There are a ton of professionals involved in Post-Production, and trusting each other probably matters more in ‘post’ than any other time in the filmmaking process. These are the final steps and they’re the glue that holds the movie together, literally. So, what is Post-Production, who’s involved, and what should you consider before it begins? Let’s take a look.
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So, what’s post-production?
The Post-Production process involves a slew of professionals — editors, sound designers, foley artists, colorists, and more. There are some standard practices that are universal across television, features, and other visual mediums.
But of course, it is important to note that depending on the size of the project, its budget, and which arena you’re in (television, film, or even video games), the Post-Production process will vary.We’ll briefly define Post-Production, and get into the stages that are generally part of the process, as they relate mostly to film.
What is Post-Production?
Post-Production is the stage after production when the filming is wrapped and the editing of the visual and audio materials begins. Post-Production refers to all of the tasks associated with cutting raw footage, assembling that footage, adding music, dubbing, sound effects, just to name a few. The Post-Production process is highly collaborative, across a few months to even a year, depending on the size and need of the project.
Film Post-Production workflow:
- Have reliable storage
- Picture editing
- Sound editing — ADR and Foley
- Secure music
- Sound mixing
- Visual effects
- Color correction
- Titles, credits, and graphics
- Gather distribution materials
- Make a trailer
Now we know what Post-Production means, let’s dive into the workflow a little bit. Below is a detailed video on the Post-Production process.
And now let’s jump into some of those workflow details.
Post-Production process explained
Once the film is shot and production is wrapped, you can finally go to bed! Just kidding. It’s Post-Production time. Whether you’re a director, producer, or editor, you’ll be involved in at least a few stages of this process. And there are quite a few stages. Let’s get into it.
Is Your Footage Secure?
Once you’re done shooting, before you do anything, and I mean anything, make sure you have reliable storage — a secure place to house all the footage you just spent hours shooting.
It can be anything from a basic hard drive to spinning hard drives, or even RAIDs (a combination of hard drives).
RAID can be installed in your computer or it can be external. It’s usually used by editors handling a lot of footage because it increases the performance and reliability of standard data storage.
Before you accept a job, or before you hire an editor, make sure safe and secure storage is in place.
Stage One in Post-Production
It begins with picture editing
Which brings us to the next most important point of them all — the editing process, more specifically, picture editing (we’ll get to sound editing soon).
Your cinematographer might have some suggestions, but make sure before you hire an editor, you’re already familiar with their work.
Now the editing process can begin. Here's a quick breakdown of editing techniques that an editor might use.
After your editor reads the script and looks at the dailies (or rushes) from the footage shot that day, they can start working their magic. They’ll likely make an Edit Decision List (EDL), cutting the film how they believe is most advantageous to the story.
This is a pretty big responsibility, so make sure whoever you hire understands the tone and feel of the film ahead of time. But don’t be afraid to let them use the skills you hired them for — striking that balance will be key to telling a great visual story. Editing software like Avid, Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro, are recommended.
Assembling footage takes time — it could take anywhere from a month and a half to several months. The first draft of the film is called a Rough Cut, and the final version will be called the Answer Print. When the director is happy with the visuals, they’ll “lock the picture,” and the sound editing can begin.
Stage Two in Post-Production
Next up: creating sound
Once the picture is locked, it’s time for sound editing. Hire the best sound editors because a ton of work is involved. They’re responsible for assembling the audio tracks of your film, cutting dialogue tracks, removing unwanted noise, and even enhancing your movie with sound effects. The specific sound needs for that particular project will dictate who to hire.
Sound effects are often the job of a foley artist. When the pre-recorded sound from set doesn’t sound so good, foley artists come in and recreate the sound.
They watch the movie in a studio and it’s most common for them to recreate the sound of footsteps by walking on tile floors or sometimes wearing certain types of shoes to get certain sounds. They come up with clever ways to make doors slam, and bones break.
When actors come back into the studio and re-record dialogue over the scene, it’s called ADR, or Automated Dialog Replacement. Sound engineers and sound editors do this when the sound wasn’t captured well enough on set.
But sometimes it is done for creative purposes. This is also good for scenes that require voiceovers or any other dialogue off-screen. And in animated films, of course, ADR takes up most of the “filming.”
This is also a critical time for sound editors to gather cue sheets to get ready for sound mixing a little later on.
Stage Three in Post-Production
Scoring or securing music
It’s always best to work with a composer and have an original soundtrack for your film rather than the headache of licensing other people’s music.
Of course, it is entirely possible to get the songs you want, but it does get expensive. And the Music Supervisor (who you’ll also be hiring) takes care of securing the recording and publishing rights.
It costs time and money, and don’t forget about renewing those licenses down the line. Some filmmakers try different approaches.
