Post-production on “Love and War”

This is not the glamorous part. The actors have taken off their costumes and makeup and gone home. The cameras and lights have been put away. The cables have been wound. The wrap party drinks have been drunk.

Now it’s just a lot of technical stuff. Mostly guys tinkering around on computers in darkened rooms. We are editing, adding digital effects, composing the score, and recording ADR. Then comes the final sound design and mixing.

Editing

Someone once said, in response to a filmmaker’s whining about how long editing takes, “Why don’t you just plan and shoot very carefully? Then you won’t have to edit so much.“ While that view is more or less true, it’s not very realistic and fails to grasp what editing is really about: assembling the story. It’s not so much about cutting out all the mistakes. This is the part of the process where you sort through all your footage and build the movie.

Editing station

I strongly believe that the director should not edit the movie. The editing process often requires an objective opinion when there are hard decisions to be made. I think that, as the director, I can fall in love with shots and want to hang on to them beyond their use in furthering the story. A good editor who can see what needs to be cut is invaluable. I found just such a collaborator in Fred Beahm.

Also, it helps if he has a friendly cat.
Fred's cat

Digital Effects

I honestly have no clue what I’m doing here. There’s a picture in my head. There is software that makes pictures. It’s just a matter of looking up tutorials online and tweaking them to suit your needs. And then the movie has more blood and bigger explosions.

Sound Design, Foley, Mixing

Let’s define some terms.

Sound design is the way sound effects interact with the music, dialogue and foley. If something needs to sound distant, or underwater, or an explosion comes from the right, this is all done with sound design.

Foley is sometimes used to mean “sound effects”, but more strictly it means the sounds associated with human movement: footsteps, floorboards creaking, clothes rustling. If all the sound in the movie is being replaced, foley is essential to the realism of the scene. Without it, it feels lifeless. Even though we were lucky and most of our production audio was useable, audiences are used to hearing foley, even if subconsciously, so we have to put it in.

It’s astounding how much stuff we do only because audiences expect it.

Austin making foley

Mixing is analogous to mixing music, and just as crucial. All the tracks of dialogue, music, sound effects, and foley have to be balanced against each other and blended in a way that is pleasing to the ear, and conveys the desired aural effect of the film.

Mixing

All the post production sound duties were handled by Microsoft Studios, and foley artistry was done by Austin Healy.

Color Grading

Even films shot on actual film do digital color grading to look more like film. So movies originally captured on a digital format, like ours, have to do a double catch-up in order to have that professional look.

Luckily we have a genius on our side. John Davidson is a 30 year movie industry veteran and we recruited him to bring that final extra punch to the images captured by our cinematographers.
John Davidson at work

The post-production process on this film was a lot more involved than any previous project I’ve worked on, and I learned a lot from it. If there’s any lesson I can impart, it would be to plan ahead and budget adequately for post, as it’s an absolutely crucial part of creating a film.