Post Production: How To Get From Your Rough Cut To Polished Work

Having a rough cut is the first goal that you should set out to achieve during the post production phase. Editing a movie is a daunting task that can only be completed in stages; the rough cut is the one that needs to be completed first because all of the decisions that you will make in the other phases are dependent on it. Once it has been completed and approved, you are able to turn your rough cut into polished work.

Step 1: Edit When You're Shooting

The process of editing a movie begins before any footage is even shot. During pre-production, the director will create shot lists and storyboards. It is during this planning stage that he first begins to think about how the final product will come together. He will then use his vision to plan out his shots so that they all edit together smoothly during the edit. This foresight allows him to maintain control over his work.

Step 2: Assemble the Rough Cut

There is a cliche but a true saying that a movie is made three times: once during pre-production (with the shot lists), again during production (when unforeseen compromises/opportunities change the shot list), and finally in post production when all the footage is put together to create the movie that audiences will see. It is with the rough cut that all of the creative decisions in editing are made. Do we cut to a close up or wide shot? Was the actresses performance better in take 5 or take 6? Does this reaction shot that we never thought of including make the scene better? All of these decisions and choices are made for the rough cut.

Step 3: Watch and Change the Rough Cut

Once the rough cut is assembled, watch it over and over again. Take notes about what you thought worked and didn't work and then make the changes. You need to get the materials together that make the best movie. Once you are confident that you have that, you can move on to polishing your work.

Step 4: Trimming Your Clips

The first step in polishing the work is trimming the clips down to their best lengths. Get the timing of the scene right with the performances and make sure that the cuts are smooth and seamless. You want to get everything to be perfect.

Step 5: Add Transitions

Once the clips have been trimmed down to their final lengths, you should add transitions to your video like fades and dissolves. Don't go overboard with them. A few can make a movie better, but a lot can make it cheesy.

Step 6: Create the Effects

Do whatever special effects work needs to be done. Once that is complete, your picture edit should be near complete and you can move on to audio editing. 

Step 7: Add Sound Effects, Music and Foley

Watch the rough edit a lot to see what audio work needs to be done. It ranges from project to project but will most likely include editing the originally recorded audio, creating ADR, and adding sound effects, music and foley. Editing the audio for your project is extremely important. You need to have great sound design to sell the movie to audiences.

Step 8: Color Correction

Once the audio and picture are both complete, you need to perform color correction on the project to make it look its best. The reason that this step is near the end is because you don't want to waste your time color correcting video that won't make the final cut.

Step 9: Watch the Movie over and over Again

Now that the work has been polished, it is still not complete. Take advantage of the fact that you have a deadline and keep watching the movie; do whatever you can to make it better right up until the last second.