The Rough Cut: Editors Take the Racing Line in “Gran Turismo”
Gran Turismo editor Colby Parker Jr., ACE, has largely built his feature-film editing career on high-adrenaline action films, most notably for his work with director Peter Berg; including Friday Night Lights (2004), Patriots Day (2016), Deepwater Horizon (2016) and Mile 22 (2018). Colby even took a turn in the MCU, cutting Ant-Man (2015) alongside Dan Lebental ACE. Bypassing the usual assistant editor route, Parker began his professional journey cutting music videos, which he credits with helping to build his editorial chops for the action genre.
The true story of a team of unlikely underdogs—a working-class gamer, a former race-car driver, and an idealistic motorsport executive—Gran Turismo is directed by Neill Blomkamp from a screenplay by Jason Hall and Zach Baylin. Produced by Columbia Pictures, PlayStation Productions, and 2.0 Entertainment, Gran Turismo is based on the true story of Jann Mardenborough, a teenager who became a professional race car driver after playing the racing simulation video game series of the same name.
Editing Gran Turismo
In our discussion with Gran Turismo editor Colby Parker Jr., ACE, we talk about:
- Going from Berg to Blomkamp
- Starting with score, but skipping Sicario
- Gamer Vision
- The sight and sound duties of assistant editors
- Fighting back against the director
Check out The Rough Cut podcast to listen to this interview.
Matt Feury: Colby, if one were to take the time to go through your IMDb page, one would see a lot of high-energy action movies. That makes me curious. What is it that attracts you to this genre?
Colby Parker Jr., ACE: It’s funny. I don’t know if I’m attracted to that genre. When I got started I was doing music videos, so there was a lot of cutting on the beat. I met Peter Berg and did a music video for him, and that’s the style he likes. Then he brought me onto other films, just to do the action scenes at first. I got an additional editor credit on The Rundown with The Rock.
I think I just did that style of editing with Pete for a while, and I got put in that box. I would love to do a very dialogue-heavy, character-driven edit. That’s what I gravitate towards when I’m watching films. I think, “Wow, this editor didn’t cut for two minutes. What discipline! They’re so confident in their editing.”
You just choose a path early in life and you don’t realize that’s going to be the direction you’re going to take the rest of your life.
MF: How do you feel about being in that box? It sounds like, now that you’ve done those films, people keep pitching those kinds of projects to you.
Colby Parker Jr.: It’s very rewarding when you do a good fight or action scene and watch it, and it’s very high profile. It’s what people notice more than a well-cut, truncated dialogue scene. First of all, they haven’t seen the dialogue you’ve lifted or repositioned to make a scene work.
That’s the silent star of the films, when you’re able to manipulate things. Sometimes you can take a scene that was shot to be the fifteenth scene in the film and move it up to the beginning to make it the intro, or you can advance or truncate a bunch of stuff to get the inciting incident to happen earlier.
It’s rewarding, but you really need the footage to be good. I find that action scenes where there are less edits inspire me more than anything now. I love when we can see the punches and all that. When things are too heavily cut, it’s like, “What are you hiding?” It’s also about pacing. If I do a flutter cut, then I want to give the audience a chance to rest their eyes.
‘The Flutter Cut’ is a film edit transition that frenetically alternates between two shots and bridges the gap between two scenes. Visually striking and unconventional, it feeds off emotional and pivotal moments to have the greatest impact.#filmmaking #craft #Severance pic.twitter.com/OPU9iirvlf
— Vashi Nedomansky, ACE (@vashikoo) April 18, 2022
I think if you can make it cutty but still tell the story and make it work clarity-wise, then that’s the challenge and that’s what’s very rewarding.
MF: Well, pigeonholed or not, this is your first time working with Neill Blomkamp. How did you get that gig?
Colby Parker Jr.: I co-edited this feature with Austyn Daines. He was Neill’s editor. Neill had done a TV series with him. From the rumors I heard, he interviewed a lot of people. After I interviewed, they said, “Wow, he really liked you.”
