Question about Post-Production Workflow

So pre-production: start with an idea. Write a script based off of the idea. Get your cast, crew, props, gear, locations, and shot list and/or storyboard ready.

Production: shoot your shot. And then next shot. And the rest of your shots. Basically, film the movie.

Post-production: tons of work. Gotta edit the film together and do sound-design, VFX, and colour grading the film.

So, for post-production, what order should you do all of this in? (Note: assuming I don't have reshoots.) After filming I have my footage and my audio clips. I need to sync the video and audio taken on set, do all the VFX work, add in sound effects and foley, and colour grade it. What order should I do all this in? I would assume: edit a rough cut together, do the VFX, then sound design, then color?


  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    Pretty much! 

  • edited August 2019

    @Triem23 Okay I was thinking about this question more and what about color grading? Like would you do some work with contrast and curves before or after VFX integration? Like, if I'm going to put a 3D model in the background of my shot, do I do color on the shot itself before or after?

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited August 2019

    There are two different color stages. Color CORRECTION and color GRADING. (Note, some use these terms interchangeably. I don't.)

    Color CORRECTION is the process of making all your shots match - so if I'm shooting a movie outside during the day and it takes an hour to shoot everything the sun moves - so the first and last shots won't match. Correction is deciding what you want the footage to look like and then editing everything to match. There can be "creative/mood" choices made at this stage, but it's really about making all the shots in the scene look good together. 

    This would be done between the rough cut and before VFX in a Hitfilm workflow. To compare with Vegas Pro for a moment - Vegas can add effects at the bin level - where I apply an effect in the media bin and it propagates to all instances on the timeline (Vegas can add effects at the track level, too, where a track effect propagates to all clips on the track).  Hitfilm only adds effects at the clip level. So, in Vegas I might do color correct first - applying effects at the bin level. Especially if I'm doing a long multicam event.

    But, yeah, in a Hitfilm workflow correction more or less comes during the rough cut, before you get serious on VFX. If all clips in a scene are corrected before VFX it'll be easier to grade later. 

    Color GRADING is making a creative or "moody" look, and grading comes near the end of the workflow. More or less between locking picture and finishing audio. 

    Note this is recommended workflow for single filmmakers and small teams. In a full studio workflow there are dedicated people for everything, so color correction before VFX might not happen. VFX might start and get a corrected plate partway through, or the VFX might be done to a "neutral" color with the compositor (position, not software) responsible for color matching VFX to BG (correction) while the colorist does grading.

    Bear in mind this isn't rigid. It's semi-ideal for organization, but if it's your project, do what feels right. "Correct" workflow is less important than making a good movie. Using my Camera Tracker test as example, I had completed what was a single shot before I added a second. In this particular case I ended up color matching my plates last. I got lucky. Both plates were from the same videographer on the same flyover. The shots were obviously taken several minutes apart, but matching the plates didn't change things enough where I needed to tweak the Grade I'd copy/pasted between comps. 

    On the other hand, another short I did needed to be shot near sunset. A delay partway through meant two thirds of the footage was golden hour, a third, blue hour. Color match was absolutely done first, and it was a pain. Basically, I had to darken the golden hour footage. 

  • @Triem23 okay, I think I get it.

    So make a rough cut. Just sequence my clips in order. Then do the individual scenes, correcting color and then VFX. Then do grading and sound work.

    A question about sound: how should I work with having multiple audio track of different peoples voices. Like I know there’s a merge video and audio but I have multiple people talking all on different lav mic’s.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    First, re-read above comment. I was editing/adding when you posted yours. 

    In the rough cut, try and designate an audio track for each actor. Track 1 is all of Kris, Track 2 is all of Shannon, etc. This will keep audio easier to sort while refining timing. If you merge everything you can't separate voices out. Maybe Kris is loud, and Shannon is quiet. 

    In general I'd say to not worry about spreading audio across tracks. My aforementioned camera tracker test has, um... About 24 audio tracks. Just the final explosion has six different elements - multiple mixed explosions, plus debris sweeteners like rockslides and metal falling on rock. I think I needed four tracks to blend and mix the Y-wing engines. I've done short films with over a hundred audio tracks. One in particular had a major error in production audio and the entire film needed all audio recreated from scratch. I had audio tracks for things like "Julio chair" (miking the chair the actor sat in and shifting/leaning as the actor did), "Bottle" (a track for this drink the actors were sharing - pick up, put down, slide across, etc). Keeping sounds isolated on separate stems may have meant I had a lot of tracks, but if I'd collapsed things, like, say, put both "chairs" on a single track, it would have been harder to balance as I'd have to keyframe volume changes between clips/recordings. By keeping them separate I had a lot fewer keys. 


