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The sound of Rain comes to London

The newest addition to London’s post-production scene is due for an official launch next month. Kevin Hilton looks at the ambitions and technology behind Rain Post Production and how audio fits in with the facility’s overall plans to carve a niche for itself in Soho’s broadcast and film market.

The opening of any new post-production house in London is always a cause of speculation and discussion. How will it fit into the market? Will it go directly up against existing companies? What technology is being used and who will use it? And, most important of all, where is the money coming from? That last question has been answered, at least partly. A proportion of the initial £10 million investment has come from the Indian High Ground Enterprises film production and finance group. The remainder is provided by an American investor who, according to Rain’s business head, Vaughn Mullady, wishes to “remain unknown at this stage”. Backing from India’s massive post-production sector has been coming into London over the past five years. Mumbai-based Prime Focus bought the VTR group in July 2006 and re-branded existing facilities – including Clear, The Hive and VTR – under its own name. This created the first direct working connection between India and Soho, with communications circuits allowing work to be shared between the two bases. Century Communications then took a stake in Molinare but Rain Post is the first facility to be set up from scratch using Indian financing. Mullady, who was previously at digital processing house iLab, explains that he was approached by High Ground Enterprises, which had been looking at other facilities in London, to help set up the operation. “They wanted to work with a new business model and create a new identity from an Indian perspective,” he comments. Mullady was appointed to put together the equipment list and recruit staff and will handle sales and marketing once Rain is operational. Recruitment proved relatively straightforward as Mullady was looking for staff around the time the Future Films Group closed Pepper Post. Among the personnel who were not out of work very long are re-recording mixer Johnathan Rush and ADR mixer Nick Foley (pictured). Rain has four target markets: television broadcast; short-form broadcast, including trailers and promos; low to mid budget feature film work; and corporate production. Facilities include audio suites and a grading room, housed in premises on Lower James Street, off Golden Square. The building was gutted to accommodate the new post suites. The two sound rooms are: Studio 1, a large Dolby licensed mix room that will double as the ADR facility; and Studio 2, a smaller track-laying suite that will also be used for TV work. A voice booth sits between the two studios. Studio 1 houses a 16-fader AMS Neve DFC PS1, which Rush says was chosen partly because of its equalisation and compression for feature and TV productions. This works in conjunction with an eight-fader Avid D-Command side-desk, with both connected to a Pro Tools HD3 digital audio workstation. Studio 2 is based round a D-Command and features Pro Tools HD2. The studios had already been built by the time Rush and Foley were hired but it was felt that Studio 1 in particular needed further acoustic treatment. Munro Acoustics was brought in to re-design the membranes and absorption to get the room up to Dolby trailer spec. Acoustician Chris Walls says because Rush and Foley are looking to compete with the big established audio houses – including De Lane Lea and Goldcrest – they wanted better isolation for both mixing, with features in mind as well as broadcast, and ADR work. “The room is an irregular shape and we had to put in absorption treatments to deal with the bass and get the deathly quietness mixing and ADR requires,” Walls comments. Monitoring for Studio 1 is on a Dynaudio C3 7.1 system, with Dynaudio Air 6s for 5.1 in Studio 2. Rush comments that requirements for Dolby EX specify 7.1, so it made sense to install a larger than 5.1 system as the facility is aiming for feature work. Foley adds that as well as TV and lower budget film mixing, Rain’s audio department will also be offering pre-mix and ADR services for productions that will be mixed at other facilities. “We’ve got the PS1 here at more accessible rates and we can do a lot of the work before going to final mix,” he says. Rush says the completed mixes can then be brought back to Rain to be prepared as deliverables. Rain is to have a staggered launch leading up to the official opening on 15th September. The short-form broadcast operation will open first, followed by audio and then grading. As for whether Soho can support a new facility at this time, Mullady comments that a lot of market research was done in preparation. “We’re cautiously optimistic,” he says. “The post market seems to be having something of a renaissance right now.”