But of course, this isn’t always possible. So, if you can, hire a musician to create an original score and save yourself a headache.
Stage Four In Post-Production
So, now that you have your music, sound effects, and re-recorded dialogue, it’s time to start layering each track on top of each other. It’s time for the Mix. Sound mixers will adjust all of the volume levels, eliminate anything too distracting, basically making sure everything sounds just right.
Watch this breakdown of the opening sequence in Drive as a fantastic example of how sound mixing can be the primary storyteller.
Stage Five In Post-Production
For instance, the dragons in Game of Thrones...definitely, and unfortunately (or fortunately?), not possible in real life. But of course, many projects will not require these effects.
And some visual effects are considerably smaller than dragons flying through the air, and may mean a simple explosion, otherwise too expensive or dangerous to execute during production. Tim Burton’s re-imagined, Dumbo was a more recent film that relied on visual effects.
VFX artists start working once the picture is locked. This is because they work frame by frame, so it causes a real headache if they have to add extra frames, or if a shot is swapped and have to start all over. So, the editor must have all of the editing transitions and everything else complete, before VFX can really start.
Stage Six in Post-Production
Working with color
Color correction and color grading can actually be done before VFX, but sometimes it’s done after. It really depends on what’s needed from each department. Sometimes a VFX artist does the coloring.
Color is an unsung hero in visual storytelling. Watch our essay on how David Fincher uses color in his work.
As long as the picture is locked, a colorist can go in and digitally alter the shots. They lighten frames to and adjust hues for continuity as well as to reflect the scene’s tone.
For a deep dive into how to use color in film, download our FREE E-book:
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How to Use Color in Film
Hue, saturation, brightness — the three elements of color that make all the difference. In this book, we'll explain the aesthetic qualities and psychology effects of using color in your images. Topics include color schemes like analogous and triadic colors and how color palettes can tell stories of their own.
Stage Seven in Post-Production
Generating titles, credits, graphics
Opening credits are super important! Of course, first impressions are everything but they are also a chance to capture the tone and mood of the project. Put your best foot forward and invest some creative energy to grab your audience from the very beginning.
End credits don't require nearly as much creativity (but it wouldn't hurt). That being said, what you'll need to pay attention to here is accuracy and professionalism. There are spoken and unspoken rules about how end credits work, as you'll see here with Ryan from Film Riot.
You’re almost done. The project is nearly complete but there are a few more steps to consider, especially if there are distribution plans in play.
Stage Eight in Post-Production
Prepping for distribution
Even though the Post-Production process may be coming to a close, you still need to worry about distribution.
First, you'll need to make sure you have an M&E ("Music and Effects") track. If you’re trying to sell your film internationally, you’ll need to provide a sound track without English dialogue so dubbing in a different language is possible.
Again, if you are selling it to international buyers, you’ll need to create a script with the exact time code for every word spoken. This way the dubbing artist or person writing out the subtitles knows where to put your dialogue on screen.
Digital Cinema Package (DCP)
If you want to send your film out, make sure your film is on a hard drive, ready to be delivered. Create a Digital Cinema Package that has the final copy of your movie encoded so it can be distributed to theaters.
Stage Nine in Post-Production
Advertising your film
As we said before, first impressions are everything. And the advertising of your project needs to hook people immediately. Especially considering how much content is out in the world at the moment, people are much more selective with what they watch.
This image might be the first thing the public sees (including potential distributors or programmers), so make sure the image, credits, and tagline on your poster capture exactly what your film is about.
Let's let a professional poster designer talk us through contemporary trends and some of the design considerations when approaching your project's primary advertising image.
The science of movie poster design
Make a one-to-two minute trailer. Though, nowadays, there are actually Trailer Editors. If you have it in the budget, let them take it over. They’re not as attached or immersed in the film, and they're coming in with fresh eyes. They have plenty of experience in pulling out the most exciting and noteworthy bits from the film.
That's a wrap on Post-Production
Again, trusting others to do their jobs well is a major requirement of the Post-Production process. Post workflow is highly collaborative and involves many different people. Find hires with proven track records if possible. And once post begins, the more freedom they each have to do what they do best, the better the film will come out.
Your project may not require every one of these steps. And some steps may be moved around depending on your time, budget, or other needs. This stage in filmmaking takes time, and may be exhausting, but if you understand these basics, it’s manageable.
Film festivals worth the entry fee
You've mastered the Post-Production process and your film is DONE! What's next? You gotta get it in front of people and film festivals are an excellent way to do that. The trouble is...there are literally hundreds of film festivals out there and most of them aren't worth your time or money. We've narrowed the list down to the fests that are worth the entry fee and that will give your film the best chance of being seen.