Friday, November 15, 2013

In Defense of Post Re-Touching and Effects...

"Magic hour", arguably the most beautiful and inspiring time of day to be outside, is also the hardest to capture. "Magic hour", also known as "golden hour", is that time of day that marks the first glimpse of sun as well as the last, easier put as sunrise and sunset. On a set-- be it for film, television, or photography-- there is always a lot of pressure to set everything up perfectly so when the light breaks you can start shooting and make the most out of such a short period of time. Often in order to accomplish this perfect setting, the rest of the day's schedule would have to be carefully worked and at times rearranged to not only allow insurance to be at the proper shot at the proper time but also that there was a contingency plan built in case they were not able to get the shot at the proper time. For this reason, the accomplishment meant that much more when it was executed perfectly, and whatever the action and dialogue were that were punctuated by such a gorgeous backdrop felt that much weightier. But these days, with so many advances in technology and effects, I can't help but wonder if that pressure, and yes, that sense of accomplishment and pride, is lessened by the fact that anything and everything can and will be pumped up in post.

I am a big fan of doing as much as I can practically. I understand that there are limitations-- for example, if you're shooting a project about a creature, you're not just going to stumble over the perfect one in central casting. But I came from production, not post-production, and I learned to truly appreciate the artistry of everything from the lightning to the camera angles to the selection of location because of it. I deeply believe that there is something so beautiful-- and increasingly rare-- in capturing the beauty of the actual moment, rather than snapping something half-cocked to later alter with a million filters. Hence why I refuse to ever join Instagram, a site that is all about the filters when I would rather my framing and my subject speak for themselves.

Anyway, there was a long time when I would wrinkle my nose at the thought of fixing things in post-- no, your job is to do your best and relying on someone else to "fix" something makes what you did seem like a mistake. If the boom mic drops in, do another take, don't rely on someone spending pressure talent and manpower and hours to rotoscope it out or worse-- change the DP's shot design by zooming in to cut the offending object out. If the light isn't hitting something properly, spend an extra few minutes readjusting rather than expecting someone to add an effect or alter the saturation later. It is arguably significantly less expensive to take the time practically than to build in all of the changes or alterations on the back end.

Admittedly as time went on I also began to appreciate what goes into much of the post-production work, from sound mixing and design to color correction to creating those creatures using computer effects. Sure, much of the actual work seems like just constantly clicking around a computer screen and therefore goes unnoticed let alone thanked. But hey, doesn't that sound a lot like writing anyway? That just means that those working in that field should be able to spend their time as creatively as possible, enhancing a project and adding their own special touch to it in the way that only their skills allow.

In fact, "enhancing" may just be the key word. Because unless you are rolling multiple cameras at once, it is almost impossible to get all of the coverage of a multi-page scene that you need during magic-hour-- even if there are only two actors in the scene. The shots still have to match, though, and that is where the back end process works as the truest complement to the production work already done. It is about adding a layer on top of something already great to push it over the top.

I don't know just how much the insane colors of the sky were changed for the recent deplaning scene on Arrow-- I don't know if they were matched and enhanced, just matched, or completely altered to digitally add in reds and purples where there were previously none. But regardless of the degree, the answer is clear that such a striking result could not have been delivered without work being done in post at all. And such a striking result as that really may be one of the best cases for people to sit up and finally take notice of the artistry that post-production includes.

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