The Rough Cut: How the Editors Kept Up with “The Flash”

While The Flash editors Jason Ballantine ACE and Paul Machliss ACE both hail from Australia, this latest entry in the DCEU would be their first time meeting one another. Both editors have been advancing their careers away from their homeland for quite some time. Jason has worked in LA for the past ten years, while Paul has been in London for the last twenty.

The director who would be responsible for bringing these two together is Andy Muschietti, Jason’s director for IT and IT Chapter Two. The two editors split editing duties pretty much down the middle for The Flash, each taking five of the film’s ten reels. One thing that did separate them for much of the film’s development was geography.

While Jason was holding down the fort at Warner Brothers Studios in LA, Paul was on location in the UK for seven months, assembling main unit footage with Muschietti. Following production, Machliss would join Jason in LA for six additional months of editing. And it would be six more months before Ballantine would put the final touches on this highly anticipated “metahuman” movie.

Join us now as we talk about:

    • Turning up the volume capture way past eleven,
    • Taking techniques from Baby Driver to a baby shower,
    • Sounds that shouldn’t be heard, but still be felt,
    • Editors having The Knack for needle drops…until they don’t,
    • Scoring points off Zack Snyder and Danny Elfman.

Check out The Rough Cut podcast to listen to this interview.

The interview

Matt Feury: Jason, this is now your third film with Andy [director Andy Muschietti] having done the two IT films with him. When did he approach you with the opportunity to do The Flash and what did you think, given the film would be the biggest film for either of you in terms of scale and audience anticipation?

Jason Ballantine: Originally, the film was meant to start shooting prior to COVID and that put a couple of years’ pause on things. But I definitely wasn’t out to qualify whether Andy’s pursuits were something that I wanted to be involved with or not. You know, if he jumps off a cliff, I’ll follow him. There was obviously a huge amount of excitement that his filmmaking budgets and desires were growing film to film. But there was never a point where I was questioning whether I wanted to be a part of it.

“If he jumps off a cliff, I’ll follow him.”

MF: And Paul, it seems like every time we talk, Edgar Wright’s name is attached. This is not only your first outing with Andy, you were actually on location with him doing your patented on-set editing. So I’d love to know about meeting Andy and what he had to say to you about the film and what it was he wanted from you specifically.

Paul Machliss: I think I was one of a bunch of people he was going to speak to. Actually, the funny thing is I had committed to doing another big film and then literally right at the end, the UK post supervisor at Warner Brothers said, ‘I think you should go and speak to Andy. Do you mind if I put your name forward?’

Paul Machliss, ACE. Image © Avid

And I said, ‘Sure,’ not thinking in a million years that it was going to happen. And so I knew very little about it. I went to Warners quite late one evening in December, just before Christmas, and Andy and Barbara [producer Barbara Muschietti] and [producer] Michael Disco were there. And actually, Jason, you were there as well, I seem to recall, on the Zoom.

I was given, like, half a page of a blurb of what the story outline was. But I don’t think it was about me being interested in the story, I think it was almost like a chemistry check with everyone. We seemed to hit it off and we kind of talked about how we would work, with Jason and myself, and how that division would be.

I mentioned something about on-set editing, which I think at the time he quite quickly dismissed and I left thinking, ‘Oh, that was good.’ And I know there were a couple of colleagues who were also up for it. And then I think it was the next day I got the call saying they’re really keen. I thought, ‘Well, alright then,’ just a bit of negotiating to extricate myself out of the other gig.

Because after a bit of soul searching, I actually felt like The Flash was going to be the better of the two. And then when I very quickly did my Andy Muschietti research and watched Mama and IT one and two again to get a grasp of things, and then suddenly I remember they said, ‘Oh we won’t need you till about a week or two before we start shooting in April.’

But then of course, the film went early February and they said, ‘Oh, they’d love you to start early, just to start going through some of the animatics and previs and all that kind of stuff.’ So I’d found myself starting quite early, but it was good and it was a nice way to get to know Andy and then try and convince him that the on-set editing thing might be the way to go.

