Alexandre Desplat.

The project took Cobbin away from his regular role as audio director at Abbey Road Studios, where he is used to working on very large projects. Chosen to handle similarly large orchestra ensembles, Radio France’s mc²66 operation was heavily customised to the recording’s needs and Cobbin’s workflow requirements.

The complete score was recorded in ten days, accommodating the large Orchestre National de France – close to 105 musicians – plus the 32-strong choir from Radio France. In total, there were 158 audio sources plus six 5.1-channel groups to be processed and recorded at 96kHz, 24-bit resolution.

“When we had to change our console six years ago, we searched for a replacement that could handle recording, postproduction, and live broadcast. We wanted a console with high-grade preamps and excellent summing buses, and the Lawo mc²66 was the best on the market,” explained Radio France sound director Laurent Fracchia. “It is really amazing, and offers amazing flexibility according to my needs. And, of course, it is a great-sounding desk.

“I can change its layout while I’m mixing or recording or broadcasting without losing anything,” he added. “During a production, complete projects are totally transportable on a simple USB key. As a result, I can record in an OB van and mix in the studio, which is fantastic workflow management.”

With a very tight schedule for Valerian, and it being the first production of this size and quality to be produced solely in France, the facility and equipment had to be prepared in advance of the recording session. Lawo audio console specialist Hervé de Caro was on-site to oversee the production and to personalise the console to the specific needs of Peter Cobbin, who was impressed by its sound and the customisation.

“Peter Cobbin is the sound director of Abbey Road Studios in London and asked for the same layout and routing flexibility he uses on his studio console,” said de Caro. “The complete chain – based on Peter’s microphone choice and placement, the Dallis mic preamps, the console summing quality, the acoustics of the studio and the monitoring loudspeakers – was perfect.”

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will hit cinemas on 26 July, and you can watch the teaser trailer below: