Post Production Workflow – Understand it or DIE!
I know I’m being a bit dramatic when I say…
“Understand Post Production Workflow or DIE!”
…but I’ve seen and been involved with sooooooo many independent films that just die in post-production because of one simple thing, they didn’t understand post-production workflow.
Post Production Workflow is not a black art that only a few understand, granted it is getting more and more complicated these days but you as an indie filmmaker can still understand the basics.
Post Production Nightmare
Example: If you have a RED Dragon your director of photography can bring to the party when you’re shooting your film great! Now what you need to ask yourself is what that “FREE” RED Dragon is going to cost you in post-production.
If you had a plan of editing your film on your laptop forget about it. The post-production workflow for the RED Dragon 6K is a beast and you would not be able to edit at home. You would then need to hire an editor who can handle that workflow and understands where his work is going to next, color grading.
This is fine if you budgeted for an editor but if you have no more money and you have all this amazing footage sitting on hard drives then you are screwed. I’ve worked on films with major movie stars in it that fell into this trap.
I’m not even going to bring up visual effects, that’s another conversation entirely. Take a listen to this episode. I hope it shines a light on this dark little corner of independent film that is understanding your post-production workflow.
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Post Prod. Consulting
- Custom Post Prod. Workflow for Your Independent Film
- Numb Robot Studios – Post Production & VFX Services
- Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Software for Mac/Win/Linux
- Adobe Premiere Pro CC
- Final Cut Pro X
- FreeFilmBook.com (Your FREE Audio Book)
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Netflix for Filmmakers and Screenwriters)
- Martin Scorsese Film Directing Masterclass
- Ron Howard Film Directing Masterclass
- Spike Lee Film Directing Masterclass
- Werner Herzog Filmmaking MasterClass
- Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting MasterClass
- Mira Nair Independent Filmmaking Masterclass
- David Mamet Dramatic Writing MasterClass
- Shonda Rhimes Masterclass: Learn Television Writing from the Creator of Scandal
- Steve Martin Teaches Comedy Writing & Acting MasterClass
- Annie Leibovitz Masterclass: Learn Photography from the Legend
- Jimmy Chin Masterclass: Learn Adventure Photography
- Judd Apatow Comedy Writing/Directing Masterclass
- Six Secrets to getting into Film Festivals for FREE!
- FreeFilmBook.com (Download Your FREE Filmmaking Audio Book)
If you like Post Production Workflow – Understand it or DIE, take a listen to:
Inside the Craft of Creative Editing with Paddy Bird
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Transcription – Indie Film Hustle Podcast Episode #14.
Welcome to another episode of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast. Episode Number 14.
“The best way to pursue happiness is to help other people. Nothing else will make you happier” – George Lucas.
Welcome guys to another great show. Today we have a topic that I want to be talking about that is very near and dear to my heart but before I get into it. Make sure you head on over to freefilmbook.com that’s freefilmbook.com and get your free filmmaking audiobook immediately. So one thing I want to talk about and it’s something I have seen so much time I mean I’ve delivered over a hundred different independent film projects over the years not including over a thousand including all the commercials promotions, music videos and other things I’ve done.
One thing I’ve seen a common problem with not only all of those but specifically with independent film in the technical aspect of it is Post Production Workflow. A lot of independent filmmakers who are not technically inclined trust a lot of times the people around them to just take care of all the stuff for them and it is such I’ve seen so many filmmakers fail miserably to the point where their movies look horrible, can’t get finished, they can’t get distribution, they can’t get it sold because they didn’t figure out workflow. So let me explain to you a Post Production workflow is. It’s understanding the workflow all the way from production to final deliverable and I’ll go over that with you in a second. So basically when you’re on set you’re you’re going to shoot on a camera.
OK. Based on that camera you see the old workflow is much easier as the film. So the film was film and the workflow was the same for ninety years almost a hundred years that workflow never really changed for the most part but now there’s new cameras, new formats, new you know aspect ratios everything’s changing daily. So the workflow is more important now than it ever has been before. So let’s say you’re going to you’re going to shoot a movie that is a fifty thousand dollars movie versus let’s say for an instance.
And you’ve got a director of photography who has a brand new RED Cinema Camera Dragon 6k and he’s like we’re going to shoot this 6K and I’ve got these lenses I’m going to be using and all this great stuff but we’re going to shoot 6K. We don’t have a lot of light. So don’t worry about the light because the dragon will pick up everything.
Well, mistake number one the dragon will not pick up everything you still need light. But back to workflow I don’t want to get into to my colors. I won’t take my colors had off and put my post-production supervisor had on. So let’s say you have that RED Cinema Dragon and you shoot the whole movie on RED Cinema Dragon. Now, unfortunately, you don’t have money for post. So you’re going to edit this on your laptop at home. With premiere or final cut or you know any other editing software but let’s say you’re going to do with Premiere which could handle 6K natively.