He was a big fan of Pete Berg’s work. During the interview, he told me that he saw the work we would have to do as a mixture of Deepwater Horizon meets Ant-Man. Both of those films were on my resume. When I interview for these jobs with directors, I know if I got the job within five minutes of hanging up with the director. Your agent will call you and they’ll make an offer.
“I don’t hear from said director or producer five minutes after the interview, I think, ‘No, I didn’t get it.'”
Usually, if I don’t hear from said director or producer five minutes after the interview, I think, “No, I didn’t get it.” My agent will say, “We’ll see” and I’ll say, “No, I didn’t get it. It’s fine.” If they want you, they’re going to lock you up immediately. They don’t say, “I want that guy” and then let you go out into the world and get an offer from someone else.
MF: Other than your track record with Pete Berg, what else did Neill want to know about you?
Colby Parker Jr.: He asked for my take on the script. I was really impressed that there was a lot of emotion in the script. It was a pretty heavy story. There were parts where I saw how the main character’s mind was working. We do that visually in the film .We call it ‘Gamer Vision’, which is where we mix real-world elements in with the Gran Turismo graphics for certain scenes.
It really popped off the pages. I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be really cool.” They always ask you what doesn’t work in the script and I told them, ”Everything works.”
MF: That’s an excellent note.
Colby Parker Jr.: I think they take it personally when you say, “This doesn’t make sense.” I don’t know why, but the few times I’ve told the director what I thought doesn’t work have also been the times where I said, “Oh, that’s where I just lost a job!” You see it right in their eyes. You think, “Why would I say that?” It’s palpable. “That’s where I lost the job.”
When Neill asked what I didn’t like in the script, I was reminded of that interview question, “What are some of your bad traits?” Everyone says, “I try too hard. I’m a perfectionist.” So you say things like, “There’s too much good stuff in this movie! I don’t know how we’re going to fit everything into two hours.” But, really, I did like everything in this script.
MF: Those are good interview tips for anybody. Beyond the script itself, did Neill talk to you about reference movies? Did he ask you to look at things like Ford v Ferrari or Days of Thunder, even Talladega Nights?
Colby Parker Jr.: That’s my normal M.O. before I do any movie. I immerse myself in every film in the genre to see what I want to do and consequently what I don’t want to do.
But Neill specifically mentioned a lot of 70s movies. Grand Prix and Le Mans were the ones that he specifically mentioned. I also watched Ford v Ferrari, which is a really good film on the third and fourth re-viewings. But yes, he mentioned the aesthetic he was going for.
MF: This is a big summer for movies based on toys or games. We just had Barbie and Mattel. PlayStation is a producer on Gran Turismo. In a situation like that, do you find that there are more stakeholders to get notes from? Are there other layers that you have to be conscious of, when there’s a nontraditional filmmaking company involved with the project?
Colby Parker Jr.: If there was, we were shielded from it. Neill deflected all that away from us. He’s a true storyteller. I don’t think anybody could affect Neill’s vision or tell Neill what to do, or what to leave in or leave out.
“He knows what he wants to keep and the story he wants to tell.”
He’s very definitive in his choices. He knows what he wants to keep and the story he wants to tell. If it was happening, we didn’t hear about it in the edit room.
MF: I’m sure you appreciate that as an editor. Along those lines, did you have to cut any kinds of marketing deliverables? Outside of working on the film itself, did you have to deliver or oversee the deliverables for any other elements from the film?
Colby Parker Jr.: There were requests for all the footage with Michelin tires, I remember. But that’s usually passed down to an assistant to make a select roll. Maybe Michelin was going to do an ad on their own. Or maybe they wanted it for a marketing meeting, to get their people geeked on it. They want to show that the Michelin tires were going to be in this movie.
There are a handful of products in the movie, but that’s stuff we deal with. There are marketing departments that will ask, “Can you just put all those dailies in one bin?” and the marketing teams go at it.
They were doing an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) at one point, too, where they put together a video for any sponsors not in the film to show at a conference. We gave them our select rolls to make it easier for them. There were hundreds of hours of racing footage with seven or eight cameras in every setup.
MF: Wow, that’s something we’ll definitely talk about. You mentioned that you take it upon yourself to go look at other films in this genre. Do you have technical advisors that work with you on the terminology or that other layer behind what’s in the script?
