Editing Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Editing Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Mission Impossible Fallout

The latest Mission: Impossible movie is hitting our silver screens and once again it’s a great chance to learn from the editorial team who brought this epic action spectacular to the finish line.

That team revolves around editor Eddie Hamilton ACE, who continues his march from one giant franchise to another, sitting in the chair for his second Mission: Impossible film.

I had the chance to email some questions to a few members of Eddie’s post-production team so be sure to read those interviews, after a few thoughts on Steve Hullfish’s excellent interview with Eddie.

Once again editor Steve Hullfish has conducted a fantastic interview with Eddie, on his editorial process, the technical workflow and some of his personal learnings from this project.

One of the real benefits of reading an interview with two editors who have spoken at length several times before, is that they get time to talk through some of the other questions and topics that otherwise wouldn’t be covered.

You would do well to also read Steve’s other interviews with Eddie and some of his previous editorial team:

By doing so you’ll learn a lot more about how Eddie sorts and organises his rushes, how he works through assembling a scene, building sound design and incorporating visual effects, collaborating with directors and his team, and a lot more.

That’s not to say you won’t get technical details in this new interview, as for example there’s an extended explanation of the full dailies workflow from film to UHD rushes in Eddie’s edit suite.

If you like the kind of things Steve covers then you must read his excellent book, The Art of The Cut, which compiles wisdom from more than 40 of the world’s best editors. Check out my review here.

Mission: Impossible Editor Eddie Hamilton in Conversation

Mission Impossible Fallout

Reel 1 from Mission: Impossible Fall out – See the full res image on PVC.com

Steve’s interview is brilliant and long (5000+ words), so be sure to read it a couple of times to absorb all the wisdom you can.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes and a few things that I think are particularly worth paying attention to.

Eddie works incredibly hard! He started off working on Mission:Impossible Fallout in his evenings and weekends, whilst still finishing Kingsman: Golden Circle during the day.

And then flipped that around, editing Fallout during the day and Golden Circle at night, when he moved to New Zealand for the helicopter stunt filming.

Not only that but he had a car pick him up at 6.30am every day, to drive him into their edit suite in Soho, London, so he could watch rushes for an hour on the way in, and keep working on the way home.

Eddie had a large (or the right size for this kind of film?) post team including two 1st Assistants, 2nd Assistants, 2 3D editors, 2 VFX editors as well as an editorial trainee and a music editor. I had the opportunity to send them some questions too, so check out their interviews below!

My favourite quote from Steve’s interview is this question about working with other editors, because it reveals what working with others can teach you, even at this late stage in your career.

HULLFISH: You’ve had a chance to work with some fantastic editors. You’ve talked about your time with Pietro Scalia and you also worked with Lee Smith. What are some of the things that stick out in your mind that you picked up or learned or stole from them?

HAMILTON: Pietro taught me: don’t edit what you think they want to see, edit what is right for the scene. One of my worst habits was trying to imagine what the director wanted to see and then engineering the scene towards that using all the available coverage, whereas what you should do is cut what you feel is the best version of the scene, and if certain coverage doesn’t work, don’t use it.

I was also in the terrible habit of making too many cuts, and Pietro would often simplify the scene and it would improve enormously. Today I have a greater appreciation for what he was teaching me. I hope that my editorial aesthetic has changed and that I understand the power of a cut more, and why you should make the cut.

I was also struck again by Eddie’s insistence on delivering the very best sound edit and design he can, all through post-production.

For example, he works in 5.1 surround sound in Avid Media Composer and prefers to work with every channel of the production audio. Although he starts cutting with just mix track turned on, he then assembles the scene with the best of the isolated audio tracks, to create the best sounding mix he can.

As good as the production mix track may be, there’s no substitute for crafting your own dialogue track. On this movie my Avid timeline had six mono tracks for dialogue, four monos and six stereos for effects, and three stereos for music.

He also sent early drafts of action scenes to the sound designers so that they could send him effects stems which he could cut in, chop and change them and move them around so that he and director Christopher McQuarrie were hearing the scenes with the same sounds that would later be used in the final mix.

