The Making of Senna part 4: ‘You’ve never heard F1 sound like this’


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Ayrton Senna, Nicola Larini, TI Aida, 1994

Watching F1 in the cinema will be an unusual experience for fans who go to see the Senna film.

The makers of Senna have gone to considerable lengths to ensure the sights – and sounds – do justice to the sport.

Here’s how they did it.

Cleaning up the sound

The sounds heard during the Senna movie are not always those which were originally recorded. But an exhaustive process of sound editing means they are authentic and deliver greater impact.

The splashes of rain at Monaco, Alessandro Nannini locking his wheels as Senna passes him at Suzuka, and the gut-wrenching booms as cars strike barriers in Imola, have all been painstakingly re-touched for maximum clarity.

The film’s writer Manish Pandey explains: “The whole film [sound] was remixed at Twickenham studio by an unbelievably talented bunch of guys. They’re obsessive-compulsive, and brilliantly so.”

He gives an example of the changes made to the onboard camera footage of Senna driving during the race at Imola:

“When you are in the Williams for the last time, all the gear changes are correct, all the noises you’re hearing are correct, but what we’ve had to do is take it from the previous lap, because it was a cleaner sound.

“We transposed it, but of course the laps were slightly different lengths, so they had to do little cuts. The idea was to bring up the edited noise and bring down the crowd noise when we needed to.”

In other cases the sounds was edited to remove details that might sound confusing to the ear: “When [Rubens] Barrichello crashes, originally there was a sound like glass breaking.

“But as I explained to them there’s no glass in Formula 1 cars, it’s all carbon fibre and Kevlar, so it would be a much more plasticky noise. They managed to change it, so it’s very authentic.

“The sound design is a whole other thing for this film – you won’t have heard Formula 1 sound like this before.”

“How did he do that? That’s him”

The remixed sound is accompanied by a musical score written by Antonio Pinto, the composer best known for his work on City of God.

A committed Senna fan, Pinto got in touch with Pandey as soon as he heard about the project: “He literally got his agent to contact us and said ‘I want to do the music’.

“He sent us three tracks – the first one is the theme, and they’re all in the film.

“I remember listening to it and my jaw dropped and I went ‘That is Senna. How did he do that? That’s him’”.

However some parts of the score were intentionally left out during the editing process:

“One piece that came from another film that he’d done, which we used to use when Roland Ratzenberger died, we removed.

“We wanted to have a section without any music, which would give more impact on Sunday when the music starts.

“That piece of music was just unbelievably good.”

Cutting the film to length gave the filmmakers some of their biggest challenges. The next part of “The making of Senna” will explain why some of the most pivotal moments in his F1 career did not make it into the film.

“The Making of Senna” continues tomorrow.

To ensure you don’t miss an instalment subscribe to F1 Fanatic for free via RSS, Twitter or our email subscription service. Click here for more information.

Senna opens in the UK on June 3rd. See the official website for more information.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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55 comments on “The Making of Senna part 4: ‘You’ve never heard F1 sound like this’”

  1. One of the best songs is the one from the closing credits. As a brazilian, it gave me the chills (as well as the whole movie of course). If you pay attention to the lyrics it is quite symbolic!

  2. Oh yeah, and here´s the link to the song on youtube:

    1. Hi Larcem
      Great movie and i agree with your comments with regard to closing track.

      Hoping to travel to interlagos grand prix any advice would be appreciated.


  3. I’d love this film to have Kasia Kowalska’s beautiful song “Bezpowrotnie [irretrievably]” in it. The song and the video were dedicated to the fallen drivers of F1.
    A lot of Senna footage in there….

    1. also “Ayrton” by Lucio Dalla is a great melancholic ballad about Senna… here’s in a tribute video with translated lyrics available —>

  4. The only reason I’m going to see this in the cinema is for the big screen and sound. Now I’m glad I waited!

    1. Yeh, its got to be done at the cinema :) Looking forward to it now.

    2. Same here – it’s worth the drive late one night just for this and the footage. Looking forward to it…

    3. The only reason I’m going to see this in the cinema is for the big screen and sound.

      It’s a wise choice. Sound is one of the most important tools in the film-maker’s arsenal. Music in particular can really set the tone for entire scenes, subconsiciously letting the audience know what they are supposed to be feeling and when. If ever you’ve seen Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation or the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes “Hush” and “The Body”, you can see just how disconcerting the misuse or total lack of sound can be.

      I haven’t seen City of God myself, but Pinto also did the score for Lord of War, which is a very under-rated film. The score certainly has some memorable moments, particularly during the opening sequence following the manufacture of a bullet from being pressed through to being fired. Pinto clearly understands how to manipulate the audience’s emotions.

      1. Well said, for a lot of movies I really don’t get the fear of them being pirated – I wouldn’t even care about seeing them without the big screen and great sound of a cinema.

