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5 crucial tips for smooth and swift post-production

2 minute read
Pic: Shutterstock

When things go wrong in post-production often it’s too late to fix them, or at least fix them cheaply. Here are 5 tips to make sure things go smoothly after the shoot.

Just getting a film shot on a micro-budget is so difficult that it’s easy to forget about post and make things harder than they need to be down the line.

A few years back I participated in a 48-hour film challenge, serving as both director of photography and post-production supervisor. It was the first time I’d ever done the latter role and I learnt plenty of things the hard way.

Here are the top five things I’d recommend to anyone wishing to have a quick and painless post-production process on a micro-budget:

1. Make a plan

Sit down with the camera and post departments before the shoot to make sure everyone knows the workflow and what’s expected of them. This includes agreeing on a format and frame-rate to shoot, and a format to edit from, and making sure that all hard drives and cards to be used during post are formatted appropriately so they can be read by all the computers being used.

2. Slate it right

Have a dedicated clapperboarder on set and make sure they understand the importance of getting the right info on the board. Too often on a low budget the job of slating is given to a crew member with several other responsibilities, increasing the chances of them writing the wrong thing on it and confusing the hell out of the editor. (We got this right on the 48-hour film, and it helped enormously.)

Some common mistakes I’ve seen include the AC covering useful information on the slate with their hand, not putting their fingers through the sticks for MOS shots, and failing to update the date or roll number. The verbal announcement should be nice and clear; I’d recommend “slate one three” and “slate three zero” instead of the similar-sounding “slate thirteen” and “slate thirty”, for example. And the cast and crew - including the director! - should be quiet during the announcement so it is easy for the editor to hear.

3. Over-shooting is inefficient

If you know that you have limited time for post, beware of shooting too much footage, particularly if you have a B-camera or second unit. The 48-hour film had so much B-roll that there simply wasn’t time to view it all in post. Also avoid shooting series (multiple takes without cutting in between) as a time-pressured editor will often miss the fact that there are several takes within the same clip.

4. Keep a note

Keep camera logs if at all possible, noting any technical problems with each take and the director’s preferences.

5. Assist the editor

Ideally the data wrangler or an assistant editor should do three things once they have ingested the material, besides the obvious backing up: (1) transcode the footage to whatever format has been pre-arranged for editing; (2) in the edit software, organise the material into bins, rename the clips (but not the files) with slate and take numbers, and add information from the camera logs; (3) sync the sound. Starting to edit without first syncing the sound is very tempting when time is short, but it’s going to make life very hard for someone down the line.

Tags: Post & VFX