Whether you’re working on a video production or seeking allies in your vigorous is-this-a-burrito? debate, there comes a sense of relief from hearing someone yell “That’s a wrap!”
That feeling often proves to be temporary, though, as you realize that the barrier between you and what was once your friend is now festooned with spinach tortillas. And in the case of the video shoot, knowing that production is over only means that post-production is about to begin.
Video post-production is where raw footage transforms into an assembled product that’s ready for distribution and promotion. With a successful post-production process, you can end up with a video that matches the expectations laid out in your strategic concept. To best ensure that your post-production goes off without a hitch, it’s important to know what exactly occurs during this phase of video.
Organizing The Footage
Your editor will serve as the person who stitches together footage, audio clips, and animations to craft a cohesive video experience. The goal should always be to make their life as easy as possible, and that begins with proper organization.
Shoving an unkempt pile of microSD cards at your editor is a good way to make them miss deadlines or turn in an inferior final cut. So, once the director wraps on production, the first step of any post-production work should be organizing video cards, audio cards, and even hard drive file structures to make everything easy to find.
Then that work should be duplicated across various media, like other cards, hard drives, or the cloud. If not, then a hard drive that becomes damaged or left in the backseat of last night’s Uber means that all the time and energy spent during production is now wasted.
Preparing a Paper Edit
If you’re shooting a lot of unscripted interviews or something otherwise documentary-style, it can be helpful to give your editor a paper edit. A paper edit is bit like a post-shooting script that weaves a narrative out of raw interview transcripts. It marks key lines that you want to include in the final video and creates a guide for the editor as they cut footage together.
You can also do something similar with an on-set script supervisor for a scripted shoot. They can mark down specific takes you want to use due to the line reading or a beneficial improvisation. Again, this creates signposts for the editor as they sit down and begin to piece together their first cut.
Providing a Content Cut
After the editor receives the raw but organized video and audio files, they’ll begin to work on the content cut. Sometimes referred to as a rough cut or assembly edit, the content cut is typically the first cut submitted for feedback. It serves as the foundation on which the final cut will be crafted, but will lack things like the final musical score, correct coloring, animations, or visual and audio effects.
The content cut gives you an idea as to how the final cut will look before time intensive work is done preparing the final product. This is an ideal spot for feedback on what takes and line readings are used, as well as whether the narrative arc meets expectations. There shouldn’t be any artistic or strategic surprises here, though, especially if you’ve crafted an effective creative treatment during pre-production.
Working on the Final Cut
Once the content cut is approved, the editor and their team will begin to work on the final cut. This process includes replacing any temporary components of the content with what will appear in the final product. During this period, the post-production crew is working on a variety of things:
- Revising the content cut based on feedback
- Correcting the color on any visual and the sound mix on any audio
- Selecting and placing musical selections
- Incorporating the final animations and visual and audio effects.
- Finalizing B-roll
- Adding tile and end cards and lower thirds
There’s a reason that the word “final” is repeated throughout this section, and that’s because once the final cut is approved, the video is locked. That is, there will be no further revisions done by the editor and their post-production team.
Any feedback provided should typically involve minor corrections, like fixing the misspelling of someone’s name, or focus on work done during this specific portion of post-production, like choosing a different piece of backing music. If there is more substantial feedback at this point, it’s likely due to a breakdown in communication earlier in the process.
Handing Over Deliverables
When the final cut is approved, it’s time for the post-production team to deliver their deliverables. This is often more than just a video; it can include everything you need to distribute the video:
- The final video in compressed and uncompressed formats
- Video thumbnails, including some with added play button graphics
- Video tags, descriptions, and other meta-data
Generally, based on your agreement with the production company and because you paid for the work to be done, you should also expect to receive all storyboards, meetings notes, scripts, and raw footage. You may also receive duplicates of everything, either through physical media like a hard drive or through a cloud service. You should expect the file structure and naming system to be organized and consistent.
A Note on Feedback
If there’s the potential for the post-production process to break down, it’s through ineffective feedback. To be a good client, it’s important to be transparent with your approval process and timely with your feedback. Additionally, you may want to keep in mind these common feedback faux pas:
- Not stating upfront who needs to approve a cut to move to the next step
- Missing feedback deadlines
- Handing over conflicting feedback
- Giving feedback that’s outside of the parameters of what’s asked for
- Offering solutions instead of stating what the issue is
- Waiting until the final cut to discuss fundamental issues
The Post-Production Phase of Video
The post-production process is crucial to your video’s success. It’s where raw footage is combined with a chosen musical score, animations, effects, and color correction to create a cohesive video that’s ready for distribution and promotion. Failing to set your post-production team up for success may lead to frayed feelings, busted budgets, and a final cut that strays from what was laid out in your strategic concept.
For more on what occurs during the post-production, check out the relevant episode of The Video Reformation podcast.