        Of course, for this movie that isn’t true as I do want to see it regardless of it being in the cinema in the Netherlands, but I would much prefer to be able to see it in the theater for just this reason. Oh, and the atmosphere of a room full of people seeing it together with me.

    4. same…it’s been difficult to resist the temptation to watch it online but it sounds like it will be well worth it.

    5. I hope to get to see it in the cinema as well. I watched a stream of it and I think this will be enormously good on a big screen with the audio.

  5. I know this movie will be great but the closer that this film gets to release the more worried i am about watching it in the cinema. I was in floods of tears at imola (11 years old) and haven’t seen any of the footage since.

    1. Floods of tears? My father had a similar thing. He used to watch F1 from the mid-1980s and Senna was his idol. In fact he’s a lot like Senna at least in his appearance. (I can now imagine how would Senna like 45 years old. :)) He was obsessed with F1 and I got a few memories seeing him watching races.

      But he was so depressed after Imola that he quit. Instead it was me, who occasionaly switched to RTL for the 1996 Australian GP, we witnessed the battle of Villeneuve and Hill and I watch F1 ever since. My father watch it again too.

  6. I really like the tune which starts in the trailer right when the word ‘Legend’ appears on screen and the footage shows clips of the final event in Imola. It makes me shiver.

  7. Benson Mutton
    1st June 2011, 10:58

    I am suprised that Sennas theme they used to play in Brasil on TV for him isn`t in the movie………. ………..

    but that said, AMAZING movie. Prepare for tears chaps.

    1. I heard that in F1 Challenge mods! So that’s what it is!

  8. Does anyone have any idea of when/where it will screen in australia??

    1. looks like we’ll be waiting til 21st July. I don’t know how mainstream it’ll be (ie: i doubt hoyts would screen it). But we’ll just have to wait and see.

    2. And i just read that it may now be delayed until August

      1. Pink Pirelli
        1st June 2011, 12:22

        Cinema Nova in Carlton are showing it as of 11 August, so thats us Melbournites covered.

      2. That’s what one of the cinema chain’s sites says, most of them don’t have it on there, which makes me think that they won’t show it in wide release, opting to cater to the Ed Hardy wearing, mouth-breathing dull masses that think that the Hangover 2 is cutting edge comedy.

        1. Just looked on the Event Cinemas website, they have it for release on 11 August. Hopefully it gets a reasonably wide release

          1. Hoyts also have it shown as 11th August

    3. Hoyts &
      Greater Union both have it list so looks like a fairly wide release :)

      Rather than going on opening night, I might have to chuck a sickie and go during the day, while the kids that answer their phones, throw food, etc will be in school

  9. I have tickets to the showing at the Curzon cinema in Soho on June 3rd which includes a Q&A session with Asif Kapadia and writer Manish Pandey.

    Is anyone else going to this showing?

  10. This article is misleading. Although the foley in Senna 2010 is very very good, the onboard sound effects are plainly wrong. They are blatantly incorrect, acceleration sounds under braking. Gear shift sounds while not shifting, etc. Like Interlagos 1991 when Senna drove stuck in 5th gear, the onboard actually has gearchange sounds! It makes this production feel very budget unfortunately. Why on earth did they do this?

    1. I have to agree here, the sounds quite often don’t match the visuals, and there’s quite a few cases of turbo era cars having naturally aspirated sounding engines and vice versa.

      1. This shocked me! I’d have preferred the original audio with its low quality at times, but authentic, that makes you feel how people felt watching him live, than false audio got from somewhere else.

    2. Can’t say I noticed any of that the first time I saw the film but I’ll keep an eye out when I see it again.

      1. Also listen carefully when they show Senna’s onboard lap in Monaco, sound is not matching at all… And it wasn’t even the ’88 Qualy lap which it should have been…

        Nonetheless the movie is brilliant on the big screen but those are things that make you think “why the heck did they do this…”.

    3. He was stuck in 6th gear

      “Unknown to observers, Senna’s gearbox was failing, having lost fourth gear and by lap 60 the lead was halved and Mansell had set fastest lap.”

      “With just a couple of laps left, Senna had also lost fifth and third gears. Having to maintain sixth gear in slow and medium corners meant that several times he nearly stalled.”

      from Wikipedia

      1. Yeah this was the most glaring moment in the film for me; just at the exact moment they’re describing how he was stuck in gear, the soundtrack clearly changes up a gear as he rounds the final sequence of bends and climbs the hill… oops! Top flick otherwise though.

    4. I have to agree. To a hardcore racing fan it degraded the experience a bit. Especially in a few slow corners, where you could hear him going through the gearbox accelerating, while he was actually just cruising round.

    5. I havent seen the film yet, but this article has given me the impression that the filmmakers took too many liberties with the sound editing on the film.

      Although I think Senna’s story is inspiring and all, its really the old racing footage that has me excited about the movie, and if the sound isnt right it might just spoil it for me. I believe you guys, but I certainly hope you are wrong!

