Finishing first feature - post-production heads-up for newbies; soooo much work

We're finishing post on our first feature at the moment; finding that post-production is a hell of a lot of work.

For any newbies, we're finding that we're spending 2x to 3x more time on post than actual filming!!!

I'm sure that's not a surprise to the experienced folks but it was a real eye opener for us.

Audio-post has particularly taken a huge amount of time. If only we had had an Alcove Audio or AudioPostExpert on our crew. ADR was time consuming. We tried Foley but ours was not good; ended up sourcing recorded sounds from the web and using those. We ended up with 16 or so audio tracks.

Our crew
Just two. One of those two was also our lead acting talent so her 'crew' input was all in post-production.

How did I boom the mic?
I didn't. I was behind the camera. I manned the audio recording too, had headphones on etc but I could not also boom the mic. We shot carefully and used stands to bring the mic out-of-shot within 2 feet or so (ideally) of our talent. If our talent moved and spoke; we had to lav it.

Was this ideal?
No but we're new in town and had few contacts at the time. Funding for crew was out. We shot a lot at night after work. We made the call to crew ourselves.

It's been such a huge amount of work. To be honest, I had not realized it would be so much. We had few free evenings over the past few months; few free weekends. It's all been either post-prod, post-prod, post-prod.

What do we have to show for our 6+ months work?
A finished micro-budget feature. If only we had budget... We have put much blood, sweat and tears into it. It's decent but it's no blockbuster, Saw, Another Earth ($200k+ budget or so) or Paranormal Activity etc. It has a good story (the screenwriter is an experienced one) and for a cast of 2; it's very very good. But against the $200k+ budget folks...

What's next?
We're looking at what festivals to submit to. The tier one festivals require a DCP - we're not sure if we have the budget for that. Most of the features selected at the tier one festivals (Sundance etc) have $500k+ budgets. So what to do? We'll aim for the smaller festivals and our local ones.

Show us a clip/trailer?
I will. I'll post one for you to see. We need to finish the post first, get the DVDs sent off. We're doing that all this week and next (for the early deadlines). We then need a break, then I'll upload a clip.

For those interested in the gear we used (most purchased on-line at B&H; great store!)...

  • Canon 6D ... worked great for us; would have prefered a 5Dmk3 but budget would not stretch
  • Small HD AC7 field monitor ... we liked it; Dave Dugdale scored the Ikan VK7i much higher (do a google for his review)

  • Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 IF EX DG HSM ... our main lens; it's not a prime but it's an excellent lens; 24-70mm was a great workflow help
  • Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens ... pricey but good macro lens with image stablization
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Autofocus Lens ... excellent lens; we did not use it much though

  • Audio-Technica AT4053B Hypercardioid Microphone ... excellent mic for indoor shooting (the bulk of our content)
  • Tascam DR-40 ... great recorder for your $; pre-amps are not great; we set pre-amps to 0 and used MM1 for gain
  • Sound Devices MM1 ... pre-amp; great pre-amp for your $
  • Rode Videomic Pro ... for reference audio (saved our bacon a few times)
  • Sennheiser EW100 G3 Wireless Lav System ... excellent wireless lav kit
  • K-Tek KE-110CC Avalon Series Aluminum Boompole with Internal Coiled XLR ... we didn't get to use this
  • Sony MDR-7506 headphone ... recommended by the audio pros here as a great budget headphone; worked great for us
  • Rycote INV-7 InVision Microphone Suspension for Stand and Boompole Mounting
  • Rycote Standard Hole Softie Windscreen ... excellent softie/windscreen for the price

Stands etc
  • Magnus VT-4000 Tripod with fluid head ... great value for the price; fluid head is not silky smooth but it's good for the price-point
  • On-Stage SB9600 Tripod studio boom stand ... we used this to get the mic as close to talent as we could
  • Cullmann Nanomax 250 Aluminum Tripod ... great tripod for low and med-level shots
  • Slik Mini-Pro V Tripod with 2-Way Pan/Tilt Head ... mini-tripod; we used it mostly to hold mic during low shoots
  • Oben ACM-2400 4-Section Aluminum Monopod ... good value high quality monopod
  • Blackbird Camera Stabilizer

  • 6 x Manfrotto 394 Low Profile Quick Quick Release Adapter with 410PL Plate ... excellent quick release system
  • 4 x SanDisk Extreme SDHC Class 10 (45MB/s) 32GB ... high-speed card
  • 2 x Transcend 32GB Class 10 SDHC CARD ... lower-speed card; fine for audio recording
  • Vello IR remote for Canon ... great value wireless remote
  • Ikan single in/dual out HDMI splitter ... low cost splitter to 2x field monitors
  • 8 x Watson LP-E6 Battery ... much cheaper than Canon batteries and have served us well
  • Pearstone Duo Charger ... charges 2x LP-E6 batteries at a time; much cheaper than Canon version

