If you’ve already read my article on what I learned from shooting Sunset in McDade, my digital workflow comes from some of those lessons.
This article starts before post-production to give some background information.
And keep in mind that I’m an independent filmmaker with little to no budget and varying amounts of crew on set (I’m slowly learning how each new position I use makes life on set much easier). I started shooting guerrilla style with just a DP, a boom op and my wife acting as the AD and Craft Services, and I’ve slowly been adding other folks, like a Script Supervisor, an Art Director/Production Designer, Make-up Artists, Stunt Coordinator and Stuntpeople, even Grips and PAs… lots to learn!
First, we have to start with the Script, for which I use Celtx and nothing else.
Once, the script is nailed down, at least in terms of all the scenes, I make the shot list using the Storyboard tool and (since I own a lot of the Art Packs) I use Sketches for each shot. If the art packs don’t have what I need, I use circles or rectangles or lines and text labels instead.
This shot list, is what I use before production to discuss with my editor and my DP, to ensure I haven’t missed anything, and that it will cut together.
I always put a little description along with the text in terms of where in the dialog or action the shot starts and where it ends, so I know what to shoot, and where I’m at in the script. Where I didn’t do this, I had to match the scene numbers on the shot list to the script, to see where I was. A little description is a time-saver
On set, this shot list is what I use to cross off after shooting, so that by the end of the day I can go back and make sure I got it all covered.
To me, on set, this is way more useful than a storyboard, ‘cos a storyboard will have repeated frames, e.g. in an Over-The-Shoulder situation. Here I know it a pair of shots/setups.
In addition, I use a blocking diagram, also using Celtx’s Sketch tool, to show the lay of the land, where the actors are going to walking around, etc. and to figure out the most economic way of setting up shots… the less setups, the less time to shoot.
So, to clarify, I start off with the blocking diagram, then create the shot list.
At the end of each day, you should look at your shooting schedule (which, if you were smart and got an AD, you’ll have) and make sure all the shots for the day were taken. A shooting schedule is culled from your shot list.
If you don’t have an AD or a shooting schedule, you can look at your shot list, and see if you’ve missed anything.
At the end of the shoot, especially on short films, I take the actors aside and make sure they’ve read all their lines, just to double-check we covered everything.
If you have a script supervisor, they’ll have the shot list and/or shooting schedule (as well as your AD), and you won’t have to do anything funny.
So, the shot list should be all crossed out or checked off, and if you’ve added any new shots, the Script Supervisor will have those logged.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: and this will probably get me flak from industry folks, but I personally find the European system of labeling/numbering shots much more intuitive, and way friendlier inside an NLE (Non-Linear Editor, such as Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro). In Europe they label it as Scene 1 – Shot 2 – Take 5, which all sorts really well inside the NLE.
Now, if you shoot each scene into a separate memory card/media, then this isn’t as much of an issue, but let’s say you had Scene 1B (Scene 1, Shot 2) and then you decided to add a new shot that wasn’t in the list, now this new shot (in the US) gets labeled something like Scene A1B, which won’t sort very well in the NLE. I would say, make it Scene 1B-A instead, and that will sort fine… believe me, when you’re cutting footage, the easier it is to navigate that footage, the better.
This is especially important if you don’t have a bunch of media lying around to shoot each scene into, and shoot a bunch of scenes into the same media… e.g. I own a Firestore FS-100, so I can record an entire short into it without having to dump it.
OK, enough of those details!
Whether I have each scene on a single piece of media, or not, I create 1 folder for the project, and then 1 sub-folder for each piece of media I use. So, in my case, since I’m a Panasonic HVX200 guy, I own a 4GB P2 Card, a 32GB P2 Card and a Firestore FS-100 hard drive. So, if I had footage on all of those, I would create a sub-folder for each.
If possible, I have a folder for each scene — much easier in post. And if I’ve shot over multiple days… I create a folder for each day… most times, it’s a mix.
