Although we haven’t finished all our shooting yet, post production is well underway. That might seem counter intuitive but when making a short independent film without a big crew, you do whatever you can to keep the project moving forward. Since many of the scenes are already shot, I can edit them together now, and add in the remaining scenes when they are finished.
The editing is being done with the Adobe Creative Suite. Adobe CC is the editor used, After Effects for special effects and titles, Audition for audio work, and probably Speedgrade for the color grading (so far Magic Bullet Looks has been used to create the temporary color grading to give an idea of the final atmosphere of the different shots.). I vastly, vastly prefer the current Creative Suite over Final Cut, and if you do editing every day for a living, you probably feel the same way. Without going into huge detail, the ability of even a slower computer to play back high quality video in real time with no rendering is a big selling point for people starting out (less of an issue when you have super powered editing computers). I can easily drop in any resolution footage, throw on effects and transitions, and play through it with no rendering at all. The integration with AE is another huge selling point – no rendering the project then exporting it out to a huge lossless format (to keep resolution) which takes forever, import into composting program (you will probably be using AE anyway since it is much better than Final Cut’s offering), make your changes, export it out again to lossless format, and finally re-import back into your editor. None of that nonsense – in Premiere I can click on my clip, select import as AE Comp, and there it is in After Effects. Any changes I make show up on the Premiere timeline as I make them. There’s a host of other reasons, but suffice to say that it isn’t the Adobe suite of the old days, and with a decade of experience using both suites, my choice was very easy to make. On to a quick overview of my post production process!
First you have to organize your media, which in most cases will involve naming of clips, marking of in and out points, etc. I think everyone has a different way of doing this, but if you work with a team you’ll all need to be on the same page. Since I’m doing the editing myself, I can be messy and inefficient if I want to. Since some of our scenes are shot in the RAW format of the Canon 5d Mark III, special work was needed to get them into our editor. These clips are made possible by the creators of Magic Lantern, and are not supported fully by Premiere or anyone else. A few tricks, such as turning the files into a DNG sequence and creating proxies to preview the footage with in your editor make working with RAW files easier. Definitely check out the Magic Lantern forums if you plan on working with RAW footage, because the post process workflow is much much harder than simply dropping files into your editor.
If the scene has speaking, I do the syncing of the audio first. We used a boom mic hooked up to a Tascam with XLR input to record the sound. Syncing up the high quality audio was easy with the help of the slate, making the loud “clap” sound that we all know from the movies.
Since each shot has multiple takes, I spent a great deal of time going through each one and finding the best. This part is a lot of fun, since you also get to see the outtakes. Here is where you mix and match the shots to start creating the scene you storyboarded out long ago.
Although we have multiple cameras, we shot each scene with just one. It’s easy to spend countless hours re-editing and adjusting a scene, trying to find the perfect balance of time between shots, the perfect place to cut, trying to trim a little off here and little off there. I’ll revisit a scene and make adjustments after some time has passed, looking at it with fresh eyes and trying to get the very most out of each scene.
At this point I did some preliminary work on the music, although this is not my specialty. We are hoping to hire someone to do the score (that will depend on funding from Kickstarter) but in the meantime, this helps set the tone and pacing of the scenes. I also added sound effects where necessary, i.e. gunshots, doors opening, footsteps – these things are all recorded separately from the video in order to get them in high quality. That means they need to be added in during post production to make sure the scene feels alive.
Moving on from there, I did some preliminary color grading. As mentioned above I used Magic Bullet Looks, primarily the 3 color wheel, to adjust the highlights, midtones, and shadows, creating the atmosphere and look of the scenes as a rough guideline. This helps me in the editing as I can get a feel for the final look of the film, and will also provide a starting point when I begin the final color grading with Speedgrade. Magic Bullet is a great tool for color grading and probably more than adequate enough, but I’ve never used Speedgrade before and I want to see what it offers, being a tailor made application just for color grading.
Next up is the effects – although this could also be done earlier in the process. In AE I did things such as motion tracking the shot, adding masks to effect lighting and color, creating the special effects (I can’t go into detail without giving anything away) and more. There is a lot of time to be spent in this part of the process, and it of course varies tremendously depending on what type of effect I am creating for the scene. There is a scene where I used camera tracking and added in stars and mist and you wouldn’t have any idea that it wasn’t really there, thanks to lots of careful masking, feathering, and some great video of mist keyed in over the shot. After the film is released I’ll go into much more detail on how I made the different effects, some of which are extremely involved.
This is just a brief overview of the post production process. As the film is finalized, I may do specialized versions of this guide – a step by step to color grading, for example, or a guide to removing background noise from your audio. The best part of this process is that you get to re-make the film for the final time (remember that old quote that a film is made 3 times, well the final time is in editing). When you bring those shots into your editor, you begin to rearrange them, you begin to work around some things that may be different from your original vision, and before you know it, things come together in a new way that you didn’t originally picture. It’s an exciting process and I personally am enjoying watching The Crawling Chaos come to life.