Production

Production: Directing & Producing (Post-Production)

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As the final stage of the film’s production process, post-production “is where the filmed footage, known as rushes, are edited into the finished film” (Worthington, 2009:27). For this reason, post-production has been considered as the time when the script’s “final draft” is finally created, as sound and picture are assembled to tell the story (Rea & Irving, 2015:273).
The producer begins managing post-production whilst the film is still at the production stage, finding and securing post-production facilities (Rea & Irving, 2015:257), as well as keeping in contact with the editor, often sending them footage as it is filmed (StudioBinder, 2019). During post-production, the producer helps the director and editor by being “an objective viewer”, watching cuts of the film, and giving feedback (Rea & Irving, 2015:xxviii). At this stage of production, the producer is also responsible for:

  • Having found and hired an editor – the producer should aim to hire an editor who will work well with the director, and fits the project
  • Ensuring the project adheres to copyright laws, as well as clearing any rights to music or archive footage used within the film
  • Making sure publicity materials are prepared and distributed
  • Ensuring the edit is on schedule and within the budget
  • Making sure any outstanding costs from the film are paid, and a budget summary is created
  • (Worthington, 2009:26-7).
Meanwhile, the director works with the editor as the film is cut together (Rea & Irving, 2015:273). However, in order to help make the film as good as possible, the director needs to quickly gain an objective view of the footage, so that they are able to let go of any footage, no matter how good it seemed to them when they shot it, which does not serve the story (Rea & Irving, 2015:274). This is because “a finished project can be made only from in-focus, well-exposed shots; it is not created from ideas, wishes, cut lines, or the big shot that got away” (Rea & Irving, 2015:273). Hence, during post-production, the director:

  • Views the dailies with the editor (Rabiger & Hurbis-Cherrier, 2013:426)
  • Works with the editor as picture and sound are assembled to create cuts of the film
  • Guides the final look of the film with the director of photography as colour correction, visual effects and graphics are added
  • Helps with publicising the film
  • (Rea & Irving, 2015:xxviii).
Thus, the director’s role in post-production is to oversee the edit as the final film is created (Rea & Irving, 2015:xxviii), as they work with the editor, and other collaborators, such as sound engineers and colourists (Maio, 2019). The director and editor work together to create “a ‘director’s cut'” of the film, yet, before the final cut is considered finished, it is discussed with, and agreed to by the producer (StudioBinder, 2019). This is because the role of the producer is to advise the director and editor, whilst managing the edit, so that the project is delivered on time, within budget, and is ready to be distributed and exhibited (Rea & Irving, 2015:xxviii).

Working with an Editor

Once production has wrapped, the director’s role changes from that of pre-production and production, as they “become another person, now standing outside the material you directed, exploring from an entirely new point of view. What you may have remembered may now present itself to you as having not only many problems, difficulties and shortcomings, but also new and unexpected values” (Rea & Irving, 2015:278). How the director works with the editor varies depending on their personalities and work methods (Rabiger & Hurbis-Cherrier, 2013:428). The time spent by the director and editor working on editing a film together also varies depending on the requirements of the edit, since there is no defined structure to post-production (Rea & Irving, 2015:278).
Usually, the director will begin working with the editor when, at the end of filming on the second day of production, they screen the dailies together to pick the best takes (Rea & Irving, 2015:279). Dailies are the unedited footage shot each day, known as this because this footage is reviewed each day by the director, editor, and the principal crew members – they are also known as rushes (Rabiger & Hurbis-Cherrier, 2013:425). The first time the editor and director screen dailies “allows the director to offer immediate feedback about how she would like to approach the first cut of the film, which moments to use, and which to avoid” (Rea & Irving, 2015:279). During these screenings, the director takes notes, with these notes then becoming a guide for the editor (Rea & Irving, 2015:279). It is advised that the editor and director watch all the footage, even the clips they already think could be outtakes, since this footage could still include something which can be used later (Rabiger & Hurbis-Cherrier, 2013:426). The director uses their notes to record their first impressions, noting any emotions stirred by the footage, as well as “good moments of performance, camera moves, and shots”, since this is the first and only time that they are able to see the footage as an audience would for the first time (Rea & Irving, 2015:279). These notes become “the dailies book”, within which the impressions recorded by the director and editor can help when the cut isn’t working, since what triggered these impressions is inherent in the footage, so will be noticed by any audience the first time they view it (Rabiger & Hurbis-Cherrier, 2013:426).
Cutting together the film can then involve the following stages:

