Over 25 years experience
HOW WE MAKE A BETTER FILM:
12 IMPORTANT FEATURES OF POST PRODUCTION
Post production encompasses a lot more than just video editing. Depending on the production, there are many processes and some may take some time, so it’s worth bearing in mind if you have a challenging timescale. These include:
- Video editing
- Colour grading
- Music production
- Voiceover recording
- Audio post-production
- Subtitle creation
At SPL Communications, we’re experienced in every part of the post production process. Some tasks are handled in-house whilst others are handled by specialist post-production companies in Manchester and London.
Depending on the type of film produced and the production lead-time, post production may take quite a while – sometimes several months! It’s not unknown for features to take well over a year in post production!
Even a simple edit for 5 minute video can take several days to get absolutely right, especially if there are a lot of cutaways to feature. Visual storytelling is not something that should be hurried, so trusting your video producer is essential. They have the experience and truly know how to make better videos, so you’d be well-advised to let them get on with it!
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WHAT IS POST PRODUCTION?
Let’s just define what is post production: it’s everything that happens after the director says ‘that’s a wrap’ (they all do…) until the film ‘goes to air’ or is released in some other way to the world.
Historically, all video post production was carried out in a post production house – a collection of studios, edit / graphics suites, dubbing studios and racks full of expensive broadcast video machines. These days many production companies have their own facilities (as we do at SPL) but we still use post houses for some stages of the post production workflow. They’re staffed by highly skilled, massively talented people!
The post-production process is a bit like alchemy – you never quite know how it’ll turn out. Normally it’s kind of how you expected. Sometimes it’s spectacular … and yes, everyone has the odd duffer too! This is what happens in post production; experienced clients and producers roll with it. If you’re new to video production, it may come as a bit of a surprise!
Many people think of video editing as all there is to post production. Not true. Admittedly though, video production editing is now so sophisticated that edit systems can do a lot more than just cut pictures.
But at the end of the day the more footage you shoot, the longer it takes to edit – because you have to look through everything in real time at least two or three times. That’s before you start the assembly and add cutaway shots!
Visual effects (or VFX) are all the clever things that you can do to pictures! In more detail, what are VFX? Well, these post production visual effects range from amazing plug-ins for edit software to give all kinds of moody ‘filmic’ looks to full-blown animation and 3D effects like you’d see on Game of Thrones or a Transformers movie.
Whether the script calls for a simple animated background for green-screen or a full 3D ‘explode’ of a complicated piece of medical apparatus … or even a seven-minute animated training film in Vietnamese (all of which we’ve recently completed) there are specialists and software to do it!
VFX can often take weeks to produce so you need to bear this in mind when planning the post production process.
USING CUTAWAY SHOTS CREATIVELY
One of the most useful type of shots in the editor’s arsenal is the cutaway – these are the ‘incidental’ shots that are used to illustrate what people are talking about or show other facets of a story.
A cutaway shot is also often used to cover up sound edits when people are talking. When shooting it’s normally important to get enough ‘coverage’ to ensure there is enough material available in the edit to ensure you’re using cutaways shots creatively.
As an aside, one of the worst things an editor can do is to use the same cutaway shot more than once – but it happens from time to time, especially where people are under pressure like in a news situation!
Telling a story on video is much more than just pretty pictures. In the work that we do, graphics play a large part. These may be captions to go over the live action or rather more complex and involved. Sometimes they are what we refer to as motion graphics – highly animated 2D graphics for video, often created in After Effects.
Adding animation to video can take many forms. It can be as simple as a short sequence when text builds up or as sophisticated as large sections of a video entirely created out of the animation of text and icons.
Normally these sorts of visual effects are started towards the beginning of the post production process due to the length of time VFX production takes.
Ask what is colour grading and we’ll answer it’s one of the most misunderstood processes in post production.
This is because most of the time, an effective colour grade is NOT noticed.
In most cases, the object of the exercise is to match every shot so that the balance of colour in all of them is the same. That’s the easier bit. Then most experienced colourists will create a ‘look’ for the whole piece. That’s the difficult (or arty) bit!
At SPL Communications we are experienced in using Adobe Premiere Pro and Da Vinci Resolve for colour grading. We also have calibrated monitors so we know what goes out is accurate as well as a Tangent Wave control surface for accurate colour grading adjustments.
Shooting for the grade
Most medium to high-end productions are now graded by specialists as the last stage of the editing process.
