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What is Post Production?

Post-production is the creative heartbeat where raw footage transforms into a storytelling masterpiece. It's an intricate process involving editing, sound mixing, visual effects, and color grading that breathes life into a project. This stage can make or break a film's impact. Curious about the magic behind the scenes? Dive deeper to uncover the artistry that shapes the final piece.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

Movie making is a complicated business, but the workload is generally split into three sections: pre-production, principal shooting and post production. Pre-production involves matters such as scriptwriting, financial backing, hiring of cast and crew, and scouting for locations. Once all of these details have been worked out, principal shooting can begin. This is the actual filming of individual scenes, without any special effects or musical background. Because time is money, principal shooting days are often long and hectic for actors and crew alike.

All of this planning and filming leads up to the most vital aspect of film making — post production work. This turns individual scenes, called raw footage, into a finished motion picture. Editors splice all of the usable footage together into a coherent storyline according to the script. Composers add background music to create dramatic or comical effects. Special effects teams add computer-generated images and backgrounds to enhance the set or provide an as-yet-unseen character.

Actors may have to return to the sound booth to re-record dialogue during post production.
Actors may have to return to the sound booth to re-record dialogue during post production.

Post production may also involve fixing mistakes not corrected during principal shooting. Quite often an actor's microphone will not pick up crucial bits of dialogue or another microphone may pick up extraneous noises. During post production, an actor may have to return to a soundbooth in order to re-record lost dialogue or improve the original delivery. This is called looping. Another function of this time is to add incidental sound effects not captured during the original scenes. A specialist called a foley artist will record such sounds as an actor's footsteps, a creaking door or gunshots.

Sound editors mix dialogue, sound effect, and music tracks into a film during post production.
Sound editors mix dialogue, sound effect, and music tracks into a film during post production.

Many directors and producers rely heavily on the ability of post production teams to create a marketable film. Since principal shooting can be a hectic time for both actors and directors, some footage may prove to be unusable during the editing process. A film's original ending may also be unpopular with test audiences. This could lead to reshoots with the principal actors before a final film is produced. Other responsibilities during post production may include publicity tours, promotional posters, contracts with distributors and the creation of auxiliary formats such as DVDs and soundtrack albums.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is post-production in the context of film and music?

Film editors use equipment that allows them to "pan and scan", cut, and otherwise modify raw footage to create a film's master reel during the post production process.
Film editors use equipment that allows them to "pan and scan", cut, and otherwise modify raw footage to create a film's master reel during the post production process.

Post-production refers to the phase in filmmaking and music production that occurs after shooting or recording the initial material. In film, it involves editing the footage, adding sound effects, music, and visual effects, and finalizing the color grade. For music, post-production includes mixing, mastering, and editing recorded tracks to refine the sound quality and dynamics. This stage is crucial for shaping the final product's aesthetic and emotional impact, ensuring that the narrative and artistic vision are effectively conveyed to the audience.

How long does the post-production process typically take?

Testing a film with an audience is an important part of post-production.
Testing a film with an audience is an important part of post-production.

The duration of post-production varies widely depending on the project's complexity, budget, and the creators' vision. A feature film can take several months to a year, with editing alone often taking up to 10 weeks, according to the American Cinema Editors. Music albums might require weeks to months for mixing and mastering, depending on the number of tracks and the level of perfection sought by the artists and producers.

What are the key roles involved in post-production?

Foley artists may work in recording studios.
Foley artists may work in recording studios.

Key roles in post-production for film include the editor, who assembles the footage; the sound designer and Foley artists, who create and record sound effects; the composer and music supervisor, who handle the score and soundtrack; the visual effects team, who add digital enhancements; and the colorist, who adjusts the color palette. In music, the mixing engineer balances the audio elements, while the mastering engineer polishes the final mix for distribution.

Can post-production fix issues from the filming or recording stage?