Andy Muschietti and Guillermo del Toro, Mama
Director Andy Muschietti worked with Guillermo del Toro on  Mama. Image © Universal Pictures

And I seem to recall that I said,’ Well, look, let me let me do a couple of days for you or a week and if you really don’t like it, I’ll go scuttling back to the cutting room.’ It only really took one or two days for him to see the prospects and the capabilities and what it could mean for him and his directing, and he said, ‘Yeah, I think let’s go with it.’

And be careful what you wish for, because of course then it was the entire shoot—all the night shoots, day shoots, and locations and things. But I think in the end, between Jason and myself, we worked out quite a good process for that assembly period during the shoot.

MF: I think it’s interesting you mentioned going back and watching IT chapters one and two and getting familiar with Andy’s work because, Jason, this character of Barry Allen, The Flash, has already appeared in cameos or as part of an ensemble in previous DC films. In addition to that, and I’m no expert on comic book lore, but The Flash story that you guys told is also based in part on the comic book Flashpoint.

Flashpoint cover art. Image © DC Comics
Detail from 2011’s Flashpoint by DC Comics. Image © DC

Do you personally invest much time in watching or reading up on those things to prep for this? And does Andy do anything other than give you the script to get you acclimated to these characters and this storyline?

Jason Ballantine: I had a lot of learning to do in that world. I had watched the movies, but there were some assistants in the cutting room that were my greatest resource for a quick education on the correlation between Flash and previous movies. I’ve watched the [Zack] Snyder films just to feel like I could be as up to date as I could. Looking on my shelf now, I have references to the Flashpoint books and things like that.

I think that with most films, obviously there’s respect and homage to be paid to those who have trodden before you. But then in another sense the film has to stand alone by itself, whether it’s being true to the fans who come and see the film, but also make sense to those who have no idea what’s come before it. And how the film stands within itself.

MF: Principal photography took place from April to October 21 in the UK, which is where you were, Paul, using your on-set editing trolley, which we have chronicled on more than one occasion on this podcast, going back to Baby Driver and more recently Last Night in Soho. If I can twist your arm to recap that setup and how it’s integrated into production, I’d love to hear that.

Paul Machliss: Well, it was a laptop-based system, and I guess one of the biggest changes was that physically it was a lot more portable than previous systems. And also in the past, we used a Panavision cart and we put the kit on top. And so we had to disassemble everything whenever we traveled.

Paul Machliss edit cart
An earlier incarnation of Paul Machliss’ cart in play on the set of Baby Driver. Image © Paul Machliss

This time it was a purpose-built kit. The monitors were on armatures and they could be closed down. And there was something where I could take the laptop off and put it in the drawer and hook it up so you could very quickly rig and de-rig, especially when you’re on a film set and they go, ‘Right, we’re moving on.’ So it was really good having the convenience to be able to move around quickly.

MF: So Jason, in addition to doing your own pass, you were also doing second unit and you were doing something called splinter unit dailies, which is a term that I’m unfamiliar with. On a film like this, are you involved earlier on in pre-production more so than you would be on a more basic, for lack of a better word, comedy or drama? When you have these big visuals, does that require that you get involved earlier on? And what are splinter dailies?

Jason Ballantine: Splinter dailies is probably my own made up unit, the C-camera or second unit. And then there were insert units along the way. But as far as previs, that’s what Paul was talking doing prior to the main shoot.

Going back to your other question regarding my familiarity of the film, DJ, our visual effects supervisor [John “DJ” Desjardin], brought a great security blanket to the style of the look of the filming and his knowledge to the world we were dabbling in because he he was a part of Snyder’s vision, and that was great. And it would have been Paul’s work with DJ in those early days for configuring sequences, things like that.

MF: Well, being a multiverse movie, you’re going to have multiple iterations of characters, which you certainly do here in The Flash. You have two Flashes, which at first blush it sounds like, ‘Well, that’s not something super complicated, that happens all the time, where you have one actor playing two different characters in the same scene. Maybe it’s an animatte here or split wipe there and a little digital face replacement.’