  11. Yeah that must be one of the hardest things to do. Regulate what you are going to put in the film. Most of us F1 fans would probably make a 3 or 4 hour epic if we had the kind off access they did on this film.

    I’m very excited about watching this film on Saturday, I’m booking my tickets as soon as I hit submit!

  12. As an Audio Production student and massive F1 fan, this is pure nerd gold for me right now…

  13. This is by far one of the most comprehensive posts i’ve seen here and look forward to more of the

  14. All I can say is that the sound of Barrichello’s crash at Imola is terrifying. It’s disturbing.
    But the best scene is from monsieur Balestre sayin’ to the drivers: “the best desishon is MY desishon”. I would love to hear that in stereo…

    1. It really strikes home how big a collision the Rubens crash was, and also the Roland Ratzenberger crash was.

      Having been lucky enough to attend the premier and hear the views of Brundle, Watkins and Fullerton to name a few, it is definitely worth watching.

      Just prepare for the Imola weekend footage, as if you remember the emotions and watching it live as I do (as a kid) it all comes back to you.

  15. In other cases the sounds was edited to remove details that might sound confusing to the ear: “When [Rubens] Barrichello crashes, originally there was a sound like glass breaking.

    “But as I explained to them there’s no glass in Formula 1 cars, it’s all carbon fibre and Kevlar, so it would be a much more plasticky noise. They managed to change it, so it’s very authentic.

    Obviously I will watch this movie at some point, but this seems like they are plain and simple distorting reality.
    I can understand tweaking the sound for today but actually changing the sound is a bit dishonest. Did they change the video as well?

  16. My biggest concern with regard to this film is where it’s showing.

    I live in Bath and so far the closest cinema I have found that will be showing it is in London.

    1. i live in bath to and i think the little cinema is showing it at nine

    2. Clearly the film industry of this country doesn’t consider anywhere but London worthy! Frustrating.

    3. Mark Hitchcock
      2nd June 2011, 2:03

      Contact your local cinemas.

      It didnt look like anywhere near me (exeter) was showing it either but I emailed the local Picture House and it turns out they are showing it, just a few weeks after the release date.
      Could be a similar situation in Bath,

    4. It is on at Bristol’s Watershed for 2 weeks. Not very far away.

  17. The sound is one thing i’m really looking forward to. We have a 2.1 system at home for sound and while it’s not great you do get a slight rumble and Rosberg’s crash sounded great (good job he was OK of course).

    Still struggling to find where I can watch the film though! Suggestions for West Yorkshire?

    1. I’m pretty sure you can find something in Leeds. Failing that, it is on in Showroom Sheffield. (I think even Odeon is having it here in sheffield…)

      1. In Sheffield it is at the Showroom and at Cineworld.I have tickets booked for Saturday. :-)

  18. I have to admit to downloading the 2 hour 45 min version of the film from the internet. I just couldn’t wait. It is stunning. I thought the sound was amazing and didn’t notice any issues with it syncing with the video. I was memorised for the entire running time though!

    I have tickets booked for Saturday at my local cinema and can’t wait to see it on the big screen. I will then be waiting for the Blu-Ray to be released. :-) I hope it has the longer version on the disc.

    1. “I thought the sound was amazing and didn’t notice any issues with it syncing with the video” – wow, you are a real deal then…

  19. On the sound effects – Quite often the same sound is used for a crash, and the sound in question is the crash sound from rFactor. It sounds fine if you don’t play that game (and aren’t very good and crash a lot), but it sticks out like a sore thumb if you do.

    1. One of the best recorded sounds of an F1 crash I remember was Barrichello in Monaco last year.

  20. Guys you are really going to be let down by the sound. Keith Collantine has obviously not seen the Senna movie or knows nothing about Formula 1.

    The onboard sounds in the Mclarens are plainly wrongly synchronised. You hear him brake when he accelerates, gearchanges where there visually aren’t any. It’s just a complete mess. The sound does not match the video.

    The only person that would not notice this is someone with 0 knowledge of F1 or someone’s grandmother.

    If you go and view the same laps on youtube the sounds are perfect.

    The sound actually kills the whole experience unlike what this blog is claiming. I have no idea why the producers made the movie like this, the onboard footage is (apart from politics, or love or character development, etc) the only thing that SHOWS what the SUBJECT MATTER of this movie is. Driving cars very very very fast.

    The fact that the producers cared not to bring this across leads me to think they do not care about the subject matter and are in it to make a quick buck

    1. Agree, mate. Jerez and Monaco onboards are complete mess. My girlfriend didn’t notice that, but I did. Jerez sounds like he had only 2 or 3 gears, and McLaren was powerless. And Interlagos? My god, he had only 6th gear, so why on earth anybody would’ve done the sound where you can hear gear changes? :(

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