The Overall Post-Production Workflow Explained

Every project has its own unique requirements. Factors such as the acquisition format chosen for the shoot, the amount of media that must be managed during editing, the overall quality of the media, and the delivery requirements for the final product all have a hand in shaping the details of your workflow.

Before focusing on where workflows diverge in different projects, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at how all workflows are alike. In this overview, you can see how every single project you work on in Final Cut Studio—from music videos to educational and corporate communication programs to feature films—follows the same basic process.

Figure. Illustration showing the post-production workflow.
  1. Stage 1: Ingesting and Organizing Your Media

    The first stage in any post-production pipeline is to ingest the film-originated, tape-based, or tapeless media files that you shot or generated into Final Cut Pro. Different types of media require different ingest methods; for example, ingesting from tape requires the Log and Capture window, and ingesting from a tapeless format requires the Log and Transfer window. Ingesting film-originated media, on the other hand, requires additional steps to develop the camera negative and transfer it to a video or image format that can be ingested into Final Cut Pro, sometimes with the help of Cinema Tools and Color.

    During ingest, you’ll already be taking steps to organize your media by choosing what media to ingest and by adding logging information, such as clip names and notes. After ingest is complete, you immediately take other organizational steps to sort clips into bins and review, mark, and annotate each clip using controls in the Browser.

    Although most of this work takes place in Final Cut Pro, other applications may come into play during this part of the process. Transferred film may come into Final Cut Pro through a Cinema Tools database, which provides additional logging and tracking data from the film-transfer process. Multiple-suite post-production facilities may benefit from using Final Cut Server to manage project and media files on a storage area network (SAN) to facilitate projects worked on by a post-production team.

    There’s one key decision that you make during ingest that affects editorial development, and later, finishing. This is whether to ingest your program’s media at an offline resolution, where visual quality is lower but the media is easier to work with, or at an online resolution, where the visual quality is superior but the media requires more processing power to work with and more storage space.

    For more information about using Final Cut Pro, Cinema Tools, and Color for different ingest strategies, see Ingesting and Organizing Your Media.

  2. Stage 2: Editorial Development

    Editorial development is when your project is put together. Sometimes referred to as the offline edit or the story edit, this is where the raw media that you ingested in stage 1 is turned into an edited program.

    Some programs are assembled entirely within Final Cut Pro, where you can create all the titles and effects you need and do any necessary sound design right in your sequence while you edit. However, don’t forget that there are other applications in Final Cut Studio that you can turn to for specialized tasks. For example, you can create master templates in Motion for use as generators from within Final Cut Pro, or you can use Motion to create broadcast graphics and composites that you can then edit into the Final Cut Pro Timeline. As you work, you can also send specific audio clips from the Final Cut Pro Timeline directly to Soundtrack Pro to do things like eliminate noise, create ambient noise to patch holes, and do equalization matching on a clip-by-clip basis.

    Whether you use one application or many, all of a program’s elements come together in your edited sequence, helping to guide your editorial decisions as you work to complete the program’s content.

    For more information about how Final Cut Pro works with other Final Cut Studio applications at this stage of the process, see Integration During Editorial Development.

  3. Stage 3: Client Review

    If you’re working on a project for a client, frequent and specific feedback is an absolute requirement. If you’re working in a supervised session, you can simply play your project from the Final Cut Pro Timeline. However, there are times when you may be working unsupervised, with clients who are remotely located, or when you want to provide a version of the program that can be screened at another location. Final Cut Studio provides many ways of delivering individual clips or entire sequences to clients for remote viewing, such as via a QuickTime movie or DVD, on the web, or even interactively in iChat.

    For more information about using Final Cut Pro, Compressor, and DVD Studio Pro to deliver a program for review, see Client Review.

  4. Stage 4: Finishing

    After a program’s story has been edited and the project’s content is considered complete, it’s time to give the program its final polish and tweaking, appropriately referred to as finishing. The first part of finishing, if you’ve been working on your project using offline-quality media, is to conform your edited sequence to the highest-quality version of the original source media that’s available. The best way to do this depends on how the original media was acquired, how you ingested the media, and how carefully you managed the media during editorial development.

    If your offline edit combines source media in several different formats, now may be the time to convert any clips that don’t match the final sequence settings so that the entire program is easy to output. Compressor has format-conversion capabilities that facilitate this process.

    This is also the time when all temporary elements like placeholder titles, offline effects, and other placeholder media must be replaced with their final, online-quality versions. As always, these elements can be created inside of Final Cut Pro or in conjunction with Motion.

    Lastly, once your sequence has been carefully reconformed and prepared, your program is ready for color correction and the final sound mix. Final Cut Studio has dedicated applications for each of these tasks, appropriately named Color and Soundtrack Pro.

    For more information about using Final Cut Pro with Motion, Color, and Soundtrack Pro, see Finishing.

  5. Stage 5: Mastering

    Mastering is the process of assembling everything your project needs into a single, deliverable bundle for handoff.

    In some cases, this process is as simple as making sure that the video and audio elements are assembled into a final sequence for output to tape. In other cases, mastering may involve assembling a much longer list of deliverable media files, including separate versions of the program with and without titles (also called texted and textless versions), format conversions, closed captioning and subtitle insertion, and alternative audio mixes for different audiences.

    For more information about which Final Cut Studio applications can help with these potential mastering requirements, see Mastering.

  6. Stage 6: Output and Delivery

    Output and delivery is the last stage of the post-production process. As the name implies, it’s the process of creating the final, playable media that you then hand off to the client and audience. Output can take many forms: rendering a DPX image sequence for film printing, outputting to an appropriately high-quality tape format, creating a DVD, or compressing your program to a format suitable for web playback.

    For more information about how Final Cut Pro, Compressor, DVD Studio Pro, and Color work together to output to any of these delivery media, see Output and Delivery.