One of the main jobs on a film is in the room where it all comes together to create the final product. This is where all quirks in the script, production and direction can either be laid bare or be transformed into something magical. This is the job of the editors – and it’s one that can vary depending on the collaborative process, budget and size of the project.
Stage 1 – Securing the footage
It’s of prime importance that the first thing that needs to be taken care of once production is complete is the storage. All the raw visual and sound footage (usually called rushes) have to be secured and backed up on secure drives or even RAIDs (a combination of hard drives).
Stage 2 – Picture Editing
The first responsibility once the rushes are locked down is for the editor to keep a copy of the script on hand and make an EDL (Edit Decision List). This helps them sort out the bits of the film that are most in sync to the overall story. This stage usually involves the placing of the rushes on a timeline in software like Adobe Premiere, Avid or Final Cut Pro.
Once all visual footage is assembled (can take anywhere between a month to half a year) it is compiled into the first draft of the film called a rough cut – it can take numerous drafts until the director is satisfied with the visual story. the final version that moves on to the next stage is called the Answer Print.
Stage 3 – Sound Editing
Once the director ‘locks the picture’ the film begins to take on its final form. Sound engineers come together to create the various dialogue tracks, noise removal and sound effects.
Apart from the basic sound editing there are two more facets that can add to the overall sound edit – SFX recreation and ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement).
In the case of the former, a foley artist is hired to recreate sounds using everyday noises – Gary Rydstrom is a notable sound designer who recreated dinosaur vocalizations in 1993s Jurassic Park through the use of a mixture of tortoise, geese and elephant noises.
ADR involves the cast being called in to the recording studio. In animation, this usually takes up most of the filming process, while at other times it comes into play in scenes that require voice-overs.
Stage 4 – Scoring
It’s easier to create an original composition for your film rather than navigating the waters of music licensing. Naturally this depends greatly on the film’s budget and it’s the job of the music supervisor to make that call. Scores often set the mood and atmosphere for different scenes and it pays to have the right composer or song to help enhance them.
Stage 5 – Sound Mixing
Once all the music, sound effects, dialogue and recordings are complete, it’s time to start layering them over each other, placing them over the necessary visuals and adjusting the volumes to make sure the right sound is prominent at the right time.
Stage 6 – VFX
A VFX Supervisor usually heads a team of graphics talent and engineers to produce CGI (computer generated imagery) effects. This particular job can involve the creation of black holes, dragons, spaceships or even explosions that would otherwise be too expensive or dangerous to film.
Stage 7 – Colour
Color correction and colour grading comes in either before or after the VFX stage depending on the schedule and requirements of the film. Scenes and individual shots are digitally altered to reflect continuity as well as convey the message and tone of a particular scene.
Stage 8 – Titles, Credits and Graphics
Credits are not the most creative aspect of a visual edit. Depending on the director’s vision however these can include bloopers, Easter eggs, sequel teasers and on-set capers by the cast and crew.
Title sequences meanwhile are often the first impression that the audience gets and can range from the incredibly zany (Guardians Of The Galaxy 2/Deadpool) to a regular opening scene with title cards.
Graphics are anything from dates, timestamps and indents to complex AI overlays and animation.
Stage 9 – Creation of Marketing Media
There are many ways to advertise a film – the most obvious being through a gripping, attention grabbing trailer and poster. These are the first thing your audience sees and although this has evolved in many ways with social media (motion posters, 3 second teaser trailers, etc), the basic process of placing images and credits in a bite sized format without revealing the whole story remains the same.
Stage 10 – Archiving and creating a DCP
Once all the stages are complete, it’s time to organize and account for all the material (which technically should be done at every stage to avoid loss of data) and create a DCP (Digital Cinema Package). The DCP is the final copy of the film (and possibly the main trailer) that is encoded onto a hard drive so it can be played in cinemas.
And well, that’s a wrap on the entire post-production process for a multi-million-dollar film. A bit less chaotic and nerve jangling than the production process, but challenging nonetheless.