For example, on the Sunset in McDade shoot, we shot over 3 days, but in Day 1 we shot only 2 scenes, and each scene was shot into a separate media (that’s where I got the idea that it would be great to shoot each scene separately), so I created folders for Scene 1 and Scene 13.
On Day 2 we shot into only 1 media, but we shot a bunch of scenes, so I created a single folder called Day 2.
On Day 3, we shot a bunch of scenes into 2 pieces of media, partly because we forgot to erase one of the sticks from the previous day (had to manually erase clips to make room), so I created a Day 3 – 8GB folder and a Day 3 – 16GB folder.
Since I also shot some Behind the Scenes footage, I created a sub-folder for each of those.
With the folder structure in place, I use P2 Viewer or XDCAM Clip Browser to go through each clip.
I watch the whole clip to look for imperfections such as random things in the background, bad sound, and look for the best performance.
Since I make a point of not rolling the camera until the slate is in place, it’s easy to label it without even having to play the clip.
Once I’m done watching each clip I enter notes as well. I use *** for favorite take, then ** for next best, and I’ll add other notes such as boom in shot, or incomplete take, or not a take (e.g. for random clips that were shot accidentally).
This exercise is important because this is how you know you have all the footage you need to get a good cut. Also, you can see if all the shots came out and if any got corrupted (after all, even film stock can go bad) which is one of the reasons I always shoot 2 takes of pretty much everything… it’s a safety net.
If we took the audio separately from the camera (e.g. field recorder) then I make sure all those files are labeled to match (and since we slate verbally as well, it’s easy to just listen to the beginning and do it). I ended up with filenames like “Sc 1 – Sh 1 – T1 100924_02.WAV” and “Room Tone Sc 1 100924_24.WAV”.
GIVE IT TO THE EDITOR
Once everything is labeled, give it to the editor to cut. He’ll use the script, and the storyboard to put things together, but he may deviate as well, which I personally encourage (unless he was a part of doing the storyboards).
I like to have him do a rough cut first – could be of each individual scene, or the whole thing if it’s a short – and then I’ll look at it, and we’ll tweak it (in person).
That gives the editor room to be creative and show you things you hadn’t thought of before.
As we’re going along, I send the little clips that I get from the editor to whoever is going to do the Sound Design, just so they get an idea of where we’re going… he won’t start doing anything with it until we have a locked cut (otherwise it’ll be a nightmare), but he can start drumming up ideas, looking for clips, playing with stuff, and getting ready.
I also send the same clips to the composer, and for the same reasons. He won’t start composing to those clips, but he can start to get a feel for what’s coming, play with instruments, drum up ideas.
After a bunch of back and forth, we will lock the cut (we may even show it to innocent bystanders and ask for their opinions and then tweak based on that). I don’t ask for what they think I should do, I ask if there are any parts they didn’t understand or like, and why… I’ll figure out the best way to fix those things, if they indeed need fixing (sometimes, you don’t want the audience to know what’s going on… you want them to want to find out).
Sound Design and Composing
With the final cut locked, off it goes to both sound designer and composer. They do their thing, and you get to sit with them and give notes… do you want the music more intense, do you want it more rock ‘n’ roll, more punch here, less punch there.
And once you’re happy with sound effects and music separately, you can to engineer them together. More music here, but there I want more sound effects, and here the dialog really needs to pop out. Or, let’s bring up the music to hide that little sound imperfection.
And once everything is said and done, you had better have a website for your film, and have been posting things regularly to keep folks coming back to the site… you build a fan-base and you have people to eventually support you by purchasing the DVD or merchandise (T-Shirts, hats, etc.)
Think marketing, think distribution – whether it’s youtube and vimeo and myriad other video sites, or submissions to festivals, or a paypal link to buy the DVD… think big. The more people see it, the better. And there are a lot of people out there wanting to be entertained.
I hope this has been of help to you. Let me know if you have any questions.