Fine cutting is the last “clean-up” stage of your edit. At this point you should be making only minor tweaks and changes. Watch your edit down, are there any final fixes you kept wanting to make still lingering about? Any shots to swap out? Frames to trim on a shot? Is the sound level and consistent? Do the edits feel clean and communicate what you hope to communicate? Is everyone's name spelled correctly in the credits?
After going over your film with a fine toothed comb, it's time to prepare the film for mastering. As a picture editor I rarely do my own color correction and sound mix. So the advice I'm most qualified to give here is how to prepare your edit for others to finish the detailed technical work.
Here is the standard operating procedure for preparing your film for mastering:
Before you do anything, create a copy of your edit!
Add a slate to the head of your edit. A slate is a title card that contains the title of your film, the date and total running time (TRT) of the edit.
Add a 2-Pop at the head and tail of your edit. This is the classic count-down leader: “8,7,6,5,4,3,2(BEEP!)...” This iconic image is really an important part of ensuring that everyone is sure that the film is in sync. If you don't have a frame accurate leader you can create a simple 2-Pop:Make a reference print /export of the film and lay it into your edit on it's own tracks.
Add two seconds of black slug leader after the slate and before the first frame of your edit. Add a one-frame color-bar effect. Under that color bar put one-frame of tone. When played back the color-bars and tone should like a sound-synced “pop.” Now do the same for the end of your film, but slighlty reversed. Add two seconds of black after the last frame of picture, and add the same color-bars and tone beep. You want to add another beep at the tail of the film just incase there is any shifting of audio mid-way through the film. With the tail 2-pop you can quickly see by how many frames the audio has become shifted out of sync and correct it.
Ensure your picture and sound tracks are consistent, if you've been lazy, clean it up!
If you are working with a sound mixer and finishing editor, get in touch with them and ask for a list of specifications they'll need to work on your film.
Typically you're going to create an OMF for the audio mixer. Ask your mixer how many frames of “handles” they want.
The sound mixer will also need a low-resolution export of the film with a timecode burn-in. Turn on the BIC settings on your edit and export a copy.
Depending on what your film will be finished on, the finishing editor / colorist could ask for any number of formats of your edit. Most likely they will be asking for an EDL (Edit Decision List), an XML, or AAF of the final edit. They will most likely also ask for handles of your media and might have other small requests you should ask them about.
Have a list of things to talk about your mixer and colorist with. They need as much direction just as any actor or other collaborator (the key word here is collaborator) on your film.
Color Correction: The color, contrast and tones of your film are an important part of the cinematic language. Do you want to keep the current look of your film, or do you want to change particular elements of the look and feel to portray a different emotion? Do you want to add more golden colors to warm the image or inversely, add blues to cool it down? Should certain color footage be changed to black and white? Do you want to push the saturation of the image to make it more lush? How do these things add to your film's voice?
How do you want your film to sound. You probably have added a lot of music and sound effects to your film, but what do they add to your film? Your audio mixer might have additional idea on how to convey those themes and ideas you were looking to incorporate.
Where are you screening? This is important to know for many reasons. Partially your budget, it doesn't make sense to create a 6K master if you only plan to release your video on the internet. What you should do however is have an idea of where you would like for your film to show, and make a plan for creating a number of masters say, a 2K output for the movie theater, an HD / SD master for TV and DVD sales, and maybe a high quality HD video for the web. Regardless of your plans, talk with your finishing editor because they will need this information to help get the most out of your picture.