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Film Budget Breakdown: Part 4 – Post-Production Expenses

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With the Production Expenses completed, we’re now more than halfway through the film production budget breakdown. Let’s focus our attention on the Post-Production expenses section of the film budget.

Post-Production Expenses

The post-production account covers the post-production costs associated with editing, scoring, and finishing your film. This includes items such as editor’s fees, music rights, composer fees, and visual effects.

Looking at our budget template, we’ll start off with account 5100, which is for all of our editing department’s expenses.

5100 – Editorial

Film budget - post-production - account 5100 - Editorial Expenses

Editorial is generally the largest of the post-production departments. It is responsible for assembling the film in its final form.

Post-Production Supervisor

The Post-Production Supervisor manages the post-production process and ensures that the film’s final version meets all technical and creative requirements.

In many cases, this role can go unfilled and the duties of the Post-Production Supervisor can be shared amongst the editor and producers. However, a dedicated Post-Production Supervisor could be necessary on larger films with numerous post-production departments.


The Editor (also called a Picture Editor) is responsible for assembling the film from all the footage shot during production. This includes cutting dialogue, piecing together scenes, and adding sound and visual effects.

The Editor is one of the most important collaborators a director works with.

Assistant Editor

The Assistant Editor helps the Editor with all aspects of the post-production process. This includes logging footage, organizing files, and maintaining the editing system.

Assistant editors also coordinate with and provide materials for all the other post-production departments such as VFX and music.

Music Editor

The Music Editor works with the composer to integrate the score with the film. This includes choosing which pieces of music will be used and editing them to fit the scene.

This entry could also be expensed in 5400 Music, but some producers like to keep all editors under one account.

VFX Editor

The Visual Effects Editor works with the VFX team to integrate all the visual effects into the film. This includes ensuring that the effects match the live-action footage and fit seamlessly into the scene.

Sound Effects Editor

The Sound Editor is responsible for all the sounds in the film including dialogue, foley, and sound effects.

ADR Editor

The ADR Editor handles all the dialogue that needs to be recorded in post-production (also called Automated Dialogue Replacement or Additional Dialogue Recording). This is often necessary when the audio from production is unusable due to noise, bad sound quality, or other issues.

Editing Bays / Rentals

For an independent film, it’s not uncommon to work out of the editor or director’s house with the equipment provided by one of those parties. However, some projects and filmmakers will prefer to work out of a traditional editing bay that is rented from a facility.

5200 – Post Production Lab & Facilities

Film budget - post-production - account 5200 - Post Production Lab & Facilities

This account is a holdover from the days before the digital intermediate (DI) became ubiquitous. All of the entries in this account relate to the specific process of finishing a project that was shot on actual film stock as opposed to digital video.

Even when shooting film, most of these entries will be completely unnecessary because finishing a film via a DI in 2k, 4k, or 8k resolution offers a higher level of control over the finishing process than finishing photochemically.

That said, if you are finishing a film photochemically, then this account is where you will track those expenses.

5300 – Post Production Sound

Film budget - post-production - account 5300 - Post Production Sound

This account covers all the expenses related to post-production sound including dialogue editing, foley, sound effects, and the final mix.

Mixing Stage/Facilities

The mixing stage is where the final mix of the film is completed. This includes all the dialogue, foley, sound effects, and music.

Music Stage/Facilities

The music stage is where the composer records and mixes the score for the film.

ADR Stage/Facilities

The ADR stage is where the actors re-record their dialogue in post-production. This is often necessary when the audio from production is unusable due to noise, bad sound quality, or other issues.

Foley Stage/Facilities

Foley is the recreation of everyday sounds that are recorded in sync with the picture. This includes footsteps, clothes rustling, door knocks, etc.

Sound Effects Editor

The Sound Editor is responsible for all the sounds in the film including dialogue, foley, and sound effects. This is a duplicate entry from account 5100 Editorial, some prefer to organize this expense in this account.

ADR Editor

The ADR Editor handles all the dialogue that needs to be recorded in post-production. This is another duplicate entry from account 5100 Editorial.

License Fees

This is the cost of any music or other materials that must be licensed for film use. This could include pre-existing songs, stock music, or archival material.

5400 – Music

Film budget - post-production - account 5400 - Music

The music account covers all the expenses related to music for the film including composer fees, rights and licenses, and music editor fees.

Music Producer

The Music Producer is responsible for overseeing all aspects of the music in the film including hiring the composer, contracting musicians, and working with the music editor. In most cases, a Music Producer will offer a package fee that encompasses all of the music costs. The film pays the Music Producer one fee and they, in turn, employ the musicians and handle the rental costs and all other music expenses.


The Composer writes and records the score for the film.

Song Writers

Songwriters are responsible for writing any original songs for the film.

Original Music Licensing

This is the cost of any music or other materials that must be licensed for film use. This could include pre-existing songs, stock music, or archival material.

Music Editor

The Music Editor works with the composer and music producer to select, edit, and assemble

Music Editor Room & Equipment

This is a special room with an NLE workstation for the music editor and composer to playback the film and work on integrating the score.

Music Coordinator

The Music Coordinator is responsible for hiring the musicians and contracting with music vendors.


