"I was Sheriff of this county when I was 25 years old. Hard to believe." – No Country For Old Men
Post Production Tips Part – 1
Following are some of the most basics tips that people who want to do well as Post Production Managers should keep in mind, this applies for all media, be it Advertising, TV, or even feature films be it Bollywood or Hollywood. These tips will help you no matter if you are in India or any other country.
1. Attitude & Relationship
Having the right attitude is strangely the most important factor in being a good post production manager, experienced or otherwise a bad attitude could make your working with all post houses, directors and production houses the most horrific experience that you or they could have. The right balance of pleasantness’ and professionalism are a must. One should be friendly enough to win peoples favours and stern enough to get work done. Technology is at a rapid change and a learning attitude is a must from all, those who have been around for generations to the fresher. Watch learn and if possible invent new ways of doing the same process faster and more efficiently.
2. Technical knowledge
If you want things to work for you smoothly technical knowledge is a must. Any post whether AD films, Features, Bollywood or otherwise, Tv Serials or Documentaries involve more than one machine, and knowing the machine’s capabilities only help in speeding up the process and avoiding situations where work may have to repeated. Example knowing while digitising to run the project at 24 or 25 frames so that later you don’t have to do it again, or the required video output to take for sound, how many tapes would be required to dump your rushes onto etc. Basically it saves time energy and a prepared post production manager saves a lot of money for the production house and keeps everyone happy. I don’t say that the person handling post should know how to operate the machine, but know what the machine is capable of, for compatible issues, and for man & time management. What I mean is knowing what a machine can do gains respect of the operator and he in turn does not take you for a ride. How does one gain such knowledge if one is a fresher, train under a professional, read books, manuals, most importantly ask questions when you start. It’s the right time to gain as much knowledge when you ask questions, especially since all knowledge does not come from manuals, know that different people operate differently and most of the times there are different ways of achieving the same end result.
One major problem of fresher’s especially freelance is that they tend to say that they know how to do the particular job when actually they don’t, so while lying might get you your first few jobs it will spread a bad name for you across people. Its better to admit that you don’t know but you will definitely figure it out.
Whatever said and done while equipment and software’s go though changes the aesthetics of the operations usually stay the same. So learn the basics well and the rest will follow easily.
3. Planning & Buffer
Almost all your technical knowledge comes in handy in this process. This step of planning happens when the job get commissioned and usually there is more time to plan the job than there is to actually do the job, so a schedule is made from the time of shoot to the delivery date or deadline. Depending on the time available for post, a good plan is what lets everyone do their jobs on time and peacefully with the required breaks. I will get into details and tricks of planning in a later blog. For fresher’s the best thing to do is ask someone senior what bookings to take, speak to the director and or the editors and sound engineers for how long to take bookings, keep in mind overlaps of bookings, like sound and online where the director would have to be present in 2 places at the same time. For those who are experienced would know by reading the script how long it would approximately take to for the jobs, also knowing the directors style also makes a difference in knowing how to book. All said and done don’t forget to schedule in buffers, these help in keeping time for changes after completion of work or machine faults like hanging etc, don’t forget to cancel buffer bookings so that cancellation charges don’t get applied or people have to waste their time for last minute cancellations.
Don’t forget food during your bookings, order on time so that people working for you don’t have to work on empty stomachs. If you are not going to be present at that time when the booking is going on make sure that you either order from wherever you are located and also have left money back with someone (pantry / peon / asst) so that people working for you don’t have to worry for these things and concentrate on the main job. A empty stomach is a grumpy worker, keep in mind to ask what they would prefer to eat and if they would prefer Veg over Non Veg also if they are allergic to any kind of food. If necessary set a alarm so that you order early enough so that you are not starving when it’s time to eat. Another thing to remember is if other people are expected at that time like agency’s or clients and order sufficient for all to eat. Don’t forget to keep a tab on the monies as you don’t want to be embarrassed with food arriving and not sufficient money in your pocket or have the producer yelling at you for spending too much money food through the project.
