The Simple 10 Step guide to Post Production
So now you’ve got your film “in the can” as they say in Hollywood. What do you do next? Going into post production is often quite fun in the beginning but quickly becomes overwhelming. It seems like there is always something that cant be fixed that needs desperately to be fixed.
One of the old jokes in film making is“Don’t worry, we’ll fix it in post!”. I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is nearly everything actually can be fixed in post. The bad news is fixing things in post is expensive. The even worse news is that with an inefficient workflow you can waste a ton of money fixing things that don’t even need to be fixed, only to find you’ve wasted your entire post production budget on a set of shots you ultimately end up cutting out of the film anyways.
I can’t save you from having to spend time and money fixing things that truly need to be fixed. It’s going to happen. You are going to have a key scene where you don’t have a single take where the dialog came out clear. More than likely you’ll find some edit that just doesn’t make sense. There are probably at least a few shots that are way over or under exposed. There is no getting around it…you have to fix it.
However, you absolutely must avoid doing work on footage that you don’t need. You could spend a month color correcting a scene, adding ADR and foley, only to find that you don’t need the scene in the first place. That is a waste of time and money. To avoid this, you’re post production schedule needs to follow a logical work flow.
- Sync Sound – The first step in any post production workflow is to syncronize the sound if you didn’t capture the audio directly into the camera.
- Assembly Edit – Put together a rough edit of the film. This edit should actually be reasonably close to how the actual film will play out. However, do not add any fades or transitions! The reason you don’t want any fades or transitions is that inevitably the two clips you fade into one another will ultimately need two different color correction treatments. It will be nearly impossible to adjust the color correction over the portion where one scene fades into the next.
- Color Correction – Export the various clips and color correct each as necessary.
- FX – Any visual effects that are necessary should be done at this stage. After this you should have film that is entirely complete except for the sound.
- ADR – Do the dialog replacement on any scene that needs it. It’s best to have a professional do this, even if its just a guy with a home studio.
- Foley and Sound Design – Your film should now have a complete dialog track, and fit together as an almost complete film. It’s now time to add atmosphere and feeling by putting in some sound design elements. These are things like footsteps, dogs barking in the distance, crickets chirping, etc.
- Score – Add music where necessary to highlight and enchance the mood of each scene.
- Mixing – Have a professional mix all of the audio tracks. I only recommend you do this yourself if you have a very in depth knowledge of EQ and audio compression. Adjusting the volume on tracks is not enough.
- The Final Edit – Go back and refine your edit adding transitions, fades, and more intricate cuts. You should not be making large editorial decisions at this point, but rather just refining the pacing of the film.
- Titles and Credits – Add the above the line credits at the beginning of the film, and build the rear title credits.
You are now beyond post production and into the marketing phase. What comes next after this various quite a bit on your planned distribution medium. You may want to have a 35mm blow up for festivals, or create a digital master. You may want to begin designing the DVD menus. Regardless of where you go next, congratulations, you now have a finished film.