The musicians are hired to play the film’s score and/or songs.


The singers are hired to sing the songs for the film.

Rights & Royalties

This account covers the cost of any rights and royalties that need to be paid for the use of music in the film.

Recording Facility & Labor

The recording facility is where the composer records the score and/or singers record the songs. The labor cost is for the engineer who runs the session.

5500 – Visual Effects

Film budget - post-production - account 5500 - Visual Effects

The days when visual effects were reserved for only big-budget films have long since passed. Nowadays every film, from the no-budget indie film to the big-budget blockbuster all have some amount of visual effects.

Even simple dramas without any fantastical elements, stunts, or green screen shots will still probably have a few shots that require some level of VFX work, usually in the form of removing unwanted items from the frame.

VFX Supervisor

The VFX Supervisor is responsible for overseeing all the visual effects in the film. They serve as the liaison between the Director/Producer and the VFX artists.

VFX Editor

The VFX Editor works with the VFX Supervisor, the picture editor to select, edit, and assemble all the visual effects shots.


Compositing is the process of combining multiple images to create a single image. This is often used to combine live-action footage with CG elements, or to add CG elements into live-action footage.

Paint & Roto

Paint & Roto is the process of manually removing unwanted items from an image frame by frame. This is a very labor-intensive process but is absolutely necessary for almost all films.

3D (CGI)

The term CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is used to describe an image that is created completely via a computer. This could be anything from a simple animated logo to a fully animated character or environment.

5600 – Color Grading & Finishing

Film budget - post-production - account 5600 - Color Grading & Finishing

Color Grading is the process of adjusting the color and overall look of the film during the digital intermediate phase.

Prior to the takeover of the digital intermediate and computer-based color correction, this process would have happened photochemically at the film lab during a color timing session. However, the tools used then were much simpler and could only adjust the overall color tint and contrast.


The Colorist is the artist who works with the DP and Director to color grade the film. This is both a technical and artistic role.

The technical aspect comes in the form of producing an image that conforms to all the standards of film exhibitions.

That means that the final image will appear as expected when projected in a theater, displayed on an LCD television, viewed on an iPhone, or even played via an in-flight entertainment system on an airplane.

Finishing Artist

A Finishing Artist is similar to a Colorist but with an expanded role in the finishing of the film. In other words, the Finishing Artist will fulfill the color grading tasks of the colorist, but additionally, they will also handle paint and roto tasks, VFX work, sky replacements as well as titles, and other tasks required for the completion of the film.

The Finishing Artist is responsible for putting the final touches on the film before it is delivered to the distributor. This includes adding any necessary graphics,


All films will have a minimum of end titles usually in the form of rolling credits at the end of the film.

Most films will have an opening title sequence in addition to the end titles.

And yet other films will have opening titles, end credits, and additional titles throughout the film. This could come in many different forms, for example, in the form of title cards that inform the audience of the location (Los Angeles), subtitles for foreign languages, or more recently text messages have become commonplace.

Grading Stage / Facilities

As mentioned previously, the Colorist or Finishing Artist will be creating final film master files, called a Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM). This is a copy of the film from which all other deliverables will be created. It is a copy of the film in its cleanest, most pristine condition.

Because this copy will be used to make all other copies it is of crucial importance that it meets all the standards of broadcast and digital cinema projection. In order to verify this, the Colorist or Finishing Artist will utilize various pieces of specialized equipment from carefully calibrated monitors or projectors to scopes and waveforms that visualize the raw image data.

All of this specialized equipment will either be owned by the Colorist/Finishing Artist or will need to be rented from a professional facility.

This is one of the final steps in the filmmaking process and not a time to cut corners. Having a technically correct and color-accurate copy of your film is an absolute necessity no matter what the final distribution medium.

DCP (Digital Cinema Package)

The DCP (Digital Cinema Package) is the digital file that is used to store and playback the film in a digital cinema.

This is the file that is sent to the distributor who in turn sends it to the theaters. The DCP is usually encrypted and requires a special key to be decrypted and played.

Theaters will have their own internal process for taking in the DCP, decrypting it, and playing it back. But that process is outside the scope of this article.

The important thing to understand is that the DCP is the final product that is sent to the distributor and ultimately to the theaters.

Transfers & Conversions

These entries are here in the event that you have any materials that must be transferred and/or converted from film or another format to a digital format for inclusion in your finished film.

This could include stock footage that has been shot on film and provided in a low-resolution format for the editing process but must be re-transferred and converted to a high-resolution file to match the resolution of the rest of the finished film.

5700 – Post-Prod Travel & Living

Film budget - post-production - account 5700 - Post-Prod Travel & Living

As with account 1700 in the Above the Line section of the production budget, we have this account here to allow for any special travel expenses that are solely related to post-production.

A few examples could be if you needed your director, producer, or editor to travel for the editing of the film, or if you needed to fly actors in to record narration or perform ADR.

Up Next: Part 5 – Other Expenses

Now that we’ve completed the Production and Post-Production expenses, we’re almost done with the film budget breakdown. In our final section, we’ll cover the Other Expenses account of our film budget template.

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