An inside look at Brawn: The Impossible Formula 1 Story with Picture Shop

Member News  |  24 November 2023

The facility delivered post-production work on the gripping Disney+ unscripted documentary series.

Through the insights of Ross Brawn and revered racing icons, like Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, all is revealed in this gripping four-part series. Keanu Reeves tells one of the greatest sagas in Formula 1 history, from the formation of Brawn GP to their remarkable journey through strategic manoeuvres and financial trials, during an exceptionally competitive era in the annals of the sport. Brawn: The Impossible Formula 1 Story was produced by North One and Disney+ and is now available to stream on Disney+.

Picture Shop’s Unscripted team in London provided Full UHD HDR Dolby Vision Post Production with 5.1 Audio with a creative team made up of Colourist Alex Chernoff, Online Editor Stef Henley with Online Assistants Max Marshall and Richard Nicholson, Re-recording Mixer Steve Speed with Sound Designer Ivan Onek and Picture Shop Executive Producer Yasmin Amey.


Picture Shop Re-recording Mixer Steve Speed met up with Showrunner Simon Hammerson several months before the final audio prep and mix began to hear his breakdown and vision for the series. Both shared the ambition to create a cinematic and immersive soundscape for each episode and were keen to do it justice with a mix and soundscape that was multifaceted and pulled the viewer in every direction.

Each episode weaves between interviews by Keanu Reeves with the many contributors, reconstructions of some of the key events that took place behind the scenes, and fantastic archival race and sync footage of the 2009 season. In a way in which only he could do, there are also gorgeously atmospheric set-up scenes with Reeves inside the Brawn factory, as well as, stunning GFX sequences of the Brawn car.

Simon Hammerson and North One have created a series that will truly enthral the viewer and will appeal not only to Formula 1 and sports documentary fans, but also to anyone who just loves a gripping story.

Steve Speed, Re-recording Mixer at Picture Shop

One of the initial challenges was gathering as many accurate sync sound files of the cars and races from 2009 as possible. To be able to create a detailed and immersive 5.1 mix, the first task was to provide Ivan Onek, Sound Designer with enough authentic source sound clips to be able to layer and build up all the individual spot FX needed. Series Editor Owen Davies at North One very kindly provided the sound team with broadcast M+E wavs from several F1 races from 2009. From those, Speed auditioned and edited down over 300 clips of cars passing, crowds, and tannoy sync sounds.

Onek had just five days to complete the dialogue edit, as well as, the FX and sound design. To be able to create an as immersive surround mix as possible, Speed needed to balance and pan the individual elements of the separate cars on a grid and racetrack. To achieve this, Onek meticulously layered the edited archive FX, building and re-creating a soundscape for the various race sections within each episode. Car revs and grunts, individual crowd and tannoy spots were all added to enhance the original mono or stereo sync archival broadcast sound.

Speed had three days for the pre and final mix with a fourth day for the final review and sign-off. He had to work intensely to EQ and balance the dialogues, as well as, the archival race and sync sounds, beds and layers of FX spots, ambience, sound design, and music. At this stage of the mix, Hammerson was based in LA, so both he and Speed would touch base and communicate ideas remotely.

The score, composed by Philip Sheppard and Baby Brown, plays a huge part in the series. Speed worked with Showrunner Hammerson to create the nuance and drama that Hammerson wanted to achieve with the music. In some instances, that also involved building sections of music at the mix stage, using elements from the various music cues available. Despite having to work quickly, the process was a labour of love, and the result is a soundtrack that sounds cohesive between the two composer styles and has all the energy and drama that Hammerson was looking for.

From a creative perspective, working with North One and Simon Hammerson on this incredibly large and complex project was fantastic. Knowing how much everyone at Picture Shop and North One collaborated to get the series over the line made the result one which the entire team is even more proud of. As a viewer, you are not only glued to the brilliant Reeves and the journey he takes us on with Brawn, but also, wholly invested in the characters and events that we see unfold. It was a real privilege and intensely rewarding to work with Hammerson and the teams at North One and Disney on this project.

Steve Speed, Re-recording Mixer at Picture Shop


Picture Shop Colourist Alex Chernoff, graded the series in UHD HDR using Nucoda. The biggest task was grading the archive material in a way that did not feel like video footage from 2009.

In Nucoda, Chernoff colour managed the footage back to a log colour space and graded it back from there, all within an HDR ACES environment. By doing this he had more control over the bottom and top end of the signal. With the onboard cameras, he used Nucoda’s image processing tools to clean up some of the noise patterns. With Stef Henley’s contributions in the online, in cleaning up the interlace combing video artefacts, they were able to get a good result.

Chernoff’s aim was for the interview setup to feel like paintings, flattening the backgrounds and marrying the subjects to their environments. Hammerson had a keen eye for colour and was able to communicate his vision clearly. They focused on the Brawn colours and made sure they popped whenever present in the frame.

Online edit

Picture Shop Online Editor, Stef Henley completed the UHD HDR Dolby Vision online using Autodesk Flame with Online Assistants Max Marshall and Richard Nicholson.

The archive was such an integral part of the story telling process. Close attention to detail was spent in the pre-grade online through restoring the archive and losing unwanted compression artefacts that could distract the viewer from the compelling story.

The online and grade worked very closely together alongside Hammerson to give the archive a distinct filmic look using textures and overlays that would sit in seamlessly amongst UHD HDR footage.

For some scenes, Henley heavily degraded beautiful UHD footage of Jenson Button and Ross Brawn to embed them amongst some very low-quality sourced archive scenes. Hammerson’s idea behind integrating them was to make the audience feel like they were watching a scene from 2009, which uses a visual transition from the archive effect build applied to glorious UHD HDR to set up the following scene as present day.

Interview set-ups were cleaned up in the online for a minimalistic and clean feel, with an aim to draw subtle attention to the Brawn colours placed into the set for a continuity of colour and branding.

Henley created a high energy type-on and glitchy transition effect for the radio com subtitling that felt immersive and kept up with the intensity of the race. The right font was carefully selected to feel fast and relevant with its colour sampled directly from the side of the Brawn F1 race car.

Picture Shop was the perfect partner for us to handle all our post requirements. Their incredibly talented team are well organised and managed, helping us to beautifully finish the show on time and budget.  

Alex was incredibly patient and detailed in his approach; he did a beautiful job with colour.

The work Stef performed was magic. He brought some questionable, average archive to life giving it more quality feel than we could’ve hoped for.

Steve was nothing short of exceptional throughout the entire post process. He took ownership of the series and was so much more than an audio mixer. No task was ever too big, it was never too late and he always made it happen! And there were some sizable tasks – 11th hour music changes which Steve took in his stride and made work beautifully. Without him, we would’ve really struggled to get the feel we needed.

Simon Hammerson, Showrunner of Brawn: The Impossible Formula 1 Story

Watch the trailer for Brawn: The Impossible Formula 1 Story below.

UK Screen Alliance SUPPORTERS