A quick lesson in post-production.

Since I live in Silicon Valley, naturally this weekend I found myself as the odd man out in a conversation with individuals who work in technology. For a living, these people spend their lives quantifying, evaluating, analyzing and computing. So when I walked into the circle, the first question I was asked was, “Wait, so now that you’ve shot your movie, why do you need to raise more money? Isn’t editing like the really-really easy part?”

This is where I proceeded to melt like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz.

Actually, that’s not entirely true. Because although at that moment, I wanted to rip off all my clothes, scream, and run around in circles like an ostrich, I realized that it’s really not their fault. In fact, I’ve always been the black sheep trying to communicate in a place where nobody speaks my language. Developing a feature film in the Bay Area over the years has basically been equivalent to me trying to sell cotton candy at a UFC fight. People just don’t understand what I’m doing. But I’ve realized that A) my super power is being patient, B) that I need to continually educate people about my art, how it’s made, and how many resources it takes to actually produce from concept to completion and C) cotton candy is, and will always be, awesome and there are others out there that agree with me.

So here I am again. But this time, it’s to quickly outline, enlighten, and discuss the process that is the post-production phase for a feature film.

Okay, so here goes. First off, let me be really clear. For post-production, we are literally making another movie altogether. How is that even possible and what does that even mean, you say? Good question. Let me explain.

Here are some numbers to make it easier to follow. For our film, Family Party, we shot over a course of 15 days. In that time period, we managed to shoot and accumulate 2.5TB (yes, terabytes) worth of footage, which is approximately 40-50 hours total. Now with that scope, we have to somehow piece together and edit a film down to 90-120 minutes. To make it more fun, we shot the feature digitally at a 5k resolution using the Red Epic camera (films such as the Hobbit, Star Trek, Prometheus, etc, were all shot using this camera). To sum it all up, we are dealing with extremely large data files.

Here is how it all works:

Backing up the back ups – Since we are shooting digitally, we have all of our raw data on hard drives. These drives need to be backed up three times over and will always live in three separate places. A lot of time is being spent just making sure the footage is safer than the gold coins you have in a safety deposit box at the bank.

Wrangling, Organizing, and Transcoding – here is a fantastic headache: The Red camera shoots in their own proprietary data format, an .R3D file. So in order to get these files into our editing software (final cut pro) we need to do what is called a transcode. This takes hours and is why we have Debbie, our DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) whose role is to work with Richie (cinematographer) and his camera team and prepare the files to hand over to our editor. This process is tedious and took us two weeks to complete.

Syncing Sound – before we can edit, we have to sync sound clips to each visual clip. Many people think sound is captured automatically in the camera. Nope. Chris (our sound mixer) records audio files offline and then we manually sync up with the visual footage later. The reason for this is so he can have master control to make sure everything sounds crispy clean. As a quick side note, if you don’t know what a slate or clapperboard is, the purpose of this device is to assist in the synchronizing of the picture of sound. When the editor hears the sharp “clap” he knows exactly where to sync the sound files with the picture. Okay, so if you remember from the above paragraph, and the amount of footage we shot (2.5TB worth), to sync audio files is another fun Olympic hurdle.

Picture and Dialogue edit – Finally in this phase, the editor rolls up his sleeves and gets serious in the cutting room. So now, after I’ve dumped all the footage and my notes into his lap, the editor must now somehow take these ingredients and make a delicious story-cake. He and I will work together in the editorial “kitchen” – he as the head chef, and I as the frantic sous-chef who panics periodically and runs away because we may or may not have just run out of butter (trust me, this analogy makes perfect sense in my head).

Sound – Wait, was that an airplane in the background? Was the dolly track squeaking? Who told the cement truck to start backing up and beeping next door? As much as we tried, we couldn’t control Mother Nature and there were times when certain audio obstructions came into play. To make our film a seamless viewing experience for the audience, we have to audio correct these noises. If anyone has ever had termites and had to call exterminators to tent their house, it’s pretty much the same thing. We have to spend time smoking these bugs out. Also, we may need to ADR certain scenes if audio is an issue. ADR stands for Automatic Dialogue Replacement so if there are issues with dialogue, we need to get the actors back in an audio booth and have them re-act their lines so there are no audio impediments.

Music – I bet everyone here knows the Jaws theme. How about James Bond? The Godfather? A great music score can transport you into a different place altogether. When we have a picture edit, we need to add a music score throughout the entire film. Certain scenes have different emotional beats, and good music sets the pace and tone for the entire duration of the movie. Great storytellers rely on music to help set a visual rhythm. We’re working with musicians, Eyes on the Shore, to produce the original score and tracks for the film. This is a lot of writing, composing, and hours in the studio for this phase.

Visual Effects – Luckily, since our film is a character and dialogue driven story, and there is no CGI, car chases, or explosions. However, there are titles sequences and end credits to be added. Every detail, like which font to use, is a character in the film. Small details in design take countless hours of conversation, discussion, and implementation.

Subtitles – There is a small amount of dialogue in Hindi, which we need to transcribe and subtitle into English. We need to make sure everything is timed perfectly and 100% accurate.

Color Correction – All the scenes need to be colored and graded to visually enhance the look of the film. Having a good colorist can make or break your film. Coloring a film is a laborious and often times painstaking art. We shot out of order and there are different camera set ups of the same scene that were filmed at different times of the day. So for example, we need to make sure a shot filmed at 8am matches with a shot filmed at 6pm. The light and color temperatures are very different at those two times and we need to make sure the viewer doesn’t see the difference and the story evolves linearly without any hiccups with color.

Technical Specs – Now that we have a full feature film in our pockets, we need to export the beast for specific technical specifications (film festivals, promotional materials, etc). If we are to export the highest quality file, you better expect our computers to be working hard and for a long time.

So there it is folks. I’ve listed just the “tip of the iceberg” editing phases but as you can see, there are a lot of people, time, and resources involved than just clicking a few buttons of the mouse. Editing a feature film is creating another story altogether and climbing yet another mountain. So far, it’s mainly just the editor and I, but with your help, we can climb this together.

Here is how you can join our party:

Fractured Atlas:

1. Follow the link to Fractured Atlas, our non-profit partner, and donate to help bring our film to the big screen.
2. Donating to Family Party is tax deductible.
3. A lot of you backed us on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, we were not able to hit our KS goal and did not get any of the money raised. We really need you to help support us by donating back to Fractured Atlas.

Investment:

1. We also have investment opportunities available in exchange for equity. Please inquire with us for our business plan with workflow and projections: familypartythefilm@gmail.com.

Also, be sure to like our facebook page or just follow the #familypartyfilm for updates. Thank you, thank you!

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– Pari Mathur | Director | Family Party

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