“How Long Will That Take?”

February 22, 2024 - Dustin Glendinning

Why are some things in post-production easy and some things are hard?

How long will that take?

As a Director of Post-Production, I am asked "how long will that take?" at least once a week. The only consistent answer I can give right away is; it depends. There is no set time any single task in video post-production takes, it always depends on the material. So, now I'll share some reasons why post-production tasks can be either very simple or very difficult.

One of the main reasons some projects take longer than they should in post is poor planning. Anything that can be decided prior to starting production speeds up post-production. The mantra "Fix it in Pre" rings true here—making crucial decisions before production begins can streamline our work later on. Ideally, post-production is about enhancing production, not fixing it. For example, I would rather be experimenting with the best EQ setting for somebody's microphone instead of trying to repair and clean up audio that was poorly recorded.

Start at the end
Working backwards from a deadline is a great practice to follow. Decide on key deadlines for when different parts of a project need to be approved. By breaking a video into discrete parts, it becomes much more efficient to focus on each element of a video and polish each part to the best it can be.

Another benefit of starting with the end video in mind thinking through all the steps that the project will go through. This lets you stop and prepare any contingencies that may be needed as a project changes before it gets to post-production. Testing each of those steps is always helpful to determine any weak points in the project ahead of time and prevent roadblocks.

Once in post-production, it's inevitable that problems will appear. While keeping the original objective of the video front of mind, clarify what the specific problems are and list out different solutions that could overcome them. There is almost always more than one solution so plan for time to experiment with different solutions.

Despite all the planning anyone can do, post-production still depends on the actual material. What you have to work with and what you want to achieve dictate what tools to use. Flexibility is key—we must be prepared to adapt our strategies to suit the material at hand. When things go to plan, I have more time to try new things, and when they don’t, I still feel like I usually have some kind of map or template to follow and diagnose the problem.