Colby Parker Jr.: Neill is really into race cars. He is a race aficionado. He has buddies in his circle and they were on set. We would send him emails to one of them, because he was a former racer. I also have a bunch of friends that are in that world.
Our re-recording mixer, Beau Borders, races cars as well, so we went to him a lot. He was on from the beginning doing sound design for us. A lot of the things that he pitched made it into the film.
We had to do a montage, because at some point you realize there’s too much race footage. I had to compress Jann’s (played by Archie Madekwe) journey through these racing tours. I was thinking, “What is something comedic that he would mess up when he just first started?”
Beau mentioned that sometimes you push the wrong button and you end up talking to the wrong team on the radio. That was something that we specifically put in one of the montages, and it really worked.
We definitely put in stuff for the announcers. Then, Neill didn’t want a lot of announcers. We put in announcers at the last moment, just to sprinkle in a few expositional hits. There’s also a vernacular within the racing world that these guys all helped us with.
Some things we didn’t use. When everyone goes into a pit stop, the pit team will be saying, “Box, box, box.” We thought that might confuse the audience, so we just said “Pit.” Some things we used and some we didn’t. Some things you have to give creative license to, or sacrifice it for clarity.
“Some things you have to give creative license to, or sacrifice it for clarity.”
MF: I believe the majority of Gran Turismo was filmed in Hungary. Were you on location?
Colby Parker Jr.: No. I think they had six or seven crew moves, so it would have been hard. They were in Austria, Tokyo, Hungary, Nuremberg. They went all around.
MF: Those sound like really fun places, Colby. How come you didn’t go?
Colby Parker Jr.: Honestly, I was working on another film. I came on this film two weeks after they started shooting. I’m not sure it could have happened.
I can’t remember. It was nine or ten months ago. I can’t remember if travel was offered. I just said, “I want to stay in LA” because I was in London for a year working on the film I had done before that.
I think it was just too much to do. I don’t know. Maybe in hindsight I should have demanded that. I really messed up.
MF: Where do you fall on the “I like being on location” question? Some editors like having access to the filmmakers. Then there are people who don’t want to know what went into a shot. They just want to look at the material for what it is.
Colby Parker Jr.: When they’re shooting, it’s the hardest part of our job. We’re trying to keep up with the camera. Sometimes they’ll shoot three scenes a day, so I have to edit those scenes and look at all the dailies just to keep up.
I can’t tell the director, “I rushed through this because there were so many dailies.” Everything I have to show him has to spit fire and be polished and have good sound. I can’t even present anything where I’m saying, “This is temp effects.” Everything has to sound good. The music has to hit.
The director or producers are watching, so there’ll be a knee-jerk reaction to anything that doesn’t work. There’s probably a little temptation when you’re on location to go check out the sights and sounds, but I’m working seven days a week until two in the morning. I personally don’t feel like I need to be on location anymore.
When I first started, twenty years ago, I would sit with the director and watch dailies. I would get a lot of information during that. It was sort of like having a teacher’s manual to the director’s mind. I learned what they want to do, especially working with Pete. “I like this take. I want to go from this scene to this.”
Nowadays, I’m such a grizzled veteran. I know what to do. I have to wow the directors. They know what they want. It’s up to me to put together a super tight edit that will impress them and give them something that will instigate dialogue. That dialogue will hopefully make the film even stronger, or lead to us using different takes, or losing certain footage.
I really think it’s up to me to deliver a very strong editor’s cut. I’m in that box from eight in the morning until two in the morning. I don’t think I need to be on location unless I’m working with a director who wants to come and sit and edit.
Neill and Peter aren’t really interested in how the sausages are made. They like to see when you have a really polished, finished edit or sequence. Then we can get into it.
MF: When you sign on to a project, being the grizzled vet that you are, what is your process for getting ready? What do you do to set up your life and your cutting room properly?
Colby Parker Jr.: I’ve been working with the same assistant for the past five films, Conor Burke. Before any film, I’ll go through all the playlists. I have to get a huge collection of music from other scores or other sources that I like.
