What Is Post Production for Film & Video? [Guide for 2023]
If you think actors just show up, shoot a couple of scenes, the director screams “cut,” and then the movie shows up in theaters a few months later, you’re in for a surprise.
There’s a vital stage called post-production where all the magic happens, and without it, movies would make zero sense. You can’t make a movie without it.
It’s where all the audio, video, visual effects, dialogue, music, and other components are fine-tuned to turn the movie into a compelling, coherent story.
Let’s peek behind the scenes for a closer look at post-production and how it works.
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What Is Post Production?
Post-production is simple in theory: it’s everything that happens after a movie has been filmed. It’s when you start the editing process, play with audio tracks and sound, and add music, graphics, and visual effects.
It also includes the color grading process, which is the final stage where brightness, saturation, and several visual aspects are set.
Pretty much any form of editing or adding of audio and visual effects falls under the category of post-production. Even sequencing and transitions between shots.
Post-production is an all-hands-on-deck collaborative process that takes joint efforts to perfect. Technicians, producers, foley artists, editors, cinematographers, assistant directors, musicians, and actors often work side by side to make sure the end result is a cohesive story.
Why Is Post-production Important in the Filmmaking Process?
You could have the perfect cake mix in the world, but if you don’t let it bake in the oven, it’s not going to be that good. Well, in the world of filmmaking, post-production is your oven.
Even if you have amazing raw footage, it’s probably not going to make much sense without the final step of post-production.
In post-production, all the audio tracks and background music are added to suit the tone and theme of each scene. Can you imagine a good movie without background music?
Another reason the post-production process is so important is that not all the footage scenes are filmed in the order they’re going to be presented.
For example, let’s say the storyline of a movie starts out in Paris, then the hero travels to Spain and finally goes back to Paris for the finale. Wouldn’t it make sense to shoot all the Paris scenes at once before traveling to Spain instead of going back and forth?
That’s where the post-production process comes in to reorder the scenes to fit the storyline.
What Happens During the Pre-production and Production Phases?
Film production typically puts a movie through pre-production and production phases before getting to post-production. Here’s what happens in the first two.
This is the first phase of the filmmaking process. It’s where all the planning, budgeting, and preparation take place. This includes previsualization (Previs), script writing, and storyboarding.
Previsualization is the stage where all the scenes of a movie are mapped out in terms of sequence, location, and other important aspects. This usually involves location scouting to find the perfect setting for the shot in mind.
The movie script is put together and broken down into shots or scenes – in other words, storyboarding. Once the plan is set, the pre-production phase ends, and the execution or production phase begins.
The production phase is where the shooting, recording, and capturing of video and audio take place. Each movie scene is acted out, and voiceovers are recorded, producing the raw footage that’ll be later edited in the post-production process.
In the simplest of terms, the production phase provides the building blocks that’ll be shaped during post-production into a masterpiece.
Film Post-Production Process and Workflow
Several steps go into the post-production process, and each movie can have its own set of circumstances. However, there are generally three phases that a movie goes through during the post-production phase: the editing process, sound design, and visual effects.
This is usually followed by distribution or delivery, which is the final stage before the movie hits movie theaters or other platforms.
Before starting the film editing process, filmmakers should ensure that they have the appropriate hardware, such as a good video editing computer, laptop, or tablet.
The editing process is where you go through all of the raw footage and set it up to suit the movie script. This involves using a great video editing software program for picture editing and sound editing to produce the scene in the correct order, mood, and setting imagined by the director and scriptwriter.
A lot of content can be cut, rearranged, or even discarded during the editing process of post-production. It’s where picture and sound editors decide what goes well together and in what order to make a cohesive story.
This is usually done with editing software (or these days, even AI editing software!), and there are two kinds of editing: linear and non-linear.
This is the more popular of the two types of post-production editing. Non-linear editing makes it easier to access different raw footage scenes and play around with them regardless of their linear timeline.
During a non-linear editing process, editors can make a second copy of the raw footage and play around with the scenes and audio while the original footage stays untouched.
You can start with any scene you’d like to edit, regardless of the order in which it was shot during the filmmaking process.
The best thing about non-linear editing is it provides room for error and flexible picture and sound editing. If you make a mistake, you can easily make another copy of the raw footage and work on that.
Non-linear editing requires digital editing programs such as Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, DaVinci Resolve, and Vegas Pro.
Linear editing is a far less popular form of post-production editing nowadays. It involves cutting physical footage by hand. The only problem is you have to work with the raw footage as is without the ability to make a second spare copy.
You have to work on each scene in a predetermined sequence, and all the picture editing and sound editing is done in that order. Linear editing doesn’t give you the luxury of random access to segments of raw footage.
In most cases, linear editing is only done when raw footage is shot on film or with a video camera, camcorder, or videotape recorder. The one positive side to this post-production editing is simplicity and low cost.