In fact, Paul, for Last Night in Soho you had a similar challenge. You had an actor playing two characters in the same scene, often in highly choreographed situations. Last year you teased that The Flash would be the first film to utilize some very new technology in terms of getting multiple versions of the same actor on the screen rather than using locked off cameras or even the motion control you used in Soho.

All done with mirrors. Anya Taylor Joy (R) and Thomasin McKenzie (L) share the frame in Last Night in Soho. Image © Focus Features

With the film out now, can you finally tell us about how you achieved having Ezra Miller as Barry Allen in the same scene twice? Because it happens throughout the film. They’re both in the same scene.

Paul Machliss: Yes, well, of course on set it’s still only physically possible to film one Ezra Miller at a time. So we had Ezra play against Ed [Wade], who was more or less around the same height and build and wearing the same costume. And they would literally do their scenes together as if Ed was the other character so Ezra would have someone to react to.

Meanwhile, [cinematographer] Henry Braham had invented this rig, which we were shooting our RED cameras with, which basically allowed him total freedom of movement. There was nothing that needed to be repeated moves or anything as large and unwieldy as a motion control rig. In fact, I don’t even remember seeing a pair of sticks on this film at all. I don’t think we did anything locked off.

“I don’t even remember seeing a pair of sticks on this film at all. I don’t think we did anything locked off.”

So Henry had complete 360-degree movement, and he and Andy worked on how the shots should go. And then there was a process of recording that side of Ezra and then editing those sequences together against Ed’s dialogue, and then deciding when you’re going to cut to the other Ezra—when it was going to be either a two-shot or a single. Then, the following June, is when we actually got to shoot the other side for the first time.

That presented a lot of really interesting challenges that I don’t think I’d ever come up against before because you’re trying to think how Ezra, the other actor, would react. And sometimes Ed may not have said the line as fast as Ezra would have said the line.

The Flash meets Barry Allen. Image © DC
The Flash meets Barry Allen. Image © DC

There were points where I think we actually got Ezra to say some lines with ADR. We actually got them to record the other side of their dialogue. So we had their lines to work with as a temp, but then Ed would be saying his lines, and you’d have to try and think, ‘Okay, Ezra’s saying this line but they might need to do this bit of physical movement at the same time because they would need to gesture to something.’

Well, Ed might say it a bit faster or a bit slower than Ezra because Ezra’s got their own internal rhythm. And sometimes you think, ‘Okay, well, I need that shot of Ed, but I actually have to cut while Ed’s still talking because Ezra would have said it by now.’ And so there was a lot of, ‘Okay, so if I ignore what Ed’s doing and try to think about how Ezra would have done it, then do I get the right part of Ed?’

“That was very odd, editing one side and not really seeing how the other side would turn out until literally months later.”

So when Ezra says ‘It’s over there,’ for example, Ed gestures at the right time. And you had to plan all that out before you could take it to the next level. And of course it involved regular editing and going through all the takes, choosing the correct performances for Ezra on that side. And then the demands of VFX saying, ‘Guys, we really need to turn these scenes over because otherwise we won’t have them ready when we move into the volume capture, which is part two of the shot.’

That was very odd, editing one side and not really seeing how the other side would turn out until literally months later, in some cases.

Jason Ballantine: Just to detail a little bit to what Paul was saying, there was no motion control, there was no conventional locked-off camera with a split screen and this volume capture to obtain the B-side. On the A-side Paul was describing how Ed, the physical stand-in, had a rod sticking out of his back with a 360-degree camera literally above his head, and to the best of his ability moving with that encumbering thing over him.

But the importance was that it was effectively photographing what would become Ezra’s eyeline when the B-side was shot. And so Paul was on set in this small room and the air conditioning had to be turned off frequently because of noise, etc. And that was a nightmare. But Ezra would stand in this cylinder, effectively, which had 120 cameras. And those cameras weren’t capturing picture, as such. They were capturing data for a performance.

Some composites would have been easier to achieve than others.
Split screen. Some composites would have been easier to achieve than others. Image © DC

And the benefit for Ezra doing the B-side is that they could see themself projected on the 360-degree screen and so could interact and obtain a rhythm of the coordination within themself, their own dialogue rhythms between the two characters. They also did that for Dark Flash, the third character that Ezra played.

