Colby Parker Jr., the editor for Sony Pictures’ Gran Turismo, revealed why the movie needed to rely on a notable amount of VFX work.
The upcoming PlayStation Productions movie follows Jann Mardenborough and his story of winning a video game competition that would go on to put him in the driver seat of a real race car—thus beginning a long and fruitful racing career.
When audiences think of a heavy special effects outing, movies like The Avengers or Blue Beetle probably come to mind. What tends to not make the list would be a movie like Gran Turismo. However, looks can be deceiving.
Gran Turismo Used Lots of CGI
Gran Turismo editor Colby Parker Jr. spoke exclusively to The Direct’s Russ Milheim, where he shed some light on all the CGI needed to pull off the film while also touching upon his experience working on the movie.
While many audiences might not realize it immediately, the racing adventure was actually “a big VFX film:”
“… This was a big VFX film…our hero car wasn't going fast enough in certain scenes. So we had to find plates and strategically CGI Jann's car in certain scenes. You know, not for whole races, but we had to strategically do that. It was for speed and continuity based on Jann's position in the race too.”
Throughout the film, audiences probably noticed little labels appearing over the cars to help audiences keep track of all the players, similar to the leaderboard graphics from the game the film is based around.
Apparently, director Neill Blomkamp “was the first one” to suggest those tags:
“After screening the racing scenes for the firs time, we had issues with locating Jann's hero car, along with that we couldn't tell what position he was in--Neill [Blomkamp] after the first screening requested, 'I want to put the tags over the cars,' the same way that 'Gran Turismo' does when you play the game.
Another method the film used to keep everything clear was freeze frames—something Parker suggested himself since he “had seen used in other films:”
“That is a technique I had seen used in other films that I like, and I started to do that for clarity again. It was for clarity, and aesthetically, I think it's cool. 'We have to stop the action a second and let the audience know the stakes, know Jann's position to understand the stakes. Where is he, and what does he need to do to win that race.' I started putting them in a lot. However, I had too many eventually, and then Neill said to me, 'Those are rad, but lose two of them.'... There's a lot of it's troubleshooting in the edit room! [laughs]"
One thing fans have noticed about the movie is that, much like the sport it follows, there are brands everywhere. According to the editor, there was “no mandate” on including any more than would naturally be included:
“It never really affected us because there was no mandate. I mean, we never heard from anybody to put more shots like that. We were just always working for Neill [Blomkamp], the director, and mostly the only notes we ever got from him was more story and more emotion. He always wanted emotion.”
Parker then pointed out how a lot of the advertisements seen in the world of Gran Turismo were the product of the VFX team:
"I think a lot of [those brands were] VFX too because they weren't in the dailies for the [races]. They were at Nürburgring and Red Bull, but we weren't at Le Mans, and so a lot of that is VFX. And so when I saw that, I was like, 'Oh, wow, they filled in all these TAG Heuer signs and all that…”
Another place where the VFX bridged the gap between the game series and its adaptation was the use of something the filmmakers called “gamer vision:”
“There's two beats in the script where the game comes to life around him. Those worked well, and in an effort to explain how Jann used his GT skills in real life, we had a VFX mock-up and effect. We called it gamer vision, and you know, had Jann's POV be the POV of when you play the 'Gran Turismo' game. And we found those super cool and they were the parts that we got the most positive reactions from...”
He continued, explaining how at one point they tried implementing that POV too much:
“Neill made a broad request to add more gamer vision in other races because he really dug them. And then we did it too much. There is a crucial beat towards the end of the Leman's race where we use gamer vision to help Jann pass his rival, and because of that, Neill said, 'Let's pull back on game vision. It's affecting the emotional punch of the final pass in the Le Man race."
The editor shared that while working on the final edit of the movie, the director “always wanted to screen the film:”
“Neill, more than any director I've ever worked with, always wanted to screen the film. So we had to watch the film every Friday. We put it in front of a lot audiences, like every two or three weeks. And... we listened to the audiences. Neill would use that info to curate the film. We were always massaging, tweaking, lifting scenes and then putting them back in based on audience feedback, our own internal notes. And of course, Neill's gut.”
Before jumping into the world of Gran Turismo, Parker admitted that he made sure to watch movies like Days of Thunder, Ford v Ferrari, and Le Mans:
“I immerse myself in all other racing films, too, sort of a Genre boot camp if you will. I watched 'Days of Thunder', 'Ford v Ferrari', 'Le Mans', and many more. I aim to just see how they did it. What story techniques to they use for exposition? I see how they make certain beats land. And I kind of learn from the paragons of editing out there who have done it before me. Mind you, I always try to put my touch on there; a little panache of CPJ style."
Gran Turismo's Perfect Use of VFX and CGI
A lot of people would agree that the best VFX and CGI work is that which is never noticed in the first place. That rings true here since most fans probably didn’t notice when the race cars were real or fake throughout Gran Turismo.
Visual effects work is also very commonly used to help fill in a project’s fictional world. Even movies that like to tout their practicality, such as Mad Mad: Fury Road, are made possible by these methods.
In Gran Turismo’s case, it was paramount to making those races feel alive and like actual events.
As for the unique overlays and other graphical elements the film used, they were all very well utilized, doing a fantastic job at bringing some of the game franchise over to its big-screen counterpart.
Gran Turismo is now playing in select theaters and will receive a proper wide release on August 25.