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Post-production begins on set

From left: Joshua Finnigan, Thomas Chibnall-West, John Whiteside, Simon Raby and Lauren Jackson on the set of I’m Going to Mum’s (2013)

 

OK, that’s a wrap! Now the hard work really begins. Post-production can be time consuming and expensive, but it’s exciting too. This is where the film is actually made. Up to this point it was simply a collection of shots – now you will take your raw footage and craft it into your film.

Post-production takes much longer than shooting a short film. It can take several months to complete because it includes:

  • Offline editing: creating the story and deciding what goes into the final cut
  • VFX: adding visual special effects (CGI)
  • Colour grading: ensuring shots match and suit the tone of your film
  • Sound design: writing, recording, and editing the musical score; adding sound effects, ADR (additional dialogue recording), foley and music
  • Graphics: titles and credits.

The reason editing a film is sometimes called ‘second directing’ is because the post-production process can heavily influence the intention and tone of the film.

TIP: Show Me Shorts works with RPM Pictures, who are one of our major festival sponsors. If you’re looking for a post-production house to work on your short film, we highly recommend their work.

Offline editing

Editing actually begins during production. During your shoot, a camera assistant will need to log the start and end timecodes of each shot. This shot-logging process is typically done using shot-logging software running on a laptop computer that is connected to the timecode generator or the camera itself. The list will be sent to your editing department, where they use it for file management.

As you log what has been shot, look at the footage to make sure it’s what you wanted and start to catalogue everything you have. This may also help you identify extra things you need to shoot.

TIP: File management is imperative. Start a folder of footage for each scene, then choose the best shots to start knitting together your rough cut.

Typically, after each day you will get together to watch what’s called the dailies or the rushes (shots filmed that day). This is a chance for the DOP and director to get an idea of whether the shots are working, and if the look they are creating is right for the film.

Software

Editing software is expensive but important. There are a number of programs you can use. While some come free with your computer (i.e. Movie Maker), the programs recommended by professionals are FinalCut, Avid or the Adobe suite including Premiere and AfterEffects.

TIP: Youtube is a great place to learn how to use these programs.

Rough cut

Your rough cut (or assembly edit) is basically the first draft of the film. It lets the editor and director and other key people see where the film is at, if there are any further pick-ups needed, and it helps you plan for music and any special effects.

Rough cuts are typically 20-30% over length because they contain only approximate shot selection and trimming. The sound is untreated, and often dialogue and sound effects will be incomplete. Titles, graphics, special effects and composite images are usually represented only by place-markers. Colours are untreated and unmatched.

Directors commonly love their rushes and hate their rough cuts. That’s normal. A film goes through several rough cuts before the final edit. This is a good time to get feedback, as fresh perspectives can be helpful.

Fine cut

Once the rough cut has been trimmed to an appropriate length, the editor moves into the fine-cut stage. Here, the film is refined and fresh eyes are brought in for viewings (EPs, producers, etc).

Picture lock

The edited shots are set and ‘locked’. But wait – you’re not done yet!

 

Infographic: Joseph Jowitt.

Infographic courtesy of Joseph Jowitt.

VFX

Depending on your project, VFX can be created concurrently with your editing process or added once your fine cut is complete. Typically you would insert temporary or placeholder footage into an edit if the VFX work was still under way.

Most short-film budgets don’t allow for huge CGI sequences. More often than not, the best VFX are subtle things your audience won’t even notice. You might need to correct something an actor was wearing from the wrong time period, add a shadow or change a colour. This is a specialty area, so use professionals who know what they’re doing.

Colour grading

Colour grading is an important part of the editing process, as it can dramatically change the mood of the scene. This is where the colour of your footage is corrected to give an even, balanced look across the whole film, and you can also fix up parts of the original footage to create continuity within the film.

TIP: For good continuity of colour, if possible, use a properly colour-calibrated monitor – that way you can be sure the look you create is pretty close what you see on-screen.

Sound design

Music and soundscapes set the emotional landscape of your film. If you have prioritised sound recording on set, this is where it pays off. Hopefully you have minimal ADR to do, and some well-recorded sound effects that can be applied where needed. You may still need to work with a foley artist for additional sounds (eg. a door closing, footsteps).

Unless you’re lucky enough to be working with a composer, you must get permission for all music you want to use from the copyright owners. This can be expensive, but there are also plenty of royalty-free production music and sound-effect options available online that you can purchase for a small fee (e.g., Audio Network, Beat Suite and Zapsplat). Just remember to credit them correctly.

Sound mixing is the final stage of sound-post-production. Here you will add your sound effects, ADR, foley and musical score, and set the final sound levels so each scene transitions smoothly to the next.

Graphics

Unless you have an amazing idea that fits the story of your film, keep your titles, graphics and credit sequence simple. Remember to list everyone who has been part of your film’s journey in the credits!

Under NZ law your film is automatically copyrighted, so you may want to put a © symbol at the end of the credits with your name and the year.

Final compile

Putting your final sound mix together with your final pictures is the last stage of post-production. Break out the bubbly – your film is finished!