7 Things You Should Know About Post Production
Post-Production. That wonderful world where all of your ideas, footage and other assets get together to be crafted into an amazing visual product. It’s an exciting process where you can let your imagination run wild and have a lot of fun experimenting with different concepts. But, as with anything, understanding the capabilities and limitations of post-production will go a long way in planning, setting expectations, ensuring a smooth workflow and coming out on the other side with the video that you wanted.
So here are seven things you need to know about post-production…
#1 It’s More Than Just Editing
Post-Production encompasses a lot of different tasks. Editing together the video and audio is simply the foundation. On top of that, there are titles, graphics, animations, sound design, audio mixing and colour grading.
On smaller productions, it can easily be one person handling all of those tasks. In bigger budget projects those roles get divided among specialists within each field. Each aspect of the post process is a skill of its own.
If a project has a working script or storyboard, the post team is also on top of cross-referencing the edits against that information to make sure things are being assembled to plan.
They are also brainstorming creative and technical solutions around any unexpected snags that may come up. Even with the best-laid plans, there will always be a bit of Murphy’s Law.
#2 Things Takes Longer Than You Think
Everything in ‘post’ (post-production) takes longer than most people realise and it’s understandable that they assume it’ll move faster than it does. It’s not until one is involved in post that they can appreciate how much time and energy is put into the process.
If a project has an hour of source video (raw footage), it can take twice as long to go through that footage. While screening, the editor will need extra time to mark good shots or compare alternate takes. With interview footage, it can take a couple of listens to sort out the best bits that’ll work together in the final edit.
A lot of trial and error goes into assembling the first draft a person sees. A good amount of time is also spent on finessing all the edits and elements.
Even a simple sounding client request such as inserting a new audio grab into an existing edit isn’t so simple. That new audio grab will create a domino effect of adjustments. Music will need to be extended and re-mixed, extra coverage may be needed as overlay over the new grab and surrounding clips may need to be adjusted. Once all changes are done, the editor needs to watch the video from start to finish a couple of times to make sure everything flows together as it should. The time involved for all of these steps adds up quickly.
#3 You Can’t Fix Everything In Post
“We’ll fix it in post.” An age-old saying that’ll send chills down the post team’s spine. These days, the saying has evolved to, “There’s a plug-in that’ll fix that.”
There’s an amazing amount of things that can be fixed in post-production and new technology is always being developed that allows post teams to do even more. It’s truly impressive. But there are always limits.
One of the toughest things to repair is bad audio. Let’s say there’s unwanted background noise in the footage. There are filters that can hone in on the frequency of the noise to negate it. With subtle and steady noises the filters will work wonders without affecting the remaining audio. With extreme levels of background noise, such as machinery or strong wind, or inconsistent fluctuations, the filters can eliminate the offending noise but the audio will end up sounding muffled or a bit like it’s underwater. For some people, that’s an acceptable compromise, but more often it is not ideal.
Another big one post teams see often is shaky footage. It’s incredible how well post technology can steady a slightly shaky image. But, if the picture shakes too much, the end result will be a steady image that looks a bit distorted because of all the stretching that has to happen to compensate for the shake. Sometimes it’s an acceptable, hardly noticeable, solution. Other times it’s quite noticeable and more distracting than the shaky footage.
If, while filming, people are counting on the post team to solve all the problems they’re encountering, then they may be setting themselves up for disappointment. If possible, consult with the post team as issues arise and they will advise what they feel they can seamlessly fix and what they can fix but will result in some side effects.
#4 Know What You’re Watching
When receiving a screener, be clear on what sort of edit is being reviewed. Knowing the type of edit allows one to know what to expect and what to critique. The type of initial screener sent out will vary between production companies. Our approach is to send out a ‘Directors Cut’ which is a polished edit so you don’t need to watch version after version of your video, however, traditional video production companies prefer to do it in stages. It’s good to know the traditional stages and lingo to better communicate with the post-production team.
The radio edit. Its purpose is for everyone to review the audio layout and confirm they are happy with the script. This version won’t have polished video edits. If anything, the video will be jumpy and very, very rough. It may have plenty of black holes. Radio edit reviews are much more common in long-form instructional or documentary projects where it’s crucial to confirm the narrative to avoid spending too much time going in the wrong direction. Radio edits are not normally sent out on short-form and social media projects.
A rough cut is an edit that will be fairly polished but likely won’t have a final colour grade or audio mix. It may be missing IDs or other graphics. The goal of this review is to confirm everyone is happy with the overall edits, shot selection, music choices, etc. so that the post team can begin to polish the edit. While this is what many companies would send out as the first screener, there are others that would send out the equivalent of a fine cut for first review.
A fine cut will have a proper polish to all of the elements. There’s very little left for the post team to do aside from addressing any feedback for changes. If no changes are needed then this becomes the final cut.
The final cut is just as it sounds. Every part of the post process is done and this is what the post team will hand over. Nothing more will be done unless an omission or error is caught after delivery.
#5 Get Everyone’s Feedback Before Submitting Revision Requests
Unless there’s a big post-production budget, the edit team is most likely working on a fixed budget. A fixed budget means the client usually gets a limited number of revision requests before incurring an overage. These limitations are needed to ensure the production company covers the associated overhead for the project.
So when it comes to providing feedback, especially if there are a lot of team members that need to review the edit, take the time to collect everyone’s input before submitting a revision request. The more people that need to review an edit, the more likely it is that one team member’s notes may conflict with another’s. It’ll save time and money to discuss and resolve any conflicting notes prior to using up one of the revision rounds.
One of the great advancements in edit revisions is the advent of clickable review platforms like frame.io. At ANGRYchair, the links we send to our ‘Director’s Cut’ allow you to add the comments directly to the video, so once your team has compiled your feedback, you can add it directly to the relevant parts of the video to make sure everyone is on the same page.
#6 Fresh Eyes Save The Day
The post team is working day in and day out on the project and they’re on top of a lot of minutiae regarding the video. Sometimes it’s easy for a detail to slip through the cracks. It’s not that the post team is sloppy, it’s just that they are entrenched pretty deep in the process and are focusing on a lot of moving parts.
That’s where fresh eyes save the day. A person who gets a break from the project between screeners may have an easier time spotting something that the post team may have missed.
The best analogy for this would be a case of missing keys. A person searches their home top to bottom multiple times and can’t find their keys. Along comes a friend or family member with some fresh eyes and finds them within 30 seconds. Not necessarily because they are better at searching for keys, but because they are coming in fresh and processing the whole room with new eyes.
#7 Locking Down The Pieces
Nothing will make the post team happier than hearing things are locked. Whether it’s the custom animations, music choices or the edit itself, a lock means people are happy and the project is moving one step closer to completion. It also tells the post team that they can safely move forward with finalising certain elements and not worry about using up precious edit time on something that may have to be undone.
Especially when multiple team members are involved in the approval process, confirming with the team that things are “locked” will help ensure everyone knows they are committing to something in its current state and that the post team will be instructed to “lock” aspects of the project.
Of course, locks are not permanent. If a change is crucially needed after a lock, the post team will address everything that’s needed. It just means that there may be a bigger domino effect of workaround that change. It all depends on the specifics of the initial change request.
In summary, we love the complexity and intricacy of the post-production process, but we understand that you’re busy and are unlikely to share our love for the minutiae of it all. This is why we keep it as simple as possible for you, so you can focus on your other priorities and only jump in to approve (or make tweaks to) the directors cut when the post-production is all but done.