5 crucial tips for smooth and fast post-production

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

Just shooting a movie on a micro-budget is so difficult that it’s easy to overlook the release and make things harder than they should be.

A few years ago, I participated in a 48-hour cinematic challenge, as director of photography and post-production supervisor. It was my first time playing the latter role and I learned a lot the hard way.

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

1. Make a plan

Sit down with camera and publishing services before filming to make sure everyone knows the workflow and what is expected of them. This includes agreeing a format and frame rate, and a format from which to edit, and ensuring that all hard drives and cards to be used during publishing are formatted appropriately so that they can be read by all the computers used.

2. Doing it right

Have a dedicated clapper board on set and make sure they understand the importance of having the right information on the board. Too often, with a small budget, the layout work is given to a team member with several other responsibilities, increasing the chances of them writing the wrong thing on it and confusing the editor. (We got the 48 hour movie right, and that helped immensely.)

Some common mistakes I’ve seen include the AC covering useful information on the slate with their hand, not putting their fingers in the sticks for MOS shots, and not updating the date or number of roll. The verbal announcement should be pleasant and clear; I would recommend “slate one three” and “slate three zero” instead of “slate thirteen” and “slate thirty”, for example. And the cast and crew – including the director! – must be silent during the announcement so that the editor can easily hear it.

3. Passing is inefficient

If you know you have a limited amount of time to post, be wary of shooting too much footage, especially if you have a B-camera or second unit. The 48 Hour movie had so much B-roll that there just wasn’t time to see it all in post. Also avoid shooting in series (multiple takes without cutting in between) as an editor pressed for time will often miss the fact that there are multiple takes in the same clip.

4. Keep a note

Keep camera logs if possible, noting technical issues with each take and director preferences.

5. Assist the editor

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

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