Design at 24 fps - Posting NLE

Non-linear editing for film and television postproduction is a modern editing method which involves being able to access any frame in a video clip with the same ease as any other. This method is similar in concept to the "cut and paste" technique used in film editing from the beginning. However, when working with film, it is a destructive process, as the actual film negative must be cut. Non-linear, non-destructive methods began to appear with the introduction of digital video technology. It can also be viewed as the audio/video equivalent of word processing, which is why it is called desktop editing in the consumer space [1].

Video and audio data are first captured to hard disks or other digital storage devices. The data is either recorded directly to the storage device or is imported from another source. Once imported they can be edited on a computer using any of a wide range of software. For a comprehensive list of available software, see List of video editing software, whereas Comparison of video editing software gives more detail of features and functionality.

In non-linear editing, the original source files are not lost or modified during editing. Professional editing software records the decisions of the editor in an edit decision list (EDL) which can be interchanged with other editing tools. Many generations and variations of the original source files can exist without needing to store many different copies, allowing for very flexible editing. It also makes it easy to change cuts and undo previous decisions simply by editing the edit decision list (without having to have the actual film data duplicated). Loss of quality is also avoided due to not having to repeatedly re-encode the data when different effects are applied.

Compared to the linear method of tape-to-tape editing, non-linear editing offers the flexibility of film editing, with random access and easy project organization. With the edit decision lists, the editor can work on low-resolution copies of the video. This makes it possible to edit both standard-definition broadcast quality and high definition broadcast quality very quickly on normal PCs which do not have the power to do the full processing of the huge full-quality high-resolution data in real-time.

The costs of editing systems have dropped such that non-linear editing tools are now within the reach of home users. Some editing software can now be accessed free as web applications; some, like Cinelerra (focused on the professional market) and Blender3D, can be downloaded free of charge; and some, like Microsoft's Windows Movie Maker or Apple Computer's iMovie, come included with the appropriate operating system.

A computer for non-linear editing of video will usually have a video capture card to capture analog video and/or a FireWire connection to capture digital video from a DV camera, with its video editing software. Modern web based editing systems can take video directly from a camera phone over a GPRS or 3G mobile connection, and editing can take place through a web browser interface, so strictly speaking a computer for video editing does not require any installed hardware or software beyond a web browser and an internet connection.

Various editing tasks can then be performed on the imported video before it is exported to another medium, or MPEG encoded for transfer to a DVD.

Design at 24 fps - Post Production

Here the film is assembled by the film editor. The modern use of video in the filmmaking process has resulted in two workflow variants: one using entirely film, and the other using a mixture of film and video.

In the film workflow, the original camera film (negative) is developed and copied to a one-light workprint (positive) for editing with a mechanical editing machine. An edge code is recorded onto film to locate the position of picture frames.

Since the development of non-linear editing systems such as Avid, Quantel or Final Cut Pro, the film workflow is used by very few productions.

In the video workflow, the original camera negative is developed and telecined to video for editing with computer editing software. A timecode is recorded onto video tape to locate the position of picture frames. Production sound is also synced up to the video picture frames during this process.

The first job of the film editor is to build a rough cut taken from sequences (or scenes) based on individual "takes" (shots). The purpose of the rough cut is to select and order the best shots. The next step is to create a fine cut by getting all the shots to flow smoothly in a seamless story. Trimming, the process of shortening scenes by a few minutes, seconds, or even frames, is done during this phase. After the fine cut has been screened and approved by the director and producer, the picture is "locked," meaning no further changes are made. Next, the editor creates a negative cut list (using edge code) or an edit decision list (using timecode) either manually or automatically. These edit lists identify the source and the picture frame of each shot in the fine cut.

Once the picture is locked, the film passes out of the hands of the editor to the sound department to build up the sound track. The voice recordings are synchronised and the final sound mix is created. The sound mix combines sound effects, background sounds, ADR, dialogue, walla, and music.

