Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson describe their enthusiasm about editing the latest film in the popular 007 franchise.
Working on a James Bond film may not be every 10-year-old boy’s dream, but it probably comes awfully close. At least that is how editors Matt Chesse and Richard Pearson describe their enthusiasm about editing the latest film in the popular 007 franchise. Not that it was all fun and games. Like Bond himself, the editors had a serious mission to accomplish - bringing in a highly anticipated, big-budget film on schedule for an eager worldwide audience.
Directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball, Finding Neverland), this Bond film will be sure to both satisfy and surprise audiences. While Quantum of Solace delivers the trademark action sequences and plot twists, it also includes some unexpected and introspective character-driven scenes as 007 picks up where he left off in 2006’s Casino Royale, mourning the loss of his love Vesper Lynd and determined to exact revenge on those responsible for her death.
The editors were chartered with meeting long-standing audience expectations while presenting familiar material through the fresh eyes of the director, who had never directed an action-based film before. “You want to pay tribute to the beats and vibes and history of the franchise,” says Pearson. “But you also want to push forward and do something new that you haven’t seen before in a Bond movie.”
We had just five and a half weeks to work with the director and deliver his cut.
Clear, Crisp Action
Chesse, Forster’s long-time editor, was originally attached to the film, but he knew at the outset that the tight timeframe and depth of storytelling would require two editors. Pearson, whose credits include United 93 and The Bourne Supremacy, was soon brought on as co-editor.
The six-month production period began in January 2008, shooting in numerous locations that included Chile, Mexico, Panama, Italy, Austria, Spain, and the U.K. Forster joined the editors in June. “We had just five and a half weeks to work with the director and deliver his cut,” says Chesse.
A massive Avid editing and shared-storage solution helped the editing team keep pace with the workload. As many as 10 Windows-based Media Composer HD systems and two Avid Unity MediaNetwork shared-storage systems were used by the editing team, which included five assistants and a visual effects editor. The marketing department also used two Avid systems to prepare promos and other materials.
The editors worked at Pinewood Studios during production and then moved to editing suites in London’s Soho district. Each location was equipped with an Avid Unity setup for sharing projects and media. Updates were exchanged by e-mailing bins.
“We had a very healthy open-door policy wherever we were,” says Chesse. “We reviewed cuts with the art directors, the producers, lots of marketing people. We would approve everything quickly with Marc and just pass things around.”
Editing with the Avid DNxHD 36 codec helped supply the entire filmmaking team with clear, crisp HD images throughout post, so there were no surprises. Theater screenings were even done using the Avid DNxHD 36 material. In complex crowd shots and elaborate set pieces, the clarity of the images was still impressive. “There was nothing that I ever saw in the full 2K scans that I hadn’t seen before using [Avid] DNxHD 36,” says Pearson.
Good thing, because there were plenty of creative challenges to keep Chesse and Pearson busy. Pearson cites one complex action sequence at the beginning of the film, which culminates in an art gallery: “A chase scene evolves into a complicated Rube Goldberg device. It was a unique setup that I had to figure out how to make work. I may never again be able to play a sequence with an opera in the background and a gunfight in a kitchen. But that’s what it’s like on a Bond film- there are all of these very singular kinds of images and performances.”
There was nothing that I ever saw in the full 2K scans that I hadn’t seen before using [Avid] DNxHD 36.
Editing On the Run
Chesse and Pearson used 17-inch Macintosh laptops with Media Composer software for additional editing flexibility - in cars, on planes, or in hotel rooms. Chesse found his laptop instrumental in meeting tight turnarounds with the director. “I was able to take the whole cut of the movie to Austria to get Marc to approve something and make changes there. I went out with a bunch of options and came back with a decision. This allowed us to quickly get the scene to [the] visual effects department and keep things moving,” he says.
The Avid Unity setup was also essential, managing the massive amounts of footage shot for the film. “There was the first unit, the second unit, boat units, aerial units … lots of units,” says first assistant editor Tom Harrison-Read. “On any given day we’d be working with material from three different continents,” adds first assistant editor Robin Gonsalves.
The easily expandable Avid Unity setup enabled the team to add Media Composer systems and storage as they went along. “Adding more storage to the [Avid] Unity [system] was smooth and easy. We started out with 3 TBs, then added 3.5 more toward the end of production to keep pace,” says first assistant editor Martin Corbett.
Complex Sights and Sounds
Visual effects editor Derek Burgess managed all the temp comps and the endless flow of visual effects files from five different effects houses. “Derek was always able to find a way to mock something up and integrate it easily into the Avid very quickly,” says Pearson. In particular, Burgess relied on the MetaFuze feature to streamline the constant importing of DPX files and the AniMatte feature to handle greenscreen composites for the 942 effects shots in the film.
Chesse and Pearson also developed an elaborate guide track to handle the film’s sound, using the Media Composer software’s 24-track audio capabilities. “To me sound is key in terms of selling the set pieces,” says Pearson. The sound team, headed by supervising sound editor Eddy Joseph at Soundelux London, used Digidesign Pro Tools|HD systems for all of the sound work, easily exchanging files with the picture editors for an efficient post process.
With a technical setup equipped to handle any amount and type of media, the editors could keep their focus on the artistic aspects of storytelling. And, in the end, what began as a necessity - pairing two editors on the film ? turned into a creative feast.
“As movies get bigger, schedules get shorter, and working with another editor is going to happen more and more,” says Chesse. “It can be a scary thing at the outset to share the editing with someone else because editing is a very personal and solitary task, but it was an amazing experience working with Rick. What I thought might be the biggest hurdle was actually the biggest bonus.”
CREDITS: Quantum of Solace © 2008 Danjaq, LLC, United Artists Corporation, Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
More Quantum of Solace
Use a flexible, professional editing setup that could efficiently handle large amounts of footage and sophisticated, effects-heavy sequences to meet a tight post schedule. Present polished, complete cuts to the director, producers, and marketing staff throughout the post process to eliminate guesswork.
Use 10 Media Composer desktop systems connected to two Avid Unity MediaNetwork shared-storage systems, enabling multiple editors, assistants, and marketing personnel to easily exchange media.
Use the Avid DNxHD 36 codec to deliver top-quality HD images with speed and storage efficiency throughout the editing process.
Use laptop systems equipped with Media Composer software to provide the flexibility to handle cutting tasks in hotel rooms or on the road.
Offline: Avid DNxHD 36
Screening: Partial digital intermediate with Avid DNxHD 36
Mastering: Digital intermediate to 35mm