“We’ll just fix it in post.”
As a documentary filmmaker making your first films, you will often find yourself wearing multiple hats. You’re the director, the camera operator, the lighting assistant, the sound engineer and more often than not, the editor. This inevitably means that on a shoot you have a huge amount to be thinking about, and the temptation to fall into the “fix it in post” trap is understandable.
However, the fact of the matter is, “fixing it in post” is a terrible idea. A terrible idea that will result in hours of painstaking tweaking, blurring, stretching, chasing, cutting and rendering in the editing suite. Wasted hours that could have easily been avoided by some solid preparation and a few extra checks on the shoot.
At our recent masterclass with post production facility Clear Cut, we spoke to Managing Director, Rowan Bray to hear her top tips for shooting your film with the edit in mind…
1. Check your sound regularly whilst on your shoot
There is nothing more frustrating than watching your hard-earned shots back for the first time, only to find that the sound is an unusable mess of rustling and mumbling. Make checking your sound quality a regular part of your shoot routine.
2. Frame your shots carefully so that you don’t have to reframe in post production.
If you can, create a simple storyboard or checklist of shots before you go to film. This will help you to think through which shots you will need to create your final edit. Wide shots, mid shots, close ups, GVs – make sure you have planned for them all to save yourself the pain of trying to reframe in post as this will usually result in picture quality loss.
3. Make sure you can get clearance for any copyrighted content.
It is so important to consider copyright and permissions when planning a shoot. You will need permission from the copyright owner for everything from archive photographs to background music playing in a café, so be sure to plan ahead!
4. Be prepared for translation.
If you are filming in a language that you don’t speak, be prepared for the extra work. Hire a translator as early in your production as possible, and try to have them in the room during the edit. Correlating written translation documents with what you are watching on screen can be very difficult and inaccurate!
5. Keep your files organised and safe.
Good housekeeping is key to a good editing experience. Whilst on shoots, be sure to regularly download all of your material, label it in a clear, consistent way and then back it up – twice! A simple, easy to navigate filing system will make a world of difference when you are trying to locate a specific shot you filmed 6 months ago.
Clear Cut Pictures is an award winning post production house in London, with credits including Louis Theroux’s Altered States; Take My Baby (BBC Doc Unit for BBC Two), The Funeral Murders (Wild Pictures for BBC Two) and ‘The Brexit Storm: Laura Kuenssberg’s Inside Story’ (Vice Studios for BBC Two).