Filmmaking 101: Making a movie 2/2 - Production, Post-production and Distribution

By PierreL | Content For Creators | 3 Feb 2021


I'm sure you've all heard technical terms like pre-production and post-production thrown around, most likely while watching some behind the scenes of your favorite tv show or the making of a movie, but do you actually know what they mean and what goes on during these vital steps of filmmaking?

Some particular steps are essential when it comes to creating video or photo work, and they actually work the same whether you're planning a multi-million dollar movie, a YouTube video or a simple photoshoot of your sister's newborn baby, the scale being the only difference.

If you haven't read the first part about steps 1 and 2, feel free to check it out first here: Making a movie - Steps 1 & 2, Development and Pre-production.

 

Step 3 - Production

Simply put, this is where the movie is shot. Director, assistant directors, script supervisors, basically the whole crew will work using what was decided and planned during pre-production with one thing in mind: stick to the schedule and the budget. This is where the actors will put to work everything they rehearsed in pre-production, the sets will be used, the make up artists, costume designers, light and sound coordinators, camera crews and the cinematographer will all have their hands full every day.

 
Step 4 - Post-production

This is where the magic happens. This step can make or break a film. You can have the most beautiful shots, if they're poorly edited, with cheap visual and sound effects and a soundtrack that doesn't match the theme of the scenes, it can quickly turn into a disaster. This step will usually take longer than production, and the director will have their hands full during the whole process to make sure every element helps tell the story as it should.

  • Editing: This is the process of cutting and mixing together all of the footage that was shot during production. Using the same 10 clips, you can tell a thousand different stories with editing, so this is a major step that needs to take the time it requires.
  • Sound design: Whether it's cleaning up/altering the sound recorded during filming or adding completely new sound effects to give more depths to your shots, sound design is a key element of storytelling. It will help the viewers feel like they're in the scene with the actors, and make your movie feel more real. I will write a separate article about the importance of sound design soon so stay tuned!
  • Music: The soundtrack will help set the mood of the movie, and the composers will often use the footage to help with inspiration. This is another major element in storytelling, whether it's lyrical songs that help more the plot forward (think Disney movies and their iconic character developing songs) or just background music that will help you feel all the right emotions.
  • Visual effects: Movies without any visual effects (VFX) are pretty rare now. Filming in front of a green screen and adding the background later, filming on location but creating a fake environment on top of the real one (to make a city look fuller for instance), creating entire characters, or vehicles, faking dangerous stunts, or making real stunts look more dangerous, removing or adding elements on screen,... There are a thousand ways to use VFX in videos, and you probably don't notice most of it when you watch movies (that is, when it's well done).
  • Color grade and color correction: Color grading and color correcting are as important as the rest to set up the mood of the film. They are often confused but they represent two very different steps. Color correcting is the process of making the footage look real and natural. Colorists will fix the color, contrast, exposure, make sure the whites are white, make sure the colors match on different clips representing the same scene but shot with different cameras on different days, so on. Color grading is where film colorists will set the atmosphere of the movie. You often hear about teal and orange, a Hollywood favorite where the skin tones lean towards an orange-ish color and the background is more blue-ish. Or you could make your scene look green if it's set in a toxic environment for example. You can also use it to completely change a scene, say turn a clip shot during the day into a night scene. Basically, correcting is fixing the colors to make them look realistic and grading is coloring the film to make sure it tells the right story.
 
Step 5 - Distribution

The distribution is the final step, when the movie is finally ready to be watched. During pre-production, you will have chosen whether your movie was going to be featured in cinemas, on an online streaming service or be released straight to blu-ray or VHS (because why not). And this process of releasing the movie is called distribution. It usually follows or runs alongside an advertising campaign.

 

And that's how it's done! I hope these two articles gave you a better understanding of what kind of work goes into a movie. And keep in mind that all of these steps are applicable to a simple Youtube video of you in your living room as well, it is not just about making full length movies with a Hollywood budget. Again, if you want a more detailed article about one or more of the steps, don't hesitate to ask in the comments!

Until next time, stay creative! See you!

 

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Credits: Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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PierreL
PierreL

French video editor, wildlife photographer, amateur space junkie, sports and history buff and crypto enthusiast.


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