  • My two cents- a lot of the VFX I do involve light (Glows, lightning, lens flares, etc.), so if I wait until the end to do any color grading, I typically end up blowing the highlights out and lose that detail.

    So I grade my shots from the start, then add in some of the VFX, and continously tweak both at the same time to get the final result.

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator

    @JavertValbarr any workflow is correct if you get the results you want. As part of my correction, I tend to clamp things to 16-235 and almost never use a pure white or any value over 235, which buys me some headroom when doing glows. 

  • I've never had to color correct on a shot per shot basis. The only thing I ever have to do is match my 3D objects to whatever live footage that I'm using. Color grading and lighting effects comes after that.

    I add 3D objects to my scene and get them to match correct lighting with live footage and all that jazz but it is fairly automatic for me because I have an advantage, I build all of my 3D objects and texture them in such a way so that they automatically fit into any scene and lighting condition without a hassle. It is pretty much drag and drop for me.

    And @Triem23 is correct, it doesn't matter how you do it or what tools you use, as long as your get what you wanted. Some people simply have different tricks to turn vfx into minutes rather than hours, is all. Just like some software can do some things better and faster than other similar software. Blender Cycles sucks at rendering Glass caustics or anything of that nature but other rendering software can do it very well and very fast too. 

    Best advice is to combine as many programs as possible to get what you need, it is the only logical thing to do and pretty much genius if you can do it. :)

    The only limit you have is your hardware and chosen project bit depth. If you have 8bit textures for your 3D objects, you'll need to stay within that 8bit range so you don't clip your colors. Lots of videos online that feature 3D models have clipped colors. You can spot them right away so do your best to not clip your colors at any phase of your project, especially early on. If you clip your colors early on, then they will be pretty useless when you get to Color Grading... leading you to a very dark image and then have to explain that the dark image is color graded that way for mood.

  • @spydurhank How can I tell what colors my 3d objects are using? Like if they're 8bt or 32 or so forth.

  • Right click on anyone of your textures and look in >properties>details>. 

    Scroll down and look for bit depth. Assuming you have all four rgba channels- red, green, blue, alpha. If you have no alpha then reading will be much less. 

    if it reads 32bit then your textures are 8bits per channel.

    If it reads 64bit, then your textures are 16bits per channel.

    If it reads 128bit, then your textures are 32bits per channel


  • @Triem23 thinking more about working with audio in my final result.

    How should I sort my audio in the editor? Let's say I have lav mics on six actors. Then I put it all into six separate audio tracks (one for each person). However, the lav mics of, let's call him Jeff, picked up the voice of Morgan, albeit faintly. But it's there and makes the voice sound echoey because there are six audio tracks and one of them plays the voice at normal volume, while the other six faintly picked it up. Will I just have to keyframe all the audio tracks?

  • In general, sort you audio by type - keep all your vox together, keep all your sound effects together and clustered by type (All explosions on adjacent tracks, etc). Once HF Express 13 comes out this will be easier for Express owners as you'll be able to color code tracks by type of audio - vox, SFX, ambience, music, etc.

    It's tempting to try and crunch audio into fewer tracks. resist this temptation. It's no fun to go back into a mix to find an engine whoosh that's buried with a lot of robot sounds.

    Hitfilm is still fairly weak in audio editing, and is still, in my opinion, missing two absolutely vital tools for detailed audio mixing. Gating - which you wish it had right now - and independent time/pitch stretch.

    Gating sets a threshold level for audio. Anything below the threshold is just cut entirely (Track to silence) while anything above the the threshold plays. Then time can be set for how quickly the gate opens and closes.

    Where this is relevant is a gate is the only thing you can try to automatically chop off the "echos" on the other mics: By trying to set a gate where all of Jeff's lines on his mic go through, but the gate cuts off the bleed from Morgan.

    Gates don't always work. With audio, no matter what, it usually comes down to editing the audio volume keyframes for each track.


    One: If you do your final audio mix in Hitfilm it's probably easier/faster to actually CUT each audio track where you don't need it and delete that audio. It will help eliminate the repeated background ambience being amplified as well.

