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How To Get More Out Of Your Post Budget
You’ve made your way through pre-pro, crushed it on set, and now it’s time to finish your video or film! Here’s how to run Post smoothly and keep costs under control.

It’s said that a movie is made three times: once through a script, once on set, and finally in the edit room. All too often a great project sprints through filming, and then struggles to cross the finish line in Post Production as a result of poor planning and budgeting. After the complexity of organizing a successful production, many producers send the crew home only to discover that post is more expensive than they realized.

Fancy editing computers. Lots of hard drives. Beautiful monitors. Studio Headphones. Any guess what the most expensive part of Post Production is?

It’s people. People are expensive! You can rent a high-end computer for a month with the amount of money that an editor is paid every day. So here’s 5 tips that will help you maximize your most valuable resource:

It’s people. People are expensive! You can rent a high-end computer for a month with the amount of money that an editor is paid every day. So here’s 5 tips that will help you maximize your most valuable resource:

1- Start with the right budget.

A good rule of thumb is that you will spend roughly a third of your budget on post production – and if you aren’t you probably should be. As an experienced Post Supervisor, I prefer a bottom-up approach to a top down approach when budgeting. I break down everything I’ll need for the production and then use what I call my ‘list of demands’ to determine what the budget should be. Then I add 15-20% to the total to prepare for any overages. If the final number is significantly lower or higher than 1/3 of the production budget, that’s often a sign that I’m missing something and need to check my work.

Some items I often see overlooked in a budget are software, sound mix, color, music, hard drives, and other peripheral equipment.

2- Talk to your Editor early!

Want Post to run smoothly? Find an editor and loop them into the production before you start shooting! Plenty of editors have experiences cleaning up messes from set that they’d rather not repeat. By looping them in early you can avoid making the same mistakes other productions have in the past. A good editor will ask questions from a different perspective and help make sure the vision on set gets translated effectively into Post. It’s up to personal preference, but I’ve always found it’s great to have editors on set taking notes – it saves them (and you) precious time getting accustomed to the footage.

3- Hire a good Assistant Editor.

Some editing work is creative and complex, and some is simply technical. Organizing media and hard drives, processing clips once they’ve been shot, syncing video and audio and creating proxies are all technical tasks that require zero creativity. A good Assistant Editor will be able to handle all of the technical work and potentially some of the early creative work. You are basically getting some of the editing work at a fraction of the cost. When I was working as an Assistant Editor, I would often get thrown a scene or two to edit. It was a great opportunity for me to practice the craft, and I saved days worth of work for the editors that made twice as much as I did.

Assistant editors get training, editors get help, and the production shaves expensive edit days off their timeline. That’s what I call a win-win-win!

4- Pay enough for it to be done right the first time.

Especially in today’s world where digital content is being made at scale for the lowest cost possible, it’s often appealing to try and save money by hiring cheap editors to work on cheap equipment. Unfortunately, they’re almost always cheap for a reason – it takes time and experience to hone the skills that make a great editor. If you set your rates too low, at best you will have a great edit but it will take much longer. At worst, you’ll have to replace the editor with someone more expensive partway through the project and find your costs ballooning while your deadlines are uncomfortably tight. That’s not a good idea.

And make sure the system you are working with is fast and capable of handling the footage you shot. Make sure you have a vendor in mind in case you need to pick up a rental quickly – if you have a $600/day editor working at half speed because they need a $3000 computer and you provided one worth $1500, you’ll lose the difference in productivity in about a week.

Keep in mind: Different projects require different talents. It’s up to you to determine what kind of talent is needed and what that talent is worth. You can get away with a less experienced editor for simple edits with pre-made assets, but you’ll need a more seasoned editor for multi-cam, graphics and other visual treatments, etc.

5- Schedule well, avoid hell.

A good post schedule can make or break a production. You want to hit all your deadlines, minimize post downtime, and avoid delays. When writing out the post schedule, I start with goalposts and work backwards, keeping track of which deadlines are flexible and which are not. Where possible, I give a day of extra time to each phase of post (Rough Cut, Fine Cut, Lock Cut), so that if the editor got sick there would be time to pivot. Thursdays make great deadline days – it gives a lot more flexibility to push things back a day if warranted. Deadlines should always be end of day if possible – so that when projects get down to the wire it just means a late night for someone. During crunch periods it’s a good idea to keep track of weekends, as you may need them to get you through.

A brilliant schedule is worthless, however, if nobody knows about it. So make sure the schedule and goals are clearly communicated to all stakeholders, especially clients and vendors like sound mix and color who are not privy to the day-to-day machinations of your production. With your core team (the Editor(s) and Assistant) it’s a good idea to check in regularly and make sure they’re on track, especially a day or two before any major deadline.

Sending a weekly Monday morning email outlining the goals for the week and listing any important deadlines is a great way to keep everyone in the loop.

If all this seems like more than you can handle, that’s okay. You may be in need of a Post Supervisor or Post Producer to oversee the process. That’s where I can help. To get in touch, check out my website, AugustFreirich.com


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About August Freirich

Seasoned Post Production Supervisor and Editor with deep technical knowledge, August is an expert on understanding the creative, technical, and budget aspects of post-production and creating ways to make everybody's job easier.
August 4, 2020

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