And so that was spitting out data, which did actually generate a pretty simple picture for us, which we were then able to choose performances for. But there were witness cameras shooting as well, which gave us a little bit more of a real-life picture representation of the B-side performance. It just wasn’t shot or lit with any composition consideration.

And so, as Paul said, the first pass was just best guess at the A-side, which then Paul had to prepare for the capture booth and had to add a couple frames to each edit point.

Paul Machliss: Because then we realized that there was actually a six-frame delay in between each camera cut because we weren’t actually doing one angle and then going, ‘Cut.’ Because Jason and I had actually already pre-cut the sequences. So these sequences had to be fed into this cube. But of course it was a full wall LED with all these cameras hidden in between.

High-speed camera chase kart on location for The Flash.
High-speed camera chase kart on location for The Flash.

And part of what would happen would be whatever the LED would do would also generate a lighting map. So when Henry turned the camera and the light direction changed, all the LEDs would reflect the actual lighting on set. So it means that Ezra in this booth would be lit correctly no matter what the camera did.

If the light source was there and Henry pivoted a different way in the lighting change and he got into a bit of shade, that’s exactly what would happen inside the booth. But then what we realized is that in a cut sequence there would be three frames where we’d have to extend the cut to allow the cut to happen, and then three frames before the lighting would catch up.

So it would take three frames for the lighting to change into the right point. And so that meant having cut a sequence we would actually then get Haley [Stablow], who was one of our VFX editors, to break into our edits and put in six-frame handles on either side of every single cut.

We had tons of conversations, ‘Should we just do one set up at a time and make it easier? Should we do sequences that last 30 seconds, sequences that last 2 minutes?’ And we actually broke it all up. There were shots that we felt we could do as a oner and then we could just play the whole thing out as a single thing.

Batman's suits in The Flash
Pressing the nostalgia button really hard in The Flash. Image © DC

But then there was stuff where it was too complicated. We’ve got to play the cut-in and we’ve got to react to all the angles in one go. And we said, ‘It would be much better for Ezra as an actor to get a feel for how things just play the whole scene through, not one setup at a time.’

And also, we just wouldn’t have had the time to do every single setup independently. And so every day we had this huge list. The VFX department did a remarkable job getting a dailies list of, ‘Okay, today we’re covering these scenes. These are the things we’re doing as a oner, these are the things we’re doing as a sequence.’

And then, as Jason pointed out, we had to stop the air conditioner because when we record, the amount of heat generated by the lighting, and also the amount of data generated by all these cameras—there were only so many terabytes we could actually record in a day. And we were being told, ‘You can’t run the cameras for more than three and a half minutes.’

Sasha Calle takes flight as Supergirl in The Flash. Image © DC
Sasha Calle takes flight as Supergirl in The Flash. Image © DC

I remember that the first A.D. would say, ‘We’re going to have to stop recording in 20 seconds,’ because the cameras would overheat. ‘Stop everything, open the doors, let the cameras cool down. Everyone take 15.’ And so it’s the kind of thing that I thought, ‘In five years this is going to be an amazingly streamlined process.’ But I suppose you can’t be the first to do something without trial and error.’

MF: Speaking of cooling down, I think my brain just melted. Jason, I was so fortunate to come see you when you were working on the film at Warner Brothers. And when I got there you said, ‘Just ask for Baby Shower,’ which was the codename for the film. At the time I did not know what that was referencing.

But having seen the film, now I know. The way the film kicks off, Alfred lets Barry know that he needs his help with a hospital that’s crumbling and babies are literally flying out the window. It’s a pretty crazy scene where Barry is trying to rescue all of these flying babies. What did you have to work with to build that up from scratch all the way up to the finished product that we saw on screen?

Ezra Miller as The Flash prepares for a hospital appointment. Image © DC
Ezra Miller as The Flash prepares for a hospital appointment. Image © DC

Paul Machliss: Well, like I said, I came on in February because they needed to start getting an editor’s look on this. So basically in February I’d realized they’d already been working on these sequences for about a year and Andy would come in most evenings and watch what we do.

