While the post-production process encompasses everything after the cast and crew have wrapped their video shoot, some parts of the process emphasize “post” more than others. That’s because there are things that need to wait until the very end to ensure that the crew doesn’t waste time, effort, and money on footage that won’t appear in the final cut.
So, if you’re about to wade into the post-production waters, here’s what you should consider saving until the very end of the process.
Why Do These Steps Need to Occur Last?
We’ve previously gone over what post-production looks like on our blog. That post goes over the entirety of the process, but it doesn’t necessarily answer why certain aspects of the work need to wait until the very final stages to begin.
The simple answer is that any video production should move like a finely-tuned machine. Granted, that’s not always the case, but even if there’s a creative underpinning to the entire project, efficiency is still the name of the game.
Let’s talk about color grading, for instance. We’ll dive a bit deeper later in this post, but color grading is when someone adjusts the tones and hues of the images to best match the director or director of photography’s intent.
Now, you could hire a color grading artist to have them adjust every single frame that’s shot, but that would be a waste of time and money. It’s also a waste of the artist’s talent.
By waiting until you’ve reached the picture lock stage of post-production, you can make sure the color grading artist is only working on images that will appear in the final product. Of course, that may make the color look a tad wonky in rough cuts until you reach that stage, but it’s less expensive and more efficient to wait.
With that in mind, let’s look at the end of the post-production process to better understand why these steps typically occur last.
The fine cut of the video serves as a transition from earlier stages in post-production to the latter stages. It incorporates feedback given to the editor by the director and producers to help hone the shape of the project.
The structure and editing will feel sharper and tighter. In addition, there will be fewer dangling threads, though there is still a fair amount of work ahead to deliver the final products, such as sound design, motion graphics, and color grading.
To compare the post-production process to baking a cake, the end of the fine cut stage is when you put the batter in the oven. You have mixed the right ingredients in the right ratio and poured them into the right pan. You don’t quite have something that looks like a cake yet, but it’s not just a smattering of individual, raw ingredients, either.
After the fine cut is approved, editors will work to achieve “picture lock.” Once a video reaches the picture lock stage, there won’t be any additional changes to the video’s structure. Outside of audio and visual effects work, the video is essentially finished.
So, there shouldn’t be any added scenes or additional cuts after picture lock. No shots should be swapped out for another. Nothing should be trimmed, added, or cut.
To continue the cake analogy, picture lock is when you take the cake out of the oven. The cake isn’t quite complete — you will still have to add colored frosting and graphics and record your acapella version of the birthday song (yes, this analogy isn’t perfect) — but the cake’s structure is what it is. To make changes now is to decide that you want an entirely new cake, even if you use the same ingredients.
Once you’ve achieved picture lock, it’s time to add the final touches to turn the video into the final deliverable to the client.
Sound Design and Audio Editing
We’ve talked before about why audio is so vital to your video, so we won’t spend paragraphs here explaining what this is. Sound design and audio editing make your video sound professionally produced.
This stage will add sound effects and music while removing background noise that obscures dialogue. There may also be additional line recordings in a studio if a line spoken on-set didn’t record clearly.
The video needs to be at the picture lock stage for sound design and audio editing to occur because the sound team needs to know the exact length and rhythm of the video. If even a millisecond of video is cut after the audio team has gone to work, they may have to make significant adjustments to ensure the sound design matches the on-screen image.
Motion graphics can encompass anything from immersive special effects to listing the on-screen speaker’s name on the frame’s lowe third. Essentially, motion graphics are anything added to the image that the camera didn’t record in the live environment.
So, for motion graphics artists to do their work, they need to know what images will appear and for how long. They need specifics, as in the number of framers for each shot, so what they add to the image fits precisely within the video.
If the motion graphics work didn’t occur at the end of the project, it would be like trying to write “Happy Birthday!” on the cake batter before it comes out of the oven. That’s a waste of time and frosting, and you’ll just have to do it again when the cake is actually ready.
We’ve discussed color grading a bit already, but to reiterate, color grading is adjusting the tones and hues of an image to match the video’s intent. If your video is thematically dark, the artist will shade the colors to match. If your is bright and happy, your color grading artists will tweak the color palette to be more vibrant and lively.
Color grading can also make the images look more consistent. For instance, if the production was racing the setting sun to get shots in, the color and brightness may need alteration to make it seem like every shot in that scene occurred at the same time of day.
This process has to wait until the very end of the post-production process. To take the final bite of our cake metaphor, color grading earlier in post is like trying to spread frosting on top of cake batter.
It won’t be easy. It won’t look good. And you’ll need to pay for more frosting to complete the cake when it’s truly ready.
Once you’ve completed all of the above steps and processes, you’re ready to export your video file and deliver your deliverable to your client.
By tackling post-production in this way, you’re reducing the amount of wasted time and money and maximizing your team’s productivity. That work and efficiency will show up in your final product.
Where Can You Learn More About B2B Video Post-Production?
With only mere crumbs left on our cake metaphor platter, there isn’t much left to say about why some steps need to occur last in your post-production process. Maybe something like the crumbs are the cut shots that may taste good on their own but don’t have a place in the final product?