RSS icon Bullet (black)
  • The Endless Battle: Production vs. Post

    Posted on November 28th, 2009 Mike No comments

    I belong to an Internet discussion group called the CML, or Cinematography Mailing List. This is a group that was started a little over 10 years ago by Geoff Boyle, a fine cinematographer from the U.K., and has since grown to thousands of members. The membership largely consists of industry professionals, primarily in the camera department, but also some who work in other areas of production and have a personal or professional interest in cinematography and the many things that surround it. There are many, many very informative and lively conversations on this group, and it sometimes gets a bit heated. When that happens, the cause is often (certainly not always, but often) the endless misunderstandings between those working in production, and those working in post production.

    It is a fact of film and television life that a severe gulf exists between production and post production. Having worked on both sides of this – sometimes, as when I’m doing visual effects supervision, on the same project – I feel I have something of a unique perspective on this seemingly endless conflict. I think it all starts and ends with misunderstanding, but this misunderstanding comes from very specific differences in both the working conditions and resulting perspectives between those working in two very different ends of the creative process. For those in production, post production people are like office workers. They work in relatively calm, clean, comfortable environments (true, to an extent), they don’t have to constantly answer to a producer (mostly false), they work “bankers’ hours” (everything’s relative), and all they do is complain about the footage they receive without having a clue as to how difficult it was to shoot it (sometimes true, but not generally). From post production’s standpoint, the production unit works hard, but they just don’t pay attention enough (nothing could be further from the truth), and they make a lot of mistakes that post production then has to “fix” (define “fix”). In general, production sees themselves as working inhuman hours (generally true) under ridiculous time pressure (also true), having to deal with sometimes difficult personalities (also true), and having to always get it right the first time (largely true). Post production sees themselves as the ones who really put the material together and make it work (true), but who are underappreciated (definitely not true) and anonymous (isn’t everyone?), and constantly saving everyone’s butt (well, I wouldn’t say constantly..). Production doesn’t trust post to leave their good work alone, and post doesn’t trust production to get everything they need.

    This rather contrived battle between production and post has been going on for years, but as one who has lived on both sides, I can truly say that it’s quite pointless. Everyone has their job to do. Nobody is trying to destroy anyone else’s work. Everyone has their own specific expertise, and should be encouraged to make their own unique and valuable contribution. Production doesn’t create a final product, and post doesn’t create the raw material. Without post, you have a bunch of disconnected clips that may on their own look very nice, but need to be put together with skill, storytelling sensitivity, and care in order to create a coherent final product. And yes, sometimes that final product takes a somewhat different direction that what might have been planned way back during preproduction – and therein lies movie making magic. I would also add that without the amazing contributions of post sound, all you have is a bunch of pretty pictures, not a real, living, breathing movie. So rather than making the foolish assumption that only the people one sees every day actually care about the final product, we should all take a deep breath and talk to those we’re ultimately working with, regardless of what department they’re in.

    Leave a reply