Interview: James Parnell Talks Twisted Metal, Sound Editing, and More

James Parnell Talks Twisted Steel, Sound Modifying, and Extra

Movie tv audio must be meticulously recreated in post-production as sound is never completely captured on set. Sound editors and re-mixers are accountable for the roar of a automobile’s engine, or the pound of a ball hitting a wall. It’s a fragile course of that requires talent and precision. Earlier this month, The Nerd Stash had the chance to interview James Parnell, a proficient sound editor who has just lately been engaged on the Twisted Steel collection on Peacock previous to the Season 1 launch. He’s had years of expertise working on different action-packed blockbusters and long-running comedy collection, too. In our time with Parnell, we realized the craftsmanship behind designing the sound of vehicles, characters, and extra in Twisted Steel. He delivered tales about his time on profitable tasks, reminiscent of why Jordan Peele‘s Get Out clicked with him after not absolutely seeing the imaginative and prescient behind the acclaimed horror movie.

Interview With James Parnell, Sound Editor for Twisted Steel

Twisted Metal title show

Picture Supply: Peacock

I wish to begin by speaking a little bit bit about your job as a sound editor. What is part of the method of growing the sound of a present or film that you simply assume is essentially the most stunning side for individuals who don’t know a lot about it?

James Parnell: I believe the factor that lots of people don’t notice is that, aside from the dialogue, all the things is recreated. So even the sound of any person sitting down, grabbing a can of soda, you already know, tapping on the desk, scratching their hair – until that’s like pristinely recorded on set, lots of that’s re-recorded. And clearly, recordings which are executed on set, like within the case of Twisted Steel with vehicles, we might use the sonics of that automobile to form of inform our choices, however all of that will be utterly recut. So anytime you watch a TV present, like Recreation of Thrones, or any large manufacturing, 90% of it’s all recreated from scratch or from libraries of recordings that we’ve from Foley performances. Yeah, it’s a whole recreation.

And what would you say you assume are the largest challenges to deal with once you’re engaged on a venture?

James Parnell: The reply is perhaps twofold. So, one is that you simply’re working intently with – within the case of tv, a showrunner, and within the case of movie, a director – and also you wish to just be sure you’re expressing their inventive imaginative and prescient sonically. So, you’re doing all the things you may to lend the venture one of the best sound potential to assist improve the storytelling.

In order that’s one, after which two is discovering moments that may actually make scenes shine. So, for instance – and I hold bringing this again to Twisted Steel – for all the vehicles that we see within the preliminary teaser, I believe everybody on the web is referring to it as Roadkill. However initially, John is driving a automobile that he form of constructed from scratch himself. He took an present automobile, however form of souped it up and reworked it. And it’s known as Evelyn and you already know, little issues like MJ [Michael Jordan Smith], the showrunner requested, “What can we do to essentially make it sound slick like he’s put love and care into this automobile?” Regardless that we’re in a post-apocalypse, he’s put an aftermarket exhaust on it; he’s received a extremely slick gear shifter. And we had been speaking about this idea of like, giving it a turbo increase sound form of just like the DeLorean. That was like a giant factor.

Little issues like that; virtually like a music that has a extremely recognizable high line. It’s like these single sounds that seize your ear – generally, we name it ear sweet – actually assist have interaction the viewer. So, for instance, in Twisted Steel, Evelyn has this turbo increase. And within the opening photographs of episode one, you see John drifting round this nook, and he hits the turbo increase, and you’ll hear this high-pitched NOS exhaust system kick in. He does it a number of instances within the present when getting away from enemies and dangerous guys and stuff like that.

James Parnell interview sound editing Twisted Metal Sweet Tooth

Picture Supply: Peacock

I favored your reference to music there. As a result of – and proper me if I’m incorrect – you used to play drums in a band, proper?

James Parnell: Yeah.

Has that background in music form of knowledgeable your decision-making and your expertise once you’re engaged on a present or a film?