Another audio thing that stood out to me was that the composer, Lorne Balfe, was involved from very early on and wrote about 30 mins of spec-score for Eddie to cut with. This is because McQuarrie doesn’t like to work with temp score. When they had no suitable score they just left the music off.

All of this work goes a long way to experiencing the film from the beginning, in a way that’s closer to it’s likely final state, instead of having to suddenly rip out temp-score or sound effects to add in ‘the real ones’ half way through.

This also allowed them to respond to test-screenings quickly, something that McQuarrie likes to use a lot, and he’s not precious about keeping anything that isn’t serving the audience.

We had a few moments in this process where we were surprised at how the audience reacted. But then you think, “You know, they’re right, and we’ve got to look at this again and try something else.”

Sometimes it’s recutting a scene. Sometimes it’s reordering scenes. Sometimes it’s removing a scene. Sometimes it’s refining the score. Even small changes to the score quite dramatically change how the audience perceives the film.

Finally another favourite quote was this encouragement to learn to fail creatively and work with other artists who support the kind of creative failure that leads to success:

To be honest the key to almost anything in life is failing then improving as a result of that.

Nobody can pick up a musical instrument and play it straight away. You have to fail a lot before you get good at it. And, something we all know as editors, this film has never been made before and will never be made again, so you’re going to fail a lot before you get it right.

Along these lines Eddie recommends reading Ed Catmul, President of Pixar’s, excellent book Creativity Inc.

mission impossible editing timeline

The last thing to enjoy thanks to Eddie and Steve, is this full resolution image (6932 x 2140) of Eddie’s Avid Media Composer timeline of reel 1 of the film.

Steve has written up notes from Eddie on what each of the 23 video and 23 audio tracks is used for. Labelling your tracks is a great tip for any editor to adopt!

V9:  Edit notes – I put the academy leader on this track so I know I’ve selected the correct track when pressing play to watch the reel, plus I use the SubCap tool to add notes for the VFX team (add camera shake, dynamic resize etc)

V10:  Letterbox track – standard 2.39 anamorphic 35mm hard mask. For later Reels where IMAX footage exists, this track has different colour sections to indicate where we’re using 1.90 IMAX aspect ratio footage.

Editor Vashi Nedomansky has replicated Eddie’s 46 track Avid Media Composer timeline inside of a custom Premiere Pro project, which you can download for free here.

A lot of editors who work in Premiere Pro wanted to know just how Vashi had managed to display the timeline track names, whilst keeping at their smallest track height, in his free template (above). In this short video tip, Vashi reveals all.

mission impossible: Fallout

Eddie Hamilton, ACE is interviewed by Matt Feury from Avid in this short recording from a recent live event.

At about 3.30 minutes in you can hear how Eddie got his first gigs in the film industry and how hard he still works “to strive to be the best in the world at what I do.

UPDATE – Sept 2018

The full 45 minute presentation from Eddie is now available from Avid. So make sure you take the time to absorb it all!

Ross Peacock, AKA Rossatron, interviews Eddie Hamilton, ACE on the process and technique of crafting an action blockbuster, including the last two Mission: Impossibles plus a few others from Eddie’s back catalogue.

There’s a really interesting anecdote on the previous Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation bike chase, in which they ran out of time to shoot it, so Eddie only had two thirds of the footage from the pre-vis that he was expecting. He then had to craft something exciting from the footage he had!

FYI: The video has some fairly hardcore action scenes in it which are Not Suitable For Work, nor younger viewers.

Mission: Impossible Editing Gear

Editing Mission Impossible Fallout

Editing at the director’s house

I’m always interested to know what gear and gizmos other editors are using and to see what their workspaces physically look like. (If you want more of this, check out this post on Editors in Edit Suites)

Eddie mentions a fair few pieces of gear in each interview he’s done and so I thought I’d compile them into one list.

Sources for this list include Eddie’s Art of the Cut interview, Frame.io’s interview, and this Studio Daily interview.

Eddie’s Main Edit Suite

Portable Edit Suite

Edit Suite at Director Christopher McQuarrie’s house

Eddie Hamilton’s Razer Naga Settings

Razer Gaming Mouse for Film Editing

Do you still use a Razer Naga gaming mouse with customizable buttons?

I do — I still use that mouse and tweak that customization week by week as I refine what I do.

