The Magic of De Lane Lea

Sep 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Wes Maebe



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Studio 1 has an 80-fader AMS Neve Gemini console and 7.1 Meyer EXP monitoring.

Studio 1 has an 80-fader AMS Neve Gemini console and 7.1 Meyer EXP monitoring.

I think that at some point every young aspiring sound engineer dreams of being involved with film. All those loud explosions, fantastic string arrangements, fast edits and, most of all, ginormous mixing desks. So when I moved to London as a student in the early 1990s, I walked past De Lane Lea dreaming of working on the next Bond movie.


De Lane Lea's Meyer Sound System

One of London’s top post-production facilities, De Lane Lea was founded in the late 1940s by a French intelligence attaché for the British government, Major De Lane Lea. Initially established to dub English films into French, the studio quickly expanded in the ’60s and ’70s. Technical growth and development in radio and television secured more work in the advertising sector, and there was expansion into music, too, with many of the giants—Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Queen, to name a few—recording here, as well. (Fans should note that these sessions took place at De Lane Lea’s former Wembley and Kingsway sites.)

Today it’s easy to miss the six-room studio’s entrance, located unobtrusively in the heart of London’s SoHo district. Once you’ve signed in and been led to the bar area, it opens up into a warren of offices, corridors and rooms. The walls are lined with posters of well-known films and signed photos of actors most of us are used to seeing 30 feet tall on the big screen. Suzanne Facenfield, scheduling manager and energetic ray of sunshine, greeted me and made me feel like part of the family in an instant; I then sat down to chat with general manager Mike King and their two first-call mixers, Chris Burdon and Doug Cooper.

Work on Fantastic Mr. Fox was well under way in the summer of 2009 when De Lane Lea’s neighboring building caught fire and the resulting smoke and water damage forced a temporary relocation of most of the operations. So what did the DLL crew do? They decided this was the perfect time to rebuild, upgrade and install a brand-new speaker system. The studios that benefited the most from the rebuild are 1, 2 and 3, according to the principals. They had started to feel a tad tired, so it was the perfect time to spruce things up. The rooms now feel airy and pleasant, with an instant feel of comfort; the “I can do some great work in here” factor is extremely high.

Most of this positive vibe should be credited to the close collaboration between Meyer Sound, Munro Acoustics and ace consultant Dennis Leonard. New acoustic treatments dealt with the slightly uneven bass response of the original Studio 1. This meant increasing the bass reverberation slightly and evening out that end of the spectrum, resulting in a bigger and fatter sound. New diffusers were installed to help glue the surrounds together. It doesn’t matter where you sit in the room, you’ll always get a good sonic perspective. With the choice of monitoring system, it became clear that the De Lane Lea team is not afraid of making bold decisions and staying ahead of the curve. Meyer Sound is not usually thought of in film sound monitoring, but the company has obviously made a first-class foray into the industry. I couldn’t help but be excited to hear the rooms, having experienced Meyers several times in a front-of-house capacity and marveling at the system’s power, even sound and clarity. Plus, the Skywalker folks love them—need we say more?!

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