We’d try and cut them all together so they’d be kind of a rhythm. And then Andy would suggest we should see this angle from here. We should see what’s going on from this side. And we tried to put it together as best as we could. I don’t think we ever totally completed the sequences, but we basically then had something ready to give to the shoot as reference.

Of course, it literally took the whole shoot to shoot that opening sequence because we did it in fits and starts all the way from April through October. So we finally had a thing where we had the previs—we had some stunt fears—and we could slowly fill holes with actual footage.

Batman rides through Gotham City
The gothic architecture of Glasgow makes a great Gotham location for The Flash. Image © DC

I mean, it’s a great scene and it’s principally Jason’s baby because I really wasn’t doing a proper edit. I was kind of doing a proof of concept on set to make sure all the setups worked. And whatever we had that day, we’d hand over to Jason. And of course, because a lot of the shots weren’t finished, I think Jason had the live-action footage and we still had some remaining previs shots and whatever you had at that point when you took over the full scene.

Jason Ballantine: As Paul said, I think the biggest thing with a film like this is your imagination needs to come in and rescue you at times. And for a lot of the time, Ezra wasn’t even wearing their suit because of its inflexibility, and they had this tracking marker suit on, but they were still physically bounding over blue screen blocks and had cabling rigs to help them fly, etc.

The Flash green screen
The Flash shows a clean pair of heels in the chromakey studio. Image © DC

So for the greatest time, the beginning is really just match cutting the action to them going from one setup to the next because I’ve got no idea what they’re jumping over and what they’re doing at this moment.

So you just make it fluid. But when Paul and I sat back on our ten-reel assembly at 4 hours and 20 minutes, then we thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s time to start minimizing, unless we’re going immediately into The Flash 2.’ And so that’s when you start to articulate visual effects, and you get a better understanding of what you’re even looking at, and an appreciation for scale.

Ezra Miller as The Flash in a green screen studio
Capturing The Flash in slo-mo prior to adding the speed force VFX. Image © DC

You read the action beats in the script and sometimes they might be previs in moments, but the whole edit process is the flexibility of learning, being open and willing to change. And even when Paul and I were really hitting our stride in having a nice-feeling edit, we were still being asked to find time.

Paul and I had split the ten reels into five each, which was principally just leapfrogging each other in the story. And we’d just make our own passes. Creativity requires ownership. And so we kind of kept to our own reels and we would just make passes and Paul would come in and tout, ‘I just lost 35 seconds in blah blah.’ I’d think ‘How’d you do that? That’s awesome.’

And so, it was just revising, whether it was through basic in-camera photography, in the simplicity of what that is to the complexities of this multi-pass, multi-consideration and performance through volume capture.

Pre-previs. Early storyboard sketch for The Flash.
Pre-previs. Early storyboard sketch for The Flash. Image © Andy Muschietti.

Paul Machliss: It was interesting because when we got that assembled and, as Jason pointed out, my drift is the duration, and you realize what was technically called the pre-title sequence was about a quarter of the length of most feature films. And bless Andy, he’s very much like, he wants the cake and to eat it, too.

Monitoring the cameras on set for The Flash.
Monitoring the cameras on set for The Flash. Image © DC

And it was quite a moment. ‘We’ve really got to cut some stuff down. We’ve got to trim the sequence.’ It’ll still work just as well if we take some time, which actually is always very true. And it’s amazing because we would have screenings and the producers would come in and people would watch in the studio and say, ‘It’s great…is there any way we could take another five minutes out of the film and, you know, we’d already done what was the Russian pass, and you think, ‘Well, how could I possibly get rid of more, we’ve pared to the bone?’

But once you start going through the reels, even with the ones with just straight dialogue and you say, ‘Well, actually take two frames here, six frames there.’ And before you knew it, Jason and I had possibly taken about another eight or nine minutes out of the film without realizing how we took eight or nine minutes out of the film.

