Indie Film - Post Production: Part One
Putting the Folley before the horse
Okay, this is where it all comes together! Your footage, your dialogue, your music, everything you need to complete the film is put in its rightful place in this step.
Make sure you know what your are doing here. If you don't know what you're doing, find someone that does know what they are doing. It will save you about 300 years of unnecessary labor.
With my current film, Akumu, I had to learn a great deal of the technical stuff on my own. I lost my video editor and my audio designer (but they had good reasons--work; you know, the kind of stuff you think you won't have to do if you are making movies -- boy, do you have another thing coming).
I have had to learn Adobe Premier and After Effects for the video editing and effects, and I have had to learn about ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) production. Folley (sound effects recording) is something I had a bit of experience with before and have to deal with in detail now.
I actually am happy about learning the new skills. It is difficult to do all the editing yourself though. You need to make sure that you at least have someone to look at and listen to your edits to make sure you haven't gotten something in the wrong place. (I had a misspelling in the credits of the first episode release of Akumu Ichi. Read the credits and see if you can see it too.
But, in any case, this is a very complexed process, but it doesn't have to be a difficult process.
You can actually be working on a lot of stuff before you finish the shooting schedule. Although there may be times you need music written specifically for a scene so it can accent the action (like in a Road Runner cartoon), not all of your music will need to be written after the video editing is done. My Musical Director, Kevin Cox, was able to write some fantastic pieces for Akumu before we were even half way finished with filming. I told him the feel and style I was looking for and he took it from there. You will be able to hear his work, and a piece called "Sleep When I Die" (featuring X Rated) Big Boogie's "The PHX" Album courtesy of PimpStyle Records1 in Akumu when it's released later this year.
This is also the step in which all of your additional effects will be placed. You can do some physical effect during the initial shoots, but green screen backgrounds and computer digital visual effects will all be done after.
This brings everything together into a finished product ready and waiting for distribution.
Sooooooo, what's first?
Well, duh. What isn't first? Sure, you may think I'm stalling because I don't have the slightest idea, but in reality, I'm stalling because I don't have a clue.
The truth is, there is no hard and fast rule to post production.
As I blatantly hinted before, you can be working on any part of this process at any time, even when you haven't put the movie in the can. (Look back at Indie Film - Production for what this term means.)
With Akumu, I decided to have the whole thing shot and a rough edit done before I did much of anything with post. If you don't have a final or, at least, minimal rough edit done before ADR, you may find yourself doing way too much work later on.
In the above picture you can see Allegra Sellers and me working in ADR (not shown, Lilith Kemnitz, my original Sound Designer and friend). ADR is very important when you do not have good conditions for sound recording on set. It can be a little difficult for those whom have not had any experience with it before, but it is a learnable skill.
In ADR, your actors will attempt to exactly mimic their original lines as they watch the film. It's rather like lip syncing in reverse, so it can throw people off sometimes. It can take a while because you have to practice quite a bit before you can get it right.
ADR is so important! You may have noticed that I haven't tried to be very funny in this article. That's because this is very serious business (even more so than controlling the killer weasel population or bug wrangler (a real job on set).
The director needs to be present as much with the ADR process as s/he must be for video editing and the actual shots. If the director isn't present, there may be discrepancy between what is recorded and what was supposed to be recorded.
Once you have all of the dialogue recorded, you can get on to other things which can be just as challenging and just as enjoyable.
In the next part of the Production phase, I will discuss visual FX (effects). You must have these done before you can go to Folley. It's very difficult to time SFX (sound effects) for computer generated characters you cannot see.
So, in review of this article:
--Film is in the can.
--Rough or full edit of video is done.
--Cast and director go into the sound studio for ADR.
--Cast takes a break because there should be nothing left for them to do on the film if all of the scenes were covered properly (sometimes re-shoots are necessary, but we try to avoid them).
Now you have a good idea of how post production starts. Look for my next two articles on the subject and we will discuss how it ends (or is supposed to end).
Best wishes to you all!
1 Find them on here on Myspace.