By Gary King, May 26th, 2010

I’ve been asked by a few people to cover the post-production workflow. I already talked about the shooting, editing and test screening process. So now I plan to address the score and sound design component and how everything — in theory — comes together in the end.

Here’s a snapshot of the final project in Final Cut Pro: (remember to keep your dialogue, sound f/x, music all on separate tracks)

This review is all just based on my experiences as I’m sure if I had a post-production supervisor and budget to hire a post-house things would be a lot different.

SCORE

Tackling the score with two different composers (Ken Lampl and Jonathan “Electronathan” Sorge) was no easy task. First off, I had to see if they were even open to this idea.

The reason I was interested in having two composers is I enjoy both their work for different reasons and skill sets — and it’d be an easier time commitment for each (if they split the duties) as they would be doing it as a favor for me. I showed them the rough cut to see if it was something they’d be interested in working on…thankfully they liked it and found it to be a great challenge they wanted to take part in. The main factor that I believe hooked them is that “Lovely” is definitely a score-driven film.

Admittedly, I was a little afraid to even bring up the idea — but knowing each guy personally helped make this a realistic option. They are true gentlemen and professional so I knew approaching them about it would at least be entertained. However, it’s a very risky thing to ask any creative person to join forces (almost like asking 2 filmmakers to co-direct together) — as it leads to potential conflicts. After a few phone calls to clearly define the roles/responsibilities and give each their own autonomy over specific scenes we were off to the races.

We all reviewed the film together in late November 2009. Then they took several movie files from me in order to work separately in their studios to create sketches of ideas. I let them work their magic until January 2010 when I checked in and previewed their cues. There was definitely some back and forth of feedback and revised cues — and by the end of February the score was locked and I was truly amazed.

In fact, the score is now so alive and adaptable with each scene in the film….it moves seamlessly from cue to cue (composer to composer). To me there is no sense of schizophrenia with the score – or at the very least their styles gel quite nicely together where it doesn’t take me out of it. In the end, the audience feedback is just that they truly enjoyed “the score” which is a win for everyone.

SOUND DESIGN

Dialogue clean up and sound f/x were completed by a talented music student — Keith Ukrisna — that I had met while he was interning for a post-studio I was using for “New York Lately“. I delivered the film to him and off he went.

We primarily used Google Wave for our entire communication/review process. There were definitely some lengthy waves going on, but for the most part it helped us keep organized over the entire scope of the film.

Keith spent the majority of time working on cleaning up the audio (primarily the dialogue scenes). Note: Remember to record “room tone” so that you can lay it under your scene to help smooth things out. He worked wonders on some of the scenes. Thankfully we had pretty clean sound throughout, but there were definitely a few locations that had some issues (ex: bar refrigerator, traffic, etc)

I asked him to put all his ideas into the sound design — and then we could scale back as needed. I preferred him to explore the soundscape as I thought there would be things he developed that I never would think of — which happened. There were definitely times where I did say I wasn’t too fond of things and they were removed.

It was an easy process/workflow. We divided the entire film into separate sequences for him to work on and referenced every shot with a timecode window.

Once sound was approved for each scene, Keith would deliver the sound design files associated with the scene (referencing the timecode on where the file should be plopped in to the timeline to sync up with picture).

The only drawback in asking a student to work on your project is they have school and other activities that may cause delays if you’re on a strict timeline. But for me, the cost-saving advantages far outweighed any hard deadline — even though I kept him on one to keep things on track. Keith did a phenomenal job and I plan to work with him again.

FINAL MIX

I did the final mixing myself on Final Cut Pro. Not the ideal whatsoever but it worked. I had all the separate files (music, sound design, dialogue) on discrete tracks so I could easily mix the levels to what I needed. And since the film is in stereo 2.0 (and not some complex 5.1 or 7.2 mix) I felt I could handle it.

Again, not my choice to do it (I’d really prefer someone else) — but to save money and not burn any favors — I believed I could spend about a week on it. If I had any trouble I had friends willing to help out which was a great safety net.

AFTERTHOUGHTS

The best part was at a recent sneak preview of the film we had the audience comment on how great the music and sound was — which is an incredible testament to my team. They were truly amazing to work with and I hope I can keep them around (and pay them next time!). Sometimes I have to take a step back to really appreciate the amount of talented people that are willing to work with me for very low (or no) pay. I definitely don’t want this to be a regular thing and — as evidenced with my next project “How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song” — I’m able to move up and gain a little funding which I’m more than happy to share with the people who’ve been there the whole time believing in what I’m doing.

That’s sometimes the best part — to look around at the people who were there with you from the beginning….and to see everyone moving up together. Helping each other along the way. That’s independent filmmaking.

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Posted in Storytelling distribution editing post-production production journal

Gary King is a contemporary DIY American filmmaker whose work is known for powerful performances with an emphasis on a strong, visual style. He has written, directed and produced several critically acclaimed feature films as well as award-winning short films.

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