Shooting for the grade means that the film is intended to be graded in post and will therefore be shot with that in mind. In practice that means the film will normally be shot in ‘Log’ or some sort of picture profile which allows a greater range of dynamic range when shooting resulting in increased picture manipulation possibilities at the editing stage
Sometimes clients are disappointed at the ‘rushes’ when they first see them as they may look washed out or muddy; but like the saying goes, it’ll be alright on the night once the ‘colourist’ has finished with it!!
ADD MUSIC TO VIDEO
How to choose the right music for a video is not an easy thing to pin down. Sometimes the director has a track in mind as part of their ‘vision’. Sometimes that works. Other times the sound mixer chooses a fantastic track in post production that everyone likes – except the client. And so it goes …
In many cases we’ve gone right up to the deadline to finish a film with two or more tracks still in the mix and no-one could decide. Once it was literally on a coin toss!
What we normally refuse to use however is tracks that are titled ‘Corporate Push’ – they’re normally pretty dreadful from cheap internet sites. Amongst others we now use a cool new library out of Austin, Texas where you will NOT see titles like that.
VOICE OVER RECORDING
Most voice overs work from home in small studio sets-ups. You direct them by listening in live and making comments – just as you would do if you were all in the same studio. This way we have recorded voiceovers literally all over the world.
A good voice over is always in demand – for radio and TV spots, commentaries on films and even ‘on hold’ and instore. However the cost ‘per read’ is not particularly high unless they offer a real specialisation.
We are often asked how to do voiceovers – and the answer is simple. If you think you’re as good as the people you hear reading the ads on your local radio station (which is where a lot of us started off) send us a file and we’ll give you an honest opinion. If you show promise we’ll share all our voice over tips with you – deal?
FOREIGN LANGUAGE VERSIONS
We’re often asked to make different language version of films we make. Sometimes this is just translated subtitles, but often it uses a new native-speaker voice over and captions re-set in the specific language.
Ideally we like to know this beforehand, as some languages take somewhat longer to deliver than English. So what might seem like a languid read with plenty of pauses in English would be a non-stop fairly frenetic delivery in Japanese (or German for that matter) so we need to make allowances for that at the outset.
Many talented voice overs are available world-wide and we can arrange audition files of most before we record, so you can be happy with the choice. Our written translations are all carried out by native-speakers with experience of writing for the screen and we also use qualified native-speakers to check the final captions, edits and sync when preparing each version.
ADD SUBTITLES TO VIDEO
We often get asked why and how to add subtitles to video. You’ve got to imagine the times people are watching your video on their mobiles – perhaps on the train or in their offices – and they don’t want to disturb other people so their phone is muted. THAT’S when subtitles will be worthwhile.
For films that will mainly be seen on mobiles we recommend adding them after all the other post-production is carried out but do bear in mind it’s a pretty labour-intensive process so has a cost implication. Speech-to-text even with AI is still not good enough, so it requires a human to do this accurately!
To prove that – if you want a laugh, go to You Tube and switch on the automatic subtitling feature… That’s why it pays to ask us to do it for you! We can even give you the .srt file and explain to you how to put subtitles on YouTube to avoid those sorts of ‘howlers’ in future.
TRUSTING YOUR VIDEO PRODUCER
Whilst it would be possible to handle all the post production of your video yourself (and many ad agencies do just this) it requires a lot of time and knowledge so trusting your video producer to do it is a better course of action – even though you WILL have to pay them!
Your producer will deal with in-house specialists as well as the post production companies that are used and will timetable the whole process to be as time and cash-efficient as possible. Video post production is a complex job and the requirements for submission of video to on-line platforms as well as broadcasters change rapidly.
Post production is the make or break point for your film. A knowledgeable and experienced producer will accompany you all the way through the process to end up with a great film at the end of it.
HOW LONG DOES POST PRODUCTION TAKE?
The answer to this is really what is done in post production! With simple films that don’t have much in the way of graphics or complex sound, it’s perfectly possible to get films completed in a few days.
For more complex jobs this can easily stretch into several weeks or a couple of months, especially if there are a lot of people on the client side to sign off changes and alterations!
Then you may have additional tasks to do like adding subtitles to video, colour grading (where everyone has an opinion …) and choosing music and voiceovers. If things are taking too long, your producer will start cracking the whip – after all they have other jobs to move on to!