Post-Production Experts for Your Digital Film - dummies

Post-Production Experts for Your Digital Film

By John Carucci

DSLR filmmaking doesn’t end with the off button. There are several post production needs. It’s a lot like an episode of Law and Order. The first half deals with capture, either the movie or the suspect, whereas the second part covers the necessary closure. It’s the same with movies. Just as the courtroom has its players, so does the second half of the moviemaking experience

Film editor

Here’s a role that has morphed a bit. It used to be that the film editor did the physical work of assembling sequences for the film using a movieola (that large projector-on-its-side looking-device) or something even more basic (like a room with reels of film strung across two cranks and going through an illuminated viewer). In either scenario, the film was cut and integrated into a cohesive movie.

This job still exists, but it is being phased out more and more by high-end, non-linear editing setups.

Film editing differed from video editing in that it essentially took scenes from one tape and assembled them in order on another tape. Basically, it was like rerecording the movie scene by scene.

If you later decided to replace an earlier shot, you had to either rerecord from the point of the tape where you wanted the change, or you had to cleverly replace the scene and make sure that it’s length was enough to cover the preceding one and that it didn’t take too much of the succeeding clip.

Non-linear editing changed the landscape by doing just what it sounds like — editing out of linear order. After the footage was digitized (converted from tape to an editable file), the editor could assemble the story and change the order whenever necessary without affecting the content after the insertion point.

These days, NLE dominates the editing world, with almost all television news, documentaries, and an increasing percentage of feature films using NLE. Video editors need to have a good sense of organization, storytelling ability, and an understanding of audio.

These NLE programs are very popular:

  • Final Cut Pro: Currently the industry standard for editing news packages, documentaries, and even feature films. It’s essential to have experience with this software if you’re looking to find a job. The Final Cut Pro Timeline is fairly simple, yet it has many functions nested in its menu and on the Timeline.

  • Avid: Many feature films use this high-end turnkey system for editing. Although important to have on your resume, it’s not used as widely as Final Cut Pro. Avid also makes a consumer-level non-linear editor.

Other film editing–related jobs include

  • Negative cutter: Movie film is shot as a negative and sent to lab after editing. The negative cutter does that job as per instructions from the film editor.

  • Colorist: Makes sure that the positive print from the negative film is consistent when using either the photochemical or digital intermediate process. The latter deals with computer enhancement, whereas the former is similar to making conventional photographic images.


Special effects editor

If you don’t notice the special effects editor’s work, it means the effects are really great. This person (or team) does everything from enhancing the effects captured in the movie to completely fabricating effects in postproduction. Green screen sequences where two separate scenes are joined together are a common example. Animated sequences using Adobe After Effects fall under this umbrella, as do computer-generated effects.

Sound effects editor

The sound effects editor adds proper sound effects to the film after shooting. During principal photography, the primary goal revolves around capturing the visual mood along with the dialogue. In a night shot, you’re not going to have crickets chirp on cue, so those sounds are added in postproduction.

These professionals usually have access to a sound library, but also often go out and capture their own. They can place them exactly where necessary, once again creating the perfect symphony between sound and vision, and they do it without the audience ever being aware of it. In the 1981 film Blow Out, that was job of John Travolta’s character.

Other sound jobs include

  • Dialogue editor: Works on the audio parts where people are talking in the scene.

  • Music supervisor: Acts as a liaison between the production and the recording industry to secure rights to use popular music in the film. Anytime you hear a Rolling Stones song in a movie or Bob Dylan on a television show, these are the folks who make it happen.

  • Sound designer: Has the task of gathering, creating, and manipulating audio elements with the intent to produce a specific mood. Each project differs, with some movies using lots of effects and others requiring a simple balance between dialogue, ambient noise, and music.