Technical Breakdown: Post Production on Finger Guns

Not sure about you guys, but I personally love "Making Of" featurettes and Behind the Scenes videos. In fact, it's usually the first (and sometimes only thing) I watch on a BluRay or DVD. Besides taking you behind the camera to discover the how that production was created from script to screen, it can also take you deep into the minds of the creators, hinting at creative decisions you'd never hear about otherwise. My curiosity isn't limited to feature films and TV, as I equally love BTS content for YouTube and short films. My interest is to such an extreme, even I cannot deny it has delayed the launch of our channel as I found myself drawn into the vortex that are VFX Color Grading breakdowns, tutorials, and demo reels available on YouTube and Vimeo.

Between shooting our first short and it's delayed release, I had the unique opportunity to attend local professional groups such as LACPUG and DMALA, allowing me to meet and learn from geniuses such as After Effects Guru Andrew Kramer and Colorist Alexis Van Hurkman. If there are similar groups in your area, I highly encourage you to attend, ask questions, and bask in the knowledge being offered to you. While you can learn tons by reading and watching tutorials, learning from the experts is akin to watching a magic show from behind the stage, seeing behind the curtain.

While we will always have a BTS featurette for all of our shorts, we try to keep things fast paced and watchable to a general audience. That being said, some of the topics I find most interesting (and sometimes the most time consuming aspects of production) are the highly technical and often overlooked aspect of post production: color correction, color grading, visual effects, and the importance of maintaining an ideal workflow starting in pre-production. Each of these can be expanded on in future articles, so please do let us know what topics you'd like to hear more about.

As the editor, vfx artist and colorist for Cinetic Studio projects, there were certain challenges I faced even before I made the first cut on "Finger Guns". As we shot on a Canon DSLR camera, I jumped on the popular Cinestyle picture profile without doing any camera tests of my own. This decision proved to be a HUGE mistake, as I never discovered the quirks and intricacies of the technology, which included the minor fact that the image seen on the camera LCD during shooting dramatically differed from the image recorded to the SD card. The final result was footage that was 2.5 stops underexposed, extremely dark and excessively noisy. Being recorded in the fragile H.264 video codec in a 8-bit color space (as is a limitation with all Canon DSLR footage) didn't leave a lot of latitude for correction either.

The "Fix it in Post" workflow developed to "rescue" the footage came from weeks of our own testing and  tweaking, and  advice such as Vashi Nedomansky , the color scientists over at VisionColor, and numerous experts at LACPUG & DMALA. Huge thanks to those guys!

The h.264 raw footage from the camera was transcoded to Cineform 4:2:2 files to lighten the final render time. The project was edited in Adobe Premiere CS6 with basic compositing and VFX done in After Effects CS6. All footage was heavily denoised, basic color correction done with native filters in Premiere, and final grading done with FilmConvert. While the final render time ended up being quite heavy (15 hrs with CS6, 8 hrs with CC), it allowed us to get the best possible quality out of our poorly shot footage. Filmconvert really shined above all other solutions, as it allowed me to emulate a specific Kodak film stock (as if I shot it on film exact 5207 Vision 3) and apply a slight overlay of 16mm film grain to give it some texture that was lost in the denoising process. It's certainly not the best looking short even after everything I've done to it, but it was a massive learning experience that taught me tips and techniques that I'll be using on every future project.

Hope you enjoyed this adventure into the mad scientist lab here at Cinetic Studios. Till next time.......

-Posted by Jason