I use it to turn waveforms on and off, to go to color-correction, to switch between cameras in multicam and, if I’m on my laptop, I use it to switch between full-screen mode and timeline.

It allows me to zoom in and out of the timeline and work incredibly fast. It’s very nerdy — but I’m a post-production nerd and I love all this stuff. – Studio Daily

Eddie, and almost everyone who works for him, leverages the time-saving power of Razer’s customisable gaming mice, which puts 12 mappable buttons under your thumb, and a few others else where too.

You can learn more about how Eddie uses this mouse in this post which features his personal mapping (as of June 2016) as well as those of 1st Assistant Editor/VFX Editor Ben Mills and 2nd Assistant Editor Rob Sealey.

My review also describes how to set up and customise the mouse for film editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, among other things. Check it out here.

More Mission: Impossible Editing

mission impossible fall out team

Standing, left to right: Chris Hunter (3D Editor), Ben Mills (Lead VFX Editor), Riccardo Bacigalupo (First Assistant Editor), Eddie Hamilton (Editor), Tom Coope (First Assistant Editor), Robbie Gibbon (VFX Editor), Nicola Ford (3D/Post Production Co-Ordinator) Sitting, left to right: Ryan Axe (Second Assistant Editor), Christopher Frith (Second Assistant Editor), Hannah Leckey (Editorial Trainee), Cécile Tournesac (Music Editor) Edit Dog: Stan

I was fortunate enough to be able to email some questions to a few members of the post production team, to get their insights on their own roles and responsibilities in bringing this film to the screen, and what it’s like to work on a film of this size, and work along side editor Eddie Hamilton, ACE.

Ben Mills, VFX Editor

I’ve previously interviewed Ben Mills on what it’s like to be a VFX editor in this post, which also includes detailed instructions on how to brew a decent cup of coffee whilst working in post!

You can see a full list of Ben’s (impressive!) credits here and you can check out this personal site here.

What was it like working on ‘another’ big franchise film and also being a new dad?

Well, I actually finished near the end of the job to take paternity leave and so found cover in incredibly talented VFX Editor Richard Ketteridge to see the job over the finish line.

I’m on a much quieter job than Mission now so it’s allowing me to spend time with my new born son in the evenings which is a huge bonus and props go to the editor Luke Dunkley for being so accommodating!

What was your most memorable day in post?

Wow, this job was such a blur because of how narrow the post schedule was it really seemed to all mould into one! But I guess it’d personally be those days when I got to spend time in Eddie’s room chatting to him and McQ about the story.

It’s incredibly motivating to have a director that’s open to all ideas and loves to tell stories. It makes it a buzz to be in the cutting room everyday.

Other than that, the best day was probably when we found the local ice cream shop during the hotter weeks of post.

What was different about working with such a large post team, compared to smaller teams?

When it comes to working with Eddie we’ve generally had larger teams on the last few shows and it’s incredibly helpful.

A lot of our VFX editorial work would spill over which would nicely coincide with the times the editorial team were a little quieter, so we could happily pass temp comps over to them, to help us out, when the crunch time of a preview would arise.

I think generally the size of the team is reflected by the budget of the job (or at least it should be).

The schedule should also have a role to play in team size but sent always the case, hence the 12-14 hour days which became quite a regular occurrence on Mission.

How did the team operate differently while Eddie was away? (Or was it the same – just his room was ‘remote’)

Exactly that, it wasn’t too much of a switch, I’d stay in touch with him as much as possible to discuss anything new thats gone into the cut and we generally use Markers in the timeline to point things out to each other so it’s almost like he was down the corridor!

Ben Mills VFX Editor Mission Impossible - Fallout

What was your biggest challenge on this film?

The turnaround time. It was a narrow schedule only quashed by the shoot being extended. It’s the sort of thing that really raises tension.

The edit needs time to breathe it needs time to find its feet, an editor needs time to find the story and when time is of the essence it can cause a lot of stress with surrounding department which can make days difficult.

Luckily we have quite a positive attitude in editorial which definitely helps. It’s a testament to the gang that we all do genuinely get along. I speak to Tom, Riccardo, Hannah, Ryan, Robbie, Chris and Chris pretty regularly! It’s the same with the Doctor Strange crew we had, I’ve always kept in touch with them too! A great bunch of talented people!