  • “Assembly
  • Rough cut
  • Fine cut
  • Lock picture”
  • (Rea & Irving, 2015:279).
The assembly cut involves the film being cut together in the scripted order, so that the producer, director, and editor can see how the story flows, and how the edit could take shape (Rea & Irving, 2015:279). Some directors do not include this step in their post-production process, instead starting with a rough cut (Rea & Irving, 2015:279). Nonetheless, before the first cut of the film, the director should discuss with the editor any other aims they have for the film, and then leave the editor to make the first cut, so that when the director returns to watch this, they can see it from an objective point of view (Rabiger & Hurbis-Cherrier, 2013:428). When watching the first cut of the film, it should be watched without interruption, with the director not taking notes, so that it is viewed like it would be by an audience (Rabiger & Hurbis-Cherrier, 2013:429).
After the assembly cut, the editor puts together a rough cut, which, unlike the assembly cut, involves coverage and transitions (Rea & Irving, 2015:280). This cut usually does not involve any sound, yet it should follow the order of the script, so that any problems in the screenplay’s structure can become evident (Rea & Irving, 2015:280). It has been said that, “revelations that affect the rest of the editing process will come from viewing this cut” (Rea & Irving, 2015:280). Once the director has viewed this cut, and given feedback, they should again leave the editor to make the next cut, and come back once this is completed, since this encourages the director to remain objective, and therefore be better able to tell what works, and what still needs to be changed (Rabiger & Hurbis-Cherrier, 2013:432). Therefore, although the director should carry their vision for the film over to post-production (Rea & Irving, 2015:277), they should also allow the editor some freedom when cutting the film together, since they can contribute their own ideas which could strengthen the film (Paul, 2015). If structural problems become evident, the director and editor may make a paper edit (Rea & Irving, 2015:282). This involves writing down a sentence for each scene, and then re-writing these in the new order which they may appear in – index cards can also be used to do this, as they can be re-shuffled into many different orders (Rea & Irving, 2015:282). This allows different structures to be tried before re-cutting any footage (Rea & Irving, 2015:282).
Once the second-cut is completed, how much time it takes for the final cut to be made, and the picture  to be locked depends on how long the editor is available to work on the film, the budget, and how long it takes for the changes the director outlines in their feedback to be made (Rea & Irving, 2015:282). For the remaining cuts of the film, the editor and director should “be brutal” about what they decide to cut (Rea & Irving, 2015:282). Film editor Walter Murch has outlined factors which lead to a good cut, in order of which are most important (Rea & Irving, 2015:282). These are:

  • “Emotion
  • Story
  • Rhythm
  • Eye-trace (concern with the audience’s focus of interest within the frame)
  • Two-dimensional plane of screen
  • Three-dimensional space of action”
  • (Rea & Irving, 2015:282).
Therefore, the director and editor should focus on what they want the audience to feel in each moment, and how they can best convey this through how the shots are cut together (Rea & Irving, 2015:282). Different cuts of the film can be considered drafts in the same way as drafts of the screenplay, and hence editing, like writing, can be considered under the axiom “writing is rewriting” (Rea & Irving, 2015:279). Yet, when working towards the final cut of the film, the editor and director, with the oversight of the producer are “creating the final draft of the script, the draft that will be the film that audiences will see” (Rea & Irving, 2015:279). For this reason, when cutting, the director and editor should remember that they are not cutting unnecessary parts from the film but are crafting the cut into “a work of art” (Rea & Irving, 2015:279). When cutting the director thus needs to “listen” to the film (Rea & Irving, 2015:287). The director began listening to the material during the script writing stage, but this is especially important during editing when the director needs to be prepared to let go of whole shots, sequences, or even scenes so that the film flows well (Rea & Irving, 2015:288). This is why the editor typically does not visit the set during filming, as this makes their viewpoint the most objective, so they can help signal to the director when something needs to be let go of (Rea & Irving, 2015:288).
It has been argued about the editor-director relationship that, “in the end, nothing escapes concentrated discussion; every shot and every cut is scrutinized, debated, weighed, and balanced. The creative relationship is intense, and often draws in all the cutting room staff and the producer” (Rabiger & Hurbis-Cherrier, 2013:428). Yet, once everyone agrees on the final cut, the picture is “locked” – meaning that changes to the picture can no longer be made, and work on sound can now begin (Rea & Irving, 2015:288).

