Where do we go from here: WFE Post-Production

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?

Fiddler...aka...the editor

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 sky is not green.

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.

Robert Pattinson doesn't REALLY have a blue tint to his skin tone.

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.

  • aeren

    Acttually I write a novel about cinema world, and your post is so real, congrats 🙂 great work

  • suzyquzy

    Thanks Tink.
    So looking forward to all your additions.

  • SnowyHedwig

    AWESOME post, thanks so much for sharing this with us! I kenw a few things, but you’ve broadened my knowledge. Can’t wait to get home from work and watch the videos! 😉

  • jan

    FANTABULOUS post yet again, Tink!!
    How awesome are you?!?!?!

    I totally enjoy reading about the making of movies I love too…stories and commentaries from the directors, producers, casting agents, screenwriters, composer, crew…gosh, the list juz goes on and on!

    Thanks for this and keep up the great labour of love on this wonderful blog!

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  • You are a good fan girl, and you can remain at the front of the class for remainder of Rob’s career as far as I’m concerned! This was a wonderful post and the kind of information I’ve come to enjoy/expect here (and on Bel Ami). Thanks for another glimpse into movie magic.

    My son’s best friend just graduated from USC’s film school and his on-campus job was in the sound department. He is currently trying to make his way by working on sound for commercials, etc., writing a manuscript, and following his dream of becoming a director. At any rate, he was just home visiting for a few days, and we had an interesting discussion about the sound process. You do get a whole diffent perspective from them, that’s for sure.

    Very excited about the H2O sneak peek!

    Lisa

  • Moi

    Thank you very much for writing this enjoyable article on the technical machinations of filmmaking.

  • Thanks for the wonderful informative post Tink. But now you’ve got me scratching my head about who actually pieces the film together.

    Does the editor put together a rough cut BEFORE the director starts tweaking the film? Meaning the editor choses which takes he thinks are best, and uses them? Or has the director told him beforehand which takes to use, and the editor’s main job is synching them together by establishing the transitions and tempo? Maybe Ryan could help our inquiring fan minds out with this one…..

    • i told him to come on here and answer you. i have an idea of what the answer is based on our convo but i’d rather have him chime in.

      • Thanks… any enlightenment greatly appreciated! BTW this blog totally kicks ass!

    • So to clear up any confusion. The director sits with a script supervisor throughout the shoot who makes notes of which takes or shots the director particularly liked. The editor will make an assembly based off the script notes.

      • *smooch*

      • Thank you for the clarification, which honestly surprises the heck out of me! I didn’t know the director selected his favorite shots just from watching the dailies. Thought he spent more time in the editing room rewatching the shots and guiding the first cut. The editor has a much bigger role in actually crafting the film than I ever realized.

  • suziekew

    Fantastic and informative post Tink! I knew some of this, but it was great to have it all compiled in one place and about a subject I am passionate about too. My daughter is an interior designer and uses the Autocad software program and I have heard (and seen) many a time how excruciatingly long the rendering process takes to create a final image. Here’s how Wiki describes it:

    “Rendering is the process of generating an image from a model, by means of computer programs. The model is a description of three-dimensional objects in a strictly defined language or data structure. It would contain geometry, viewpoint, texture, lighting, and shading information. The image is a digital image or raster graphics image. The term may be by analogy with an “artist’s rendering” of a scene. ‘Rendering’ is also used to describe the process of calculating effects in a video editing file to produce final video output.

    It is one of the major sub-topics of 3D computer graphics, and in practice always connected to the others. In the graphics pipeline, it is the last major step, giving the final appearance to the models and animation. With the increasing sophistication of computer graphics since the 1970s onward, it has become a more distinct subject.

    Rendering has uses in architecture, video games, simulators, movie or TV special effects, and design visualization, each employing a different balance of features and techniques. As a product, a wide variety of renderers are available. Some are integrated into larger modeling and animation packages, some are stand-alone, some are free open-source projects. On the inside, a renderer is a carefully engineered program, based on a selective mixture of disciplines related to: light physics, visual perception, mathematics, and software development.

    In the case of 3D graphics, rendering may be done slowly, as in pre-rendering, or in real time. Pre-rendering is a computationally intensive process that is typically used for movie creation, while real-time rendering is often done for 3D video games which rely on the use of graphics cards with 3D hardware accelerators.”

    • *BOOM* that’s my head exploding 😉

  • s wood

    Really interesting post. Thanks for taking the time to look into this and keeping us all updated 🙂

  • lemonie

    Thanks for this tink – you did a good job – used to work in the industry and know how mind numbing some of the technical stuff can be – especially the rendering – basically when the digital drives are putting everything together in FX – also term used when editing…….thanks for this wonderful site – its extremely professional and well put together!

  • Elizabeth

    Great info Tink. No wonder it takes so long to get the film ready for release.