I didn’t realize this, but there are genres of music that become hot in different styles and then all the films sort-of copy it. Certain composers get hot and then that’s the soundtrack of films. Whether it’s conscious or subconscious, directors are used to a certain style of music in certain genres.
I try to get current scores that are really popular and then I trickle in some old ones, some classics, but they get tired fast. If I put Sicario into a temp score now, everyone will say, “I’m sick of Sicario. I’ve heard the Sicario score a million times!” Literally, Neill said that. He said, “The scene’s working, but I can tell that that’s the Sicario score playing underneath. You have to use something else.”
I’m talking about score. “Source”, on the other hand, are the Billie Eilish songs and all that. I’ll get a whole bunch of source, which are whatever songs I like. I try to find very cool instrumental songs. I work with Explosions in the Sky a lot, and other bands that sound cinematic.
Scores are the ones that usually become very popular or hot at a certain point. That’s where the Sicario thing comes in. I think at some point every editor was temping with Sicario. Before that, everyone was temping with Batman Begins and the Hans Zimmer scores.
You can get away with it for a while. Then you reach a point where the director says, “That’s too noticeable. I know that’s the Interstellar score.” Everyone uses the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross scores, The Social Network score. It’s easy to sell a scene with that score on it.
I try to beat that. I try not to be so predictable, to use a different type of score. I really dig in the trenches and find some older films that maybe have more eclectic sounds that will impress the director.
MF: There are going to be tons of people going to see this movie that are familiar with the game. How much effort did you put into explaining the game itself and that world? What kind of talks did you have with Neill about the things you needed to get across?
Colby Parker Jr.: How much effort? Quite a bit! Neill is definitely a gamer himself. He is very respectful of that audience and those fans. He definitely wanted to be authentic to the game.
I think that’s why he wanted to incorporate a lot of the game features into the live action races. But it’s more of a nod or an Easter egg as opposed to being too ham-fisted with it. It’s more or less about how we can sneak in those moments and these beats that are more of a fun Easter egg.
When you play Gran Turismo and you’re trying to qualify, they play this old “Hooked on Classics” soundtrack, which sounds like if Beethoven played disco. We had that in there at a certain point, but we couldn’t get it cleared, unfortunately. Little nods and eye winks like that to the game are sprinkled throughout the film.
MF: Is that Beethoven 5th you were trying to get in?
Colby Parker Jr.: Yeah.
MF: I hate that song. I’m so glad it didn’t work.
Colby Parker Jr.: It wasn’t on for the whole scene. You could just hear it in the background during one scene.
MF: That song’s come up a few times on the podcast. I hate it. You talked about how much racing footage you had to work with, and there’s just a ridiculous amount of racing. If you like racing, you’re going to love this movie.
At the beginning, you’ve obviously got to establish your three main characters, establish what their challenges are, a little bit of their backstory, and then let’s get going.
Colby Parker Jr.: Neill likes to screen the film more than any other director. Every Friday we were screening the film and it’s a lot of troubleshooting. We watch, and then it’s just crafting. How much exposition can we shave off?
We realized the film started to work once Jann qualified and was on the race circuit. But Neill is also a storyteller. The only mandates we really got from him was, “More emotion. More emotion and character.” It was definitely a dance to show all those emotional and character scenes early, but also get him to the race.
That’s when the editor’s trusty little best friend, the montage, comes in. When he was part of the Gran Turismo GTA show, that was all filmed as a straightforward scene. Then at some point I realized, “I’m going to have to carve this up, but hopefully it will still have all these emotional beats.”
“I’m going to have to carve this up, but hopefully it will still have all these emotional beats.”
I needed it all to still land, but faster. We just kept shaving things off. It was a whittling-down process until Neill said, “I think we’ve got it. This is the most amount of time we can stay away from getting him into the race circuit.”
MF: Earlier, you were talking about Gamer Vision. That’s some really complex visual effects stuff there. Is that something that you have to spend a lot of time temping? How do you mock something like that up?
Colby Parker Jr.: Most assistants are really strong in After Effects now. It’s kind-of a mandate for me when I have an assistant. Then we have VFX editors who do everything on an antiquated level for us. Neill was very tight with our VFX supervisor, Viktor Muller. He was Neill’s right hand man all the way through shooting.
