The post-production supervisor’s role in a remote world

As the world of video production has undergone dramatic shifts in the wake of the global pandemic, many people’s roles have suddenly shifted even though they still work under the same titles.

The day-to-day workflow has changed dramatically for post-production teams who are now finding themselves hunkered down at home instead of in an editing suite, trying to communicate with each member of their team through zoom calls instead of in-suite meetings.

For post-production supervisors, this change has been quite stark, with their workflow taking on an entirely new shape as the world of post-production doesn’t look to be heading back towards in-person collaboration anytime soon.

What does a post-production supervisor do?

A post-production supervisor is the main point of communication, supervision, and organization for the entire post-production workflow on a project. Similar to a production coordinator’s role during active production, they communicate between the producers, director, video editors, visual effects teams, and even the accounting department to ensure that each element is moving forward as planned and any changes are effectively dispersed to all interested parties.

It is not a particularly creative role, but it is an entirely necessary one. Post-production supervisors oversee not only a sometimes massive amount of people, but also often massive amounts of money, as they diligently track the post-production budget throughout the entire post-production process. It is their job to ensure that the post-production process moves along smoothly and within budget, and that all deadlines are met.

They are the traffic-control directors of the media world, working closely with nearly every person in the post-production world to control the “traffic” that is the post-production workflow. 

What does a post-production workflow look like?

While each production house may do things a bit different, a standard post-production workflow will look something like this:

Step 0: Dailies Edits

We’re putting this as step 0 because it’s technically part of the shoot workflow. At the end of each shoot day, the line-producer or on-set staff send all the footage shot that day to the dailies editor who processes the footage and compiles a reviewable database of all footage shot that day. Some dailies editors will even compile rough-cuts of the scenes shot that day so the director can see how that days footage cuts together.

This step is handled by the post-production staff but is critical to the overall success of the shoot as it identifies potential post-production problems that can be fixed during production instead of after.

Step 1: The Assembly Edit

This is where the project first comes together. Typically, the assembly editor will work with the director and producers to take all the footage shot for a project and assemble it into the first draft that tells the story the director is trying to tell.

Step 2: Color, Graphics and Visual Effects

Once the director and editor achieve “picture lock,” that is, they have finalized exactly what the visual order and pacing of all the shots will be, the footage passes to the visual effects team (VFX) and colorists. The visual effects team adds elements digitally that don’t exist in the raw footage, and the colorist makes the footage match the intended mood and color palate of the director’s vision.

Step 3: Sound Editing

Sound editing is a critical process in the post-production workflow. At this stage, sounds are added in to enhance elements of the story that must be heard, whether they are seen or unseen. This can be everything from foley, which is added sounds like footsteps or clothing rustling, to dialogue re-recordings. This is typically handled by the sound editor and their assistants.

Step 4: Final Edits

Once the film is assembled and the graphics and sounds have been added in, a final “polishing edit” is done where transitions are added, soundtrack music is dropped in, the sound mixer delivers a final polished mix of all sounds, and everything finally comes together to resemble a finished project.

Step 5: Final Approvals and Delivery

Approvals happen throughout the post-production process, with the director and producers often involved in nearly every step of the process signing off on different elements, but at the very end is when you get the final nods of approval before the project is sent off to be distributed.

All-in-all, it’s a highly collaborative process, and the post-production supervisor must oversee every element at every step of the process. Visual effects-heavy projects like superhero films can sometimes have hundreds of visual effects editors all working on different elements of the final product, and the supervisor must ensure that each one is being done to the proper specifications and will be finished on time so as not to hold up the next stage of the post-production process.

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How has the post-production supervisor's role changed as creative teams have started doing more remote collaboration?

At a fundamental level, the post-production supervisor’s role has not fundamentally changed as their teams have moved to remote collaboration. They are still there directing the flow of information, checking in on deliverables, and constantly evaluating costs to ensure things are being produced within budget.

The difference lies in how they’re conducting these tasks. Instead of having a command center office just steps away from their teams work stations, they’re having to digitally check in with people via email, video calls, or live chat sessions.

The key to a post-production supervisor’s success lies in having the tools available to be able to easily track exactly what is happening with elements of a project no matter where those elements are being worked on. In essence, post-production supervisors are having to adapt the same kinds of technology that remote project managers have been working with, and find a way to fit it to their workflow.

While this can be effective in the short term, what post-production supervisors really need are tools specifically designed for the unique workflows of post-production studios. They need tools that enable seamless collaboration between them and their teams. They need project tracking software that fits their approval process. And they need top-level security to ensure that sensitive projects and data remain secure. 

That’s where technology like Evercast and other remote collaboration platforms become such a critical investment for remote post-production supervisors who want to keep the same energy and flow of creativity throughout their teams.

How has the post-production workflow changed with the onset of the pandemic and the partial or full shift to remote work?

In some ways, post-production teams have had a head-start on the rest of the industry when it comes to adapting to the challenges that a global pandemic has caused. Much of post-production work was already being done with single editors isolated in their own editing suite, and so keeping editors separated or having them work from home was a less dramatic transition than, for example, having to keep different actors away from each other prior to shooting scenes.

Tony Clark, the managing director of Rising Sun Pictures located in Adelaide, Australia, told Variety “We have implemented high-frequency cleaning and other actions to keep our workplace safe for the crew and their families,” he said. “In South Australia, the cases of COVID-19 have been limited to date with the only occurrences in overseas travelers and people with whom have had close contact. As of today, there were only 42 confirmed cases.”

Due to the lower case rate in Australia, only a portion of Clark’s team is working remotely, with the rest of the team coming into the heavily-sanitized and social-distanced office.

However, for supervisors in places like the United States, where cases have been much higher and post-production teams are operating more or less totally remotely, the challenges go beyond increased sanitation. However, post-production directors and supervisors are finding software-based solutions that keep their remote teams working closely together.

In an interview with Variety, James Voda, VP of post-production for Triage Entertainment, a full-service production studio located in Los Angeles, California, cited “workflow programs like Streambox Solutions and Evercast that allow teams to work together remotely in real time” as being key players in their ability to deliver their pre-pandemic release schedule on-time, even with the shift to remote work.

“We continue to aggressively evaluate emerging technologies focusing on speed, accessibility, remote team viewing and security,” Voda said.

Remote post-production is here to stay, but that may not be a bad thing

The overall sentiment from many post-production workers, from supervisors to editors, is that while the remote work shift may change the industry in fundamental ways, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. The remote work environment allows creative teams to source talent from all over the world without having to relocate them and even allows people to live further away from major cities than they could pre-pandemic.

And with the application of new technologies to help keep creative teams working together seamlessly, the whole process of switching over for good might just be a lot less painful than everyone anticipated.

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