Part Five is moving out of the field and into the editing suite and beyond.
We’re going to talk about Post Production now.
We are continuing with our series on comparing experienced production companies with newer ones. So far, we’ve touched on planning, pre-production, and production, which you can read here.
Editing is a talent and art. Sure there is a skill in knowing how to edit—importing the footage, cutting it, arranging it. But knowing when to cut and when to let it play is more than that. Quality editing takes practice, and a lot of it. It’s not something that’s easy to pick up on your own. There are too many nuances and choices. In fact, there are thousands of choices in every video. Editing requires a knowledge of the various programs available and how they can add, detract or alter your project. This includes special effects, graphics, transitions and more. A professional editor knows how to create a seamless video that engages the audience. They don’t just randomly add wipes or transitions. There is always a reason for each cut or addition.
They look at raw footage like an artist, carefully picking the camera angles to use and then seamlessly move from one to the next without any choppiness or noticeable jumps. When it is done well, it stands out. You may not be able to articulate why a particular show, film or video appeals to you, but an editor could. Take “Sherlock” from the BBC. It is beautifully shot and edited. The transitions alone are enough to make you fall in love. Those transitions are the result of a fantastic editor.
Professional production companies know that great editors are essential to the final product. A poor one can ruin great footage. A great one can turn bad footage into something good.
Bad graphics can kill an otherwise decent video. There are so many ways to add titles, for example, that enhance or complement what is happening on screen. But if you use the standard, PowerPoint-style graphics, you will lose whatever style you have created so far. A professional editor knows better. They also know that it’s not enough to just watch the computer monitor. You have to throw it to the big screen to test it for things like “title safe” versus “action safe” for broadcast purposes. This checks whether the titles and action is viewable on the broadcast screen. It also lets you know if the footage holds up to being enlarged. Professional footage can handle this size increase. Not all footage can. Going big also allows you to check whether the shot is proportioned properly or if the font size is still appropriate.
This attention to detail and skills are particularly important now when graphics are becoming a key player in video. We’ve all seen the motion graphic videos that combine music and graphics for visual appeal. They are popular in certain demographics. Animation falls into this category too. These mediums require attention to detail as much as an artistic talent, skill, and experience.
The biggest problem with inexperience in video is that newer professionals are often in a rush. They deliver videos as soon as they are cut together without adding color correction, audio mixing, captioning, or any of the elements of a fine cut. Even worse, is not proofing their work before it goes out. Typos can happen to everyone, but experienced professionals really do try to eliminate them all together.
To a professional, there are four stages to editing: the string out, the rough cut, the fine cut, and the Masters. The String Out is a linear string of all the shots that will be used, generally in order by scene, and is really for the editor to then whittle down into the next stage. The rough cut is analogious to the first draft. This version is what is shown to the client to make sure all the elements are present and in the right order with a fairly accurate feel to what the final program will be. It typically includes some video effects and basic transitions, like fades and dissolves. It usually includes a place holder narration track, also called a "Scratch Track" or "dummy narrator" to give some resemblance of what elements will tie together interview sequences. Audio Levels are not as percise and some music tracks may be incorporated into this cut. The fine cut is the next stage. Here the final narration, motion graphics, titles, and final video elements are inserted. Sometimes custom music scores are composed and incorporated into this cut. At this point, the production team wants to get what is called "Picture Lock" meaning that the timing or length of the video is not going to change and all the sound elements are going to line up with all the picture elements. This term comes from the film production world and is still applicable in the video world. Once everyone has agreed upon "Picture Lock" then we advance to the Mastering Stage. Here the finishing touches include everything from finalizing music and the sound mix, captioning, formatting to adding foreign language tracks. It’s what makes the video stand out as professional.
As in all things, style takes time to achieve. It’s in the details — how the footage was shot, how the story was told, how the video moves from shot to shot, how it sounds, and all the other aspects that create the look and feel of the video. Style is a lot like a writer’s voice — the sound of the narrator speaking in your ear, telling you what you need to know. Style in video is the combination of the Director’s vision, the Scriptwriter’s story, the Director of Photography’s eye, the Gaffer’s lighting, the Sound Recordist’s sound, the Composer’s score, and the Editor’s cuts. It’s a team effort that is made or broken by the professionals on that team. Experience, knowledge, skill and talent matter.
Amateurs have access to the same software packages as the professionals these days, but many don’t purchase more than the basic programs because each software package comes with a high price tag. This means that most newer editors rely on usually on basic offering and not a lot more.
Professionals know that having the right products and tools on hand allows them to deliver a variety of choices. This is why professional production companies invest tens of thousands of dollars in editing equipment and up-to-date software that allows them to deliver broadcast-quality projects for their clients. It's knowing how to combine all of these resources and tools together to create a unique, custom and professional product each and every time.
Our next blog will talk about distribution differences. Until then, if you want to talk about post production or any part of production, contact us or call us at (703)683-5305 or via Our eMail. We’d be happy to help guide you.