From the golden days of movie-making, to the race from analog to digital, the film industry has always had unwanted headaches. It’s just the nature of creating art for a living. The clients and viewers we create for, want results and they want them to be budget-friendly. In production, there’s always going to be elements that slow us down. The more complications there are, the more time we aren’t exactly living our Hollywood dreams out. It’s easy to rush and it’s very easy to slip where it really counts. It’s important that in light of all of this we don’t develop a bad habit of relying on post-production and technology to fix our mistakes. It’s easy to look for crutches in a pinch but we all need to make sure that we are doing our jobs the best we can and stop making a habit or relying on gear and post-production to save us from bad habits.
The first thing that pops into my mind is RAW recording, a better back brace than your Easyrig. Accidentally cook the highlights? That’s okay you used RAW, right? Not necessarily, and I thought the same for a long time. For instance, on my shoot “Vault” with fashion designer Asher Levine. The shoot ran behind schedule as they often do, and towards the end of the night, it was a rush to the finish line. Normally, I prefer to check my false color on my monitor and also make sure I am protecting my shadows from losing too much detail. The pressure was on and there wasn’t much time or resources to bring in extra light or crank up my ISO. I ended up totally crushing my shadows and even having the midtones on my subjects way under 45IRE. I remembered thinking “I’m a little under but I think I can push the image in post and still have it clean. Was I able to regain them in post? Not so much, it caused the footage to become noisy and mushy. Needless to say, had I just taken a little longer to walk in my key light, despite the time crunch my work would’ve come out as good as the first half of the day where things were sailing smooth and I relied more on procedure than gear.
Furthermore, in the race to resolution, spec lovers praise glorious high resolutions like 5K, 6K and the awe-inspiring 8K. 8k footage throws a wide net, with the maximum amount of detail capture. It’s not uncommon to see filmmakers shooting wide on 8k and reframing it in post to save time on shot lists and multiple camera rigs. But the issue with this method of cutting corners (no pun intended) is in the lens choice. Compression and distortion are very easy to forget about when your first AD is happy about the time savings. Only, when you get to post and rewatch will you notice your model’s suddenly huge and unflattering forehead on 40 percent of your shots. After learning my lesson multiple times, I finally asked myself what my intentions were. Did I want to race to the finish and get everything done as quickly as possible or would I rather shoot with intentionality and make sure that any choice I make from lenses to lighting were for the integrity of the project’s visual success? It’s that sort of mindset that will prevent bandaids in post-production.
Over the years technology has continued to evolve and innovate with new cool new plugins and special effects, I’ve found myself much thinking that most of the work I was drooling over on Vimeo was only so amazing because of what was going on in the editing room.. While our brave friends who see no sunlight in the post department work hard and are truly talented, it should not be where all of the magic happens. Think of every element of your image as an ingredient. Blended together they all help to make stunning images, but take one out and something is off. You can use a sugar substitute, but you’re not fooling anyone. So why would you do the same here? Without a good art department or attention to detail, your shots may feel bland and lack substance. Leave out proper lighting or light control and you’re left with anything but ideal results. If a director doesn’t do their best to get the performances they need from talent, there are only so many tricks up an editor’s sleeve to hide this. Great images are just as much the direct result of everything that happens on set to what happens in the editing process. The same can also be said for what happens in the pre-production phase.
Don’t get attached to the easy way out and never forget what your intentions are with your work. Tools can only be so much without the right mechanics.. In the days of Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” projects were shot on film and on location. This meant that cinematographers had little to no margin for error. Every little nuance had to be on point. There were no beefy codecs to save you from incorrect white balance or exposure. You couldn’t just say “let’s just warp stabilize this shot” you had to get it right and you only had so many shots to do so. So why with more technology do we make so many silly errors today? It’s all a development of bad habits. The tools we have today are amazing things and I don’t want anyone to think I am not an advocate for them, but they are what they are….tools. They should never replace the artist or their intention. Tools only help to make our jobs easier.
No matter if you’re a one-man band or big production it’s important to put emphasis on all of the ingredients that go into your project.The smallest things can hold all the weight in the final success of whatever it is you’re working on. The pressure to deliver on time and under budget can easily catch up with us in day and age where we have access to so much. Hell, you can order a light on Filmtools and have it at your doorstep sometimes within hours. it’s important to slow down make sure you’re not making stupid little mistakes or rushing art that that hasn’t reached its potential. Utilize the good people around you to get the job done and treat the tools you have as what they are…tools. They will not do everything for you and there is certainly a reason why clients and companies pay you to do the job not your equipment. Save yourself the hassle and just get it right on set and on time. It doesn’t matter what department you work in or even if you work as a solo act, everything you do on the big day has a trickle-down effect.