James Parnell: Yeah, I believe positively in post-production, there’s a musicality to it. It’s a must to choose and select your moments of when issues are going to play, similar to a music. So, you already know, if there’s a drum solo or lead guitar line, or the band is on the again wall and vocals play, it’s very musical. Clearly, it’s not simply post-production. It’s extra than simply music. It’s dialogue and sound results and folium. [The] ambiance isn’t all these things, nevertheless it’s not in contrast to music mixing and music recording.

Definitely, you’re discovering moments to play sure parts and ensuring that these parts are serving what you’re seeing on display. Then, you already know, within the case of a giant automobile sequence, for instance, there’s tons occurring: There are weapons, ricochets, tracer rounds, automobile engines, dialogue. So, all of these moments have to have their pockets to shine, after which they should disappear to concentrate on one thing else. And you have to try this in a manner that doesn’t really feel lumpy, doesn’t really feel unintentional. All of it must play like a music, form of.

I’ve seen some actually fascinating sound-creation movies on the web, like cracking celery to make feels like bones cracking or breaking. However are there any specific sounds that you simply discover to be both very simple to duplicate or very tough?

James Parnell: Yeah, I imply, I believe there have been so many good motion motion pictures which have weapons, that I believe there’s like, an business customary for once you watch one thing – if there’s like a gunfight, like, “Oh, that feels like a gunfight.” And I believe that our sound libraries are so sturdy in that regard now. Again in, say, the ’70s and, you already know, the early ’80s, the recordings of weapons weren’t as sturdy. The constancy of these recordings wasn’t as nice. However these days, you already know, I wouldn’t say it’s simple to chop a gun and shoot out scene as a result of there are many slivers of audio, like shells and set off clicks and stuff like that. However the library that you simply go to, or your form of toolkit that you simply pull from, has lots of nice sound. So, I believe that it’s simpler to get a scene sounding the way in which you need it to, in that regard.

Concerning tough stuff… Definitely, you already know, there are people who find themselves recognized for his or her automobile sound design, their engine builds, and issues like that. And automobile sound design may be actually finicky, simply because, oftentimes, you don’t have entry to the automobile that’s on display. So, say, for instance, it’s like a classic Mustang from the ’60s – like ’69. You’ve the recordings that got here from the set lots of instances or you need to discover somebody who’s gone out and bespokely recorded that library. And even then, you won’t have each motion of the automobile that you simply’re seeing in your display. The person who recorded that library didn’t get all of these actions.

So, you have to hybrid the library with vehicles which are six-cylinder carbureted engines. You want to discover vehicles to sweeten, and you have to add tire peel-outs and skids that may have come from completely different recordings of various vehicles however that you simply imagine once you hear it on display as a result of that’s the meat and potatoes of the engine, for lack of a greater time period. So, sound designs which are for sci-fi – that may be tough with spaceships and issues like that.

Yeah, for the fantastical, you need to surprise, “Nicely, what would this sound like?” It’s a must to use your creativeness a little bit bit.

James Parnell: There’s been this large debate – to not harp on about it – however regarding the place sound results stay versus the place sound design lives. And there’s all the time been this type of separation of sound design and sound results, sound design being historically regarded as designing the sound for any person that doesn’t have an earthly foundation. So, spaceships, dinosaurs, monsters with lasers that shoot out of their eyes, issues like that. So sure, sci-fi may be very tough to hit good.

James Parnell interview sound editing Twisted Metal Sweet Tooth in hotel

Picture Supply: Peacock

Earlier than you signed on for Twisted Steel, did you may have any historical past with Twisted Steel as a franchise? Or possibly a historical past of taking part in video video games?

James Parnell: So, I keep in mind going to my good friend’s home and them having the unique PS1 and taking part in Twisted Steel, the unique sport, and considering, ‘Wow, that is loopy. It’s like [a] demolition derby.” And I used to be younger on the time. I’m 38 now. However then, I keep in mind asking my dad and mom to go to Blockbuster Video. You understand how you could possibly hire consoles for like a weekend again within the day? So, we rented a pair [of] video games, and Twisted Steel was considered one of them. After which I put the sport down for some time, after which in summer time, I believe it was earlier than College, Twisted Steel: Black got here out.