What was your greatest personal achievement on this film?

Getting out alive…. I kid! Keeping my personal avid afloat within the 4K workflow.

As I’ve spoke about before I use the Avid Title Tool heavily for VFX Editing and frustratingly Avid are still yet to upgrade the title tool to 4K UHD, there’s been promises of it for years now and still it hasn’t made an appearance. It really had an effect on us in the cutting room as export times were much longer as we had mixed resolutions on the timeline.

So to export a full set of reels with VFX Titles would take a seriously long time. Being able to use 4K UHD footage for creating temp comps, especially for tracking was incredibly useful, but all in all we really could have done with that 4Kn UHD title tool sooner rather than later.

What was the hiatus period like from your perspective?

Fine, life went on for us in editorial really. We had couple of odd moments where we thought editorial were being reduced to a skeleton crew, but we all ended up staying on which was definitely the right decision to make.

With so many complex in-camera stunts did that result in more VFX to support them, or less? (or what was unique about working on the VFX for this film?)

I guess so, I mean all in all we had around the same amount of shots as we did on Kingsman, I think all action generally equates to a heap of VFX whether you have CG characters or not, it’s kind of to be expected going into production.

There was a lot of wire and safety rig removals and that sort of thing where as Kingsman was a lot more CG characters. A lot of our VFX work also stems from re-speeds as any artifacting presented by re-speeds needs to be cleaned up in VFX.

It’s the way action works really, to hit those impacts you need the frenetic pace of and build up to leads into impacts, it’s what makes them land so well and Eddie is a master that.

What’s next for you?

I’m actually VFX Editing on The Secret Garden, it’s a new adaptation of the book for HeyDay and Canal.

Something a little less crazy (for now at least) aside from that, I’ve got a few short film projects on the go and am always on the lookout for editing projects, I’m hoping some sort of TV editing will come my way in the near future!

Are you still making your coffee the same way?

Pretty much! On Mission I finally got to work with Chris Hunter again who came on board as 3D Editor. Chris actually gave me my first job and also is responsible for my coffee habits.

He introduced me to the Prismo for Aeropress on the job, it’s basically an attachment for your aero press to make your coffee even better, but generally it’s the same method!

It gets much more use now though having just become a Dad!

Mission Impossible Editing Team Photo

Spot the difference!

Ryan Axe, Second Assistant Editor

Ryan Axe, Second Assistant Editor, previously worked with much of this team as the Editorial Assistant Trainee on Kingsman: The Golden Circle.

One skill everyone really values is VFX in Avid. If you learn how to key, roto and comp in Avid it will put you ahead of a lot of the competition. – Ryan Axe, 2nd Assistant

 What was it like moving up from trainee assistant editor on Kingsman Golden Circle, to second assistant editor on MI:Fallout?

Eddie likes everyone on the team to have a broad skillset so that we can all chip in and step in to each others roles when the workload is hectic.

This includes the Trainee as well, so I was quite fortunate to be working in a team that gave me more responsibility than normal and I found myself doing all the tasks that a Second Assistant would do including dailies and turnovers, as well as helping out VFX Editorial.

Kingsman and Mission overlapped so we had to split the team across both projects, with Riccardo and I staying on Kingsman while Tom and Chris moved on to Mission with Hannah.

I think Ben and Robbie split themselves across both projects but I can’t remember. This split in the team allowed me to prove myself further as I got to help Riccardo with all the turnovers to the Sound Mix and DI.

This made the transition to Second Assistant very seamless for me, but this doesn’t happen on every film and my experience as a trainee will certainly differ from others. I feel very fortunate to have worked in this team as it has allowed me to learn a lot in a short space of time and move up the ranks quicker than usual.

We all have Eddie to thank because off the top of my head every trainee I can think of that’s worked with Eddie has got a promotion on their next job. By no means do I want people to think this is a guarantee, but it shows he gives everyone an opportunity to prove themselves and it generally yields results and gets the best out of people.

We get to see every frame of footage that’s shot, every version of music, sound design and VFX that is produced as works in progress throughout the entire process and changes over time as the director and editor give notes.