However, non-linear editing programs have taken over for decades and are now the mainstay of the post-production process.
Sound Editing and Design
Sound design is one of the most important aspects of the post-production process. It’s where the sound editors put together the background music, foley, sound effects, and dialogue to set a scene’s tone.
Sound editors then combine these different sounds and adjust audio levels, frequencies, dynamics, and volume to be homogenous and layered on top of each other. They also get rid of unwanted background noise.
This part of the post-production process is known as sound mixing.
Sound mixing and design can make a huge difference in a movie’s mood and the viewer’s overall experience.
The first step of sound design is adding music. Background music can help set the tone, the genre, and the intensity of movie scenes. All of this happens without the viewer even realizing it on a subconscious level. This is the powerful role of background music.
It can shape the viewer’s thoughts, perceptions, and interpretations of different scenarios. It can also help with character and thematic development.
To secure the music you need during the post-production process, you’ll need a strong Music Supervisor. Their job is to get you the needed background music while managing the recording and publishing rights.
Another way you can go is to hire a music composer to make original audio content for your movie, which might be less expensive but more time-consuming.
Some pre-recorded sound effects are common, like the sound of glass breaking, but some movies have sounds that need to be created exclusively for that movie. That’s why foley is such a vital part of the filmmaking process and post-production.
Foley artists help bring movies to life by performing and creating sound to go with certain actions and scenes in a movie. For example, if an actress is walking down the stairs in heels, microphones and audio equipment probably won’t pick up on the sound clearly.
That’s where foley artists come in. They put on those heels and recreate the sound effects but with better audio quality to be in sync with the picture.
Foley artists work on all kinds of sound effects such as footfall, opening and closing of doors, the wind blowing, and other ambient noise. Generally speaking, foley sound effects fall under one of three categories: feet, movement, or specifics.
Feet foley sounds are the most common post-production sound. Foley artists go inside a recording studio and play around with different kinds of shoes and floor surfaces till they create sound effects that match the actress/actor’s footsteps.
The best sound editors excel at creating movement foley sounds, such as two people bumping into each other or shaking hands. These sounds tend to be more subtle but can help really bring a scene to life.
Specifics vary according to the scene or footage shot. For example, sound editors might need to recreate a phone ringing or an engine running. A foley sound editor needs to have the creative energy and mindset to get the right sound from whatever objects they have access to.
After adding music and creating sound effects, the next part of the process is cutting the dialogue tracks. Sometimes the dialogue is a rough cut that isn’t clear enough or the audio isn’t as crisp as it should be.
This requires a post-production process called Automated Dialog Replacement (ADR). It’s when the actors are called back into the studios to re-record dialogue so that it can replace the content recorded during the actual shooting.
Sound engineers spend a lot of time on ADR, syncing the re-recorded dialogue to the picture and adjusting the sound mixers. It has become a cornerstone of post-production.
The next phase of post-production is designing and creating visual effects.
That’s where a VFX Supervisor, engineers, and artists work together to produce computer-generated imagery (CGI) that’d be hard or nearly impossible to capture in real life during the filmmaking process.
For example, think of Game of Thrones. The only way to get those dragons on screen would be to create them through CGI or visual effects. Another example is a car explosion, which could technically be caught on camera but may be too expensive or dangerous to execute in real life.
This is why a VFX artist creates visual effects or CGI.
The visual effects portion of post-production can include motion graphics, color correction, and special effects. If you want more information, you can check out this article on my favorite VFX software programs.
In addition, you may want to look into taking a great online filmmaking course to learn the skills you’ll need for making your movie and editing it afterward!
To understand motion graphics, read the words backward. It’s simply graphics in motion, or in other words, the animation of drawing, painting, or illustrations. That’s why motion graphics is also called motion animation. It’s an essential part of the video production process.
Motion graphics often combines 2D and 3D animations, such as in animated films, to help creatively convey a message. This requires the help of powerful digital animation software, such as Adobe After Effects.
Color correction & Color grading
Color correction and color grading are vital parts of the video post-production process. This is usually done by a color correction specialist and sometimes a VFX artist.
No matter how great your lighting setup is during the filmmaking process, the colors you capture with a camera will never be as accurate as those you see with the naked eye.
This is why post-production includes color correction and color grading to make the scenes more realistic.
Color correction is done first since it helps unify the hues and color tones of the shots, bringing them closer to that of the real world. Once all your footage and shots are the same coloring, color grading can help give it an edge and set the mood or tone of the footage.
In other words, color correction gives your footage accuracy by balancing all the reds, greens, and blues. Color grading gives your shots style. You might think of color grading almost as an after-effect.