  • Reading this blog is more fun than reading all of my favorite books! And so educational too. And yet the most thing I most want to comment on is Rob’s blue skin tinted picture… lol This picture could possibly be my favorite one of Rob because of his smile, it looks real and not like one of his when he’s acting, it’s reaching all the way up to his eyes, it’s beautiful. Thanks.

    • yeah its a fav of mine too because of the smile 🙂

  • Alexandria

    This is such a great information!!! I will be looking at movies from a different point of view from now on. The information about the sounds, dialogues was a total surprise for me, the same as the choosing of the colors. Imagine, we sit there, eating our chocolates and just awwwwouing at Robert without thinking about the thousands of details that had to be put together for, us simple mortals, to enjoy him/our beloved, in films. Thanks to you for your patience in collecting all this facts for us, and to the technicians and experts that were so willing to contribute.

  • Amazing post! As a teacher, I especially enjoyed all the explanation and detail. I think a lot of loving care will be put into the post production of this film.

    • LOL im a teacher too…i think that’s why i have this need to explain everything…my first draft was longer 😉

  • Lydia

    Tink, thanks for another great post! It’s great to get a peak behind the curtain of the movie magic. I really enjoyed the post.

  • wow, how very educational… I too knew some of the bare basics but this really broke it down… thanks for the intellectually stimulating post! 🙂

  • stargazer

    Very interesting to see the clips of how things are put together. Thank you

  • Roblover

    WOW! I feel like I’ve just had a class in Post-production. Some I knew and a lot I didn’t. It was very informative. Thanks.

  • Denise

    Wonderful post. Sometimes, with all the elements that have to come together to make a movie, it seems like there has to be magic involved, but really all it comes down to is a lot of hard work and long hours by gobs of people.

  • Nellie

    Fantastic post, Kaci. I’ve never learned so much as I have on this blog!

    Thank you! 🙂

  • passionsonsflower

    Post production 101 is what I will call this post. What an enlightening tutorial. Your love and enthusiasm for this blog and the wfe production is so event in everything you write. Its only matched by your inviting sense of humor and professionalism. Any PR firm would do themselves
    A world of good by hiring any. One of you ladies. I’m sure you could teach them a thing or two about the grass roots level. Someone should cut you guys a check for some serious change!!! Sorry for singing your praises soo high but this blog does the best PR for this film and Rob as well. Any PR firm would do themselves a favor by hiring any one of you ladies. In fact someone should cut you a check for some serious change. Much sappy love to you all.

  • Thanks great job there Tink!
    I loved the Foley artist, what a fun job! I could do that, but if they need the sound of Jacob and Marlena kissing I would have to use Rob myself….;-P

  • passionsonsflower

    Omfg big time error That’s what happens when you type on your mobile with out your glasses!!! Lol

  • Melissa

    Wow, great explanation! *standing ovation* I’m curious about the music. I wonder what’s more important, the score or the soundtrack (assuming that there will be a soundtrack)? They each have their own importance, but does one mean more than the other, and are they recorded and added at the same time? I love movies and music from the depression era (anybody else love “O Brother Where Art Thou”?), and the music will be absolutely devine!

    • i love O Brother Where Art Thou! that’s an example when the soundtrack stood out more than the score. when you want to think of a score meaning more than the soundtrack…see if you can think of the score in these movies: Star Wars, The Godfather, Superman, Indiana Jones, Jaws, Pans Labyrinth, Gone With The Wind, Lord of the Rings…i could go on. i love love love the music in movies. when it’s a good score…it transcends. when i was younger, i loved Forrest Gump. that movie had recognizable score and a significant soundtrack to the film.

      it depends on the story IMO…on the director…how influential the score vs. the soundtrack will be or whether it will be equal.

      im not sure where they will go for WFE but we can be certain music from the depression era (and specific to circus bands) will be there and will influence the score. the production has been so on point with all the details, i doubt they would fall short when it came to the music. im very excited 🙂 can you tell? one of our upcoming CREW CORNERS will go deeper into this. i’ve probably said too much already LOL

  • rpattzgirl

    OMG Tink! What a great informational, educational post!!!
    Thank you so much!

    I love the line about Rob really not having a blue tint to his skin. and the sky is not green..LMAO!

  • Oh and Tink, what about ‘Blast From The Past,’ ‘Bridget Jones Diary’, ‘Dream A Little Dream’, ‘Funny Girl’, ‘Moulin Rouge’, ‘Sliding Doors’, oh and lets not forget about ‘Twilight’ the newest cd score I own. These are some of the best movies/scores ever…

  • Kara

    Thank you, thank you thank you for all the work you put into this. It’s always a treat to see what you have for us here. I look forward to this blog so much and to find this today was really great.
    For me, the music is always what sucks me into a movie.It brings so much emotion to every scene. I tweeted James Newton Howard when it was announced that he was doing the score and asked him to write Edward’s Theme for the final movies since Bella and Jacob already had their songs. Don’t you think he deserves his own ballad?

  • gkngc04

    Amazing! I love that you are so informative! Truly, truly! love this blog!!!

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