3 Post Production Lessons from the Creative Mornings Doc (Part 3 of 3)

Finally.  As promised, the third installment of my series on the making of our Creative Mornings documentary “sweet spots & racing saddles.” In part 1 I talked about the “how and why” of making it. In part 2, I covered the lessons learned from the production process. Now, three key post production lessons.

Lesson #1. On the Web, Format Doesn’t Matter (Usually)

This was a “mutt” of a film. It contains footage from…

  • 5 cameras: the Canon c300, 5D Mark II, 7d, T2i and T3i
  • 4 codecs: ProRes LT, ProRes Proxy, XDCAM, DV, and H.264
  • 6 frame rates: 23.98, 29.97, 30, 29.92, 25 and 15

Except for the obvious YouTube clips used in the Steve Martin section, a viewer will be hard-pressed to distinguish which of the shots were with which camera and which codec.

The pitch was one of three sequences shot with the C300.

By the time a video gets compressed for the web, any quality differences you might be able to see will be gone. Heck, even when watching footage on a theatrical screen, some of the most talented and experienced filmmakers from around the world had a hard time figuring out which cameras were which in Zacuto’s latest episode of “Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout.”

Dwain Cox interview footage shot on the 7D

This is a testament to the quality of the 5D Mark II, the T2i and the 7D. But just because the end-product is so close, doesn’t discount the huge advantage of the c300. For this particular shoot, having the C300 allowed us to shoot with available light, bump the ISO and have no noise. The bike shop was very dark. Seeing the scenes we shot, all with available light, doesn’t do it justice. If we had to shoot with a T2i, or even the 5D Mark II, we’d either have to deal with ISO noise, or bring in lots of lights (which wasn’t in the budget. Huge thanks go to LensProToGo for sponsoring our high-end equipment.)

The bike shop sequences were shot with the C300.

Obviously, depending on other post production plans, the format may matter (e.g. will there be a lot of visual effects? Green screen? Etc.). But, in many cases, especially when you’re doing documentary-style shooting like this, where the web is the final distribution channel, if you use the tools according to their strengths, you’ll get a terrific end-product.

The outdoor bike racing scenes shot with the T2i.
A random Creative Mornings attendee unexpectedly recruited to be in our film. Shot with the T3i.

Lesson #2. Color Grading Counts

I’m learning more and more how important color grading is to a project. I’ve always done some sort of color grade and/or color correction on my work. Sometimes it’s just the process of adding certain filters and adjusting. But I’m gaining a finer appreciation for the importance of good color grading even if you want a shot to look “normal.”

I tend to shoot with a flat color profile. Shooting in the C300 C-Log mode is kind of the equivalent. Doing so requires some serious color grading action. One of the particular challenges for this piece were the tennis scenes. The court cast a greenish hue on the actors which we had to compensate for in post. See below.

I should go on record as saying I am NOT a professional  colorist by any stretch of the imagination. So I have no doubt someone out there could make these scenes look even better. But I used a combination of Final Cut 7’s built-in color correction and brightness-contrast filters along with Red Giant Software’s Colorista II to reduce the green hue, add a little natural color to the skin tone, add contrast, and make the blue pop.

Lesson #3 – Target Audience Matters

Ironically I asked a LOT of people for feedback on this. I normally only select a handful of people for feedback. But I think a part of me just wanted to share it with more colleagues than normal because I was so proud of what we accomplished. One thing I learned is that your target audience matters. Take these three feedback remarks:

  • A creative director for a branding agency said, “I absolutely loved it. Its awesome. I didn’t find myself bored or laggin out. The shots were great and engaging and the overall message was awesome. NICE WORK!!!” (For the record, I am NOT referring to Blake Howard of Matchstic who organizes the Atlanta Creative Mornings. Although, Blake really loved it too. 🙂 )
  • A well-known event and corporate filmmaker said he loved the content and b-roll, but in the beginning it felt like a seminar (which is funny, because it technically IS a seminar. 🙂 ) Eventually he got over it. He loved the end-credit music. He also pointed out the rolling shutter issues during the bike scenes (isn’t that just like a DSLR filmmaker?).
  • An indie filmmaker buddy of mine in Hollywood loved the imagery, but felt the whole thing was kind of slow. Although he couldn’t really figure out what he’d cut. He was also not crazy about outtakes at the end. He is so over outtakes during credits.

The general feedback all around was definitely positive. Most of those came from people specifically in the creative community (for whom the video was made).

A Terrific Experience

All around, the making of this film was a terrific experience. I got to work with a great team, got to know a fascinating creative, and was fed extremely well at the Chick-fil-A headquarters (quite possibly the best part of the whole experience. 🙂 )

11 thoughts on “3 Post Production Lessons from the Creative Mornings Doc (Part 3 of 3)

  1. Hey Ron, excellent post. I really enjoyed the documentary and very interested in your first lesson…Format doesn\’t matter

    I am getting ready to shoot a documentary starting next week here in Dallas, where I will be following 4 HS football players on their quest for a State Championship. It will be a 4 month project. It will have a lot of interviews, of players, parents, coaches, and then a lot of actual football action shots during the games. I will be using 3 main cameras, a new FS700, FS100 and the Sony NX5U (my work horse for action filming – 20X zoom – great for football).