Special effects (SFX) are another vital part of video post-production. They can involve mechanical or artificial visual effects that help enhance the overall viewer experience and movie immersion.
For example, a green screen can be used as a backdrop while shooting a movie so that a special effect can be added during post-production.
Titles, Credits, and Graphics
The last part of the post-production process is where editors add titles, credits, and graphics. Editing software can help with creating titles and credits.
Keep in mind opening credits are essential since they can set the overall tone of a movie.
Remember the Star Wars movies? Their opening credits were so iconic; they set the standard for generations of movies that followed.
Delivery (Or Distribution)
At the very end of the post-production stage comes the time for delivery or distribution. It’s where the final product is sent off for viewers and fans to see.
This is only after the movie has passed the post-production checklist, which includes the entire process of editing from sound mixing to VFX.
The final version of the movie post-processing is then displayed in movie theaters and streaming platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Several components go hand-in-hand with distribution, such as rendering, advertising, trailers, and promotional materials.
When putting together the final version of a movie, you add together all of the components you got from the process of editing. That means all video, audio, effects, transitions, and text into one final file. This is called rendering, and it requires a lot of computing power.
Once a movie is rendered and ready to be shipped out, technicians usually make a Digital Cinema Package (DCP), which is a standard delivery format for movie theaters to show your movie around the world.
Advertising, Trailers, and Promotional Materials
You could have the greatest movie in the world, but if people don’t hear about it, they won’t see it. This is where advertising, trailers, and promotional materials come in.
You need a strong advertising campaign that gets people excited to see your movie. For example, having an attractive campaign poster or image is vital. It lets people know what they can expect, who the stars are, and when the movie will premiere.
A professional poster designer can create the perfect poster to hype up a movie a few months before it even hits theaters. They can incorporate the movie tagline into the illustrations, showing a glimpse of a highly-compelling story.
Trailers are equally as important. They act as a sneak peek that grabs the viewer’s attention using the most exciting shots and footage from the movie. Several post-production works go into creating the movie trailer.
Popular Software Programs for Post Production
Post-production requires powerful software that can edit video, sound mix, and other components of a movie. The best software programs are non-linear editing tools, meaning you can access and edit any scene in the entire sequence of the movie at any time.
Here are some of the most popular post-production software programs in the industry.
Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Premiere Pro is an excellent post-production tool. As a non-linear editor, it gives you a high degree of flexibility and lets you cut and stitch video and audio wherever you like in the footage.
Adobe Premiere Pro has features for editing video, audio, and graphics, and even color correction.
DaVinci Resolve has gained popularity due to its high rendering speed. It’s actually faster than Adobe, and even better, it’s free. Davinci is especially famous for its color grading features.
It also allows for multi-user collaboration so everyone in post-production working on the movie can share their thoughts and inputs at the same time.
Adobe After Effects
Adobe After Effects is a software program that specializes in visual effects, animation, and motion picture creation. It helps you manipulate images and combine different layers of video and images into one shot.
After Effects is also used for 2D vector animation, basic 3D animation, character animation, and kinetic typography. It’s a core part of the post-production of animated and sci-fi movies.
Final Cut Pro X
This is another editing program that’s quite similar to Adobe Premiere Pro. Final Cut Pro X, however, is more popular with Macbook users since it mainly works with Mac operating systems.
It allows you to do all the post-production steps, from video to audio editing.
Avid Media Composer
Avid is perhaps the most popular of all the editing programs today. It supports high-definition, 2K, and 4K video editing.
Frequently Asked Questions About Post Production
What Is the Difference Between Editing and Post-Production?
Editing involves the assembly and alteration of raw footage to transform it into one cohesive story. It’s one of the stages of post-production.
Post-production involves all processes that follow the shooting of the movie up until distribution begins.
How Long Does Post-Production Typically Take?
Post-production typically takes from 6 to 12 months to turn raw footage into a final, theater-ready product. Some movies take even longer.
What Techniques Are Used in Post-Production?
The main techniques used in post-production are video editing, sound mixing and design, color correction and grading, and visual and special effects.
What Does a Post-Production Producer Do?
A post-production producer is responsible for every step of the post-production process. Even if they don’t necessarily carry out the editing themselves, they’re responsible for producing a final product that matches the director’s vision of the movie.
Post-production producers have to work with editors, artists, actors, and any other departments on set to ensure the timely delivery of all post-production components.
This includes everything from the start of editing to the safe and secure storage of the final product before distribution.
Wrap-Up: Post-Production in Film and Video
Post-production is a long, daunting process that transforms a movie from random footage into a cinematic masterpiece.
It takes time and collaboration from everyone on set, but in the end, it brings viewers’ experience to a whole new level.
After all, you know what they say: “First you shoot the movie, and then you make the movie.”
Interested in the processes needed to edit and produce a film or video? Check out these other articles!
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