I went to my buddy’s place who had a PS2, and I keep in mind him having Twisted Steel: Black, and I used to be like, “Oh, that is cool.” After which I used to be sufficiently old to know that the sport had shifted tones. It received actually darkish and form of macabre and gritty, and I used to be like, ‘Nicely, it is a utterly completely different sport.” And clearly, the graphics jumped considerably additional forward. And it was far more immersive to play, and the sound was higher. So yeah, that’s form of the sum complete expertise I had going into the present. However I positively keep in mind Candy Tooth and Agent Stone and Raven and all these characters.

Has it been nostalgic engaged on the present? What was it like considering, “Oh, I simply signed on to work on Twisted Steel!”

James Parnell: Yeah, it was loopy. I keep in mind I labored at an organization known as Monkeyland Audio. And my firm director Journey [Brock] was like, “Hey, we’ve received this present coming in. It’s for Peacock and Sony. It’s known as Twisted Steel.” And I used to be like, “You’re joking me.”

I couldn’t imagine that they had been, in one of the simplest ways potential, tremendous comfortable that they had been making a TV present primarily based on the sport. And I used to be thrilled. I used to be actually excited to see the place they had been going with it. After which we discovered that MJ was on the present, who created and wrote Cobra Kai. I assumed, “Oh, that is going to be fascinating as a result of he’s recognized for doing nice work and infusing nostalgic reveals with comedy.’

Anyway, I keep in mind going to the preliminary sound recognizing session, which is the place we sit and watch the tough minimize of episode one. And it’s received temp sound that the image editors form of put in there. So, all the things’s form of dulled down solely as a result of they don’t have entry to the sound instruments that we’ve. However I used to be blown away. And I used to be tremendous amped to begin the venture. It was cool. The primary episode positively retains you on the sting of your seat the entire time. And it’s action-packed and tremendous enjoyable.

What was it like adapting a online game into the type of a live-action TV present?

James Parnell: Yeah, it’s tough on the subject of adapting a online game as a result of the online game group may be fairly ruthless, but additionally, in the event that they find it irresistible, they champion it, and it’s superior to see.

So instantly, after we had been placed on Twisted Steel, I used to be like, “We have now to get entry to the unique sounds of the online game.” It wouldn’t be sufficient for me to only hire an outdated PS or purchase an outdated PS2 and get Twisted Steel: Black and play it and attempt to pull inspiration from that as a result of you may clearly watch gameplay on YouTube. So, we contacted Sony’s online game division in addition to their licensing division. And it was, with no exaggeration, in all probability a few two-month means of determining whether or not Sony really owned the licenses to the sounds and the online game and whether or not we had been allowed to make the most of these sounds. After which, after we received the archival laborious drive, the sounds used within the online game, we realized that again within the early 2000s and late ’90s that each one the sounds on these discs are like mp3 recordings, and to make the sounds as superior because the video games had been, these wouldn’t minimize by the combination, so we had to make use of them as a platform to emulate from.

So, the very first port of name was to get the archival sounds and determine the place they had been going creatively with it. So, there was particular inventive consideration paid to using the unique sounds of the online game, after which it was additionally, “How can we create the sound of Candy Tooth and hold it as genuine to Twisted Steel: Black as potential?” Clearly, Will Arnett wasn’t the voice of Candy Tooth within the video games and Will provides character to his efficiency and he can go from tremendous humorous to tremendous psychotic in a cut up second. So, we needed to develop a vocal processing chain for him in order that we might pitch down his voice, give it some tremolo impact, and actually attempt to pay homage to the sport franchise.

After which additionally to return to one thing we talked about earlier, about highlighting or including a top-line sound to all the things you already know, a giant a part of Twisted Steel is clearly the driving, however the fight is a giant factor too. So, every automobile sounded completely different, and we would have liked to offer every its distinctive sound. So, Evelyn has the turbo, Roadkill has a extremely soiled beefy engine {that a} Camaro has, Tornado’s is within the present. A System One [is] pushed by Amber Watts.

