Post Production for Independent Films

There are many file editing platforms. They range from very simple to quite complex. Your job is to do most of the work before you ever open the editing software.

Organize Files

Your files should be organized according to the project name and file types. The first folder you create will be the project file.

Inside the project folder is the following folders:

Footage: Where you place your camera footage
Graphics: Where you place your images
Render: Where you house your working renders
Script: Where you house your scripts
Sound: Where your sound files are placed

Once the files are uploaded into the correct directory it is time to choose the most appropriate for your project.

This means going through each of the takes and finding the strongest performances. Those takes should be placed into folders denoting chapter titles and then scene names. This will allow you to be better organized during larger projects.

So, the footage is shot. The files are in the proper places. The usable files are located within the act and scenes where they will be used.

Capturing/Importing Your Footage

Digital cameras are usually card based which means you have a few options to upload your footage.

1- Wired upload: Digital Cameras typically have an output jack that allows you to transfer your information to another device without removing the memory card.

2- Memory Card Removal: You can remove the memory card and place it into the card reader for direct downloads.

3- Wi-Fi uploading: Some newer Digital Cameras allow the uploading of information via a Wi-Fi connection.

Once your footage is uploaded onto the computer and the software has been opened you will be able to either drag and drop specific files onto the timeline or use an import file prompt to select the files you wish to place within your workspace.

Once the files are within the workspace you will be able to edit them individually and place them on the timeline in the order of your choosing.

Now it is time to open your editing software.

Basic Editing

When setting up a project there are a few things you want to know and remember:
Know the format of your footage, the frame rate, and the resolution of the video you’re editing.

Standard Definition: 640×480
High Definition: 1280×720 (720p)
Full High Definition: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Ultra High Definition: 3840×2160 (UHD)
DCI Cinema 4k: 4096×2160 (4k)

Frame Rates

24.0 fps (24p) American Cinema (DCI)

23.976 fps (24p) American Cinema

29.976 fps (30p) American NTSC

25 fps PAL

59.976 (60p)

Frame rates of 30fps and above are generally regarded as more fluid than 24p or 25p due to the increased number of images displayed per second. 24p is typically regarded as the most cinema-like in motion.
Frame rates of 60fps or above are often modified in post to create slow-motion effects. When a 60fps file is placed in a lower fps timeline all of the frames can be played in sequence, but at the slower rate of the timeline.

Example: 60fps in a 30fps timeline would equate to a 50% reduction of speed.
60 fps in a 24fps timeline would equal a 60% reduction of speed.

Adding Transitions and Modifying Color

Once you’ve imported your footage and placed it onto the timeline in the correct chronological sequence, you will have the option of adding transitional graphics to the beginning and or end of a file to smooth the transition between clips or scenes.

You can modify color using specific coloring tools or you can use filter effects. Filter effects allow you to manipulate your video the color and textured appearance of individual scenes or the entire work.

Color Correction

Color correction is the process of modifying color information to ensure proper color continuity or symmetry throughout the visual structure of a motion picture, video image, or still image

Color Grading

Color grading is the process of changing or enhancing the color of a motion picture, video image, or still image either electronically, photo-chemically or digitally to create a specific look.

If you’ve ever seen a movie with a washed-out, de-saturated look, that is an example of color grading. The look itself is called bleach bypass.

Adding Titles and Credits

After you are satisfied with your video you can use the built-in text editor to add credits, overlays, and graphical enhancements to your timeline. The use of this feature is pretty basic, but you have to be mindful of the practicality of its usage.

Feature-length movies typically get a pass for having excessively long credits. Audiences have paid money, so they will sit through opening credits and sometimes stay through the closing credits if there is a compelling reason.

Online viewers will typically not wait. If you cannot get to the point in a reasonable amount of time, they will move on to the next video. So, while it is relatively easy to credit credits and non-essential overlays, stick to a brief 5 to 10 second title screen and be done with it.

Video Encoding

Bit rate is the amount of data used per second of the video.

In this case, kbps stands for kilobits per second, not kilobytes.

Kilobits are essentially eight times the number of kilobytes. You can get kilobytes per second by dividing the number of kilobytes by eight.

1 KB = 8kbps

1000 kilobits = I Megabit

Example: You have a video encoded at 2000kbps (2mbps).

Each second of video takes up 250KB (Kilobytes).

The data speed in kilobits is 2000kb per second or 2mbps..

This, of course is if every second of video equals exactly 2000 kilobits. This only happens when a video is rendered at a constant bit rate or CBR.

Constant Bit Rate (CBR) encoding allows media to stream with a flow of bit rate that is consistent as possible.

Variable bit rate (VBR) encoding allows you to specify a number as the average bit rate and another number as the maximum bit rate. This is a better format for streaming video since some portions of your footage may not be as graphically intense as others. This type of encoding allows those portions of the footage to use less of the Bit rate while more graphically intense sections use more.

The end result will be a high-quality video with a more moderate file size.

Now, keep in mind that encoding at a high bit rate is not a cure for low-quality footage. If you have a relatively low-quality video recorded at a lower bit rate and a lower definition, pumping up the bit rate and resolution will not magically make the image better.

On the contrary, the lack of detail of the original footage will be highlighted, creating a visual image that is perhaps more unsavory than the source file. With that in mind, always create footage with the highest quality sound and video you possibly can.