If I thought anything wouldn’t work from an antiquated level, I would mock up the most crude visual effect version of it and then pass it to Viktor. He had a company called UPP, and they would mock up a more polished version of it. Then we would put it in front of Neill for approval.
Anything that looks clunky or doesn’t work usually gets killed really fast. Knowing when to present things is an art form in this business nowadays.
MF: How tightly were those Gamer Vision moments scripted? I’ll be honest, I thought you would play that up more. I think it only happened a couple of times in the movie.
Colby Parker Jr.: It was only in the script three or four times, I think. For example, when he’s running from the cops, the Gamer Vision wasn’t in the script. We thought, “Let’s put it here” and so we put it there. We put it in the Red Bull race as well. We started putting it in a lot of places, but it stole a little bit of the shine when we used it in the final race in Le Mans. We had to pull it back in a few places.
We definitely did it more than what was in the script, but then we had to pull back and save it for the big VFX reveal at the end. It’s like music, in a way. The less you use, the more effective it is when you do use it.
MF: You called the montage the editor’s best friend, and I can see that. When montages show up in the script, it’s usually only two action lines and then you’re left to your own devices. What kind of direction do you get when it comes to cutting all of that racing action?
Colby Parker Jr.: There’s a few beats in the script, but a lot of times it was just, “Red Bull race!” There’s no easy way around it. You just have to ride the elephant. You do the two-hour cut and then whittle it down and preserve certain beats. Then you find a sequence that acts like an anchor, and you build out from there.
“There’s no easy way around it. You just have to ride the elephant.”
Having done Friday Night Lights and a lot of sports scenes and movies, I’ve learned that you don’t need a lot. You just need the bare minimum to tell the story. Hopefully there’s some emotional equity built up with the audience and they want the lead protagonist to win the race.
That’s where the heavy lifting is. I’ve seen movies where I thought the sports were edited like crap, but because they did such a good job of building up the character, making them likable, making you want them to win, it still works.
That said, Gran Turismo was shot so well, it became just a matter of what doesn’t make it into the final cut. We had so much great stuff. But you find out you can truncate. You don’t have to be so linear with sports stuff. You can have time jumps. You can go to the crowd, you can go to a scoreboard, and you can strategically put in an announcer saying something. The audience is clever enough to understand the time jumps. They realize nothing has to be that linear.
I also lean on the music video skills that I learned back in the day. I just try to make it pop and move, and make it all visually exciting to the audience.
MF: How was the film shot?
Colby Parker Jr.: They had eight or nine cameras rolling. I feel like there were maybe fifteen cameras rolling for every race, and that’s not even counting the ones that were locked off on our drivers. I have to shout out Conor Burke again for syncing them all up.
Luckily, we were able to sync most of them up. We had drones that we used a lot, too. At some point, all the races were starting to look similar, so Neill made a mandate that every race had to have a different look.
We had these locked-off rigs where the camera was on the nose of the cars and riding along the ground. Then there were ones locked off on the car right behind our hero car as well. During the Red Bull race, Neill decided, “Let’s not use the drone for this race.” Then we had the Nuremberg race, and he said, “I don’t want to use any of these POV cameras that are on the nose of the car.”
There was a mandate to make every race feel a little different. They had to be a different experience so the audience wouldn’t get desensitized by the way we were shooting the car races. Even though we had fifteen cameras for every race, at a certain point we narrowed it down to only these five cameras for this race, and the same went for the other races.
Then we got to Le Mans, which is the final race where anything goes. We used all the cameras and all of our storytelling techniques.
MF: I get the sense that you worked from big to small. In other words, you lay out everything that you have and then strip it back until you just have the essence of what you need. Will you cut the sequence as a multicam edit and then go back and strip it down?
Colby Parker Jr.: When I build my select roll, I’ll have spaces in it. In the races, there were maybe three or four certain beats shot. But the beat where he goes into the final turn, for example, must have been filmed fifteen different times with fifteen different cameras.
