Meeting the Release Deadline of ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ with Avid Pro Tools

By in Audio Post, Pro Mixing, The A-List, Video Editing

The fifth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise has all the action you would expect from the series… and more. The story follows main character Ethan Hunt as he is chased by The Syndicate, an organization of highly trained assassins. While Christopher McQuarrie takes over from M:I4 director Brad Bird, Tom Cruise reprises his role as Ethan Hunt.

To finish Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation five months before its initial release date, the audio post production team relied on the creative tools of Avid Everywhere.

The film’s release got pushed forward from December to July 2015, but for supervising sound editor James Mather, changing the deadline didn’t affect his approach. “On Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation we had a working process which was very much along the lines of how picture editor, Eddie Hamilton, wanted to work. Our workflow consisted in track laying and mixing for the first six or seven weeks, and trying to get every scene finished to a standard so we could move on and fine tune from there.”

Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

“We began to work on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation on February 23rd and delivered the final [Dolby] Atmos mix on July 17th.”

—James Mather

“Chris and Eddie edited the film very quickly,” reveals sound re-recording mixer Mike Prestwood Smith, “luckily the film previewed extremely well, so they didn’t have to recut lots of scenes. It would have been much more difficult for us if the initial previews weren’t that well received.”

“Pro Tools | S6 is definitely a game changer. Having this kind of control at your fingertips means you can actually mix an entire film on this system.”

—Mike Prestwood Smith

This is the second film Mike mixed on Pro Tools | S6, and looking back, he can’t imagine how he ever worked without this console. “It’s definitely a game changer. With the S6 I can control multiple machines on one surface. From a music/dialogue mixing point of view, having this kind of control at your fingertips means you can actually mix an entire film on this system. What’s great about the S6, is that you can have any system size you need. In my case, 24 faders is the magic number to mix a film, but in the end it’s all down to personal taste. There are only so much faders you can control with your fingers at one time!”

“What would have taken me days, I could do in hours because of the flexibility of the Pro Tools | S3.”

—James Mather

Left to right: Cinematographer Robert Elswit and Rebecca Ferguson on the set of Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

For James, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was the first opportunity to work with the Pro Tools | S3 control surface. “The sound editors would supply me with mixdowns of their bus groups and I would then take those stems and mix them with the S3. What would have taken me days, I could do in hours because of the flexibility of the surface, without limiting myself to a mouse and keyboard. The S3 worked seamlessly and was very easy to use.

The only way to handle an action film with this complex timeline is with Pro Tools. With VFX updates and recuts throughout the process, to the point of print-mastering before the final VFX arrive, we needed to keep the tracks active right through the mix process into the print-master and even through the M&E.”

“Mixing used to be very regimented and procedural, but now it’s a fluid, collaborative, and open creative process.”

—Mike Prestwood Smith

Mike enjoyed working with director Christopher McQuarrie. “Chris is very musical-minded and story-driven. We all know it’s an action movie, but actually a lot of the action is very narrative, which makes it stand out from other films in this genre. There’s a lot of story in the action itself, which shows Chris’ clever way of writing and directing.”

James adds: “Every filmmaker has their own style, and in the case of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Chris was very passionate about adding ‘real sound’. He doesn’t like artificial designed and augmented sound effects. So for us it was quite a challenge to get the impact and sense of power by using natural sounds and not over-stylizing them.”

Tom Cruise shooting the airplane stunt for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

“With Avid’s creative and collaborative workflow, filmmakers can keep finessing their work, and get a lot more done in a shorter timeframe.”

—Mike Prestwood Smith

James worked as an apprentice in a small independent editing company in Bristol initially and from there, he became an assistant film editor, working on several dramas and independent films. “I ended up in Australia working on Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome which gave me an insight into big scale feature film sound. Returning from Australia, very much enthused by film sound, I decided to dedicate myself to that part of the industry. “

Mike is convinced that having a ‘musical instinct’ is necessary to be a good sound mixer. “Mixing films is a lot like mixing records, the sensibilities are very similar. In my teenage years and early twenties, I worked with a lot of bands and mixed their music. Later on I got into sampling and sound design, and I ended up as an audio mixer. I worked my way up from mixing TV shows, documentaries and drama to feature films, getting my first big break in 2000 with Billy Elliot.”

Left to right: Director Christopher McQuarrie, Tom Cruise, and Rebecca Ferguson on the set of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions

“Every form of communication needs a language, and for me the universal post sound language that everyone should speak is Pro Tools.”

—James Mather

According to Mike, Avid has changed the game for sound mixing over the past ten years. “With Avid’s creative and collaborative workflow, filmmakers can keep finessing their work, and get a lot more done in a shorter timeframe. Because of this new way of working, you can keep tweaking your mixes without having to compromise. As music cues change and the mix evolves, you can easily adapt all the other sounds in an organic way. Filmmakers can now keep their options open until the very last minute.”

Avid Pro Tools Software Download

Get Your Free 30-Day Trial

Compose, record, edit, and mix with Pro Tools—the award-winning professional’s choice for music and audio post production. Now you can try the entire creative toolset free.

DOWNLOAD TRIAL
I'm Social Media Manager for Avid and editor-in-chief of Avid Blogs. You can find me on Twitter at @editorbelga.
  • Nigel Holland

    Glad to see Avid still in pursuit of making the impossible possible! Long may it continue.