Much like a finely-tuned automobile, a major motion picture needs to have all of its parts in working order, from the smallest spring to the big block engine. The crew on The Fate of The Furious learned that the hard way, as a crucial scene between Vin Diesel’s Dom and Charlize Theron’s Cypher gave them quite a bit of grief. The scene depended on one simple sound cue: a car engine misfiring. And as supervising sound editor Peter Brown explains below, it all came down to a lot of careful sound work:
The whole film almost unraveled at that point. Basically, we gave [re-recording mixer Frank A. Montaño] every sound effect of a stalling car that’s ever been recorded and he did something with it — a lot of different times.
If this was any other scene in The Fate of the Furious, there’s a chance this smaller aspect might have been easy to mask. But in this particular moment, Dom’s car had to misfire as part of a gambit to confuse Cypher into thinking his car was disabled. Not only did the audience need to believe that Charlize Theron’s villain would be fooled, but to a certain extent, the viewers themselves needed to be fooled. Considering all of the CGI effects, car stunts and various aspects that fall into one scene of a Fast and Furious film, it’s still kind of funny to take in the fact that one small sound effect could collapse an entire scene and subsequently cause a problem for the entire movie.
But creating a backfire sound effect was the least of Frank Montano’s worries, as he needed to make sure this sound cue from The Fate of the Furious would convince the audience as well as they’d hoped. So to be absolutely sure, Montano explained to Variety that he sampled just that sound alone with potential audience members, to make sure that the job was done. After several sample audiences and some more elbow grease, the sound effect was perfected, and the eighth film in the Fast and Furious franchise landed as the currently second-highest grossing film on the international charts for 2017.
While they may not mean to, film audiences can easily overlook the sound mixing skills that are required to truly pull off this moment from The Fate of the Furious. From the cataclysmic boom of an explosion to the buckling of a seatbelt, each piece of the sonic landscape that goes into a film is as important as the last. So nailing down the sound of a car backfiring may not seem like much to most people, but to the folks that make those sounds, it’s a job that can take up a lot of time, and just as much patience.
The Fate of the Furious is currently on Digital HD, Blu-ray, and DVD, and the Fast and the Furious franchise will continue in 2019 with the Hobbs and Shaw spinoff.