Baby Driver Was Edited in Real Time on Set

baby-driver-1200-1200-675-675-crop-000000By Danny F. Santos (doddleNEWS)

Films typically go through five stages: Development, pre-production, production, post-production, and distribution. It used to be they were very separate from each other, but over the years there seems to be more blending going on — especially when it comes to production and post-production.

There’s no better recent example of this than Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. Premium Beat was on hand at NAB Show 2017 when editor Paul Machliss described the editing process for the film. Machliss described it as the “most difficult edit he had to manage,” and basically cut it on set and in real time.

For those of you who don’t know, Baby Driver is about a getaway driver named Baby who suffers from tinnitus, which is disorder where a sound is heard when no external sound is present. In order to block the noise, he listens to music all the time.

Which also gives the film an almost musical aspect, since we see everything from Baby’s perspective. In order for everything to sync up, however, Wright realized that Machliss would need to be on set every day cutting the film. Here’s how the editor described it:

Baby Driver is probably the ultimate expression of the way Edgar and I work together. Built from some reshoots we did on Scott Pilgrim, then to The World’s End we put together a lot of the action scenes together with me on set. To this film, where actually Edgar saying ‘Yeah, you know I think I might want you out there everyday’ basically…

“To make it work you had to sort of be there at the moment of creation . . . I was there every day of every moment of every take. Edgar would do a take and yell ‘Cut!’ and then from the other side of the set go ‘How was that Paul?’ . . . and sort of wait until you went . . . ‘Yes it’s good.’ Then he felt he could move on. The advantage, of course being, we knew that six months down the line we weren’t gonna go ‘Ugh, we missed a trick here,’ ‘This didn’t work.'”

Machliss had to borrow a cart from the sound department and kludged together a non-linear editing suite that consisted of a MacBook running Avid Media Composer, an A-grade monitor, and a few external hard drives.

The shots were meticulously planned in pre-production to the music soundtrack (which had to also be cleared in pre-production), with storyboards that ran on a separate timeline in Avid Media Composer. That way, Machliss was able to get every single shot needed for Wright to complete the film.

Working on the film in this way reminds me of just where filmmaking is going. Mobile filmmaking with its blending of production and-post production, makes it seem like more and more filmmakers are trying to find new ways of creating movies as new tools are made available.

Just the ability to bring the tools you need to edit a major feature film on set was impossible just fifteen years ago. You can’t help but hope that this will lead to some more unprecedented innovation for the future of motion pictures.

Baby Driver is now showing.

About Danny Santos

Freelance writer, filmmaker, actor, musician, and visual artist. Writing online professionally for 4-plus years and has produced and performed in over a dozen films and webseries. He has also been everything from a social media consultant to managing a JUNO award winning musician.