Fixing it in post

Once uttered by a director or producer during a shoot, the problem, however big, goes away for the production crew and falls smack into the lap of the often-forgotten editing few

The ultimate excuse, escapism, crutch or stupidity in our industry is to “fix it in post.” Once uttered by a director or producer during a shoot, the problem, however big, goes away for the production crew and falls smack into the lap of the often forgotten editing few. These brave professionals, who spend their careers in windowless existences, rely on their knowledge and skill in repairing the mistakes that should have been thought about and evaluated during all of the pre-production lunches.

The ultimate post-operation I sat in on was in the Los Angeles area at a house that was colorizing early movies. The frame-by-frame color setting and recording was perhaps the most tedious thing I have seen in the broadcast industry and required enormous skill at an extraordinary expense.

Whereas all editors can color-correct, remove scratches, and get rid of most of the rain that wasn't supposed to be there on the shoot, it is time-consuming work, which most producers or directors don't want to sit in on. But when it comes to actually fixing the flow of video or audio, the lack of a director's presence — which happens only too often — usually means that the work has to be redone at a later session to suit a vision that the editor had no knowledge of.

But there is another “fix(ing) it in post” that most broadcasters and studio staff are unaware of. That work — as you read this issue of the magazine — is in the pre-production process now. It will be in production in March, and the first raw edit will be seen at NAB in April. What am I talking about? Every new product that is on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center, April 18 to 21.

You have to have been in the business of making equipment for our industry to understand that some companies are better than others in the organized, or disorganized, manner in which they turn up for trade shows like NAB. I have worked for companies where:

  • Some of the new products on display were totally non-operational, but were in pretty boxes.
  • The product was not functional but the result could be “simulated” for participant viewing.
  • The product was functional (sometimes with design engineers, soldering iron in hand, working at the booth well after midnight before the show opening), but there were still missing functions or features, or the product just didn't meet the expected specifications.

Rarely have I seen a fully-functional new product at NAB, but that could usually be remedied by the time IBC rolled around.

Once there was interest in the product, which meant that customers wanted on-site demonstrations, the post-show fixes would have to be rapidly played out. On occasion, the product would go no further towards reality, with multiple lots of “I told you so” passing back and forth on post-mortem flights out of the city. (It's remarkable how much people will talk about their business on flights from Las Vegas, even though they should obviously be aware that the airplane is full of both potential customers and competitors. I've learned extraordinary things just by keeping my ears open in the gate areas at McCarran International Airport.) There was a classic example in this regard at one of the final Dallas NABs, when a Florida transmitter manufacturer just completely walked away from its booth. All the equipment was left, as was the booth and its promotional materials, until, finally, the convention center staff scooped the entire contents of the 20ft by 10ft space into a dumpster.

There's nothing inherently wrong or immoral about showing a product at a trade show that isn't 100 percent ready for prime time — unless, of course, it isn't but the vendor tells you that it is. And most savvy customers should expect that there will be kinks that need to be ironed out before any delivery can be made. The vendors will also be listening closely to your inputs, seeing either the benefits of adding (or removing) features that are desired (or will never be used) before finalizing the design — or thinking about changes in the next version to come.

This kind of fixing it in post is not nearly as expensive as in a shot production, but be aware that it happens and will continue to happen. Now, about those pre-production lunches …

Paul McGoldrick is an industry consultant based on the West Coast.

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