What do most people not understand about being a 2nd assistant editor?

Most people don’t understand what an Editor does, let alone an Assistant Editor. Because we have assistant in our job title people might think that all we do are tasks like making tea and admin, things like that, which certainly isn’t the case.

Assistant Editors are responsible for the entire technical workflow of a film and have to keep all other departments up to date on the edit which is changing on a daily basis, so any mistakes we make could end up having great consequences and cost the production a lot of money.

My family and friends will often ask me if I’ve seen the film I’m working on, as they don’t realise that we have access to the entire film every single day. I can watch the film everyday if I want and see how the edit evolves over time.

We get to see every frame of footage that’s shot, every version of music, sound design and VFX that is produced as works in progress throughout the entire process and changes over time as the director and editor give notes.

We are one of the privileged few that get to see so much of the film simply because it’s our job to process it all and get it in front of the editor, and we’re the ones that have to sign the film off and say there are no technical issues before the film gets distributed, we’re the last line of defence, everything goes through us which is why I love the job so much.

What were some of your biggest learnings from working as part of such a big and talented team?

As you say you’re a team, so you have to chip in and help each other out. I’m not responsible for VFX or 3D but I still helped out in both departments editorially as we’re all trying to get the film made together.

It’s important to make yourself available and offer help where you can, especially when starting out as a trainee, as this willingness will not only rub off well on your colleagues but it will also further your learning and give you a greater standing going forward.

One skill everyone really values is VFX in Avid. If you learn how to key, rotoscope and composite in Avid it will put you ahead of a lot of the competition.

You also learn about hierarchy in a team, the politics of the cutting room, when to say yes or no and how to approach delicate situations, how to work under pressure, problem solve and manage workload.

What was your biggest challenge on this film?

Trying to maintain a workout regime! When you work 11-12 hour days there’s very little time to do anything other than eat and sleep. I managed to get to the gym in the mornings while we filmed at Leavesden Studios as I was living in Watford, but once we moved to Soho I couldn’t keep it up.

It’s a real struggle trying to find a work-life balance in this industry so that’s something everyone needs to prepare themselves for if they want to work on big budget feature films. The long hours culture is certainly an issue that we’re fighting to change, so here’s hoping we see some improvements in the near future.

What’s next for you?

I’ve just started on a Netflix comedy series called Turn Up Charlie that Idris Elba is producing and starring in.

A friend of mine needed someone to take over as he’s moving on to another job, so they’ve just finished shooting and I’ll be overseeing the post-production. It’s another step up for me as I’m the only assistant on the show so I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Ryan axe editing mission impossible

Ryan Axe, Second Assistant Editor

Hannah Leckey, Editorial Trainee

Hannah Leckey worked as the Editorial Trainee on Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which was at the time, only her second feature film credit!

She was kind enough to share some of her experience on the film, which hopefully will be of interest to others who might get their foot in the door as a trainee too.

I think it’s worth noting how hard she worked during her University years, rather than waiting till after she graduated, to get production experience where-ever she could.

What is your background in post?

I’ve always studied film and media and I was super interested at a young age and eager! However my main start was moving into London from Southampton, when I went to Ravensbourne University and studied Ba (Hons) Editing and Post Production.

In the 3 years I was there I tried my best to start working in the industry from the get go.

I began as a runner working at Halo Post production and did that freelance alongside University up until my first feature film. I did my own short films on the side, as well as entering 48 hour film competitions.

Finally, at the start of my last year of Uni, I managed to get myself on my first feature film!

I started working on set as assembly editor and DIT on The Rizen 2. It was a small, low budget feature but I learned a whole heap very, very quickly! I had to, in order to keep up with my dailies and the 101 tasks that needed doing, but it was amazing! I loved it!

I was only there for the shooting period then passed on everything to the Editor.

As I was wrapping up at university I got my first job as an edit assistant at Sequence Post production, which is now sadly closed. During this time I was desperate to get back to feature films, as I loved it so much!

After lots of research, I emailed around (a lot) to get advice and luckily one person replied; Robert Sealey, who is an amazing First Assistant now.

Rob told me there was a PA position on Holmes and Watson (starring Will Ferrell and John C.Reilly). So I left my job and started on Holmes and Watson. When that finished, I moved onto Mission: Impossible – Fallout, moving up to a Trainee.