So on my select roll, I lay them all out. I don’t leave them in groups, because I want to be able to scroll through and see every shot, as opposed to having to go into each individual camera. In my timeline, I’ll section everything, so it’s a little bit more organized.
As I start to really dial in the sequence, I try to never go back to dailies. I just work off of that select roll and so on until I’m basically just looking at older edits.
Sometimes, I’ll go back two edits to find a shot that I liked. Even though it’s the final turn, now I really love that shot. I already have a great shot for the final turn, so I’ll turn the shot I like into the first turn. Then I start using things out of sync and out of sequence. What the audience doesn’t know won’t hurt them.
At the end, I can start cheating if I have too many good shots for one section of a film.
MF: Do you just throw a feature like Dupe Detection out the window and say, “It doesn’t matter if I have the exact same shot, the audience isn’t going to know?” Or do you look at it like, “I could get lost and I definitely don’t want to have the same shot, so I need Dupe Detection on.”
Colby Parker Jr.: I would never, ever repeat a shot. I’m not saying that, unless it was on purpose. I have a Cubist editing style, but Dupe Detection is on. Sometimes, in some cuts, I’ll leave the same shot in two spots and I’ll present it to my assistant or a fellow editor and ask, “Where do you like it better?”
Say there’s eight different shots of Jann going into the final turn. Maybe I’ll use the “A” camera shot for that. Then, sometimes, I’ll steal the “B” or the “C” camera shot and put it somewhere else in film. Or, if I’m using “A” camera’s take one, maybe I’ll use “A” camera’s take four somewhere else, even though it was shot to be at this point in the race.
MF: Editors tell me one of the challenges in action is managing the geographic relationships, the blocking aspect, and keeping the audience properly oriented to what’s going on. In a race, that seems way harder. I assume you have to make sure the audience has a sense of where the characters are within the race.
Colby Parker Jr.: I’m not trying to hide anything or fake the audience out. For me, it was very rudimentary. If we are going to go into Jann’s car, I’m going to show the exterior of Jann’s car, then go in on Jann. I made sure to do that throughout the film, even if I had to sacrifice something looking cool for clarity purposes. I didn’t want the audience to get lost or start fidgeting their seats or just give up.
I noticed that in other films I was watching for reference. For me, clarity is the most important part. I don’t want to lose the audience. I feel like certain elements can be sacrificed in the name of clarity and exposition. We made a concerted effort to show the exterior of the car, then go inside, and then show, “What is the racer looking at?” and go to his POV. That was a mandate for me as far as editing these race scenes.
“I feel like certain elements can be sacrificed in the name of clarity and exposition.”
MF: Obviously, you have the leaderboard. Are the moments when you show it scripted, or is that something you cut to whenever you need a reset?
Colby Parker Jr.: We didn’t really do leaderboards. What we used is the tags over the car, which was a nod to Gran Turismo. That was something Neill came up with after two or three screenings. He was very definitive. He said, “I want to put the tags on.”
That’s where, when you watch race cars on TV and Gran Turismo, there’s a little arrow and then a tag over it. Jann’s car would say “Jann Mardenborough” with an arrow pointing to the car he was in. That’s what we did to show where the people were at.
Then, to make it really land, I added freeze-frames that said “Second Place” and “Third Place.” I think you understand in the film, “All right, he’s in sixth place. Now he’s in fifth place.” That’s the style, but it also helped us expositionally. It’s a freeze-frame, but within that freeze-frame we told you what lap it was and what place he was in.
It was pretty fortuitous that it looked really cool, and it gave the exposition that was needed for the audience to be grounded the whole time. They know what place Jann is in and where we stand.
MF: You also do these fun insert shots of car parts. I think it’s the carburetor. I skipped shop class. But there are insert shots of different car parts that fill the gaps. What was your thought process behind when and where to use those?
Colby Parker Jr.: Those are little flavor sprinkles. Neill told me that he really had to fight hard for those. The producers said, “Yes, we’ll shoot that” but to shoot it, he literally had to cut a car in half and then mount the camera inside. They had to sacrifice cars. He always knew he was going to do that, but he had to do it at the last second because once he did it, he’d lose those cars.
