By Chelsea Taylor
A couple of years ago I was in an edit putting the finishing touches on the first episode of a short web series with the producer. While we were waiting for it to export, we discussed the problems we ran into so the producer could adjust for her next shoot.
My suggestions? “Next time, get more b-roll of the location, don’t let the talent ramble off topic and watch their eye line after a response.”
The producer made these small adjustments and saw the difference it made in time and efficiency. She began to spend more time in the edit understanding what I do and why, and she began consulting with me during pre-production. As a result, our workflow got smoother, we were able to get ahead of most problems and she became a better producer.
This past July, I posted a question on Facebook, asking post pros, “What’s the one thing you wish more producers knew”? It drew over 100 responses. The Blue Collar Post Collective (@BCPCollective) — a grassroots initiative supporting emerging talent in post production — decided to help me take the discussion offline, and turn it into an educational, town-hall style panel discussion in New York City featuring working pros from various areas of post.
The goal of the event was to demystify post workflow and, more importantly, to start a conversation with other departments about how they can save time and money if they think of post early on in the process. We called the event “Fix it in Post: Essential Knowledge and Best Practices,” and The Studio-B&H came on board to support us.
I moderated the discussion, and our panel featured workflow specialist Boon Shin Ng, editor Julia Bloch, finishing artist/colorist Michael Hernandez and post producer Sabina-Elease Utley.
1. Do a test! Test your whole workflow! Is your drive fast enough? Test it out! Run through your whole workflow both picture and sound.
2. Communicate with your entire team on workflow and creative. Communication is key to staying on the same page and executing the vision on time and within budget. Communicating well and working hard builds trust and strengthens your team. One person’s standard way of doing something might be different than the next, so a short conversation can always save you in the long run.
3. Don’t try to save on necessary positions. An assistant editor and a script supervisor are essential roles that can help speed up post workflow. Unfortunately, often times these are positions that some productions think they can eliminate to cut costs. Don’t try to save money by not hiring one or you will be spending more on your editor’s rate!
4. Plan everything you can! The more you plan the more you can try to solve problems before they happen. This will save time and money in the long run. Unspecific deadlines don’t work — be clear and work out a realistic schedule.
5. Manage your expectations. Camera and frame rate matter! Don’t expect your image to be crisp if you are doing a lot of conversion. What are your deliverables?! Specs are important to know from the beginning. It’s okay if you aren’t completely sure where your project will end up; consulting a workflow specialist or experienced post producer will help you make decisions about what deliverables to expect.
6. Know when to say no! We think we can never say “no” in this business. There are lots of diplomatic ways to say “no,” and don’t be afraid to do it when needed. Clients will ask a lot of you sometimes, so be upfront and honest about what you are capable of within a given budget and timeframe.
7. Clients choose you, but you are also allowed to choose your client. Clients are like personal relationships; you have to know when to give up if it’s not working. Even in an interview, make sure you ask the right questions so you can determine if it will be a partnership and environment for you to succeed in.
8. Stick with your team. There is nothing worse than staying all night and watching everyone leave. Good producers protect the talent. We are a team. Producers should check with talent (editors, machine operators, finishing artists) to make sure to give accurate timeframes. Trust your team to do their jobs.
9. What makes a “kick ass” producer? Managing expectations, communicating, being understanding/ realistic, looking out for your team, enforcing deadlines and making your team feel appreciated.
10. What makes a great AE? An assistant editor is the editor’s second set of eyes, so they want someone who is great at prepping projects, is organized, who takes charge and asks questions. Other qualities our panel of experts mentioned were: being a great problem solver, being logistically sound and being a great communicator.
The Bottom Line
The panelists agreed that communication with your team is the single most important way to save time and money in post. Being up front about creative, budget, schedule and final deliverables ensures that everyone is on the same page and that there are fewer surprises later on. Of course, the unexpected happens but the more you prepare for what can go wrong the more ready you are to deal with problems and solve them
This was the first educational event that the Blue Collar Post Collective produced, and they plan to do many more in 2016 based on significant online discussions amongst the wider post community.
Chelsea Taylor (pictured in our main shot, far right) is a New York based editor and story producer who currently works in-house at Viacom creating a wide range of content for MTV, VH1 and LogoTV. including branded content, promos and TV specials.