The sound track and picture are combined together, resulting in a low quality answer print of the movie. There are now two possible workflows to create the high quality release print depending on the recording medium:

  1. In the film workflow, the cut list that describes the film-based answer print is used to cut the original color negative (OCN) and create a color timed copy called the color master positive or interpositive print. For all subsequent steps this effectively becomes the master copy. The next step is to create a one-light copy called the color duplicate negative or internegative. It is from this that many copies of the final theatrical release print are made. Copying from the internegative is much simpler than copying from the interpositive directly because it is a one-light process; it also reduces wear-and-tear on the interpositive print.
  2. In the video workflow, the edit decision list that describes the video-based answer print is used to edit the original color tape (OCT) and create a high quality color master tape. For all subsequent steps this effectively becomes the master copy. The next step uses a film recorder to read the color master tape and copy each video frame directly to film to create the final theatrical release print.

Finally the film is previewed, normally by the target audience, and any feedback may result in further shooting or edits to the film.

Design at 24 fps - Production

Roger & Elaine


In production the movie is created and shot. More crew will be recruited at this stage, such as the property master, script supervisor, assistant directors, stills photographer, picture editor, and sound editors. These are just the most common roles in filmmaking; the production office will be free to create any unique blend of roles to suit a particular film.

A typical day's shooting begins with the crew arriving on the set/location by their calltime. Actors usually have their own separate calltimes. Since set construction, dressing and lighting can take many hours or even days, they are often set up in advance.
The grip, electric and production design crews are typically a step ahead of the camera and sound departments: for efficiency's sake, while a scene is being filmed, they are already preparing the next one.

While the crew prepare their equipment, the actors are wardrobed in their costumes and attend the hair and make-up departments. The actors rehearse the script and blocking with the director, and the camera and sound crews rehearse with them and make final tweaks. Finally, the action is shot in as many takes as the director wishes. Most American productions follow a specific procedure:

The assistant director calls "picture is up!" to inform everyone that a take is about to be recorded, and then "quiet, everyone!" Once everyone is ready to shoot, he calls "roll sound" (if the take involves sound), and the sound recordist will start her equipment, record a verbal notification of the take's information, and announce "sound speeds" when he is ready. The AD follows by "roll camera", answered by "speed!" once the camera is recording. The clapper, who is already in front of the camera with the clapperboard, calls "marker!" and slaps it shut. If the take involves extras or background action, the AD will cue them ("action background!"), and last is the director, telling the actors "action!".

A take is over when the director calls "cut!", and camera and sound stop recording. The script supervisor will note any continuity issues and the sound and camera teams log technical notes for the take on their respective report sheets. If the director decides additional takes are required, the whole process repeats. Once satisfied, the crew moves on to the next camera angle or "setup," until the whole scene is "covered." When shooting is finished for the scene, the assistant director declares a "wrap" or "moving on," and the crew will "strike," or dismantle, the set for that scene.

At the end of the day, the director approves the next day's shooting schedule and a daily progress report is sent to the production office. This includes the report sheets from continuity, sound, and camera teams. Call sheets are distributed to the cast and crew to tell them when and where to turn up the next shooting day. Later on, the director, producer, other department heads, and, sometimes, the cast, may gather to watch that day or yesterday's footage, called dailies, and review their work.

With workdays often lasting 14 or 18 hours in remote locations, film production tends to create a team spirit. When the entire film is in the can, or in the completion of the production phase, it is customary for the production office to arrange a wrap party, to thank all the cast and crew for their efforts.

Production Realities

Sin City

Even the best and most famous production designers are constrained by the collaborative work environment of the typical movie production. While charged with creating the physical world for a movie, the designer usually has little control over how the design is lit or photographed, or how actors will be positioned in relation to his or her sets. The look of a film is really achieved in collaboration at least with the director of photography (DP), who in turn answers to the same master, the director.