While post-production can address certain issues from earlier stages, it is not a cure-all. Skilled editors and sound engineers can correct some problems with audio and visual elements, such as removing unwanted noise or improving poorly lit shots. However, fundamental issues like poor performance, weak story structure, or inadequate recording quality may not be fully rectifiable in post-production, underscoring the importance of quality in pre-production and production phases.

Is post-production becoming more important with the rise of digital media?

Yes, post-production has gained even greater significance with the rise of digital media. The digital era has expanded the creative possibilities, allowing for more sophisticated visual and sound effects, as well as non-linear editing that streamlines the workflow. Moreover, the demand for high-quality content in the competitive streaming market has elevated the role of post-production in delivering polished and captivating media experiences to audiences worldwide.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular MusicalExpert contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular MusicalExpert contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

pleonasm

@Fa5t3r - Yeah, one of the things that independent film producers often forget is to provide for post-production facilities and that's often where the film goes belly-up unfortunately. It's such a crucial time for a film and everyone wants to control it. Plus people don't realize how expensive it is. They think that all you need is a half-way decent grasp of how to work a computer.

clintflint

I was just reading about the way they made The Beasts of the Southern Wild and post production on that film must have been very difficult. They didn't watch "dailies" which means that they didn't make sure each day that the bits they filmed were usable. And of course, they were working with young children and animals, which is always difficult and often involves a process of chopping up the unusable footage in order to get a few moments of usable footage.

But the film is fantastic, so they must have done something right. It smacks of good editing and post production work.

Fa5t3r

I completely agree with you. I've never done the work myself, but you only have to look at the differences between different cuts of the same film see what a huge difference the right editor can make.

People don't really think about how much negotiation goes into editing a film. The right editor and post production producer can make a film run at the right pace and go in the right direction, while the wrong editor can bog a film down and make it very unclear what is actually happening.

The different cuts of Bladerunner are a very good example of this.

anon118017

In my opinion, post production is the last form of writing. An editor is really just a writer in disguise; the one with the final say besides maybe the director.

The order of shots, what an editor chooses to show or not to show, how long something is on screen, how transitions are cut, the list goes on and on and on, are all things that affect the emotions viewers experience, and in some cases the actual story itself.

I've got tons of strong opinions about post production as it is what I am in my senior year in school.

powdercat

any body know of anything out there that can take me through bidding on a post production job (editorial)? thanks!

anon85774

great! thank you for posting.

Joe Pascual

Post production is rapidly turning into the most vital part of the movie-making process. This is due to a couple of things.

First, the low barrier to entry. Anyone can now not only pick up a camera that shoots amazing HD quality images, but also tools for editorial and post-production finishing have dramatically dropped in price.

Second: too many formats to choose from. There are so many cameras that shoot and record digital files, each on a different format. It is important to really know your post workflow that takes you all the way from A-Z before you settle on a camera and format.

Best thing to do is consult with a post professional before you shoot your epic idea. The tools are all there for you to compete with the big boys. You just need a little planning and an experienced professional to show you how.

anon78650

I liked the article very much. It was good help.

anon60141

Thanks, it was really helpful!

anon58785

Helpful info. Thanks.

anon37294

it was really helpful :)

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    • Actors may have to return to the sound booth to re-record dialogue during post production.
      By: ID1974
      Actors may have to return to the sound booth to re-record dialogue during post production.
    • Sound editors mix dialogue, sound effect, and music tracks into a film during post production.
      By: flucas
      Sound editors mix dialogue, sound effect, and music tracks into a film during post production.
    • Film editors use equipment that allows them to "pan and scan", cut, and otherwise modify raw footage to create a film's master reel during the post production process.
      By: muzzoff
      Film editors use equipment that allows them to "pan and scan", cut, and otherwise modify raw footage to create a film's master reel during the post production process.
    • Testing a film with an audience is an important part of post-production.
      By: Scott Griessel
      Testing a film with an audience is an important part of post-production.
    • Foley artists may work in recording studios.
      By: artivista | werbeatelier
      Foley artists may work in recording studios.