Production Diary #10 - The Long and Lonely Road of Post-Production
IT US!!! The Tin Can Brothers!!!! We know it’s been a while since you’ve read one of these lengthy but charming posts. Trust me when I say we wish we had a more to update you on over the last several months. But we want you to know that….
^—“It” in this scenario applies to a lot of things: each of us, our hopes and dreams, also our crippling anxiety about our futures, etc. But namely, the project that brought you all here: The Wayward Guide for the Untrained Eye!
THE STORY SO FAR
Before we dive into a long, descriptive post, let me give a simple update for those who aren’t interested in reading:
-We do not yet have a release date for the series. We are currently pitching the show to a number of different distributors to try and find a home for the first season. Based on how those conversations go, we should hopefully have a better idea of the show's future within the next two months.
-Since many of the rewards coincide with the content of the show (and may contiain spoilers), we will be sending out rewards closer to the release of the series (which, as stated above, is still undetermined). But keep an eye out for another round of google hangouts and podcast casting if you’re a part of those tiers!
Don’t let these neutral updates worry you. Wayward Guide WILL see the light of day. But we want to do our due diligence to share it with the widest possible audience simply BECAUSE of the countless hours we’ve put into it so far. Since mid-January, myself, Brian, Corey, and our other post-production collaborators have been working to transform hours and hours of raw footage into a dazzling and completely realized series unlike anything we’ve ever put out into the world. And for the most part, things have been moving pretty smoothly, albeit slowly. Our biggest hold-up during the post process has been scheduling--
WAIT A SECOND JOEY. You said that was a PRODUCTION problem!!! Getting 50 people to show up on the same day and all that nonsense!!! But now all the work rests on, like…7-10 people’s shoulders!!! How hard can that be?!?!
I completely understand the logic there, Disembodied Internal Projections of Angry Critics. But in November, we were paying people very little to deliver for us over the short, but intense, block of several weeks. And now, we're asking folks to work for a similar small scale but for weeks/months of work on an open-ended timeline.
Myself, Brian, and Corey’s hearts are in this project 100%, until its final moments. It’s our baby. The small stipend we paid ourselves to work on WG was spent long ago on rent, but our investment in bringing this to life runs deep. The same can’t be said for other collaborators we hire, and understandably so! For them, it’s a job. This is an industry where you can’t afford to be on a project for longer than necessary. A girl’s gotta survive!
We’ve sat with the project for many months now, stewing over all of the elements that make it whole, rewatching scenes hundreds of times, finessing the timing of a joke ten times over. It’s PART OF OUR LIVES. For many people, it was just a few weeks of their life. Just recently, we had Benji over to watch the fine cut of the whole series and give any notes. As we rolled through the episodes, he laughed as he admitted to forgetting about shooting most of the show. To us, that thought seems preposterous. But to Benji, who has worked as a DP on several dozen jobs since Wayward Guide, it makes sense.
The first step in any film project is taking ALL that stuff you shot and putting it together into some kind of thing that tells the story you had written months before. This part of the process is long, arduous, and daunting. After Corey spent several days synchronizing ALL of the footage with the sound files and then organizing it into folders based on episodes and scenes, we were ready to begin. Brian and I split up the episodes between the two of us so we could begin assembling separately (to cover the most ground) and regroup as a trio to fine tune the edit.
While many find this stage of the process frustrating, I actually quite enjoyed it. Getting to sit with the footage for these extended periods of time really gave me a deep knowledge of the show that we shot, as both an advantage and a curse. I became incredibly familiar with all the options we had for a given shot, how certain choices meshed with others, and the creative ways we could make something work as result of a shot or moment we regrettably missed. Becoming THAT ingrained with the material really gave me a newfound appreciation of just HOW instrumental editing is in the crafting of a show’s story, tone, and overall vibe. This new perspective also temporarily ruined watching most shows or movies for me because I couldn’t view them with unbiased eyes. I was CONSTANTLY on the lookout for continuity errors, poorly timed cuts, and strange coverage choices. I COULDN’T UNSEE THE PROCESS. I KNEW TOO MUCH!!!!!!
By March, every episode had a some sort of shape. Certain sequences were just a string out of useable clips. Some were more refined and closer to complete. And thus began the journey towards picture-locking! Picture-locking is the stage in which you put all the finishing touches on your cuts and essentially lock in the edit so that it doesn’t change for sound and color correction. But once you pull that trigger, the duties of the editor are COMPLETE!!!!!
…Except we each are wearing about 35 different hats during this process so our job is actually never complete. BUT, it’s a major task to check off the post-production list. So for as many hours as we could devote a week, the three of us would get together in some fashion and replay moments over and over again, splicing and dicing on a frame-by-frame level, much to the dismay of our roommates who were often forced to listen to a single line repeated endlessly, until the cut was where we wanted it. And now, several months later, all episodes are picture-locked and ready for the next stage of the process.