We needed to discover sounds for all these vehicles after which discover the sounds of weapons connected to these vehicles. So, the largest instance is Candy Tooth as a result of he’s received two miniguns on the facet of his ice cream truck, which want a sound like miniguns, however then he’s additionally driving this actually janky truck. He’s received this chain that he pulls the place a window pops up, and a extremely rusted machine gun pops on the facet. So, we would have liked to make his weapons sound completely different than, say, John Doe’s weapons and Tornado’s weapons. Clearly, visually, they give the impression of being completely different, however a few of them, among the vehicles, similar to Stone’s automobile, have similar-looking machine weapons to John’s automobile, however sonically we have to make that distinction. There was lots of effort made in not simply paying homage to the unique franchise however creating that sonic separation the place we might instantly know what automobile was about to come back on display, or from the gun firing which automobile you’re about to see.

Twisted Metal | Exclusive First Look at Sweet Tooth & John Doe


Whether or not it’s Twisted Steel or the rest, do you ever take note of what the net reactions are?

James Parnell: Yeah, I do. I imply, it’s laborious. For instance, they launched the teaser, which was a 60-second clip. You see John driving by the apocalyptic wasteland, and you then see Candy Tooth shoot the factor. And everybody was like, “Ah, this could possibly be good.” And folks had been criticizing music selection. After which they launched the sneak peek. Everybody was bummed as a result of there have been no vehicles. However I believe the largest factor was that – and I don’t know whether or not this was a reactive factor from Peacock releasing the scene with Candy Tooth – followers may get a taste for what Candy Tooth was like in response to the teaser solely having a sure clip of him.

However yeah, I do. I’ve appeared on the feedback on YouTube and stuff like that. And, you already know, you are taking all the things with a grain of salt. And I believe, in a great way, if individuals are speaking about it, that signifies that individuals are gonna watch. And I used to be speaking with a good friend about this. She was like, “You understand, the individuals who had been hating on it are gonna be those that subscribe to Peacock and watch it.” So, I imply, I believe it’s received that viewers inbuilt. It’s nostalgic. A whole lot of my pals grew up taking part in that online game.

I believe that the stuff that folks have seen doesn’t do the present justice in a lot as you don’t see any of the fight, and there’s a great deal of it. You don’t see any of the explosions; there’s a great deal of it. There’s a great deal of characters you haven’t seen but. And also you noticed like a one or two-minute clip of Candy Tooth’s, the final a part of his interplay with John Doe, however there’s an entire scene previous to that the place the opening of episode two is that he’s being chased by Candy Tooth for 3 and a half minutes by the final Las Vegas desert and being fired upon. He’s utilizing maneuvers to get round him. It’s simply this chaotic automobile chase, they usually find yourself smashing right into a resort the place Candy Tooth lives – the Monte Carlo Lodge. I believe that individuals are simply seeing the snippets and being like, “Oh, this isn’t gonna be good.” However I do know in my head that it’s this glorious episode. It’s the second episode and it’s closely stylized and it sounds nice.

You’ve labored on lots of completely different genres. Do you’re feeling just like the work is a bit completely different once you contact on completely different genres and the way do you regulate to them?

James Parnell: I’m engaged on an impartial horror film proper now, which is form of just like Twisted Steel in a lot as there are comparable sonics you have to create suspense, and there’s motion stuff. However positively, once you go from a documentary to a comedy after which to Twisted Steel, it’s a very completely different train, reminiscent of for reveals like PEN15, which was superior. It’s far more toned down by way of what’s required sonically; you’re nonetheless performing the identical duties in a lot as attempting to intensify the storytelling and the sound however otherwise. Oftentimes, in comedy, it may be a little bit bit lighter, and also you could be a little bit extra playful with the sounds.

