Post-production hurdles have a way of popping up as you inch closer toward the finish line, most notably in the review and approval workflow. Creative differences, strong opinions, and financial considerations are often a natural part of the process, but they can hold post teams back nonetheless.
Tempting as it is to lay the blame on choosy directors’ last-minute requests, this challenge is as much procedural as it is creative: complex chains of asset and task management require serious juggling, and post teams have to aim to be as thorough as possible at every stage. Given all this, anything that can even marginally improve the review and approval workflow could have a significant impact on the time, money, and creative energy saved throughout a project.
These best practices can help to streamline the next R&A process for your post team.
Find a Flow and Stick to It
The first step toward maintaining an efficient R&A process is ironing out exactly how it fits into your video post-production workflow—and then ensuring that process is clearly communicated to all involved. Decide who will do what, by when, and what is anticipated in terms of crew, hours, and costs before the next assigned review session to help keep each cycle on track and hold everyone accountable.
All players involved should also be on the same page about how many review cycles the work will go through until it’s approved. It almost always costs more to do more work, and if the client isn’t paying for another round of changes, then your team is.
This is one of the problems that has beleaguered the VFX industry for decades, leading to the bankruptcy of major players on a regular basis. Here, the bidding process to get the work in the first place is usually based on the script or initial storyboards, which could completely change during the shoot or the edit—yet the vendor is held to the original shot count.
Agreeing to a specific R&A process with defined milestones and limited rounds of iterations is key to staying on track and on budget.
Determine Who Has the Final Say, Early On
One well-known snag in the approval workflow happens after your editors have worked long and hard to deliver several rounds of changes to satisfy client demands. At some point, that same client turns around and says, “I’m happy, now I just need to get my boss to sign off on it.” More often than not, the opinion and final say of the boss produces more revisions—many that weren’t accounted for and some that may negate earlier decisions from the initial client.
To sidestep this, find out who has ultimate sign-off and bring in their opinion as early as you can. Doing so will save you time and money in the long run. They might need to be coached a little to understand that they’re evaluating a rough cut or unfinished work, but if they have final say, don’t wait until the end to hear it.
Get Post Involved in Production
Another potential way to help streamline the video post-production workflow is to bring post team members from further down the chain in earlier. In practice, this might look like asking the colorist to work with the director of photography and the director on a “show LUT” to be applied to the dailies by the DIT on set. This way, the temporary grade (that everyone spends countless hours getting used to in the edit) actually resembles the final creative intention.
Getting the opinion of an editor earlier on in the script review process during pre-production can help to save time and money by removing entire doomed scenes before they’re even shot, if they can sensibly argue for their omission. Or perhaps a script supervisor can review scenes first to catch any mistakes that may need to be reshot. And, although many editors prefer the objectivity of being away from set, having an editor on set to quickly cut together shots from a camera-tap feed or low-res proxy can help ensure the scene works in principle before the crew moves on.
For example, editor Paul Machliss was on set every shooting day of Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver—it was crucial to ensure that what was filmed on set would perfectly fit the timing of the music as it was worked out in the extensive pre-vis.
Lean on Technology
To act on many of these suggestions, your team needs the right technology. For instance, while in-person R&A is always ideal, the pandemic has shown that won’t always be an option. Your post team will need a reliable asset management system that lets everyone easily share footage and manage R&A remotely. (This will also make a nonlinear R&A workflow much smoother, saving you time on aspects of the workflow that don’t need to be signed off on sequentially.) If you’re still hoping for a virtual face-to-face feedback session, video conferencing and screen-sharing applications are indispensable.
Consider other ways technology can take some of the pressure off: automating some of those processes that take person hours to accomplish, for one thing. You know that laborious QC pass to flag any inappropriate content? Consider an AI solution that scans the script or transcript and flags any content, so post teams can get working even sooner on content they know won’t have to be thrown out later.
To implement any of these changes, start with an audit of your current R&A process. Then, identify the gaps, and look for flexibility and opportunities to refine. If even one of these changes ends up alleviating the always-painful process of “change the music, change the whole edit,” then it will be well worth it.