Post Production is designed to be a fairly invisible process to the outside world. Most people outside the business understand that a few things need to happen between when the cameras roll and when the material gets beamed or downloaded to your TV. Most of the time, though, when I tell people I’m a Post Production Producer, I just get blank stares. But that’s okay. If I’m doing my job right, you shouldn’t know what I do – unless you make me tell you in 500 words or less!
Okay, here it is!
After each shooting day, the footage makes its way through a labyrinth of developing, processing, logging, and digitizing, before the editors can begin cutting all the material together. Then, the edit of the show goes through a number of stages, beginning with the Edit Assembly, the Director Cut, and then the Producer Cut, which ultimately goes to the Network for approval. Once all the various notes have been applied, the result is happily pronounced “Locked Cut.” It’s at this point that the finishing process can begin.
On the picture side, the material gets reassembled in full resolution, and then processed through color correction. Exterior lighting gets balanced, and colors get improved, enhanced and sweetened to their very best. It’s an amazingly gratifying process!
After the color corrected version gets laid back down to tape, we go to work applying visual effects. If there’s an alien or man-eating robot in the scene, you know what I’m talking about, but some of the coolest adjustments are the “invisible effects” where we fix issues that came up during filming. I might end up removing a stray extra or compositing in something completely different out the window. Whatever the fix, when working on these effects, it has to look real to eye, or it doesn’t make it out the door.
On the sound side, we start with the clean dialogue recorded on set, and then add everything else. In other words, sounds are created for every footstep, every creak of a door, screech of a car, or the sound of a robot slugging an alien, whatever. We layer in ambient sound underneath, and record actors to voice all the extras in the background. After we lay in music, everything gets skillfully mixed together to recreate reality in a way that highlights the crisp dialogue, yet sounds right to the ear.
Once the sound mix is complete, it’s laid back to picture, and then multiple formats are created for viewing in Standard Def, Hi Def, and with closed captions.
In short, it’s an extremely complicated process that commands the best work out of hundreds of highly skilled individuals. If we all do our jobs right, you’ll never know we were there. You’ll simply be drawn into the world of the characters and the story they have to tell. And to me, that’s the ultimate form of elegance.