In Get Out, clearly, it’s a horror film; I used to be solely an assistant sound editor on that. However with horror you’re oftentimes constructing as much as jumpscares or scary moments. And generally, within the combine, you’re pulling sounds down. So, issues get actually quiet proper earlier than a jumpscare to offer that second, [the] affect, is like lowering the sounds, and other people lean in to pay attention, and you then’re instantly smacked within the face with sound. It will get your coronary heart price going. So, it positively takes some talent and a few apply flipping forwards and backwards. However I believe in case you ask most individuals within the business, all of us work on completely different genres and completely different tasks. Definitely, some are the horror individuals and the motion individuals, however I’ve been fortunate sufficient to do an entire bunch of stuff.

And once you work on a particular style quite a few instances, how do you’re feeling you develop inside that style?

James Parnell: I believe in case you do something again and again, you get a greater sense, an intuition of like, “Is that this going to work? Or are we going to spend time experimenting with it to get it sharper?” And also you make sonic selections faster, they usually’re typically higher knowledgeable they usually can assist inform the story higher. So, I believe that repetition is a giant factor.

You look as much as a few of these individuals in [the] business [who] have been doing it for years, and their stuff sounds wonderful. And it’s simply because they’ve had that apply again and again of engaged on acquainted territory, like “Okay, that is how we’re going to create this suspense. That is what we will lean on.”

Within the horror film I’m engaged on proper now, there’s a scene the place they’re climbing by an air duct, and that may be a extremely regular scene, however we added all this steel droning, and we’re placing a great deal of reverb on it. So, we’re listening to it from down the tunnel and behind them and form of panning it throughout the room. And simply all of the sudden including that in, I believe, provides a layer of texture, which may in any other case be a very boring scene of simply listening to their our bodies crawling by this steel duct. It’s little issues like that, that you simply simply know to go to. “This can make it sound wonderful.” It permits you to get there fast.

PEN15 (Official Teaser) • A Hulu Original

I’m an enormous horror fan, so that you’re already promoting me on this venture that you simply’re engaged on. Is there something that you simply’ve seen just lately, a present or film, the place you’re simply sitting there watching it, and also you go, “Wow, the sound in that is unbelievable”? Is there something like that?

James Parnell: The sound of Recreation of Thrones was incredible. So many reveals today are getting so good. I believe the bar, particularly inside tv, is elevating and form of stepping away from these customary 30-minute community sitcoms or procedural dramas or stuff like that. I believe that streaming has allowed us to inform tales which are longer, episodically, so as an alternative of an hour present being 44 minutes or a half hour, 22 minutes, we will dissipate the total 50 minutes. And I believe we’ve entered into an age the place the general high quality has gone up. I don’t assume anybody can argue that, sure, as I mentioned, Recreation of Thrones sounds incredible. And that complete, you already know, the Home of the Dragon spinoff or prequel, sounds incredible.

There are another actually cool reveals. There’s a present with Bryan Cranston known as Your Honor, which solely had one season, however I assumed it sounded incredible. Weirdly, I’ve just lately been going again to watching The Sopranos. And among the sonic selections that the crew made, clearly quintessential for the time interval – it was [the] late ’90s, early 2000s – however I believe general, the present sounds incredible. Actually places you in New Jersey, New York. And I believe there’s been a development of fantastic sonic storytellers if you wish to name it that.

Is there anybody who you’re feeling has helped you develop professionally? Some type of a mentor-like scenario? Or possibly some recommendation you bought from somebody?

James Parnell: Yeah, I imply, there’s, gosh, too many to rely. I imply, I’d positively give credit score to residing within the U.Ok. for a few years and dealing in tv there. It was like a four-person crew that I labored on. And people guys – Tony Wall, Matt Jones, Johnny Allen, and Adam Legg – all of these guys are positively revered colleagues.

After I moved over to L.A., I used to be tremendous lucky to intern for a man named Marti Humphrey, who’s, you already know, he’s a legend. He’s blended a ton of horror and different options within the business; he blended The Grudge. And he was mainly accountable for giving me my first step in L.A.

After I moved and received a job a correct job in L.A. working for Jonathan Wales, who can also be incredible, he blended Get Out. So, I simply occur to luck out, and land in these locations the place everybody was striving to ship one of the best product and create one of the best soundscape and actually obtain these iconic motion pictures with sound. After which I labored in computer systems and audio with Journey Brock, who’s incredible, and he’s given me all the alternatives that I’ve had to this point.