    Normally when I shoot the annual highlight video, i do everything in 30p (29.97).

    Since I will be shooting interviews and behind the scenes shots (off the field) which I would normally shoot in 24p, would you recommend that I shoot the entire video in 30p (29.97) or all the interviews in 24p and the action in 30p (since 30p seems to be better for action)?

    The finished product will be an online video (Vimeo/YouTube) and DVD/Blu-rays.

    Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Whenever possible use the same format for all your shooting. The only reason I had so many here was because 1) I didn’t have the C300 the whole time and 2) for some of the b-roll I used footage from projects I shot a few years ago on the 5DM2. My shooting preference is 24pm (which technically is really 23.976, but who’s counting).

      Secondly, I’ve never heard of 30p being better for action. I know a higher shutterspeed may be ideal for fast action scenes, but I don’t know if a 30 fps vs. 24 fps is that big a deal.

      Hope that helps. And thanks for the kind words about the film.

      1. Hey Ron, thanks for the quick reply. Joe Simon said to me one time on another project that he used 30p and 60p on action sports, depending upon the look he wanted. I guess if you are getting more frames per second, you get a smoother look. I’ll do some more online checking. thanks again

        1. If Joe said that, must be something to it. I could see that when you compare 24 fps and 60 fps. Don’t know how big the difference between 24 and 30. The higher frame rate is one reason Peter Jackson went with 48 fps for The Hobbit. But, there was some concern from some folks who had seen the early footage. Ultimately it depends on the overall feel you’re going for.

          1. I think your comment about keeping the format the same is the most important. When I shot the Tony Romo love story I actually filmed them playing tennis too (shot at 720/60p) and then brought it into a 24p sequence and it worked out great. I think blending 24p and 30p is where it gets tricky. And you are right, the overall feel and look is key…more experimenting to do. Thanks again!

  2. I hope this is helpful http://www.steves-digicams.com/knowledge-center/video-frame-rates-24p-25p-30p-60i.html#b Ron please up your game, this is like film school -100. We covered this in my first cinematography class. I really do enjoy your posts, and I don’t mean to be a troll, but posts like these make me question your “expertise” in this industry. I know you talk about filmmaking alot but do you actually make alot of films? Because if you are just learning about skin tone, color correcting, and target audiences it definitely raises an eyebrow. I like skydiving, but I wouldn’t try to teach anyone after a handful of jumps. Not trying to be rude. Just something to consider.

    1. My title may have confused you. I often choose titles that appeal to the general public. I didn’t really learn these things for the first time on this job. I probably should have titled it: 3 Lessons from the Creative Mornings Doc. My point was just to illuminate three key things filmmakers making similar projects should consider.

      If you’re concerned about my “expertise,” all you have to do is peruse the Film & Video category (click the link in the subheader) for the breadth of topics I cover regarding filmmaking. Some are basic, some are intermediate, and some are more advanced. I try to write articles that are accessible to my wide range of readers whose skillset covers the gamut.

      As far as how many films I make, check my main Vimeo channel: http://vimeo.com/channels/daredreamer. I don’t write about everyone because not everyone has something worth teaching.

      It’s great you learned all this stuff in Filmmaking 100. But for some of my readers, this blog IS their Filmmaking 100. As the subtitle says, this blog is the art and BUSINESS of filmmaking and photography. If the filmmaking posts are too elementary for you, just read the business posts then.

      Thanks for the comment.

    2. On the off chance others might also be confused, I’ve changed the title accordingly. Although I did find your comment a little off-putting, it did make me re-evaluate how I title my posts from now on. So for that I do thank you.

  3. I was gong to suggest that, but this is your blog. Obviously you have put a lot of work into it and I respect that and don’t feel as though it is my place. However it seems as though you talk about weddings a lot, when was the last time you filmed a wedding? You used to do great work (in the wedding arena) which is why I started to follow you on twitter. Now it seem as though you don’t do any weddings anymore yet have a bunch of advice on the industry; and are more interested in your “image” and the attention brought to it rather than bringing attention to the work itself. For example, you seem to re-hash old stories often on twitter, for nefarious purposes which seem to just to draw attention to yourself (i.e. the Epson videographer in the way ad which you have ran at least in 2 separate instances). All I am saying is that this is the impression by not only by myself but colleagues in the industry. You are right in that this blog would serve well for someone who maybe didn’t go to film school and I credit you for that and “no” you don’t have to go to film school to create a film. All I have to say is that it appears as though you just threw in the towel with regard to weddings and decided to offer up advice in an industry you are no longer a part of. Please correct me if I am wrong, also please feel free to delete this post as it does not reference the article at hand.

    Respectfully Yours,

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