    Two: Don't do your final audio mix in Hitfilm. Just lay down temp audio you know you'll be remixing later that's good enough to lock visuals. Then dump out your timeline from Hitfilm for a dedicated audio editor. Audacity is your best free option. Paid, there's a bunch. I use Vegas Pro, but Vegas and I are very old friends.

    As I said, whether you edit in Hitfilm or a dedicated audio editor, all the compression and gating in the world isn't going to prevent you from just having to go in and do moment by moment mixing at some point. that's just the way of audio. It needs massaging.

  • @Triem23 I was sure keyframing and manual work like that would be needed in any audio editor but I want to get as good a program as I can find.

    Do you think Audacity is good for that? Or would you reccommend something else that's free?

  •  @HeySiri my comparative knowledge is limited. Audacity is certainly the most well-known of the free options, and it can handle multitrack mixing. It's range of audio effects is greater than that of Hitfilm*, and it's been around for a long time, so it's well-developed, mature software.

    As I said, there are other free options and there are your paid options, but I'm not really familiar with them because I use Vegas Pro for my audio mixing (Vegas was a mulitrack audio editor before it was an NLE, and it's fantastic). So I'm not really up on the pros/cons of other editors because, well, I don't use them.

    Audacity is my go-to recommendation for free audio editors, and it's the only one I've used, even if it was long ago.

  • Triem23 I think I heard Vegas was originally designed to be multitrack DAW (it came after Sound Forge/ACID) so it was audio friendly from the start (I use to work for the a distributor when it was a Sonic Foundry product). 

    Another suggestion could be Reaper, which is the most affordable of paid DAWs but one of the most powerful. It's not an audio "editor",  and it's more aimed at the traditional recording/audio market, as per ProTools, rather than the DJ/Producer market (e.g. Ableton, Bitwig). You can try it for "60 days" but the demo actually runs indefinitely as far as I can tell. I've been learning it at the same time as HitFilm.  If you want to actually edit the nitty-gritty bits of an audio file then look at SoundForge, but generally that's not what's required.

  • @AndyQ Vegas absolutely started as an audio DAW with the ability to load in a single video file for reference in Vegas 2, and became a Video NLE in version 3. Vegas still has pretty much the best audio tools in any NLE.

    Vegas's DAW roots are still clear as, on a timeline, Vegas treats audio clips like video clips. Ah, being able to set up a dissolve between shots simply by overlapping them on the timeline.... 20+ years later, and Vegas is still the only NLE to do that insanely smart thing.

    Vegas happens to work well with Hitfilm via integration, and Vegas is a much better EDITOR (although Hitfilm can do VFX in it's sleep that would make Vegas slit it's wrists and cry). For a Hitfilm PRO user looking for better audio I'd strongly suggest looking at Vegas.

    For EXPRESS users, I tend to recommend Audacity, or mention Reaper. I've never heard anything but good about Reaper, but I haven't used it.

    Side note, AndyQ Good old Sound Forge has been radically redone under Magix. There's now "Sound Forge Pro" which is basically classic Sound Forge with all the update goodies, and there's "Sound Forge Audio Studio" which is the "Lite" version. Sound Forge won't be what one would use for Audio Mixing, as you noted, but it's great for sound DESIGNERS. If you just want to mix a lot of tracks, Sound Forge isn't your tool. If you really want to create your own sounds, then Sound Forge is amazing.

    Long, long ago my then-partner and I did a sound library for a company called "Dinomation" of several hundred Dinosaur, Monster and Dragon sounds. All in Sound Forge. The library ended up in the hands of Universal when Dinomation did the refit of Jurassic Park: The Ride, and Universal ended up with the library after Dinomation went bankrupt. The odd thing is, under my original Dinomation Contract, *I* am actually the copyright holder of those sound effects, and the library should not have been sold to Universal (The contract gave Dinomation a non-exclusive use right to the library without further payment to me, but, again, *I* owned the sounds. To my amusement, I occasionally hear some of those sounds come up in other movies and TV shows and even YouTube videos. At least they're being used, right? But, somewhere on a CD I have the original files... Some were bounced through ACID... Others through Vegas. Mostly Sound Forge.

  • Triem23 "*I* am actually the copyright holder of those sound effects"

    The best paid legal team wins, alas.

