Justin Loh records Ah Boys to Men with Audio-Technica
SINGAPORE: Professional sound recordist Justin Loh’s most recent project was to lead his team of professionals to record the sounds of popular movie series, Ah Boys to Men. The team used a range of mics from Audio-Technica for the recording on Tekong Island. This is reported to be the first South East Asian movie to utilise Dolby Atmos.
‘I have worked with Ah Boys to Men director, Jack Neo numerous times, so I understand his style,’ said Mr Loh. ‘He is very active and has many creative impromptu ideas, so the sound crew had to be on the ball at all times’.
Discussing how the sound requirement for a movie is different from a TV show, Mr Loh continued: ‘On TV, the audio is compressed, so certain sounds may be eliminated. But for movies, everything is captured and translated with full range speakers in a sound proof hall. So monitoring is much more stringent when everything is audible, and we require more equipment and a more complicated set-up. For this movie, we monitored on set for 10-12 hours a day since Tekong Island has a curfew and we need to leave by evening.’
Mr Loh found that the biggest challenge during recording was manoeuvring the equipment through the Tekong terrain. ‘Certain areas have no flat surfaces; hence a quiet prime location for the audio equipment placement is important,’ he explained. ‘At times, there were up to eight actors conversing in a single scene, which made it a challenge to mix. Furthermore, since Tekong is a military island, the RF frequency is very sensitive.’
As the ‘first South East Asian movie to be screened in Dolby Digital 5.1’ stereo surround sound, the stereo microphones in use for recording were important, as Mr Loh explained: ‘Stereo microphones draw you in; it is the 3D version of sound. This was my first time using only stereo sound for ambience and wild sounds for a feature film. Audio-Technica’s stereo microphones are famous in the industry not only in the region, but also in the US,’ he added. ‘They produce stereo microphones that make recording wild and ambience sounds much easier and more convenient. That was an especially important feature for this movie because we had no idea when the tanks and army boys would be marching by so we had to always be ready to capture the sounds when they occurred.’
Discussing a particularly challenging scene, Mr Loh said: ‘The raining scene at the Benjamin Sheares Bridge was gruelling. The rain was unexpected, and the actor was wearing a shirt made of very thin material. It was really lucky that we had the pin that came with the Audio-Technica BP896 lavalier microphone, so we used Rycote and a fur-tech to cover it. The microphone still produced the full range of sounds and could handle the high SPLs, which was perfect since the actor had to scream in that scene!’
However, Mr Loh’s favourite Audio-Technica mic used during the recording process was the BP4025. ‘This microphone was used in the fighting scene in Ah Boys to Men II, and I taped it underneath one of the chairs and instructed the actors not to throw the chair since it was miked,’ he explained. ‘I was impressed but not surprised, that just one microphone could capture the whole fighting scene’s sound perfectly.