At the simplest level, this collaboration dictates how much of an environment the designer has to create. In a brute, literal sense, a production design always ends exactly at the edge of the frame. Thus the designer must have a sense of how much of a set or location a director or DP wants to show, which in turn is determined by the photographic process (academy ratio vs. widescreen, or anamorphic widescreen vs. matted) and lens choice (does the director prefer wide angles, or have a fondness for close-ups?) Also, different film stocks may have particular sensitivities that discourage the use of colors in a given range, or be particularly poor in resolving objects in shadow. At a more sophisticated level, the designer has to consider technical issues, such as whether or not the DP wants some kind of "practical" (i.e., visible) lamps on the set to serve as the (illusory) lighting source. Will the characters enter a dark room at night and turn on the light that will become the "key light" (primary illumination) for the scene? If so, the production designer will not only have to find or make a lamp that fits into the design concept, he or she will also have to be certain that its placement will not interfere with the lights on the set that are the true illumination.

Similarly, when working with a director who plans to use a lot of camera movement, the designer and DP must be certain that some walls can be rolled out of the way quickly to accommodate the camera crew as it moves with the action, that there is sufficient space for the camera and crew regardless of where the camera is pointed and where it is moving, and so on. Sufficient space for camera and crew is one of the major considerations in deciding whether or not to use a sound stage. If the director insists on elaborate camerawork, and a location set cannot accommodate camera and crew, a sound stage is a must.

Consider the work of designer David Weller:

Beyond such technical considerations, there is the subtle, ineffable, but necessary question of what simply feels "right" for a particular design. While designers may have a lot of say in creating or finding these details, it is ultimately the director who decides what is included or excluded from the frame. And because it is ultimately the director who makes such decisions, it is also ultimately the director, not the designer, who determines the final visual style of a project.

Production Design


Production design is the creation and organization of the physical world surrounding a film story. The term was coined by producer David O. Selznick (1902–1965) to describe the greater-than-normal contribution of designer William Cameron Menzies (1896–1957) to Gone with the Wind (1939), but the exact responsibilities of a production designer inevitably vary from film to film. In some cases, the production designer is almost completely responsible for the overall look of a film; in others, particularly when working with directors with strong visual styles, a designer's contribution tends to be much more limited. Art direction and production design often overlap, although credit for production design is seen as more inclusive. During the studio era, production designers, as opposed to art directors, were the exception.

The production designer's primary, though by no means exclusive, responsibility is the design of the sets. Exact responsibility varies from one film industry to another. In the United States, for example, production design and costume design are usually two separate professions. In other major film industries, the two responsibilities are often held by a single person. Before designing anything, the designer develops a "design concept," an overarching metaphor for the film's appearance that governs individual choices. This "concept" may or may not be established in conjunction with the director. Once settled upon, however, it structures all decisions made, helping the art staff to give an individual film visual distinction.

Realism and Stylization

As in every cinematic subdiscipline, designers begin with the script and make their contributions within the limits and opportunities the story provides. The options available to them move along a spectrum from realism to stylization. (In this context, "realism" should be understood as a particular style that seeks to convince viewers they are watching events unfold in the real world.) The approach a designer takes (strict realism, heavy stylization, or something in between) is often predetermined by the genre of film on which he or she is working.

At the "realistic" end of the spectrum are stories such as war films, police dramas, and westerns. These genres derive much of their power from the illusion of occurring in the here and now. The violence and horror of the war film is most effective when viewers believe a soldier can be maimed or killed by the grenade dropped in the trench next to him, while the police drama convinces audiences that real criminals are being chased when both pursued and pursuer pound the pavement of real cities.

Black Hawk Down

Such a strict notion of realism, however, is just one approach to production design. Another, at the opposite extreme, creates thoroughly unrealistic, heavily stylized environments that make no attempt to convince viewers they are watching any real, lived-in or live world. These designs try instead to create an alternative environment with an internally consistent logic that lasts as long as the film's duration.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Films from genres such as fantasy, science fiction, and the musical are often heavily stylized. Fantasy and science fiction require an extreme attention to consistent, self-referring design because of the extra difficulty of creating a world that by its very nature appears odd.

12 Monkeys

In musicals, the alternative reality is less one of space and technology than of psychology, as the characters live in a world in which they express themselves through song and dance.