I think at some point the producers just thought he’d forget about it. But he tells the story about them. “All right, now we have to get these insert shots inside the wheel well, seeing the shocks and the gears and all the interior parts of the engine.”
We were editing the film as they were shooting, and after we were done all these cool insert shots of the cars came in. We started sprinkling them in whenever something didn’t work, or to give an extra zhuzh to a sequence. We just started throwing those in.
MF: We talked about managing the geography of action. It really helps to have the sense of the cars going around you with the Atmos. Tell me about doing sound design.
Colby Parker Jr.: Like I said, our lead mixer, Beau Borders, is a racer. He had recorded a lot of sounds from his races, and he passed them on to us. We were able to have a lot of those early on. They weren’t mixed as well, but luckily we had such a great sound team.
Beau had an amazing library of sounds that he was recording from his races. We were able to work with a lot of those. It was really important to get the sound of the gears changing and the engines revving. It really feels like going from the gears to the revving has to be authentic.
Sometimes we messed it up in the edit room. Beau would say, “This guy’s going from three to four, and it sounds like he’s going from five to six.” They corrected that a lot. In the edit room, it was more of an antiquated template.
Getting on the mix stage felt like the first time the film actually came to life. It was like a whole new film. That actually sent us back to the edit room. We realized, “Wow, we can actually hold this shot a little bit longer because the sound is so unique and it’s not too loud. It’s not hurting your eardrums.”
We tried to go inside Jann’s mind a lot, too. We didn’t want this to just be a wall of sound. There’s a handful of times where we dropped the sound out. We are just with Jann, in his head, hearing it through his POV. We’re hearing his breath and putting his pit crew and his lead engineer and his crew chief in his ear, trying to make a little melange of sound in his ears as opposed to hearing the engine. It is a bit of a dance, dropping in and out of those sounds.
MF: In your edit room, do you monitor in 5.1, stereo, LCR?
Colby Parker Jr.: We were LCR sub for this. I’ve never done 5.1. I’ve heard of people doing 5.1. It’s something I plan on doing soon. Because of COVID, a lot of the editing was done at home and we just don’t have the 5.1 setups at home.
MF: When I asked you about getting set up for the film, you went right to music. Having seen the film, I get it. The needle drops play an important part. “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath is Jack Salter’s (played by David Harbour) theme. More importantly, Kenny G and Enya actually play a critical role in the finale of the film.
I’d like to know how you did the licensing for this and how you had to start with those songs, because they’re part of the story.
Colby Parker Jr.: That’s based on real facts. Neill had spent time with the real Jann Mardenborough, and Jann told him that, so it went straight into the script.
Neill is actually a big Enya fan, or Jann mentioned it. She’s very popular. She was very expensive, too. That was all Neill. He found that little nugget. He put that in there to keep things super authentic.
I think Neill really liked the Enya track. Jann Mardenborough loved Kenny G and Neill Blomkamp was a big Enya fan. I think this was kindred spirits coming together in the script.
“Jann Mardenborough loved Kenny G and Neill Blomkamp was a big Enya fan.”
MF: A driver is only as good as his or her pit crew. Tell me about your pit crew. We talked about Connor a little bit, but what do you ask of your assistants?
Colby Parker Jr.: Sound work. It’s all sound for me. You just can’t present any cuts without it being super polished.
I’m going through so much footage and then I’m trying to find the right music. Sound design is what I’ll ask of Connor or whichever assistant I have working with me. I ask them to do a sound pass.
Once I get it in an antiquated state, I’ll polish it up and slide things left and right. With Avid, we do these RTAS (Real-Time Audio Suite) tracks where we dedicate three or four tracks at the bottom for certain D-Verb effects.
Our bottom three audio tracks, 26, 27, and 28, will be RTAS tracks. One of those will be a “D-Verb Long”, where it’s a really long echo out. We also always have one for the sound of something coming from behind the wall. There’s always music playing in a room behind us.
We have tracks dedicated to different D-Verb and reverb tracks that we want to use. I’ll move things down there. Half of mastering that reverb technique is putting the sound on its own track and then playing the track clean within the dialogue tracks or the music track.