Adding Sound

Fig. 1 Director Damien Chazelle working with composer Justin Hurwitz on La La Land (2016)
The first stage of adding sound to the film involves the director meeting with the sound team to discuss the sound that needs to be added to the film (Rea & Irving, 2015:316). During this meeting, “the director, supervising sound editor/sound designer, and editor look at the picture in a precise and deliberate way, scene by scene, and indicate which sounds are appropriate at any given moment” – known as “spotting” (Rea & Irving, 2015:316). Since this method is so precise, it is from this moment on essential that any changes to the picture, however small, be indicated to the sound editor so that the timing of the sound will continue to match the picture (Rea & Irving, 2015:317).
For films which include dialogue, it is important to first check if every line of dialogue can be heard clearly (Rea & Irving, 2015:317). A big part of dialogue editing involves making sure the background noise stays consistent between shots, by ensuring it is even, and any holes in it are filled (Rea & Irving, 2015:318). Yet, if a line of dialogue wasn’t recorded clearly in one take, the editor may replace this with the same line from another take during which it was clear – this can save money by removing the need for ADR (Rea & Irving, 2015:318). ADR stands for “Automated Dialogue Replacement” and happens when dialogue is re-recorded by the actors in a studio (Maio, 2019). So that the actor can see and hear the line as they originally performed it in the scene, they wear headphones and stand in front of a screen on which the scene is played (Rea & Irving, 2015:318). To match the line to the original performance, the actor is given a “visual or aural cue” of when to say the line (Rea & Irving, 2015:318). Sometimes, the re-recorded dialogue matches exactly and can be placed into the film with minimal editing, yet, it has been said to be more common that “the editor has to play with the line, cutting a frame here, adding a frame there, until the dialogue is in sync with the performance” (Rea & Irving, 2015:318).
Once all of the film’s dialogue is clear, sound effects are added (Rea & Irving, 2015:320). The editor first determines the sounds in the film which can already be heard, such as the sound of a character’s footsteps as they walk, before moving on to sounds which define the location where the scene is set (Rea & Irving, 2015:320). Therefore, when adding sound effects, “the editor begins to assemble sounds that will enlarge the world of your project and add a level of information that doesn’t exist in the picture” (Rea & Irving, 2015:320). Sound effects, like ADR, may also be recorded in a studio by a foley artist (Maio, 2019). A foley artist recreates sound effects, but not necessarily in the same way as they were originally created (Rea & Irving, 2015:321). For example, they may use the sound of an apple being bitten into to imitate a branch breaking (Rea & Irving, 2015:321). Regardless of how the sound effects are created, the main thing is that the sound and visuals correspond to one another (Rea & Irving, 2015:321).
Music is often the last sound added to the film (Rea & Irving, 2015:322). It has been argued that music is vital to film, since it “comments on, defines, or suggests the way you want your audience to feel about your characters and your story” (Rea & Irving, 2015:323). There are several roles which contribute to adding music to the film, including musicians, a mixing engineer, a music editor, and a music supervisor (Rea & Irving, 2015:324). Yet, the director works with the composer, beginning by once again “spotting the picture” to determine where adding music would be most effective (Rea & Irving, 2015:326). Alternatively, the director could allow the composer to contribute more of their ideas by letting them spot the picture on their own, before presenting their ideas to the director (Rea & Irving, 2015:326). However, once spotting has been completed, it is advised that as the composer works on creating the music, the director should “preview musical ideas from time to time to see whether the composer is on the right track” (Rea & Irving, 2015:326). A director does not need to know about music to have discussions with the composer but can communicate their ideas by talking about the emotions of the film, the theme, or showing the composer existing music which fits their aims (Rea & Irving, 2015:327). Once the music is composed, it may have to be “edited slightly or shifted to fit the exact requirements of the film”, or certain pieces of music may be cut from the film (Rea & Irving, 2015:328). Music is typically cut from films because when the picture is spotted directors often suggest that more music will be used than needed – yet, this can be a good thing, as it allows for flexibility (Rea & Irving, 2015:328).
The dialogue, sound effects, music, and any other sound the film needs are then mixed together – this stage is known as either “the sound dub” (Worthington, 2009:30) or “the mix” (Rea & Irving, 2015:328). During this stage, the director and the other heads of the film’s creative departments may make decisions about which tracks are used, or how much echo or music is added (Rea & Irving, 2015:328). Yet, the director’s main job is to collaborate with the mixer to determine the levels of each sound, considering how this affects how each scene sounds, as well as the emotion of the whole film (Rea & Irving, 2015:328). Despite this, the director should also consider the ideas of the mixer, but not be afraid to ask for changes to be made if they are not happy with how a moment sounds, even if mixing sound for one moment has to be repeated several times (Rea & Irving, 2015:328). The mix creates the final sound of the film (Worthington, 2009:30), after which only colour correction, visual effects, and graphics are left to be added, as the final look of the picture begins to be determined (Rea & Irving, 2015:327).

