Post Production Update #1

Sorry for the delay in updates, but we are busy at work on the project.  All of the post production is taking place during the evenings after I return from my day job, which leaves less time for blog posts.  Please like us on facebook or follow on twitter for more frequent updates and pics, like this pic of my NLE which went out last night before I hit the sack.

As the writer, director, and editor on the film (which I don’t necessarily recommend for everyone) I have to take off my writers hat and put on my editors hat, to look at the footage and piece it together in the best way that serves the story.  I no longer have the luxury of inventing a moment, or adding a character, or changing something around unless footage exists to support that change.  From this point forward, the footage is the footage, and you have to do the best with what you’ve got.

Step one is to familiarize yourself with the footage.

When you start on a puzzle, you need to know what pieces you’ve got, so as an editor you have to know all the footage.  I go through every take whether it was deemed a good or bad take on set because there maybe something in that shot that can be used.  I like to go through the footage in passes.

  1. Watch for performance, “moments”, and in this case, “laughs.”  Add to the shot log, comments on what performances, moments, and gags I respond to, laugh at, or are moved by.  Notate which takes are stronger than others.
  2. Once I’ve done that, I watch them all again, this time looking for technical issues like soft focus, booms in the frame, camera bumps, jerks, or other anomalies like rolling shutter, moire, and aliasing which can be particularly troublesome when shooting on a Canon 7D.  I look to see if any part of those takes are useable, or can be salvaged and add all that info to the shot log.
  3. Double check the “bad” takes and extra roll at the start and end of each take for any potential B roll material that could be used and add that to the shot log.
  4. Watch again for performance.  Do I still react the same as in step 1?
  5. Create a batch file and rename all the DSLR clips.  I use a method outlined here. (Please don’t forget to make multiple backups of your files.  I keep all the original files on 2 portable hard drives, plus on 2 separate internal drives on my editing computer.)

Step 2: Sync Audio

Since we shot with a DSLR we recorded audio separately using what is called Dual System Audio.  Since I prefer to start editing with sync’d footage, I use a program called Dual Eyes to sync the audio and video together.  It saves me hours.  I previously wrote a short review of it for my other site,  Check that out if you want more detailed information, but you simply load up the audio and video files in this program and let it do it’s thing.  It’ll create a brand new video file synchronized with the audio from your external recorder. Now you’ve got an extra backup copy as well.  It’s like magic.

Of course once the sync is complete, guess what?  You have to review the footage again, this time to ensure that the sync is correct for every clip, and to make sure there aren’t any technical issues with the audio, like pops, interference, mic bumps, distortion, etc.  Mark that all on the shot log as well.

Step 3 – Start Cutting

So as you can imagine, even while Dual Eyes saves me hours, going through all the footage 4 or 6 times can take awhile, but it’s a must.  With all the prep work done, I can take my synchronized, renamed, and logged footage and import it into the editing software.  I’m using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 for its efficiency with DSLR footage, and its ease of integration with Adobe After Effects, which I use to do all my finishing.

That’s when the puzzle making fun begins, using the script as a guide you assemble the film for the first time seeing how it transformed from what I wrote on the page, through my own direction and it’s interpretation by the actors and DP into actual footage.  Using your log helps you identify your best takes quickly.  Now this assembly isn’t always very good, but it’s a necessary starting point.

Once that assembly is complete I put my writer and directors hat back on along with my editor’s hat, and embark on the final re-write of the film, which takes place in the NLE not the word processor.  As I mentioned, as the writer and director you have to honor the decisions that were made on set and committed to camera.  As the editor, you need to serve the directors vision and the story.  Here you begin making decisions on what stays in and what goes out.  Do I add to this moment, or take something away?  Is it funnier if I hold a shot or cut away? What if I juxtapose with this element?  Do I need to cut to a close up, or is it better to stay wide? What if I add music or sound effect? There are literally hundreds of possibilities for every shot, and as the writer, director, and editor it’s my job to make those decisions.

I must be sick or crazy or something, because I love it.  Can’t wait to get back to it tonight.  So that’s all for now.  Until the next update.

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