Most of us know that principal photography is critical. There is no movie without principal photography. As exciting as the ‘Water For Elephants‘ filming process was due to set pictures and updates straight from the director, a movie truly comes to life in post-production.
Not wanting to rely on wikipedia or google to bring you guys some info, I spoke with a good friend of mine, independent filmmaker, Ryan Reels, about the ins and outs of post-production. I knew basics (“You edit the film and put some music on it and add some special effects….voila!”). What I didn’t know were details and my nature is to know everything possible when I love something. Basically, I try to be an expert. Some might say, a good fan girl *moves to the front of the class for remainder of the post*
Now that filming is complete, here are some of the aspects involved in post production that will produce the film, ‘Water For Elephants’.
One of the first major steps that will take place is called telecine. This is a process of transferring the film to a video format. Ryan used a bit of jargon during this section that made my eyes blur. After he explained it to me like I was a two year old, the telecine process is used so that the film can essentially be copied into a format that can be “fiddled with”. My choice of words. Fiddle. What a great word. What is this fiddling I speak of?
The editor comes in and puts together a rough cut. A “rough assembly”. They look at all the dailies and gets this rough assembly together so that the director can come in and start “tweaking it”. This process will continue for some time because the movie needs to flow the way the director envisioned it.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, you have the composer. They need to get the score together. Francis tweeted during pre-production about pieces that are already recorded:
Going to the pre records for all of our circus music… Gonna be great to hear it live! For those that know the book… We just recorded the disaster march. Just finished recording the music for the speakeasy and the coochie tent. The musicians did an amazing job! (May 1, 2010)
The score however brings so much emotion to a scene. The director will come in to the studio and make sure each scene has the proper emotion tied to the action. When a musical section enters and exits a scene is timed perfectly. The goal is to make sure each scene has the emotional feel the director wants.
In the video below, you can see ‘Water For Elephants‘ composer, James Newton Howard, in his studio, scoring ‘King Kong‘. He talks about how the process of scoring a film works. It’s a very informative video and gives you great visuals as to what this part of post-production looks like.
According to the producers, we know that Francis Lawrence wanted to use minimal CGI/special effects. We know he brought in real animals and tried to ground the film in reality as much as possible. However, special effects are still inevitable.
The director will usually sit down with the visual effects supervisor during pre-production so that they know what the director wants in terms of special effects. The VFX supervisor will likely be on set to make sure they execute each special effects shot right; so they don’t have to “fix it” in post. During post-production, the VFX supervisor now has more time to tailor these shots. If CGI is needed, a company will be hired to work on these effects that the VFX supervisor oversees. Remember…they know what the director wants.
Now here’s when Ryan and another friend that was sitting with us, Shaun, went off on a technical tangent. They said stuff like:
“Back in house they are compositing, matting, and rendering…” “Oh rendering! It’s takes forever!” “Yes forever! But with the right equipment it can go faster.” “Rendering sucks your life away!”
They sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher. I tried to get them to slow down around this part but they were in a zone. Whatever. I found this cool video from ‘I Am Legend‘ that gives us a better gasp on special effects.
You like the music they paired with that video? LOL! Speaking of music…let’s talk about sound. Since Ryan and Shaun were still in their “rendering” zone when I broached the topic of sound design, they were intense with their response:
“What separates an amateur from a professional is sound.” “You are only as good as your sound department.” “If sound is messed up, the whole movie is ruined.”
Good gravy! They were very adamant about sound. I knew it was important but I didn’t know if was life altering. Sound design is when every little sound is picked up and recreated to feel natural within the movie. “Every little sound?” “Every little sound!”, says Ryan. I thought sound would be picked up while they’re, ya know…shoooting the movie. Ryan explained that the dialogue is the focus but there are all the other sounds that surround the scene that need to be acknowledged to give the scene a more realistic setting. On set, they’re picking up the dialogue but there is natural, ambient noise that needs to be recreated and defined so that the scene sounds natural.
Ok…so every little sound. That also includes a clever group of people called Foley artists. The video best explains why I think they’re cle-vah.
So crafty. A unique art. Speaking of art, let’s discuss one more main layer in post production: color correction. This is what it sounds like. The film will have a certain theme color wise. The cinematographer will make sure the film has the color desired. Ryan added his two cents (much like this entire post) and felt Francis would be sitting in during this process due to his background in music videos and his eye for that aesthetic. Interesting theory.
Color correction is painting the palette so you will have a colorist make sure the desired palette is maintained. Color can change the mood and the film needs to reflect the mood of the scene. Often times, characters will have their own color theme as well.
After all the post-production departments have finished their task and the director is joyous, the movie is transferred back to film and the desired format for distribution.
@Hibbits will keep us all in the loop similar to how he did during pre-production and principal photography.
H2O sneak peek: We also have many plans for post-production since we’re not in the studio doing these rendering things. Look out for:
- CREW CORNERS ~ profiles on the production team.
- MEMORY LANE ~ revisting older posts with updated information.
- NEWS ~ any updates from Francis Lawrence and of course other news from the studio and media as WFE buzz continues to escalate.
- GALLERY HIGHLIGHTS ~ showcasing some of the best pictures from the set.
- PERMANENT TABS ~ the author, set soldiers and WFE extra experiences are now permanent tabs and will be updated accordingly. Look out for more!
- CONTESTS ~ more contests in conjunction with Algonquin Books and Random House plus our own Team Rosie contests.
- MORE ~ we are constantly thinking about new things to bring your way regarding WFE
There are many layers to post-production and I was given a crash course about it over pizza and beer. Its not a perfect look into post-production but it’s at least “a ball park” look into post-production. This conversation with Ryan made me more appreciative and gave me more insight into this craft than I had before. I hope you gained a similar appreciation for the art of filmmaking.