Delivering Your Film (Part II)

Thumb The boxes never seem to end

Last week I hit you with the enormous number of deliverables you need to produce. This week you'll learn how to produce them.

Think about the end at the beginning - don't go into production without budgeting your deliverables.  So, factor these folks into your budget:

  • ATTORNEY: The one person you should not do without (despite what I say below).  S/he makes sure all your corporate/legal/music/copyright deliverables are done properly.
  • PRODUCER OF MARKETING AND DISTRIBUTION: manages your marketing and distribution efforts.  A good PMD worries about promo deliverables before a single frame is shot.
  • STILL PHOTOGRAPHER AND PUBLICITY CREW:  Shoots high-rez stills (for publicity photos/artwork) and behind-the-scenes video/interviews.
  • POST SUPERVISOR: makes sure you get your file/tape/sound/music masters together
  • MUSIC CLEARANCE SUPERVISOR: Clears the rights to any songs you want to use (if you're foolish enough to license pre-existing music), and/or make sure your composer signs the correct agreements.
  • EPK EDITOR: cuts the behind-the-scenes footage into DVD and web extras.
  • WEB/PRINT DESIGNER: responsible for print and web-based artwork.

You've probably put zeros next to these line items because you can't afford them.  That's okay - fewer people are doing more work these days on film crews.  But what you lack in money you'll have to make up for with time and knowledge.  So get your hands dirty and think about:

It should be obvious, but you should map out how you're going to go from your production masters to your final output.  This typically happens in eight steps:

  • Transcoding - from shooting to post format
  • Syncing - production audio with video
  • Picture Editing - transcoded, synced video
  • Titles/VFX - produces your textless titles
  • Conforming - produces your file master
  • Scoring - producers your music masters
  • Sound Design - designing the aural landscape
  • Mixing - produces your sound masters
  • Output and layback - produces your tape and/or film masters

If executed properly, you'll be producing the important deliverables as you go.

For the output and layback, budget SOME money for quality control checking (QCing) the tape masters.  The distributor will reject the master if there's a tape dropout or some video/audio irregularity (if the picture goes over 95-99 IRE, for example), meaning you'll have to go through the process all over again.  At least budget for a finished tape review in a viewing room.  If you have any money, rent time in your online suite for review and correction.

Budget for two travel-hardy drives for your file-based masters.  Also budget for at least one HDCAM-SR (for HD) and DigiBeta (for SD) master.  Make sure you get tapes that are long enough for the picture, textless titles, the bars/tone/2-pop, and tail-pop, with at least a minute or two to spare.  If your film is 91 minutes you'll probably end up having to buy 120 minute stock.

You can do the PAL file conversion through software, but the tape-to-tape conversion you'll have to do at a post house.  Dolby won't transcode from NTSC to PAL, only stereo.

If you do this yourself, you'll save money but spend time.  Watch the finished film (with timecode), and write down each line of dialog along with:

  • The start and end TC
  • The scene number
  • Who's saying it
  • The type - dialog, voice-over, wild sound (ex. laugh or cries), off-screen, etc.
  • Whether it overlaps with another line

Distributors use it as a guide for subtitling and dubbing.

The music cue sheet is created in the same way as the dialog list, but instead of writing down lines you'll jot down the start/end times of each cue.  Your composer can do this for you as well.
For each licensed piece of music you'll need copies of the synchronization and master licenses.  For original score elements, you'll need a copy of the composer agreement.

You should keep anything even vaguely contract-/legal-like in a file cabinet or binder from day one of preproduction.

You can blow up frame captures.  I've also gotten folks to shoot stills (and shot a few myself).  You need three types of stills: on-set, director portraits, and behind-the-scenes.

If you have some skills with Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, you can make the DVD covers, one-sheets, postcards, and other artwork, but be honest here - if you have to, hire someone, even if it's an art school graduate working for credit

My gaffer, Simeon Moore, offered to shoot behind-the-scenes footage when he wasn't gaffing.  He captured some great moments.  Later, I shot some cast/crew interviews.  I'm currently splicing these bits and pieces together with clips from the film.

Get your editor to do it.  Trust me.  You need a "green band" trailer - no swearing, nudity and/or excessive gore.

This just scratches the surface, but hopefully you'll now have a sense of who/what's involved in putting deliverables together.  Good luck!