But it was still the film and it was great when you could show Andy. ‘What did you take out? I don’t know, but it’s 45 seconds shorter’ and he’d just go, ‘Great, That’s fantastic.’ So it was things like that, the discipline of getting it down to time, of having the story make sense. I mean, there was a lot of embellishment during the shoot, as well.

“Six-page scenes would mysteriously become 11-page scenes when you arrive in the morning.”

Six-page scenes would mysteriously become 11-page scenes when you arrive in the morning because, you know, there was a need to kind of expand a little bit. And especially the last act, I think with Dark Flash, that was what I referred to as our “Kurtz in the compound” scene because that was a scene that originally just went on forever and there was a lot of philosophizing from Dark Flash and as exciting as it was, it just had to come down.

MF: So we could talk about visuals for days. And I would like to, but just to make sure I get some of the music aspect in, I want to ask you about that. The film opens with a needle drop—Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now.” And it’s there at the start of the movie, you set the mood for where Barry the Flash is in his life. He’s feeling underappreciated and lonely and sorry for himself.

The Flash and Supergirl
The Flash isn’t afraid to have a little fun. Image © DC

What is your process for doing the needle drops? Because you can take this multiverse concept to the extreme. I noticed later on in the film you have another Chicago needle drop, the much more uptempo “25 Or 6 To 4.” So it’s almost like these two alternate universes where Chicago would be “If You Leave Me Now” in one and then it’s “25 Or 6 To 4” in the other. Were you even aware of that Chicago multiverse aspect, and what is the overall process for choosing needle drops to support the story?

Jason Ballantine: So stepping back a little bit, Andy’s attraction to Paul—because Andy did meet with other editors—is Paul’s strength in the music side of editing, particularly Baby Driver. And Andy had said from the beginning that he’d like to have a few musical moments in the film. My interpretation is the musical moments were a little bit different to what we ended up doing because in the end we did more like needle drops and cutting, as opposed to the action being intrinsic.

For me, a musical moment would be more like what Paul did on Baby Driver with a shot specifically constructed to the timing of the music, whereas for us we were just trimming existing action to fit the beats of music, if you know what I mean. The photography wasn’t necessarily choreographed to a preconceived needle drop. There are lots of experimentations like Flash running into Gotham for the first time.

We tried multiple songs there. For a long time, the second Chicago song you’re talking about had other cues in there. What was the one that stuck around for a long time?

Paul Machliss: The first one was The Kinks, wasn’t it? “You Really Got Me.” Andy said, ‘Load this in and when you’re on set and we’re putting this sequence together, use that.’ And then we put it together and even then I said, ‘Yeah, I don’t think it’s long enough.’ But funny enough, that scene was probably the most Baby Driver moment of the lot, where we ended up specifically landing things on downbeat, things like that.

Andy’s an amazing musician in his own right and he has a fantastic knowledge of music and songs, and he would constantly come up with ideas. ‘Okay, well, if the Kinks don’t work, want to do this one?’ And then I think where we went was “My Sharona” and I had spent a long time cutting that moment to “My Sharona,” and it worked.

I did my portion of the film and I left to go back to London to start work on another show, and in November they sent the sound mix to Warners so we could have a review. Andy said, ‘Oh, by the way, I’ve changed the track to Chicago.’ And for a minute I just thought, ‘Oh, right.’

Drone camera and chase bike on location in Glasgow.
It takes some fast camera platforms to keep up with The Flash.

But then I realized I did a very clever thing that they were looking for, like a tempo map. And then Jason did quite a fantastic job of making sure the Chicago track worked and it hit the same beats as “My Sharona.” And, you know, it’s always very satisfying, especially when you do come from that background where you work a lot with music and there’s just something intrinsically satisfying about having things happen on beats.

And so to have that work with “My Sharona” or “25 Or 6 To 4,” you know, there’s just something very enjoyable about watching that. And so that’s where I think we got the double bubble on Chicago. I think that just came in at the last minute. There wasn’t this kind of Chicago conspiracy.

MF: Well, as you illustrated, there is such a chicken and egg aspect to music and films, and that’s certainly an example, or a few examples, of how it works with needle drops for the score.