5. Market knowledge & Contacts
Knowing the market, which is where are the studios, distance between them, how much do they cost, what are the equipments available with them are great to know. This helps in speeding up the process for your planning as you can then quickly decide where and whom to work with, also to offer suggestions to directors what are the available options especially when his favourites or regulars are not available. This knowledge comes most handy when there is crisis and a job has to be delivered urgently. Maintaining your contacts and relationships with studio managers and operating personal makes it easier for you to win bookings in your favour especially if there is a clash with another party. It’s also important to know what’s happening in the industry and who has done it, like a new VFX heavy film, or a animation film, or even a simple but good looking pack shot. This again helps in your planning for the post who to go with, it’s usually is better to go with the ones who have done similar stuff to what your looking for as they come with experience behind them and generally have already figured out the kinks in the armour. Knowing who has done what also comes most handy while doing voice overs so that the right kind of voice could be suggested to save time and a lot of back and forth. If your a beginner don’t worry as you move from studio to studio you will increase your contacts especially if your a friendly person.
This is one quality that most of the post production guys lack, and because of which they cause a lot of stress to most people working with them. Being systematic come with habit and practice, like as simple as just labelling tapes and Cd’s when they just receive them. As a beginner or even if you are experienced just remember to put some system in place, it helps as if a new person takes over its easy to understand and hand over jobs. Just follow things like
a) Label all material when you receive it, (carry your own makers around if need be)
b) Keep cue sheets along with all material to tell you what’s in it. This saves time when looking for old material.
c) Make sure there is a library sort of system which tells anyone where and how to source the material they would be looking for.
d) Keep backups of all important materials that could get lost or damaged.
e) Always carry your schedule of bookings on you so that you could refer to it at any given time.
f) Communicate with directors, producers, editors etc so that all people are aware of what they are doing and everyone is on the same page.
g) Form a method for yourself to keep your bills and accounts in order.
h) Always keep a note of no of hours used on a project so that you could figure how much you have spent vs. how much was budgeted for.
All in all being systematic helps you to on top of all things, especially if you are working on multiple projects at the same time. Also if one has to step out of a project for whatever reason it is easier to hand over and explain if you are systematic.
The biggest confusions on jobs and the reason for waste of a lot of peoples time and energy is lack of backup’s. What does one back up? Usually the stuff that could get lost easily and stuff that would be required in the future is necessary to be backed up. Music sessions, CD’s and DVD’s that contain Logos, or graphics, are usually the most important to have backed up. Master films on tape, archive tapes are another form of backup so that one doesn’t have to keep going to the online machine to get copies. If you are sending rushes across by courier or some route that could lose it keeping a backup sometime help save a lot of time, this usually gets done when one is going abroad to finish the film. (this though is not a standard practice and would depend on the situation). You could keep your backups on one computer on a single drive marked backups or in external storage devices like hard disk’s or CD’s, DVD’s etc
Keep track of all your accounts, monies spent on travel and on food and beverages, this is the second most painful thing for someone working on post as it takes away too much time and is usually quite boring and a mess. The simplest and the most difficult thing to do is to keep track of your expenses especially if you are working on multiple projects. The trick to not getting hassled is to do it everyday, carry a pocket note book and keep entering the expenses that you spend as you do it marking which project and details of name of hotel, how many people ate (asked by some producers or accountants later) the travel from where to where and having a reason for going from place to place helps to answer questions later as to why there was so much travel expenses on the project, its easier if one has written it down. If your finding it difficult to carry a notebook you can use your cell phone, most of them come with notes and you could use this application to full use, or just use. Try and enter your accounts daily into the various sheets (ideally do it on a computer as that gives you a backup straight away, also takes away the human error for calculation or bad handwriting) Keep a note of the advances on each project and settle them before taking more on the same project. Keep the money and bills in separate envelopes if you are working on multiple projects, helps not to spend more than budgeted also avoids the mixing of your personal money from the advances.
These are not your food bills but the ones generated by the various studios, always keep a track of the number hours taken on a project as a producer may ask you at any given time, this determines if one is within the budget or should one keep in mind while doing changes. The way to keep a tab is to make a note of it at the end of every booking on the schedule that was made at the beginning of the project. Also don’t forget to make a note of the people that you worked with especially if they would be sending you separate bills for their work. Even though you may have put in lots of hours at the job make sure that the job receipt (challan) is made and signed by you, if not done usually you would notice how the number of hours have been increased even if its by a hour or so. Knowing how much each studio or a job costs also helps so that one is not singing on a higher than necessary amount.
Keep these pointers in mind and you will suddenly notice how smooth projects go for you, there will be an increase in your demand and in turn also have made a lot of friends and money for the work.
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