  • @Triem23 , I'm gonna be honest here and do something which I never do because it is very and extremely unclassy in my book… I may brag just a little but it is coming from a positive place so no complaints or harsh words and anything negative from the past... I'm finally over it. Just telling you a few things because I see a familiar pattern in the way you interact with certain folks here and in other sites. :)

    Yes sir it totally blows when someone ganks your work and or ideas then presents them as his own, I know exactly what that feels like and I'm going back to Pre-K. All of my pre-k teachers would have me do artwork for them, from still life to murals, portraits and architecture, nature and animals. They got all the credit for my art but I was okay with it because doing art for the teachers meant that I had free reign of the library and all the books in there and I didn't have to be in the classroom so keep your chin up dude because if you think about it... it aint really that bad when someone ganks your stuff because you gain knowledge when it happens and I've stated something similar in another thread a few weeks ago.

    When someone ganks your work and especially your ideas, all you should really focus on is that your ideas "is/must be" great because no one would steal it, or copy cat it word for word, without improving upon it and then present it as his own if it wasn't a great idea to begin with. I guarantee it because people steal great things not things that are only mediocre so when someone steals from you whether an idea or work, it is most definitely not mediocre. There are a ton of tuts out there that would be totally different and many that wouldn't even exist if people hadn't asked for my advice on how I do things or simply mimicked or copy cat portions of my old tutorials or read a few lines from one of my posts or watched a few of my time lapsed videos. I know when I'm being Xeroxed because my ideas are uniquely mine and to toot my own horn, there isn't a person or a group of people out there that can do what I do because I'm the only one that knows how to do it because I'm the only person to ever even think of doing it and I'm acquainted with a few vfx pros and software developers which have a few decades under their belt and they've never thought of it much less know that what I can do is even possible or how insanely simple it actually is. :) 

    Don't be surprised or expect people to come to your defense either when are stolen from. I was a different person in 2008 and I'm very different from two weeks ago so I'm much more... I dunno, very much, way less of a jerk or easy to anger and very much more understanding. Anyway, in 2008 I had just bought my first computer and was learning how to navigate the internet for the first time so I had no idea that people acted incredibly strange towards others that weren't a part of their group. So I'm new and have a slight beef with some poor kid on a vfx forum that probably just didn't know any better but who stole my ideas and my work then presented it as his own work and ideas and gave it out for free. He obviously got all the credit in that particular forum even though everyone knew that I had done all of the work. No one came to my defense and in fact defended the kid who stole my stuff and gave it to them for free. No one told the kid to take down the work which wasn't his or said hey dude... bad form bro... bad form. I've been pretty bitter about that and a few other things that some silly people do up till two weeks ago when I realized that I was not angry, I was jealous that he got so much attention from my work. It doesn't matter that he stole from me, what matters is the envy that I felt. Envy is ugly as all get out so I was focused on the wrong thing because as I said, he only stole from me because my work and ideas were pretty damned great. I was using Visionlab at the time and created a 2D particle sprite of a bat that I animated with Gimp and Morpheus photo morpher. It was pretty damned good for someone that had just started learning vfx in 2008. :) That community and its reactions were absolutely creepy and insane though... seriously creepy and I've been to a few other forums "mostly 3d app related" that are just as aggressive. I was treated very differently back then. It was a club and although I was a member, I knew I wasn't really in the club because they sure didn't make me feel welcome, non vfx guys like me were talked to very harshly to the point that straight up and unmistakable insults where defended as being critique and it didn't just come from the teenagers on that forum, it also came from the adults. It was very hard to learn anything because any question was met with aggression. It was like being on a forum with thousands of Chef Ramsey clones and they all had a bad day every day and were very willing to spread that negative cheer at the drop of a hat. Some people become irrationally aggressive at the hint of a question and I have no idea why but you can't learn when people act like crazy monkeys. Vfx guys are not like other artists although all artists are actually just weird and strange in a generaly egotistical way. A musician will tell you his musical influences, a painter or fine artist will tell you his artistic influences... not so with most vfx guys. Watch any vfx tut and it is a copy of something else but yet the tut creator rarely has the class to grace me as the learning audience with the origin of where or whom they got the idea in the first place... I know a copy tutorial when I see it just like everybody else can tell but somehow the tut creator invented the technique that is showcased in his video, even when it is also showcased in many other videos that came before and they all somehow also invented the same technique. I have no problem with copy cats but I don't want to watch their copy cat videos either... I want to talk to the source of the technique not the copy cat. The copy cat is not inspired which is why he is a copy cat but the True Source of the technique is for sure inspired and that is who I want to talk to so I can learn where the inspiration comes from. Always best to go to the source but whatever the source is, it is drowned out and diluted by all the copy cats. Where is the source amongst all the copy cats? :)