CHALLENGE: FIX IT IN POST
As we’ve stated before, most productions of our size and bigger tend to have weeks to prep for a shoot. The film can be thoroughly storyboarded and shot-listed so that the team knows exactly what they’ll need to get on the day. We didn’t have that luxury and, thusly, many shot choices needed to be revised or made up entirely on the day. “Fuck it!!” we thought, “This is a problem for FUTURE us!" (a phrase that gets tossed around often at TCB HQ). And while it was luckily only a handful of instances, our lack of prep/experience on the day came back to bite us in the ass in the editing room where we had to save moments through lots of surgical cutting. Even more frustrating was finding certain shots, that I distinctly remember spending LOTS of time trying to get, don’t work at all in the final cut. And realizing we could’ve used that time to shoot something more useful instead. All of this was, however, a very useful learning tool for future projects. Always shoot with the edit in mind. If you can make the cuts in your head on the day, you’ll save yourself hours down the line.
WORKING A-SOUND THE CLOCK (BAD PUN! COULDN’T THINK OF ANYTHING BETTER)
Meanwhile, as TCB continued with finessing the edit, the first 3 picture locked episodes were sent off to Matt and Mark, our pals over at Ears Up Sound Design, to begin the process of cleaning up audio tracks, building a world with sound effects and atmospheric design, and ultimately mixing and mastering the score into the episodes. If the names Matt and Mark ring a bell to you, it’s probably not because they’re incredibly common names, but because these buddies were our sound designers and album producers for Spies Are Forever!! Since then these guys have BLOWN UP in the sound design industry. Last year they opened an incredible state-of-the-art studio space in Los Angeles, have worked on theme parks around the world including Shanghai Disneyland and Abu Dhabi’s Warner Brothers World, as well as the Muppets Take the Hollywood Bowl! Basically, they are in high demand and we were super lucky that they wanted to board this small project and TURN UP THE VOLUME on it’s quality (Or turn down the volume. Or make sure the the volume is appropriate so you can hear the dialogue and score simultaneously but not feel like one is overpowering the other).
CHALLENGE: BUSY BODIES
The one issue you could potentially run into working with major industry professionals is that your small project will be put on the back burner if a bigger gig comes down the pipeline. For many months, Matt and Mark had been bidding on a contract to be the HEAD HONCHO sound designers on several new rides at a Warner Bros. Theme Park in Abu Dhabi. And after securing the job, they were splitting their time between here and the Middle East for the better part of the last year. This was an INSANELY awesome opportunity for them and we were in no place to outbid Warner Bros. for their time. We knew this going into the process and planned to work around it as best as we could. But over the last few months, as we’ve come to a close on the first 3 episodes, and Ears Up has been too swamped with the opening of the Abu Dhabi park to put the finishing touches on their work, we had no choice but to bring on another sound designer, Austin, to help facilitate the finalizations of those episodes before Matt and Mark returned to the States. Luckily, Austin (who came as a recommendation from Ashley Clements and Brendan Bradley from their new series Sona) was an EXCELLENT resource, insanely quick, super game, and an overall joy to work with. So it was a win-win in our books. THANK YOU AUSTIN!!!
THEY ARE MUSIC MEN! THEY ARE WHAT? THEY ARE WHAT??
One major update from the post-production process that we’re super stoked to share is that our frequent collaborators, the super cool duo that is TalkFine, Clark Baxtresser and Pierce Siebers, will be joining the team to help compose the score!! With the scale of this project and the amount of content that would need music, it became apparent that Chuck wouldn’t be be able to complete the process on his own. So after writing an incredible opening theme song and setting the mood with various motifs in episode one, we passed the baton over to Clark and Pierce to fully bring to life the scope of melodies we’ll hear in the show. Over the course of multiple projects with these dudes, we’ve developed shorthand that makes working with each other efficient and fun. We know how to communicate at this point. WE GET EACH OTHER. And needless to say, what they’ve brought to the table so far has been excellent.
CHALLENGE: WORLDS AWAY
Similar to our main roadblock with Matt and Mark, the toughest part about working through the score is the fact that Chuck, Clark, and Pierce, all live on the east coast. While none of the Tin Can Brothers could truly hold their own in a musical jam session, sometimes it’s just easier to bounce ideas and notes off each other IN the room rather than by trying to get 5 guys on a conference call.
GIVE IT A LITTLE COLOR
Though we are not QUITE in the stage where we do a full color pass of the show’s footage, I do have an interesting anecdote about it that requires some mundane technical description. SO BUCKLE UP.
The footage we shot for the show is high definition. So much so that we couldn’t upload and edit it on our computers in its MOST uncompresseed state without all the programs crashing. Thusly, we use low res versions of the footage called proxies to edit most of the show. These proxies are also missing the LUT, essentially a camera filter that the entire show was shot with to give the colors depth and complexity. Without it, the shots looks dull, flat, and overall very gray. Any actor we showed it to went “Oh shit! Do I REALLY look like a corpse?!” After months of editing, this low res display just becomes the norm! We looked at the footage like this almost every day! Then, on the night Benji came to watch footage, he tested a few shots with the camera LUT and it was WEIRD to see the difference in how much better the end product would look. But we like to joke that, out of pure comfort, we want the show to look dead and gray, because it’s what we’re used to. LOLZZ
And that’s basically where we’re at right now! This past week alone we’ve been able to share the 98% complete first three episodes with lots of friends and industry folk, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Most of the processes will continue for episodes 4-10 and a whole other round of creativity will begin as we put together the PODCAST!!!!!
Thank you for taking the time to read this overwhelmingly detailed post. Hoping it helps shed some insight on the realistic timelines, struggles, and successes of a project of this scale. Be sure to send all the good vibes our way in the coming months as we try to make big things happen with Wayward Guide!!