Soundtrack: <I>F9: The Fast Saga</I>
Issue: July/August 2021

Soundtrack: F9: The Fast Saga

First paired up as a team on Fast Five in 2011, the Universal Studios-based feature mixing duo of dialogue and music re-recording mixer Jon Taylor and sound effects re-recording mixer Frank A. Montaño recently tackled the latest chapter in the blockbuster franchise, F9: The Fast Saga. The film opened in US theaters on June 25th and has earned more than $300M in global box office sales to date.

This sound team, including supervising sound editor Peter Brown of The Formosa Group, has worked together on Fast 5, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7, The Fate of the Furious and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, and already had a strong relationship with director Justin Lin. These relationships played a key role in how the film was mixed as theaters closed down in 2020 and the F9 release date was pushed back.

Mixers Montaño and Taylor

Composer Brian Tyler continued collaborating with Lin and had a close-to-final, mock-up score going into the first temp mix. The score stayed very much the same going into the final immersive mix, just being replaced with live orchestral strings, horns and percussion.

“Music and the film edit are brother and sister,” says Montaño. “They share the same DNA because of the emotional component to the performances.”

Because the picture editorial team of Greg D’Auria, Dylan Highsmith and Kelly Matsumoto were working with the mock-up score, there were no surprises when new music cues were introduced. This score, coupled with close-to-final visual effects sequences and the experience of multiple Fast & Furious films, contributed to a final mix that achieved the filmmaker's vision with very few comments.

For effciency, the mixers used both Mix 6 and the Alfred Hitchcock Theater at Universal Studios for the pre-mix and final. Taylor and Montaño would work on separate mix stages, be able to share files, and listen to each other’s progress.

“You can really hear the nuances that need to be uncovered or sweetened on the effects side by working this way,” explains Montaño. “This allows us to maximize the potential of all the tracks for that fun rollercoaster ride that audiences want.”

After mixing apart, they would come together at the end of the day and clarify the strong foundation that was already built. A guiding mixing principle for the team has been to balance the hard driving action sequences Fast is known for with the softer character moments.

“We always want the film to sound big and allow the audience to enjoy the experience like we enjoy it,” notes Taylor. By using the softer scenes as a benchmark, they become “a sonic palate cleanser, like ginger at a sushi bar,” adds Montaño.

Montaño says one of his favorite moments in F9 is the launch sequence of the Pontiac Fiero.

“Sonically, we have a very square edge with it launching,” he notes. “Then there is some cool dynamic panning in it before we cut back to Earth with the armadillo armored vehicle rolling. That whole sequence is a lot of fun.”

For Taylor, it’s the race between the Toretto brothers and the accompanying song, titled "Breathe".
“It starts with the cars revving and the song’s guitar opening,” he explains. “The cars take off and the song pulls back for a while. Then the music has a change in it, where it drops BPMs and goes full immersive to the ceiling. It just gives you a whole different space.”

“Peter (Brown), the supervising sound editor, is a tasteful, imaginative, true craftsman, who brings a wide sonic palette to the table,” says Montaño.

Supervising dialogue editor Shane Hayes and supervising ADR editor Glynna Grimala have collaborated with Taylor in the past and know exactly how he wants his tracks delivered.

“I like the tracks laid out in a specific way and with a certain level of clean up to provide latitude,” says Taylor. “Shane and Glynna just deliver. Same thing with music editor Joe Lisanti and song/music editor Paul Rabjohns. They deliver great split tracks that gives me the control I need to create that big sound.”