Jason, again, this is your third film with Andy, and also third film with composer Benjamin Wallfisch, because he worked on it, as well.



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Something I don’t think I’ve ever asked editors about is the spotting session aspect of it. So what is the process of working with Benjamin like for integrating his score into the film?

Jason Ballantine: During the shoot Paul and I were busy with the volume of material being shot. I think Paul was averaging six to eight hours a day, if I remember right. So we had the blessing of a music editor, Lise Richardson, who has worked with Ben previously.

It’s just heaven sent to be able to focus on your day job cutting picture and then have somebody with their musical knowledge and expertise come in and help support your assembly with putting in temp music. A lot of those early scoring references came from the Snyder-verse just because it had an appropriate feeling. And then of course, with our eighties reference to [Michael] Keaton suiting up, Danny Elfman’s score was revised and that was set in as a temporary placement.

And so that roadmap, which Andy’s very involved with as the edit tightens, the music changes, the emotion, the scene changes, and the temp score would change. But the effort that goes into a temp score—yes, it’s thrown away on the final mix stage—but the education and the exploration and the roadmap that it provides to the composer is so valuable.

And so Lise put in tremendous effort to make the sound feel good. The other thing too, is, of course, for Paul and I, the best state the film is in at the point when we’re playing it to Andy, the better the sell that the picture cuts okay. Even just temp sound effects or whatever spot effects and it all assists. And for an audience screening, which of course happens well prior to a composer mixing on the final stage, then you know you have to give them that movie experience, and temp score is critical for that emotional support.


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MF: I have to say I didn’t notice too much, as an audience member, a lot of Atmos treatment things happening. He hears his mother’s voice giving him some advice and it comes over the top of the audience. It really grabs you because I feel like you didn’t overuse that element or aspect of filmmaking previously. I could be way off.

Suffice to say, I’d like to know your approach to surround sound and just being conscious of ‘Sometimes less is more and in the key moments, because I’ve laid off a little bit, I can have a greater impact.’

Paul Machliss: Less certainly can be more. In terms of the Atmos mix for this film, I will have to defer to Jason, because it was he and Andy who were there for the final mix. I was already back in the UK at that point, so I was there for the temp mixes and they were very kind to share the mix with me in November. But even then I was only listening to 7.1. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve actually heard the final Atmos mix yet.

Jason Ballantine: That particular moment that Matt’s talking about, Paul, was your creative concept, though. That was the flashback in the kitchen with the little tear that matches to him now.

Barry Allen meets his mother.
Barry reunites with his mother in The Flash. Image © DC

Paul Machliss: Yes, well that moment was interesting just because Andy had kind of loosely described that it was going to be a flashback where Barry remembers what his mum said when Barry was a kid. And we talked about how to do that. And it was going to be when he was working on his math problem and he could never get the math right.

Andy thought what it really should be is like, he tears the paper in frustration as a six or seven year old. And then that in itself actually allows concurrently there’s a tear in the fabric of the Chrono Bowl, as well.

And I just remember being a little bit creative. I remember saying to the team in editorial, specifically speaking to Esther [Sokolow], our first assistant editor, ‘Can we just grab a camera or an iPhone and get down on the floor and start drawing some stuff and doing tears?’

Literally, the guys sat on the floor in the corridor of the cutting room. I said, ‘Let’s just shoot a few. Just get a pencil and just tear.’ And they had a ball because we had a little shoot in the corner of the corridor to try and get that concept there so we could drop it in.

Batbike on the streets of Glasgow
The Batbike gets an outing on the streets of Glasgow/Gotham. Image © DC

Because usually the best way, and this is in terms of what Jason was referring to about sound design, it’s almost like, ‘Well, if you want to show people what you mean, you should just go ahead and do it yourself, because that’s the best way to make people understand.’ And so we did this little thing and then Andy and I kind of worked out how you could incorporate mum’s line coming through. And it was at that point using what footage we had available and mocking it up in a moment of creativity, working out what the best way to sell that point was.

“If you want to show people what you mean, you should just go ahead and do it yourself.”

