Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fix it in Post!

“Fix it in post!”  That’s such a common phrase in the film industry.  People don’t like to hear it because it usually means something went wrong while shooting.  That can be true, but it’s not always true.  As an editor in NYC for many years, I’ve noticed one thing is soooo, sooo, sooo true: you can fix A LOT in post!!  Maybe not absolutely everything, but A LOT.  On top of that, every year that goes by, that list of what you can fix keeps going up and up and up.  I thought this would be a good time to discuss ways to tweak issues easily in post, whether these issues came about intentionally or were actual mistakes:
1) Size: Sometimes you decided after seeing the dailies that a shot is too wide.  Maybe something was at the edge of the frame you wanted to lose.  Want to fix it in post?  No problem, just zoom in on the frame using your editing software.  Now that we have 4k and HD, as long as you don’t go too far in, no one will even notice.
2) Speed: We have a really cool shot (spoiler alert!) of Mac’s boot in our full The Hunter’s Anthology: Prologue.  As you will see when it is posted, it’s a very specific and hard to set up kind of shot.  The slightest movement could ruin everything.  This is mostly because three things have to happen here: a camera tilt, a rack focus, and the timing of the boot itself.  If anything goes wrong, the whole shot becomes unusable.
Due to this, we had a lot of takes and only one chance to do it.  It was our first shot, and the precision necessary for it was holding everything up.  So in post I took the best focus (because that is one thing that you really can’t fix), sped up the movement and focus of the skyline, which was too slow, then slowed down the speed of the boot’s step, which was too fast!  Suddenly, poof, just as I imagined!  Check this off as a definite “fix it in post” event.
3) Shakiness: Another challenge was, due the type of permit we had to shoot in NYC, we always planned we’d go handheld the entire way.  No tripod allowed.  Because of our budget, we didn’t have proper permission to use one.  Most shots were fine, but it’s inevitable that the director of photography was going to lose some stability after 12 hours of shooting with a heavy camera in what feels like 5 degree weather all night.  So, in order to use some of the shakier takes, the “Smoothcam” filter for whatever editing software you’re using (in my case Final Cut Pro 7) can fix this.
4) Not enough shots: Sometime after shooting something, even after hours of prep, I realized we didn’t have enough visuals to cover our 4 page or so long voiceover.  To be fair, my DP did warn me of this.  Luckily, he knew to grab random shots here and there between takes to save my butt.  But as far as fixing in post, another thing I did was cover some space with a shot I found before a take.  You’d never know it, but one of my longest shots (and one of my favorites) was shot before I even said action!  Can you find it?  Hint, it’s in the trailer: https://t.co/1z8GmJlorc
5) Color Correction Perfection: Another thing I wanted to do was shoot a lot of random shots of the city to get us in the mood at the beginning of the prologue.  I wanted to set the mood of New York City at night, so my goal was to get skyline and street shots.  We really didn’t get enough of this.  Again, it was freezing, and we quickly decided that since we had our actor one day, we had to shoot all his takes, then save city shots without him for later.  By then we were done, and planned another day to just do that.  It was probably a good idea.  The crew was ready to call me a demon and kill me, and with David Lee McInnis all decked out as Mac carrying a stake, I didn’t want to test the theory.
Anyway, long story short, when we were ready to do the extra shots another day, we realized it would be a lot cheaper to use a different camera for it.  Yes, some shots in the teaser, http://youtu.be/Fcz5yHa4d9I, trailer, and prologue are not even from the same camera as the main shoot.  And trust me, it looked very different at first!  How did I fix this in post?  Color correction.  It’s absolutely amazing what you can manipulate while not being a professional color corrector.  I did that in Final Cut Pro 7 as well, and all professional editing software programs will do the same for you.  So that’s what I did:  I manipulated how much blue and red was in all the shots.  The brightness, the shading,  the saturation, everything you can think of… I matched it  Once again, FIXED in post!
6) Stock footage.  Another quick fix you can only do in post is using (and usually buying) stock footage.  We didn’t have a shot of the skyline.  I wanted one so bad.  I felt it was essential to open up with a strong shot of us looking at a far view of the city at night.   We had plans for different spots.  But no, no… no way.  A helicopter shot?!  We didn’t shoot it… but we BOUGHT it!!!  Yup, stock footage all the way.  I’m telling you, it looks like it came from the same camera!  Amazing what you can do.
So there you go.  Take it from an editor, you CAN fix it in post… unless you royally screwed it up.  If you royally screwed it up… hey, you’ve got reshoots.  There’s always that.
If I just stopped one person from panicking that there’s nothing they can do to fix the film they just shot, then I’ve done my job.  Remember, us filmmakers aren’t quitters.  Take my advice: fix it in post!
Please don’t forget to follow The Hunter’s Anthology here:
Official Facebook page: www.facebook.com/Thehuntersanthology
Twitter: @HunterAnthology

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