I’ve to finish by speaking about Get Out as a result of I like that film, and I’ve to thanks on your contribution to that film. It’s considered one of my favorites. So, what was it like engaged on a Jordan Peele movie?

James Parnell: Yeah, it was actually cool. I received some cool tales about it that I can inform you. As a disclaimer, I used to be solely an assistant sound editor on that film. So, what that meant was I acquired the image turnover from the image division, which means we might get the brand new reels of footage. I’d flip over there; what occurs is when an image editor turns over materials, they provide you a tough audio timeline of what they’re working with, which is [a] far more dumbed-down model of what it’s going to be, nevertheless it provides you the form of inventive intention.

So, I keep in mind getting the unique reels and being like, “I don’t get this film. It’s good.” I didn’t get it. After which I occur to stroll onto the combination stage the day they had been slicing in Redbone by Infantile Gambino because the opening music. The way in which it was working was we had been getting up to date photos on a regular basis – it’s known as rolling conform. We’d get reels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; they break the follow-up into 5 chunks or six reels, six chunks. They might make slight image modifications throughout the day. After which we’d get that image at night time, and we’d have to adapt; transfer round all of the audio to match the brand new image timing. It may be fairly a laborious course of.

So, I keep in mind consistently getting these image updates and seeing the movie [get] tighter and tighter and simply extra superior. After which I walked onto the combination stage once they actually had been like, “Nicely, we’ve a few songs. Let’s drop them in and see how we really feel.” And I form of simply stood quietly at the back of the room being like, “No person is aware of I’m right here, however I’m simply gonna watch this occur.” I keep in mind once they dropped within the Redbone music by Infantile Gambino. Everybody within the room was like, “Oh my god, that is it.” Everybody was vibin’. And I used to be like, “Okay, I completely get this movie now.”

It’s humorous as a result of I needed to see it in from the early tough cuts by the iterations of tightening up the movie to essentially admire what they had been doing. And it was this new form of avenue within the horror style the place it’s bizarre. It’s like suspense blended with horror. I don’t know. It’s actually cool and distinctive. And I don’t know whether or not you’ve seen Nope, however I assumed that was incredible.

GET OUT | 2017 | Trailer #1 HD | Jordan Peele

Oh, yeah. I cherished it.

James Parnell: Yeah. And it’s wonderful too, as a result of is it a sci-fi film? Is it a horror film? Is it a thriller? He artfully dances by these three genres, and also you’re by no means actually certain the place you as a viewer needs to be. Do you have to really feel scared? Or is one thing humorous gonna occur? He’s actually proficient. He’s a very nice man as nicely.

That’s nice to listen to. I’ve heard very good issues about him, and he’s considered one of my favorites. I believe there are just a few administrators who defy style. Like, it’s only a Jordan Peele film. You understand, don’t name it a horror film, it’s Jordan Peele. You go, okay, I do know what which means.

James Parnell: Precisely. Yeah, completely. I’d agree.

Thanks a lot on your time, James. And better of luck to your upcoming tasks, together with Twisted Steel. I hope it’s an enormous hit. And hopefully, sooner or later, we’ll chat some extra and get to know no matter else you’re engaged on, particularly this upcoming horror venture. You’ve piqued my curiosity.

James Parnell: Yeah, for certain. It’ll be enjoyable to speak about that later down the highway. And yeah, it’s good assembly you as nicely. Thanks for taking the time.


That wraps up our interview with James Parnell, who has loads of sound enhancing to maintain him busy over the approaching months. His most up-to-date venture starring Anthony Mackie, Twisted Steel, is obtainable on Peacock, as all ten episodes had been dropped on the streaming service on July 27. His different upcoming tasks embody the coming-of-age movie Marisol, the comedy Tapawingo, the documentary The Coddling of the American Thoughts, the thriller Breakwater, and the unannounced horror movie he talked about throughout our discuss with him.

Author: ZeroToHero

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