Somewhere between these two poles of realism and stylization are genres such as the period film or the detective story. Period films are unique because the antiques they pull together to provide the realistic illusion of a particular period are by definition different from contemporary reality, and therefore provide a form of stylization.

Girl With a Pearl Earring

For example, the audience's expectation of realistic spatial representation would immediately mark an automobile or cell phone that appeared in a story set in 1700 as "wrong." Disbelief could not be suspended, and the reality of the fictional world could not be established. At the same time, objects that period characters might take as everyday objects, such as handcrafted woodworking tools, are unfamiliar to contemporary audiences.

Design at 24fps - Preproduction

When a project moves from development into the pre-production phase, everything is arranged that must be in place before the actual shoot or principle photography begins. In pre-production, casting is completed, crews are hired, costume designers get busy, and set designers start building. If the film will be shot on location, locations are scouted and contracted for the shoot. A schedule is prepared and the script is divided into scenes by location and casting requirements to make shooting as cost-efficient as possible.

To block out scenes for a shoot, storyboards are often produced that visually capture the essence of the scene’s action. A storyboard is a comic-book-like graphic frame with free-hand rendering of a scene. Storyboards can depict exchanges between characters or action sequences such as a car chase or explosion. They also depict the scene from the desired camera angle(s) and are exhibited at read throughs and/or otherwise distributed among necessary cast and crew.

Cast members must meet costume designers for fittings in the pre-production phase. If voice coaches are required, trainers, tutors or other types of character preparation, that will take place in this phase. Actors who need to lose or gain weight for a part have the pre-production phase to get in shape, physically and mentally.

The administrative structure is also put together in pre-production. Every film is run much like a miniature company with all of the usual departments required: payroll, accounting, budgeting, overseeing and so forth.

It is entirely possible for a film to be dropped during pre-production. One reason might be the loss of a principal cast member, or circumstances that prohibit completion of some other major aspect of the project. Once pre-production gives way to principal photography or the actual shoot, it’s much less common for the film to drop out of production. Financiers are already heavily invested by this point.

The road of movie production is a long process, starting with development, going into pre-production, production or principle photography, post-production, audience testing and finally distribution. Each movie runs its own gamut of trials and tribulations, setbacks and smooth sailing. The entire process can take anywhere from several months to several years, with the development process typically consuming the most time, however there are exceptions. Shooting schedules can be disrupted by casting difficulties, accidents on or off the set involving major cast members, or in the case of location shoots, uncooperative weather or other unforeseen problems. When a film finally makes it to the big screen, it represents a considerable accomplishment for all involved.

The 405

Early Compositing

All compositing involves the replacement of selected parts of an image with other material, usually, but not always, from another image. In the digital method of compositing, software commands designate a narrowly defined color as the part of an image to be replaced. Then every pixel within the designated color range is replaced by the software with a pixel from another image, aligned to appear as part of the original. For example, a TV weather person is recorded in front of a plain blue or green screen, while compositing software replaces only the designated blue or green color with weather maps.

Virtual sets are also used in motion pictures, some of which are photographed entirely in blue or green screen environments; for example, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. More commonly, composited backgrounds are combined with sets – both full-size and models – and vehicles, furniture, and other physical objects that enhance the “reality” of the composited visuals. “Sets” of almost unlimited size can be created digitally because compositing software can take the blue or green color at the edges of a backing screen and extend it to fill the rest of the frame outside it. That way, subjects recorded in modest areas can be placed in large virtual vistas. Most common of all, perhaps, are set extensions: digital additions to actual performing environments.

In the film, Gladiator, for example, the arena and first tier seats of the Roman Coliseum were actually built, while the upper galleries (complete with moving spectators) were computer graphics, composited onto the image above the physical set. For motion pictures originally recorded on film, high-quality video conversions called “digital intermediates” are created to enable compositing and the other operations of computerized post production. Digital compositing is a form of matting, one of four basic compositing methods. The others are physical compositing, multiple exposure, and background projection.


Nine Inch Nails' Only

Compositing Continuity


Lights, Camera

One Giant Soundstage


Dream Utah