“We’ll fix it in post,” is a term that is used a little too often for my taste. While it’s true that you can do some amazing effects work with a decent desktop computer, it shouldn’t be the solution to a challenge that arises on set. In a recent interview with Ain’t it Cool News, Steven Spielberg spoke about some of the challenges he faced on the set of Jaws in 1975. The filmmakers experienced frequent delays and setbacks due to weather, tides, and mechanical complications with the shark. As a result of theses delays, the team used their time to continue to refine the script, and to figure out creative workarounds in order to overcome some of those obstacles. This process is one of the reasons why Jaws became such a great film.
Almost 40 years later, many of these obstacles can be overcome, or fixed, in post-production. To that, Spielberg said:
“I think that CG is a tool that often becomes a weapon of self-destruction… I’ve actually suffered from the wealth of riches that CG can give a filmmaker to almost over use the technology to get everything out of our brains and on to the screen when sometimes what’s fun is being denied your best ideas and then you’ve got to fall back on a compromise, which often turns out to be an even better idea.”
Working in video, I’ve done my fair share of “fixing”—from adjusting the exposure and color, to removing or adding things to a scene. I’ll admit, while sometimes these fixes are necessary, and a fun challenge for an editor, I think that time in post-production could be better spent.
Staying on budget, while producing the best possible spot or video, is always the number one goal. That becomes a challenge when expensive post-production time is used for fixing instead of finishing. I prefer to put time into making the final product better, enhancing it with great visual effects, and bringing it to another level beyond the storyboards and raw footage. In other words: if you need a bigger boat, get one on set.
Post-production is the last step in the process, and the one that is most affected by the deadline. Any time spent fixing inevitably takes away from time that could have been used to turn a good video or TV spot into a great one. Thinking through a concept in the pre-production stages, fleshing out possible problems ahead of time, and working closely with the director of photography and editor up front can alleviate these problems. And if an issue arises on set, it may be worth spending a few minutes thinking through it, instead of spending a few seconds to say, “we’ll fix it in post.”