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The 9 Parts of Film Post-Production Workflow

Back to the Future II - Production Call Sheet

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Feature film post-production can be a daunting process. There are many different steps that must be taken to complete a project, and it can be challenging to know where to start. In this guide, we will walk you through the entire process from start to finish. We’ll cover everything from editing to deliverables, so you have a full overview of what needs to be done and when. By following this guide, you’ll be able to streamline your workflow and complete your projects more efficiently than ever before!

What is Post-Production?

Post-production is the stage of filmmaking following production when the filming is completed. In short, it is the process of editing, combining, and marrying sound and visual materials to produce a finished film.

Many departments, such as sound, music, and visual effects are involved in the post-production process, but the picture editing team will lead the way and serve as the hub throughout the film’s completion.

The Post-Production phase lasts anywhere from a few months to a year, depending on the project’s size and nature. The process begins with the editing team, but quickly all of the departments will be working simultaneously, passing assets back and forth to each other.


1. Motion Picture Editing

To begin the post-production phase, a film editor (and their assistant) organize and arrange all of the captured raw footage shot by shot and scene by scene in an editing system such as Avid Media Composer.

With all of the footage in their edit suite, they will begin the editing process along with the collaboration of the director. Together, they will construct a rough cut of the film that will serve as a first draft.

This process is crucial for identifying any additional photography that needs to be filmed. This could be in the form of re-shoots to compensate for shots or scenes that are unusable because of a technical issue with the footage or for a number of other reasons.

Additionally, often times, the editorial process will reveal additional shots or scenes that are needed to tell the story. These shots that were not captured during principal photography are filmed with a smaller production unit in what is called “pick-ups”.

This team and their edit bay will serve as the command center throughout the rest of the post-production process. For example, anytime another department, such as sound or music, needs a copy of the latest version of the film, they will coordinate with Editorial. Likewise, Editorial will ingest and synchronize the latest work from other departments so that the director and producers can view all the work from various departments.

2. Sound Editing

It has been said that “50% of what you see on screen comes from audio,” and as a result, sound editing is one of the most important aspects of post-production.

In order to create a cohesive and polished film, the sound editor will work with the picture editor to ensure that the sounds in the film match what is seen on screen. Sound editors will also mix all of the various audio tracks together, such as dialogue, music, and sound effects, and remove any unwanted noises.

Additionally, the sound editor may need to create additional sound effects or Foley sounds that were not captured on set, such as footsteps or the handling of props. These sounds can be anything from the footsteps of a character walking to the sound of a car engine starting.

All of this work is done in order to create an immersive and believable film experience for the viewer.

3. Music

Music is another essential part of any film and plays a powerful role in storytelling. The music editor works with the sound editor to select and combine the appropriate music for each scene in the film.

They may also need to compose original music for the film or to license preexisting tracks from a composer or record label.

The goal is to find the right music that will support and enhance the visuals on-screen while also fitting the tone and style of the film.

4. Visual Effects

Visual effects (VFX) are the processes and techniques used to create or enhance visual elements in a film. VFX is not just for blockbuster films anymore. Nowadays, even the simplest independent drama will likely have an astounding amount of invisible visual effects, such as removing unwanted production equipment from the frame or replacing an overcast sky with something more picturesque.

On a medium-budget film, the visual effects could be anything from enhancing a location with a digital set extension to completely creating an entirely new computer-generated character or environment.

On the largest budget films, the VFX team will overlap with production, working all throughout the filmmaking process, but on smaller projects, they will start during post-production.

The editorial team will be responsible for delivering to the VFX team(s) full resolution and uncompressed copies of the background plates that they need to accomplish their work. VFX and Editorial will have to closely coordinate the color settings and be sure that no data is lost during the back-and-forth process between these departments.

5. Sound Mix

Once all of the audio and music has been edited, it is mixed together in a process called sound design. This is where the sounds and music are combined with the dialogue and effects to create a final mix that will be heard in theaters.

The sound mixer works with the sound editor to make sure that all of the elements are balanced and that the film sounds good as a whole. They may need to make adjustments to the levels of various sounds or add special effects to create a more immersive listening experience.