    Do you know what I did... I was so angry that the kid claimed my particle sprite as his own that I started hating working with particles and altogether stopped working with them and barely went back to that forum. In fact I was so taken aback by the theft and backwards reaction from that past forum community, that I stopped doing any type of 3d art in Blender 2.47 or with Visionlab and also stopped playing musical instruments for a very long long time and when I did go to that forum, I started treating everyone the same way that I'd been treated, I too became rude and mean and aggressive, I even got into politics which made me even more aggressive. I wizened up in 2014-ish and realized how much BS is involved in politics and how terribly distracting it is to my art. Politics are for the true copy cat, just a bunch of folks screaming at each other over and over about who knows what is best for other people. Yeah... politics... stupidest most repetitive thing that I've ever been involved in. Not for me, never again. :)

    I didn't come back and start doing vfx tutorials again till 2011 so I stunted my own artistic growth and potential out of anger for three years over not understanding how these internet people were just really rude and mean. Yup I did all that to myself though, it was pretty dumb and I now know, and especially in the past 7 months of this crazy super fast learning frenzy extravaganza that I figured out that I can do, that I could have learned to code all of this Blender stuff and all the other general 3D stuff that I've come up with 11 years ago if I had only been in control of my emotions and not become angry that some silly kid stole from me and was defended for the very act of stealing. See I allowed myself to mess up and forego my art and potential so we could have had everything that I've coded in the past 7 months except we would have had it 11 years ago. Anger makes you lose time dude in my case 11 years. Learn from my mistake and for sure don't repeat what I did because in this case, it would be a dumb copy cat move. If you're gonna copy... don't also copy mistakes. :) 

    Anger sucks dude and not just in literal terms, it sucks out my artistic inspiration and motivation and besides... artistically speaking, when someone takes your ideas and work but as a straight up copy cat... that should make you smile huge and feel like God. It means your work is really great. It means even more when the copy cat doesn't improve upon your work because the copy cat simply parroted your idea and really could have never taken it any further than his meager perspective allows, also meaning that your imagination is light years ahead of the copy cat. The folks that follow the copy cat aren't a concern either because they can't see any further than he can. They are stuck at whatever level that guy is stuck in till he steals a few more ideas from others that are truly inspired. It is a cycle but you'll always be ahead of it if you can just keep your cool and don't do what I did in 2008. Don't let any one or several negative confrontations stop or deter you from your art. Don't lose 11 years or any amount of years over anger like me. I'm not bitter over it but damn, 11 years of potential wasted over something so silly as anger and envy. In just a short 7 months, I've almost caught up on artistic ideas and workflows which I came up with in 2008 so all things considered, now is better than never and it was tough because I first had to get past my own BS and there was so much of it. But with all that BS gone, my mind is lite so I can learn anything, and not just learn it, I take it to another level. Fact.... no anger + no BS + no opinion or concern over what other folks do and say = A dude with a mind that can learn and do anything faster and better than anyone else.  :)

    I see you on other networks Mike you seem to be a pretty aggressive guy, and you don't seem to care for copy cats either... especially all of the After Effects copy cats. No one should be mean or negative to folks that come from other software because then you're doing to them what was done to me on the first forum that I joined. No one should go through that. You've gotta make the effort be patient with those guys and cut em' a little slack, they simply want to come over here in hopes of finding something better than After Effects which in my opinion, Hitfilm is to me the craziest software and egotistically, it is as if it were coded specifically for me and I can say this and prove it with a wave of my magic wand. I make my own magic, I don't have to steal it or borrow it from others. :)

  • @spydurhank Read this a couple of times, but not responded yet. It's a pretty deep post and I think you for taking the time to write it. Only thing I'll say here is this is a conversation we should continue in private messages on Twitter or Facebook for now?

  • No worries, the take away is supposed to be, staying positive no matter what because I'll miss out on the cool stuff that I could be creating instead of being a scrooge. Not sure if this came across correct. :)

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