But unfortunately you’re doing this on a laptop and your drivers aren’t fast enough so you can’t really edit it. You can’t even watch it, you can’t even do anything with it. So you get this beautiful or at least as be a huge amount of footage on a format that you really can’t do anything with. So now where you thought you didn’t have any money. There you were going to spend any money you’re not going to spend money because now you’ve got to go hire an editor who can handle this workflow, who can handle not the workflow but can handle these files. Now that’s step one.
Now let’s say you find an editor that runs premier natively. You’re great. If not you might have to find a guy who’s cutting on Final Cut seven and he’s going to transcode everything which will take you depending on the kind of system he has could take you weeks of transcoding just to get into a format that he can edit and then once he’s done editing it let’s say you locked that cut. I’m not even talking about visual effects. I’m not even talking about speech changes Rahm’s recomposition I’m not talking and I’m just talking the basic stuff.
All those other things I just talked about are bigger headaches that will create more and more problems in your workflow. So I’m just going to take you through the basics and then we’ll go back and talk a bit about the other stuff. So then you’re going to go. You’re going to have this guy edit your movie. All right so let’s say he’s able to edit natively, let’s take the best case scenario. Well once he’s done editing this and this one workflow we’re going to say native. Native meaning that he’s just taking the raw files and editing those raw files. Once he’s done doing that then he has to, once he’s done editing unless you block the picture.
Well, now you’ve got to send all your RED files and all your E.D.L. at decision list to a colorist to color this because Red without color grading is its garbage. Yes, you have to color grade all your movies have to be color graded or else you’re never going to be able to sell it has to have some sort of professional look to it. So now you send it over to a colorist who has to hopefully be able to understand red premier EDL. and then also handle Red. So a system that’s strong enough and big enough to handle RED.
So, let’s say you go to DaVinci system which is kind of industry standard now. But let’s say you go to a guy who has a color for God sakes or is trying to color grade this in Adobe or color grade in this and Final Cut X or base light or scratch or a million other different colors they all have a color system they all have to be able to talk to each other whatever the color system is.
I used the DaVinci It is the industry standard for especially for Indie film but you have to have a system that can be able to handle 6K files and that’s if you shot everything at 6K. Let me go back for a second you might have shot some stuff slo mo and if you shot some self slo-mo guess what. Is that 6K anymore is going to drop down the five four three and two K depending on how fast you go. So now you have to take that into consideration. So let’s take that into color grading. So now we color grades the whole thing. And again I’m doing this the best case scenario.
I’ll throw some worst case scenarios at you in a minute. So he colors the grades, the whole thing but he has to make sure you have to make sure a system can handle it. He has a calibrated monitor so you have actually see the colors that you seeing is an actual correct representation of the color. Once he’s done with it then he has to render it out and now you have to figure out where you’re going with it. So if you’re going to a digital format. You know there’s a lot of talk about 4K right now and I know in the future.
This is going to sound old fashioned but for right now at the moment the we’re in 2015, 4K still a bit of a pig to to master to it’s doable. I mastered to 4K all the time now but I also have a juiced up system that can handle that. More likely 2K is going to be more than fine for you and more likely 1080P is going to be more than fine with you for you. Depending on your movie you’re trying to do. If you can master at 4K for future proofing your project. 2K is industry standard right now and most people master at 2K. You’ll be fine.
And many movies I’ve mastered are at 1080P. Actually most I would say ninety five percent of all the movies I’ve ever mastered. Or worked on master at 1080P because I was a standard as well. So so once the renders it out. You have to render it out to a quick time and who’s going to online this for you. Now the online process is, once your all those files go back to an editor who puts it all together for you.
You have to put together the audio, you have to put together any graphics and I’ll get to visual effects in a second but let’s say you have visual effects shots coming in those have to be placed on and all these kind of problems happen. You have to make sure the new system that’s going to be able to handle whatever he outputs which could be DPX Files, which could be quick time files, which could be a bunch of different type of formats. I’m not trying to scare you here but I’m trying to impress upon you how complicated this process can be especially when you’re dealing at the upper echelon of files so we start off with a RED Cinema Camera.
This conversation’s completely different if we’re starting off with a 5D black magic but the concepts are all still there. You still have to be able to handle these file formats and be able to have the hard drive space be able to have a clean workflow. Preferably you hire someone like myself or at least consult someone like me.
You know I’m telling you if you hire someone like me for an hour conversation and you pay their hourly rate. Whoever that might be a post-production supervisor or something and they can just draft out a workflow for you. My God that will save you so much time and you do this before you ever shoot. If you have a budget and you have a little more money you hire them for the shoot and they can kind of supervise this entire process it’s so important especially with the plethora of formats they were dealing with today.
It’s absolutely nuts and every day I’m getting new like oh this is new file format, oh this is new file format. This is one of the reasons why I love DaVinci so much because DaVinci reads everything and works with everybody. DaVinci is one of the best color systems and online systems out there right now for the bank for the best bang for the buck without question.