It is important to get the sound mix right, as it can make or break a film. Sound levels too loud or too quiet can be distracting or even unintelligible and take the viewer out of the experience, while good sound can make it feel more immersive and real.

6. Color Correction

Color correction is the process of altering and enhancing the colors in a film. Also called color grading, this can be done for aesthetic reasons or to correct any color inaccuracies that may have been introduced during filming.

This is one of the few steps in the post-production process that is generally only performed once the picture has been locked and no further editing is expected.

The colorist will work with the director and cinematographer to create a look for the film that matches their vision. They may need to adjust the colors of individual shots or entire scenes, and may also add digital effects to change the overall tone of the film.

In some cases, the work of the colorist will overlap with the VFX team. Today’s colorists are asked to do more and more, and this can include things such as sky replacements or beauty touch-ups.

7. Graphics

Once the film is complete, it needs to be properly formatted for release. At the simplest level, this includes adding titles over black, such as the opening title cards and closing credits.

In more complex cases, this could include animated title sequences, such as the opening or closing credits, and on-screen graphics, such as a location or date that is typed onto the screen.

8. Masters

With all the picture and sound work completed, and everything graded, mixed, and rendered, it is time to compile the master copies of the film.

For the picture, there will be one master from which all other deliverables will be created. For sound, there will actually be several masters depending upon your specific goals. Generally, there is, at minimum, a stereo master, a Dolby 5.1 master, and a Dolby 7.1 master. Nowadays there will likely also be additional versions such as Dolby Atmos and other modern audio formats.

9. Deliverables

With the masters in hand, it is time to compile the necessary deliverables depending on the distribution model. Here is a sample list of a few of the standard deliverables for theatrical feature film release:

Theatrical

For a theatrical release, the finished film is compressed and packaged into a digital cinema package (DCP) for delivery to movie theaters.

Television

In order to broadcast on television, the film must be formatted into a broadcast deliverable. This includes adding things like closed captions and subtitles, as well as making sure the audio is properly balanced for broadcast.

Blu-ray / Home Video

For a home video release, the film is compressed and packaged into a digital video file (usually an mp4 or mkv

Streaming/VOD

For a streaming or VOD release, the film is compressed and packaged into a digital video file that can be streamed online, the file formats and specifications are usually determined by the streaming provider, such as Netflix.

Trailers, Marketing, and Publicity

Marketing is all about getting people interested in your film. It includes things like designing posters and creating the trailer.

The trailer is the first impression that potential movie-goers will get of a film and it is essential that it be well done. Often times a different editorial team will take over for this process. They will come in with fresh eyes and be able to choose the best shots and moments from the film to create a teaser that will entice audiences.

The trailer is the first impression that potential viewers will get of your film. It needs to be exciting, intriguing, and make them want to see more.

Publicity is the process of getting the film in front of as many people as possible. This can include things like sending screeners to movie critics, arranging for interviews with the cast and crew, and setting up screenings for potential buyers.


Conclusion

The Feature film post-production workflow is a long and complicated process that involves many steps and departments. It can be intimidating but with the right team, it can produce amazing results. We hope that this guide provided you with an overview to give you a better understanding of the process and the confidence to navigate this stage in your filmmaking journey.

FAQs

What Is Post-production?

Post-production is the process that takes place after all the footage has been shot for a movie. This includes everything from editing and color correction to sound design and final distribution.

Who Does Post-production?

Post-production is usually done by a team of people, depending on the size and scope of the project. The editorial team is typically the head of this process and is responsible for coordinating with all other departments, such as a colorist, sound designer, and VFX artists.

What Is The Duration Of Post-production?

The duration of post-production can range from months to a year or more.

What is non-linear editing (NLE) software?

Non-linear editing software is software that allows you to edit video, audio, and graphics in a non-linear fashion. This means that you can move around and change the order of the clips without having to physically cut and paste them together like you would with traditional linear editing software.

What are the best NLE software options?

There are a variety of NLE software options available, but the most popular option year after year in Hollywood is Avid Media Composer. Alternatives such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Davinci Resolve have large user bases as well and are very popular in many non-Hollywood projects.

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