I think it’s about dynamic shaping, as well. I know I’m guilty of oft-quoting this phrase from Phil Spector, much maligned as he is these days, he very correctly observed that especially in his wall of sound, some sounds shouldn’t be heard, but they should be felt. And I think that’s really important and struck a chord. Certainly in a mix you can make sounds felt but not heard.

With the Chrono Bowl and with the placement of the mum’s voice, and with the placement of pencil tearing the paper, and then Ben’s score and everything else, especially in the Atmos environment, to be able to place objects and to have them dynamically interact with each other while occupying their own little space, it’s one of my favorite parts of the post process. So I knew it was all in incredibly good hands. And it did sound amazing at the end of the day, but I think that was the purpose of that scene.

Andy Muschietti directs Michael Keaton as Batman. Image © DC
Andy Muschietti directs Michael Keaton as Batman. Image © DC

MF: Jason, as much as I love seeing your name in the credits, I love it even more when the editors are actually in the film. There’s all kinds of Easter eggs for this film because it’s a superhero movie. Of course, it’s going to have a million Easter eggs, and we won’t get into all of the ones that the fans are going to have fun with.

But for the editing fans—give me a couple of Easter eggs, for those of us that just love seeing editors, actually in the film.

Jason Ballantine: Well, there’s a perfectly cast mad scientist. So if you are watching the moment where Supergirl says that she will aid the two Barrys in fighting Zod, if you have a keen eye for picture in picture, on the screens behind you, you’ll see Paul and DJ, our visual effects supervisor. And then there was a moment with Andy figuring out the Chrono Bowls and the revisiting to the different time periods, etc., and the Jay Garrick character, the black and white Flash, and Andy’s conceptualizing that.

Michael Shannon reprises the role of General Zod in The Flash. Image © DC

He wanted that as one of the characters and quite large on screen. And then DJ, our visual effects supervisor, said, ‘Well, if we’re going to have a digital character that large on screen, then it would be better to have a real face just to help with the look of the shot.’ And so I stuck my hand up, my arm nearly flew off my shoulder, to volunteer to have an opportunity to have my face stuck on the original Flash.

MF: And now you two are part of the DC extended universe.

Jason Ballantine: Yes, we both have our own table set up at future Comic-Cons, so if anyone would like to come along and have an autograph from the Mad Scientist, Paul Machliss, glossy six by ten.

MF: Paul, how much is an autograph from the editor of Baby Driver?

Paul Machliss: Five, ten cents? I don’t know. It’s hard to say.

MF: That’s a bargain! With what limited time we have left, you both have put so much into this film over such a long period of time. Obviously, those two scenes in particular, I would think would be my favorite if I were you. But for each of you, what was your favorite moment, scene, what have you, that you worked on in the film?

Paul Machliss: Okay, well, I’ll volunteer. Funny enough, it’s probably one of the more straight dialogue scenes and I guess some of the footage with Keaton and Ezra in the cave just having a discussion. I mean, for all the remarkable stuff we achieved on the film, sometimes it’s the old-fashioned storytelling that is the best. And just having footage—the caliber of both those actors of Michael and Ezra, and just being able to construct that and go for the feels and things like that—even though that’s some of the simplest stuff done in the film for me, it’s potentially some of the most enjoyable for me just to be able to have the opportunity to have access to footage of actors like that and be able to construct a moment.

“Sometimes it’s the old-fashioned storytelling that is the best.”

Jason Ballantine: I guess my favorite points in the movie were Ezra’s comical timings. They had lots of one liners that I felt were hilarious and Paul cut the scene of the flat mate and I thought that was hilarious.

Paul Machliss: His Back to the Future.

Jason Ballantine: That always made me laugh every time I watched it. I love the film. In total, it’s hard to have specific elements. What I can say is all the bad ones were dropped.

MF: You guys both did a fantastic job. I appreciate it very much, especially recording this when we are early on a Sunday and you’ve both done Australia proud. Good on you.

Matt Feury

Matt Feury is host and producer of The Rough Cut podcast, as well as the Sr. Director, Market Solutions – Video & Post for Avid.

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