The Post-Production Workflow

The post-production phase begins with the raw source footage and ends with a completed movie, ready for making distribution copies. As technology evolves, post-production continues to proliferate into an increasing variety of jobs and tasks. Where there was once a single editor who was responsible for the majority of the post-production process, there may now be a whole special effects team, an audio department, a colorist (responsible for color correction), and a number of assistant editors keeping track of all the footage. Final Cut Pro is at the heart of the post-production pipeline, allowing you to organize and assemble media from multiple sources into a finished product.

Here is an overview of the basic Final Cut Pro post-production workflow. As you begin your project, remember that there are no hard and fast rules for editing. Different editors have different working styles and, given the same source material, no two editors will cut the same finished program. The workflow described here offers just one example of how you might approach a typical project.

Diagram. Diagram showing the Final Cut Pro Post-Production workflow.
  1. Stage 1: Planning

    Planning is where you choose your basic workflow, such as offline and online editing (for projects with a lot of media) or editing the uncompressed footage (for shorter projects with quick turnaround times); choose input and output formats; and plan for equipment requirements (such as hard disk space), timecode and sync requirements, effects shots and color correction, audio mixing requirements, and so on.

    Planning for post-production primarily means preparing for each of the upcoming post-production phases: choosing input and output formats; acquiring your original footage, music, and graphics; deciding on a logging and capturing method; choosing an editing strategy; and planning the scope of effects you will be adding so you can determine how much time and support you will need to dedicate to them.

  2. Stage 2: Setting Up

    In this phase, you set up your editing system by installing and connecting the hardware you need, as well as configuring your software. For example, before logging and ingesting, you need to connect your computer either to the video and audio from your camcorder or VTR (video tape recorder) or to a device containing your file-based media. You also need to make sure that the correct presets are chosen within Final Cut Pro, so that Final Cut Pro knows what video and audio formats you are capturing and what kind of device control you’re using. (Device control allows Final Cut Pro to remotely control video and audio devices.)

    Depending on the format and device you are using, setup can be fairly simple (as it is with DV formats) or more complex. For example, if you are working with an uncompressed video format, you need to install a third-party video interface in your computer, as well as a serial port adapter to communicate with the deck.

    For more information, see the various chapters on setup, starting with Connecting DV Video Equipment.

  3. Stage 3: Ingesting

    Ingesting is a general term for capturing, transferring, or importing video, audio, still images, and metadata to your computer’s hard disk, which creates media files. You can ingest media files at any time, although most footage should be ingested before you start editing.

    Logging is the process of identifying which shots you want to ingest for editing. While you log, you can add scene and shot descriptions, logging notes, and markers. Logging also helps you become familiar with your footage before you begin editing.

    The order in which you log and ingest your footage is up to you. There are several possible workflows, depending upon your work style, the needs of your project, and the availability of footage. You can log all or most clips before batch ingesting them (in an automated way), or you can log and then ingest each clip individually. You can also log clips after ingesting your footage to a hard disk.

    For more information, see Overview of Capturing Tape-Based Media, Overview of Transferring File-Based Media, and Importing Media Files into Your Project.

  4. Stage 4: Editing

    The editing process involves taking the video and audio you’ve captured, along with any music or graphics you’ve imported, and arranging these raw materials into a final edited sequence of clips. Most editors start with a rough cut, where they quickly arrange all of the clips for a movie in sequence. Once that’s finished, they work on fine-tuning, subtly adjusting the edit points between clips and refining the pacing of each cut. Basic audio editing and synchronizing are also part of this process, as well as adding transitions, such as fades and dissolves.

    Often, the type of project you’re working on determines your method of editing. For example, documentary editing, in which the script often evolves in parallel with the editing, is quite different from commercial television and film editing, in which there is already a finished script to provide an order for clips.

  5. Stage 5: Mixing Audio

    Once your movie is edited and the picture is “locked,” meaning the duration of the movie is fixed and you no longer intend to change any of the edits, you can begin working more extensively on your audio. This involves:

    • Cleaning up the dialogue with more detailed audio editing, balancing audio levels, and applying equalization

    • Adding sound effects, music, and voiceover on additional audio tracks in the sequence

    • Mixing the levels of all the different clips together to create a balanced sound mix

    You can use Final Cut Pro for each of these processes. For more information, see Audio Fundamentals.

    Note: You can also sweeten your audio with another audio application, perhaps even at another facility. To export your movie audio, see Exporting Audio for Mixing in Other Applications.

  6. Stage 6: Adding Effects

    Creating effects tends to be more time-consuming than cuts-only editing, so it’s good to focus on basic edits first and work on effects when the timing of your project is finalized. Effects are any enhancements you want to make to your footage, such as color correction, special transitions, animation, still or motion graphics, multilayered images (compositing), and titles. Final Cut Pro has a wide variety of video and audio filters, each with parameters that you can keyframe to adjust over time in your sequence. You can also create professional titles and motion graphics in Motion.

  7. Stage 7: Finishing and Outputting

    Once editing is finished, effects are added, and the final audio mix is complete, you can output your movie to videotape or export your sequence to Compressor or send it to Color for finishing. You can also use Share to quickly create and deliver output media files in iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, MobileMe, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and YouTube formats.

    • To output to tape, follow the standard procedures for using the Print to Video command. For more information, see Preparing to Output to Tape.

    • For more information about sending to Color, see the Color User Manual, available in Color Help.

    • For more information about Share, see Using Share.

    • For more information about Compressor, see the Compressor User Manual, available in Compressor Help.

    If you need to finish your project on a different editing workstation, you can export your project to an interchange file format such as Edit Decision List (EDL) or Final Cut Pro XML Interchange Format. You may need to output on another system if you work with uncompressed video, do lots of real-time effects processing, or require specialized video monitoring. For more information, see Using Final Cut Pro XML and QuickTime Metadata. You can also refer to Offline and Online Editing.