Ed. note – I’ve previously interviewed Rob a couple of times on being a second assistant editor, which are well worth a read as he shares a ton of insights and inspiring advice.

How did you get the gig as editorial trainee on such a huge film??

When I was working with Robert Sealey on Holmes and Watson as a PA, after work one night we all went and grabbed a drink at an event, and there I met the lovely Christopher Frith.

Chris was awesome and it was so nice meeting people who also worked in film, this was a first for me! Later in the year I emailed Chris asking if he wanted to grab a coffee or meet up to say hey, to my surprise I was invited to the cutting room (which was amazing) where the team were working on Kingsman: Golden Circle, at the time.

Then surprisingly again, I was invited into Eddie Hamilton’s editing suite! Very fast! Very exciting! I quickly had an interview for the trainee position for Mission: Impossible – Fallout. And I got the job!

What did you do to prepare for the role??

I made sure that I rewatched all of the previous Mission: Impossible films, which was great fun! It was also good to know where Mission: Impossible – Fallout is in relation to the previous films.

I did a range of list making for things like; cables needed for the team, lists of office supplies etc., and I got an update of things everyone needed from the previous trainee, Ryan Axe, who was moving up to Second Assistant.

I prepped all my editing gear at home and brought in my Mac, screens, speakers, etc. to set up and be ready to help with dailies!

There was always lots to do, the list went on and on.

As a trainee you need to not be surprised by anything, you need to try your best to be one step ahead of everything so that no one has to worry about small things that I would be looking after.

What did a normal day look like for you?

It was always my aim to be the first in.  That way, if I could get all the paperwork, such as camera sheets and continuity, done as soon as possible in the morning – as well as any, more ‘PA’, side of duties – that meant I was ready and available to work on dailies with the team.

In general I just tried to be as helpful as I could possibly be, all the while making sure everyone in the cutting room is looked after and completing any other tasks thrown my way.

My aim was to be working and helping on the Avid as much as I could, as well as making sure everyone was happy.

What was your biggest take away for the experience??

I was very lucky to work with such an excellent team! I learnt a large amount, so to sum it up would be very difficult.

However Eddie Hamilton takes pride in his team because we all work together and all work just as hard as each other, and so being part of such an experienced, dedicated and passionate team has just kept me in my world of always being excited about film!

Experiencing all these new workflows and receivng wonderful advice has certainly increased my knowledge for what does and doesn’t work.

What was the most surprising thing?

Luckily I never felt surprised by anything, other than when we got the dailies with the amazing stunts and all our jaws would drop in amazement!

We were great at communicating to each other what was happening in lead up, and what would be needed from everyone.

As a trainee you need to not be surprised by anything, you need to try your best to be one step ahead of everything so that no one has to worry about small things that I would be looking after.

It is my responsibility to make sure little things are not a problem, so the focus stays on the film.

What’s next for you??

Thanks to a combination of hard work and learning, I am now very lucky to be working as an Assistant VFX Editor on Artemis Fowl with Disney.

Further Mission: Impossible Reading

I really enjoyed this episode of Lessons from the Screenplay, which dissects how the Mission movies are really all heist movies and how that plays out.

Composer Lorne Balfe shares some of the drumming from the soundtrack recording sessions, in this recent tweet.

For some further reading you can check out Steve Hullfish’s excellent and detailed interview with the entire post-team from Kingsman: The Golden Circle, here.

You can also read my round up on the making of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation in this previous post.

I’ve previously interviewed VFX Editor Ben Mills about his work and the intricacies of the role in this detailed interview.

Chris Hunter was kind enough to answer some of my questions about editing his first feature film, in this post.

I’ve also dissected a few of the images that Eddie has shared online of his Avid Media Composer workspace and his timelines, which you can peruse in these two posts on Premiumbeat.com

Dissecting a Hollywood Editor’s Avid WorkspaceOrganising a Feature Film Edit like a Pro

The Making of Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Who doesn’t love a good behind the scenes making of video? Here are some of my favourites.

Is Tom Cruise the craziest, most dedicated actor working today?

Enjoy 30 minutes of on-set behind the scenes b-roll.

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