Monday, 22 December 2014

5 Things You Shouldn't Wait to Fix in Post

The entry period for SwaggerFest is open and competition is heating up! We're so excited watching the submissions come in from up-and-coming filmmakers from around the Houston area, and it got us thinking about some advice we wanted to share with our fans.

Every new filmmaker is bound to make mistakes. You've probably been on set before and it's been a long day, your crew is tired, the lights are hot, and the creative juices are drying up. You're on your last camera set up and you just can't get that last bit right so, instead of dragging out the day, you say, "We'll fix it in post!"

That's a mistake. It's a lesson learned universally by all filmmakers,

The more things you can do perfectly in production, the easier your life will be. 

There's no feeling worse than getting to the post room, ready to make the magic happen, and realizing that something you ignored on set has become the downfall of your entire project. Here are 5 things that great post work just won't fix as well as on set attention.

1. Shaky Camera Syndrome - "I'll just stabilize it in After Effects!" 

Wrong. True, After Effects will help smooth out your shot some, but it's just not the same as a good tripod. If you're going for that "unrehearsed, in the moment" feel, then great. But don't just shoot without a tripod because you're lazy. Professional filmmakers will spend thousands of dollars for a fancy tripod to get the right shot; who are you to disagree? Now I know your funding may be limited, so if you don't have a tripod, learn how to make one. The point is, relying on a software effect to completely counteract your natural movement will result in a lower quality product and a headache for your editor and your audience.

2. Bad Lighting - "I'll just up the exposure, no worries!"

Wrong. Whether your footage is too dark or too light, you're going to have your work cut out for you in post. Lighting is often overlooked as an on set essential, but any professional will tell you it's the key to doubling the quality of your footage. Oftentimes, amateur filmmakers just use the lights they have available, be that natural or fluorescent. If you're really wanting this project to stand out, take some time to experiment with lighting options. Don't worry about buying a big fancy light kit just yet, try a few DIY tips and tricks first. If you're not sure you're getting the full picture from your tiny camera screen, pop out the memory card and check it out on your laptop. I promise, this will save you SO MUCH time and pain later.

3. Bad Sound - "I really don't think that AC sound will be a problem, I barely hear it!" 

WRONG! That's right, this one is in all caps and let me tell you why. You could shoot the best film ever made, high quality picture, future Oscar winning actors, and the most innovative cinematography techniques ever seen! But, if your audio sounds like it was capture on an iPhone, you're entire project is ruined. Nothing is more offensive to me personally than bad sound quality. Sure, you can fix a lot in post, but only if you're an audio software pro. That's why, anytime you shoot, anywhere you shoot, you should always capture room sound, always balance your audio levels, and always continue to check in on your audio gear to make sure your initial settings are still holding up. I also highly recommend using 2 audio sources, that way if something happens to one, you have a backup. Again, you don't need a bunch of fancy, top of the line equipment to make your audio sound good, just follow a few basic rules and you'll be covered. An audience can forgive a hiccup or two but won't forgive having to strain to hear clear dialogue.

4. Crystal Clear Focus - "Autofocus gets it perfect every time!" 

Wrong. If you're new to the business then you may not know just how the autofocus setting on your camera works. Let me break it down for you. Your camera's autofocus setting is likely center-weighted, which means it will focus on whatever object is taking up most of the middle of your frame. "Well, if my subject is centered in the frame, what's wrong with that?" Let's say you want to add a little composition to your shot so you decide to pan a little to the left. Well, your focus will shift too and now your once crystal clear shot is blurred out. "Ok, but I don't think I trust myself to keep the focus clear. What do I do now?" Study. Learning how to focus your shots is very very important if you intend on making a career out of filmmaking. We recommend using a few cheat sheets and shooting multiple takes of any shot. You're bound to get one right!

5. Getting Enough Coverage - "That take was perfect! It's a wrap!" 

Wrong. Sure, that take may have been absolutely perfect. But, what if you were so wrapped up in the scene, you missed that slip of the boom pole in the top of the frame? Without a backup take, you're out of luck! Always always always make sure you've gotten enough coverage of each scene. This means multiple takes and multiple angles. If you can, try a two-camera setup. This will allow you to cut seamlessly between two cameras and will ensure that you'll have at least one decent shot to use in the editing room. Never leave yourself without a plan B because, even if you can get the location, crew, and actors all back out in the field again for a reshoot, it's very likely it won't match up as perfectly as it would've if you had just gotten that 4th take on set the first time.

What you should've learned by now is...

So, the next time you hear someone on set say, "We'll just fix it in post!" respond accordingly. For you visual learners, here's what an appropriate response looks like:

Can you think of anything else that is absolutely necessary to get on set? Do you disagree with something I've mentioned here? If so, leave me a note in the comments below! 

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