So anyway so you go back you get to go back to your online system situation. You got your online everything and then you output. Now you can output to a DCP you can output to a ProRes file, you can output to DPX Files which will go to a DCP and then the quick to it. There’s so many different options.
So going back. Let’s say you’re shooting on a black magic. You know I have a black magic cinema camera and you shoot ProRes. Well that makes life so much easier and that might be perfect for what you’re trying to do. You should ProRes for two two H Q. You take it into any editing system almost that’s worth its wait, is going to be able to handle ProRes. You edit it all. There’s no big files to deal with you can do that on your laptop no problem at all and that might just be what you can afford.
Regardless if you’re shooting, regardless if you have a frickin Alexa or a you know shooting or RED shooting 6K raw you might not be able to handle that and it might take you two years to finish your movie or you can shoot pro rez. You know shoot with a smaller camera that still looks gorgeous. Get your kind of movie, your movie done edit it yourself you have complete control of it, send it over to a colorist. Any colorist is going to be able to handle ProRes without question.
They color it, they send it back to you. But when you’re shooting pro rez you have to make sure you have an amazing director of photography who really understands lighting and things like that because as you start bringing down your formats or your kind of file format or your camera that the lighting has to be much better.
I can save a lot as a color as I can save a lot in a RED file because a RED file does have a lot of information added or in a raw file from a black magic or a raw file from Alexa or Sony or things like that but when you start getting into more those compressed files like a ProRes file or God forbid a 5D you know MP4 which is the lowest quality you can shoot with. If you’re trying to do something else you better have a really great director of photography to be able to make that image look good if not you are done. You’ve wasted your time.
So I want to and I’m very passionate about this because I’ve seen so many movies die in post. I’ve been I’ve been brought in to save many many movies purely because they did not understand workflow. It was it was such an important part of the post production process without workflow you’ve got nothing. And I didn’t even touch upon audio workflow making sure that when you lock your cut that final cut has to stay locked that information sense to the colorist and you also send that to your sound people to be able to matched everything perfectly.
If one frame goes off everything goes out of whack. I mean I can go on and on and on there is so much information to be done so. If you have a low budget movie use a camera that gives you a beautiful image. A black magic cameras perfect because I’m not a big fan of the 5D’s and 7D cameras because you really need to have a really good lighting scenario or shoot a lot of stuff outside but even then you’ve got to protect yourself from you know blown highlights and things like that.
So the range that the Black Magic camera gives you is a lot better than a 5D or 7D it’s approximately the same price point and the workflow is a lot easier as well. So you get a big fatter file and so on. So I like the Black Magic. It’s all preference but on a technical standpoint a MP4 file is so so low on the totem pole versus a ProRes file which then goes into the higher rez formats like DPX or or the RAW files. So I would use the I would use a Black Magic.
If you’re going to do a low budget movie or or something equivalent. You know even if you shoot Alexa, Alexa has ProRes. You know you can shoot 2K, 4K ProRes files if that’s the workflow you can handle great the new RED Cinema Cameras are being able to shoot ProRes files as well. So you might be able to just if your workflow can’t handle RED Cinema Camera. Transcode everything from RED Cinema Camera to ProRes work with it. I would suggest against it. That’s the reason you’re shooting with RED but so on and so forth. I’m kind of babbling a little bit here, I’m sorry but basic basic takeaway from this episode is workflow.
Understand your workflow, get people who understand workflow clearly to give you a guide on how to finish your movie because if not it will sit and die in post and I’ve seen it happen multiple multiple times. So hire someone like me to just consult with you if you can afford. You know one hundred fifty bucks to three hundred bucks out of your budget to talk to a post-production supervisor to kind of you know just kind of get have them give you a basic workflow is probably one of the best investment you’ll make in your filmmaking process while making a feature film.
So if you have any questions at all about post guys hit me up on the website. I do offer I am going to do stuff. I do offer consulting as far as post-production workflow as well as just a consulting you know over a phone call or I can actually build out an entire workflow for you. But I’m not trying to do a hard sell. Honestly guys if you can’t you know if you if you don’t use me use somebody I don’t care just use somebody that can help you with it. There’s plenty of amazing post-production supervisors out there who will be more than willing to talk to you for you know an hour on the phone or two hours on the phone or meet you for coffee.
And you pay them for their time and they’ll work the workflow out for you and if you can afford to hire them. It is so beneficial to your process. So you can always just head on over to indiefilmhustle.com and at the very top of the bar says do you want to coach? Just click on that or you can head over to indiefilmhustle.com for post consulting and I will give you all the information you need about what I offer filmmakers but I’m really passionate about this guys because I really want to see your movies get made no matter what your budget level is if it’s ten thousand bucks or if it’s a million dollar budget or above, you really need to have someone like me help you with the post-production workflow. So thanks again guys for tuning in and I will see you on the next podcast.