There’s a lot of experimentation with these reverb tracks. The mixers go nuts. They can’t stand it. It’s almost impossible to get an exact replica of what we’re doing when we dedicate a whole RTAS track to the certain D-Verb or EQ (Equalization) we’re using.
I have an additional editor, Eric Freidenberg. One of the tracks is named after him. It’s called “Eric Long.” It’s a reverb-ed, echoey track. Later on, when we were all having a beer together, everyone said, “You’re Eric? You’re Eric from the Eric Long reverb track? We hate you!”
MF: That’s harsh! As long as we’re talking about assistance, going back to your IMDb page, I don’t see any assisting credits. How did that work?
Colby Parker Jr.: I started in the commercial world and while I was hanging out in Coolsville I met a lot of music video directors. I got my start by doing music videos by trial-and-error. It kind-of hurt me for a while, but I’ve caught up now. I never really assisted. I knew a few music video directors, and I bought an Avid and said, “I’m an editor.”
In college, I knew how to use the Sony RM-450, which was for tape-to-tape editing. So I was editing music videos in a linear format, on the Sony RM-450s, doing cuts only. Then Peter Berg came in one day and asked me to cut a Limp Bizkit video for him. After that, he liked me. Like I said, he gave me some action scenes to do in The Rundown. The first full film I got to cut was Friday Night Lights. So I guess I skipped a step.
MF: Well, that’s okay. It worked out just fine for you, Colby. Something I’ve been talking about a little bit more with editors recently is Quality Control (QC). Do you have to get involved with the theatrical experience, like IMAX or all these emerging formats?
Colby Parker Jr.: We did all that. We had an IMAX version. We had a ScreenX version. 4DX is when the seat rocks. I didn’t get to QC that one . I don’t know if we were doing that. But we definitely did the ScreenX one with the concave screen, and the IMAX. We work with that, but it’s all after the fact.
Obviously, the ScreenX and IMAX also get different DI (Digital Intermediate) treatments. There were basically three DI treatments that had to be done.
MF: One of the many fun sequences in the movie is a big endurance and training sequence. Colby, do you have a training regimen you like to employ to gear up for a big film?
Colby Parker Jr.: I try to get as much rest as possible. I also try to watch every movie that’s ever been done in the genre. I do that all the way through shooting. I immerse myself in the genre to see different editing techniques in the genre that I’m working in.
Then, it’s music. Music, music, music and sound design. You have to pull all that stuff beforehand. If you think you’re going to cut a scene and then start looking for music and sound effects, you’re going to fall way behind.
“If you think you’re going to cut a scene and then start looking for music and sound effects, you’re going to fall way behind.”
I look at the script and I realize, “I need the sound of a skid. I need the sound of a car accelerating. I need all these video game sounds from Gran Turismo.” I also talk to people. I’m not much of a gamer, but I have relatives that are gamers. I asked them, “What’s it like when you’re at the arcade?” and they say, “A lot of cursing.” I did my own foley for that.
I pull tons of sounds. I try to get unique sounds and music, because it’s so time-consuming and so tedious. That’s what tires you out. Trying to find the right song at eight o’clock at night because you have to present a cut first thing in the morning… It’s soul crushing. The best thing to have is a bunch of tracks in your quiver, ready to go.
MF: We started our talk by discussing the fact that you do all these high-testosterone movies and Neill was interested in you because of your experience with Pete Berg. I have to know, when Pete Berg interviews you, does he require that you beat him at arm wrestling?
Colby Parker Jr.: I wish it was just arm wrestling! He’s a boxer. You have to get in the ring. You’ve got to put the gloves on, and headshots are allowed. You have to protect yourself at all times. You train with him, too. He’s in incredible shape. You go to the gym, you’ll work out, you spar. You do it all with him.
MF: Not to tell tales out of school, Colby, but I’ve heard you’re his favorite tackling dummy.
Colby Parker Jr.: It’s true, but I’ve gotten a few shots in myself. I don’t want everyone feeling sorry for me. I have a few tackles myself on the stat sheet.
MF: Good for you. It’s about time the editors fought back.