In this article we’ll deal with each aspect of post production one by one.
Post-production is the collection, organization and coherent unification of all the elements of an audiovisual project. The end result is called a Master. From this master, you create Deliverables.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand some of these terms. All will be explained.
Post production has only five categories of media
Post production can be broken down into two major halves, both equally important:
They might be tackled separately (movies) or together (small videos), but they are never tackled at the same time. They need their own time, attention and expertise.
Both of these can be broken down into two further simple classifications:
- What you have
- What you don’t have
What you have is what you’ve accomplished through production. What you don’t have is what you need to find or create in post production.
So, you have visuals that you’ve shot, and visuals that need to be found, shot or made. You have audio that you have recorded on location, and audio that needs to be created. That’s a total of four ‘categories’ of media. The fifth category is music. Here they are:
- Visuals you have already shot
- Visuals that have to be created
- Audio that has been recorded on location
- Audio that has to be created
The four stages of post production
Whereas pre-production is chaotic, and doesn’t really have a linear or step-by-step structure, post production is thankfully quite linear (unless you want to make it hard on yourself). You can’t get too far ahead of yourself, or you’ll end up waiting for the rest to catch up.
I like to break post production down into four major stages:
- The Assembly Stage
- The Mixing Stage
- The Mastering Stage
- Creating the Deliverables
Before we go ahead, here’s a full overview for reference (click to enlarge):
The Assembly Stage
Let’s tackle visuals and audio separately:
Hopefully you’ve shot everything you need during the production (principle photography) stage. You might also have had a second (or more) unit shooting additional footage. If you have had a production stills photographer on set, he or she would have shot production stills that you will need. Even if you’re shooting boring videos for the internet, you can ask someone to photograph yourself doing it for your website, business or blog.
If you have screwed up big-time on any shot, you might need to re-shoot those. Re-shoots are usually known prior to post-production, which is why it belongs in the first column.
In post production you might realize you need a few more shots to tell your story. Since the budget usually doesn’t allow for a full crew, you might be able to get away with a few important close-ups, reaction shots and takeaway shots. These are called pick-ups.
What you haven’t shot will need to be created. This includes CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) of all kinds – 2D or 3D. You might also need to license stock footage from libraries, individuals or governmental organizations.
Finally, you’ll need to key footage whose backgrounds need to be replaced. Any other preparatory work for the next stage will be done now. This includes creating masks, mattes, rotoscoping, tracking, motion compensation, transcoding, syncing, ingesting, entering metadata, logging and everything else you might need.
What you’re doing is ensuring you have all the pieces of the puzzle before you start putting it together.
You do the same for audio. If your project has sync sound, you might have recorded dialogue on set. If your production sound mixer is a professional, he or she would have recorded location pick-ups – these are audio samples (sound effects) of objects, events, ‘space’, noise, and anything else of value that the location provided.
ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement), a.k.a ‘Dubbing’, is the process of recording dialogue in a studio. Some movies do wall-to-wall ADR, while others only need to cover up for poorly recorded audio. Voice overs are also recorded this way.
Foley is the process of creating sound effects that haven’t been recorded as pick-ups. These could include anything you need to tell the story or create an effect. People who specialize in this are called Foley artists. They usually need bigger audio studios because of the physical nature of creating audio.
Finally, there are sounds that cannot be created through any physical recording, and have to be created electronically. It could be for any number of reasons, both artistic and functional. These are created using a synthesizer.
Music has a special place in any production. You either purchase a license for music (or get one ‘royalty-free’), or create your own. The person who does this is the Music Composer.
Music involves its own recording – instruments, vocals, effects, and so on. These might be done together (orchestra) or separately.
All said and done, if you’ve carried out the Assembly Stage correctly, you’ll have all the raw material you need to produce your movie. Sometimes, due to various reasons, you cannot proceed so systematically. After all, even filmmakers cannot focus on too many things at the same time. The person who controls the post production schedule and budget is the Post Production Supervisor.
In Part Two we’ll cover the last three stages: Mixing, Mastering and Creating Deliverables.