The World of Post Production
COW Library : Adobe After Effects Techniques : David Roth Weiss : The World of Post Production
You'll hear it said, "Cheaper, faster, better - pick any two." It's often referred to as "the golden paradigm." But the question is, does it still apply? Or are the latest new technologies enabling independents to deliver the very highest quality on-time and under-budget?
The old paradigm suggests that, no matter how much cash, personnel, or resources are thrown at a job, something has to give. Practically speaking, you'd best decide from the very start which two choices will give your production the best chances for success.
The problem is that clients don't want to hear it. They want it all, feel they deserve it all, think they can get it all - and even worse, they want all that and more delivered yesterday.
GIANTS & NOT-SOs
This is not a huge issue for big studios. They can just keep throwing money at problems until they either succeed or go away. But for independents and small businesses, satisfying your most demanding clients can either make or break your business.
At least that used to be true until along came the latest crop of new low-cost, high technology gear: massive hard drives; HD cameras, video cards and monitors; and the newest computers with 64-bit operating systems and dual quad processors. These technologies were sheer fantasy just a short time ago, but they are now coming to market as I write this.
If anyone had said just a year ago that a 1-terabyte hard drive might be available for under $400, I'd have laughed and so would you. But no more. Hitachi's new DeskStar 7K1000 one-gig drives with a MSRP of just $399 are due any day now.
A top-of-the-line 42-inch HD plasma display from Panasonic may have fetched well over $2500 just last year, while a far better version of the same monitor is available today for only $950.
And new dual quad-core workstations - that's eight processors, mind you - are less expensive now than the dual single-core processor machines from just twelve months ago.
The good news is that we seem to have finally achieved the true technological democratization of the industry that we've all been waiting and hoping for.
But I wonder just how much the business of content creation has really progressed. It seems sometimes that we've taken giant leaps forward without really getting ahead.
While the tools are demonstrably cheaper, faster and better, many of the basic tenets of good content creation have been forgotten or abandoned. Conceptualization, scripting, and pre-production are often viewed these days more as a hindrance than a help.
This puts as enormous burden on post-production as more and more of the creation process takes place after the fact and in post - not because it's cheaper, faster or better, but because we can. The old expression, "we'll fix it in post," has given way to, "we'll create it in post."
Unfortunately, the allure and availability of all the new gear has more and more producers rushing out into the field to shoot these days with only half-baked ideas and little notion of what they'll really need to tell their story.
Delirious from the deceptively low cost of glorious HD acquisition, which can easily cloud anyone's good sense and logic, overshooting is almost inevitable. Now you know why those new 1Tb hard drives are going to be so very handy.
On a recent HD feature, a producer I know was working without a script and shooting at a ratio that I estimate to be about two hundred- to-one. For every sixty-minute tape shot, less than twenty seconds would ever make the final cut. That shooting ratio is just fine for a wildlife documentary, but for a lowbudget feature?
Even more absurd was the producer's idea for a quick fix: to start shooting everything with two cameras. According to his logic, other than the rental on the second camera and an operator to run it, going two-camera wouldn't cost him a thing, would certainly speed up the process, and would simply have to make his project better.
Are you beginning to see why affordable access to all this wonderful new technology may not be the answer to everything?
While we're all undoubtedly enriched and empowered in extraordinary ways by the new state of the art, there will never be a substitute for intelligent pre-production, production and post.
Visionary thinking, conceptualization, logistics, and most important, great writing, will always be the mainstays of great media. As technology takes us farther and farther, delivering cheaper, faster and better increasingly requires working smarter.
As the principle of DRW Films, David Roth Weiss has been in the business for thirty-some years, primarily as a director and editor. He is one of the very first Creative COW members.
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