  • GoPro Hero 3+ Black ... for the specs stunning value; wish we had purchased one at the start of the shoot (we bought near end); battery life is terrible!
  • Anker 2nd Gen. Astro3 12000mAh External Battery ... can power a GoPro for 10+ hours
  • GoPro App ... control and monitor GoPro wirelessly; free app

  • Impact Multiboom Light Stand and Reflector Holder - 13 feet
  • Impact 5-in-1 Collapsible Oval Reflector - 42x72"
  • 8 x softboxes

  • Adobe Creative Suite 6 ... great editing suite; Premier Pro is outstanding; Audition is excellent

  • Samsung NP900X4C-A02CA Intel Core i7 3517UM 8GB 256GB SSD Win7-64bit ... great laptop; we would have preferred an editing desktop but we needed a laptop
  • 3x Seagate 3TB external drives ... CS6 works much faster when you don't tie it down to just a single hard drive; 3x additional drives is recommended by many; ensure USB3, not USB2
  • 2x Seagate 3TB external drives ... 2x backup drives in case disaster strikes
  • Philips 273P3Q; 27" monitor ... our editing monitor; make sure you calibrate whatever monitors you use
  • BenQ RL2450HT; 24" monitor ... we used this as an additional field monitor on-set most days
  • Samsung Galaxy S3 cell phone ... installed GoPro app; used my personal phone to monitor GoPro feed and control it
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Staff Member
Congrats on finishing!

Post-prod definitely takes a long time! My first feature we shot for 20 days, and post-prod took 6 months. For my second feature (shooting in Sept & Oct of this year), I'm expecting 25-27 days of shooting, and probably 8 months of post-prod. And I'm sooooo NOT a patient person :)
Sounds like you're being realistic about the filmfest circuit. Good call. :)

'Grats on finishing your first feature! Gonna have a trailer up somewhat soon? I wanna see some footage! :yes:

And that's the format you'd hand to any theater with a digital projector.

Ours has been all digital for over 2 years (17 screens of it), most of the rest of our company (Marcus) has been migrated already (I do still have an operating 35mm projector under my care -- it'd take a bit to get it up and running, but it's in place and the lamp strikes and the sprockets turn :) ).

Post really can wear on you and seems insurmountable… but that's why this is a lifestyle for folks like us. There's no other option and the hardship makes the successes sweeter!
Awesome!!! I'm really happy for you for finishing your first feature, this is a big milestone.

As far as fests are concerned, I definitely recommend sticking to ones that you'd actually attend. Not much point in it, otherwise. I don't think it's insane to submit to one or two of the big-name fests, though (think Slamdance, not Sundance). As far as DCP is concerned, you can cross that bridge if/when you get to it. You don't need to make a DCP to submit your film. You only need to make a DCP to screen the film, and if you get into a big-name fest, I think it'd be money well spent (or time well spent, if you follow the DIY method).

I look forward to seeing clips and trailers. Good luck!
For any newbies, we're finding that we're spending 2x to 3x more time on post than actual filming!!!

Audio-post has particularly taken a huge amount of time. If only we had had an Alcove Audio or AudioPostExpert on our crew.

It probably wouldn't have made much difference as far as the amount of time needed is concerned! For low budget TV documentary series, reality shows and soaps there's a kind of factory production line in audio post which at a push can see us getting through a 30-40min show in as little as 2 or 3 days. For higher quality TV dramas and films though you are looking at quite a lot of time for audio post. For TV dramas, micro and low budget films a reasonable time frame for audio post is 12-16 weeks. For high budget films (blockbusters, etc.) you're probably looking at closer to 5 months.

Due to ignorance and/or budget restrictions, it's common for relatively inexperienced low budget filmmakers to only allow 4 weeks or so for commercial audio post, which can be done but is more along the lines of a rushed "mix and fix" hack job. At this point, spending the money on commercial audio post may not be the most efficient use of an audio post budget! I know this isn't applicable to the OP's situation but I thought it might be worth "putting it out there" for the benefit of others.

If only we had budget... We have put much blood, sweat and tears into it.

While we're on the subject, I'm often asked about audio post budgets.Usually phrased along the lines of; "what percentage of the film's production budget is usually spent on audio post?". There's no real answer to this because the cost of audio post varies depending on the film. However, talking in very general terms, the size of the audio post budget is commonly inversely proportional to the size of the film's production budget. A $200m blockbuster would likely spend around 4% of the budget on audio post, whereas with a $1-2m feature 10-12% is more likely. By the time we get down to feature film budget sizes below roughly $150k or so, we're looking at increasingly impractical percentages for commercial audio post!

Anyway, congrats on finishing, it's no mean achievement!