Fig. 2 The stages of post-production (2015)

The Final Look of the Film

Fig. 3 Colour palette from Lost in Translation (2003)
At this stage of the post-production process, with the picture locked and the sound mixed, the director begins working on creating “a professional and individualized look” for the film (Rea & Irving, 2015:336). This involves colour correction (also known as colour grading), which can be used to:
  • Create the foundation of the film’s overall look
  • Ensure that colour between shots is consistent
  • Improve a shot’s exposure, or colour
  • Make the film suitable for broadcast by ensuring that the colours fit the requirements for being “broadcast legal”
  • (Rea & Irving, 2015:337).
From these it can be seen that colour correction can help a director to show the film’s emotions, despite technical requirements, since “a unified colour scheme provides your film with a visual mood that complements and enhances your vision for the material” (Rea & Irving, 2015:337). For example, looking at a colour palette for the film Lost in Translation (2003) shows that colours which could further convey the film’s emotions of love and loneliness were used (see fig. 3).
It is possible to colour correct a film before visual effects have been added, but it has also been known to be done afterwards (Maio, 2019). Visual effects include transitions (dissolves, fades), superimpositions, titles, and any green screen work – known as “opticals”, since they used to be created using a film optical printer – as well as CGI (“computer generated images”) (Rea & Irving, 2015:336). Adding visual effects and colour correction completes the final look the film, and thus finishes the film.
The completed film can then be distributed and exhibited for an audience (Worthington, 2009:33). The producer ensures that the film has a distributor by researching and contacting potential distributors which will allow the film to be exhibited to the target audience during pre-production (Worthington, 2009:33). The producer should also have ensured that there is enough money in the budget to cover the costs of distributing and publicising the film (Worthington, 2009:33). The film can be publicised through a press kit, which is given to reporters and includes information about the film, such as a synopsis, profiles about the actors, director, and producer, a director’s statement, stills, and behind the scenes photographs (McGrail, s.d.). Posters and trailers can also publicise a film (Maio, 2019), as well as interviews with the director and cast members (Rea & Irving, 2015:xxviii).

Overall, since “the post-production process is highly collaborative, across a few months to even a year, depending on the size and need of the project”, it is important that the producer and director trust their collaborators to do their jobs well, allowing them the freedom to achieve this (Maio, 2019). A project may go through all of the stages outlined here, or only some of them, and not necessarily in this order, depending on the requirements of the edit, the budget, and the medium (film or TV) (Maio, 2019). Post-production can take a lot of time, but if the director and producer know what needs to be done from preparation earlier on in the process, they can ensure that a good final cut of the film is created (Maio, 2019).

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. Director Damien Chazelle working with composer Justin Hurwitz on La La Land (2016) [Behind the scenes photograph, IMDb] At: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt3783958/mediaviewer/rm732773120 (Accessed on 24 May 2020).

Figure 2. The stages of post-production (2015) [Diagram] In: Rea, P. & Irving, D. (2015) Producing and Directing the Short Film and Video. Oxon: Focal Press. p.327.

Figure 3. Colour palette from Lost in Translation (2003) [Diagram] At: https://digitalsynopsis.com/design/cinema-palettes-famous-movie-colors/ (Accessed on 24 May 2020).

References

Maio, A. (2019) ‘What is Post-Production? A Quick Rundown & Why Trust Matters.’ In: StudioBinder 21/11/19. At: https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/what-is-post-production/ (Accessed on 23 May 2020).

McGrail, L. (s.d.) ‘Why You Need to Make a Press Kit for Your Film.’ In: Lights Film School. At: https://www.lightsfilmschool.com/blog/why-and-how-to-make-film-press-kit-afy (Accessed on 24 May 2020).

Paul, J. (2015) ‘The Editing Genius of Michael Kahn.’ In: Premium Beat 12/10/15. At: https://www.premiumbeat.com/blog/the-editing-genius-of-michael-kahn/ (Accessed on 23 May 2020).

Rabiger, M. & Hurbis-Cherrier, M. (2013) Directing: Film Techniques and Aesthetics. (5th ed.) Oxon: Focal Press.


Rea, P. & Irving, D. (2015) Producing and Directing the Short Film and Video. Oxon: Focal Press.


StudioBinder (2019) Producer vs Director: The Roles & Responsibilities Explained. At: https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/producer-vs-director/ (Accessed on 22 May 2020).
Worthington, C. (2009) Producing. Switzerland: AVA Publishing.

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