The phrase “Fix it in post” is often heard by filmmakers on a film set, and frequently made fun of or reflected on through social media, at times in a serious manner, but perhaps more frequently as a joke. However, there are instances where this phrase makes perfect sense within a given film production, and then there are times when the mantra could actually hinder the final product. We’ll cover both the pros, and the cons, of this often-heard mantra.
What “Fix it in Post” Means
“Fix it in post” is a phrase within the film world which means to acknowledge a known issue on set that, at face value, appears to be more efficient, and cost effective to correct in post-production with some sort of special effects, such as visual effects, or VFX, such as CGI, color grading, or compositing, or post sound editing like sound effects or equalizers, as opposed to correcting the issue on set to get it right in camera. This mindset can have one of two outcomes that have two very different results. The ideal result being that the issue is indeed easier to correct, and in certain circumstances cheaper, to fix in post, leading to the decision that they don’t fix the issue on set. This is a prolific mindset among indie movie makers on short films which often do not have the freedom to redo certain scenes or use certain locations again or for longer periods of time due to time or budget constraints. The other outcome being the exact opposite, and by choosing not to correct the issue while shooting, causes more trouble, and money, when the issue is addressed in post-production by a video editor.
When it Makes Sense
A common instance when it is easier to fix an issue in post is when there is an object in frame that you’d prefer not to be there, but it just isn’t possible to remove, or hide. The framing is essentially perfect outside of this one distracting object within the frame. A good example of this is any unwanted signage in a building where an interview is being shot, whether that be an exit sign hanging in the middle of a hallway, or a billboard in view out a window or behind someone in an external shot. There is a good chance the film producer might not have the means to properly hide or remove the signage, but it distracts from the video nonetheless.
In post you can easily mask out the unwanted signage, and apply this mask to all the clips in which the object you would like to mask out appears in the frame. Often this editing technique is much easier, and less time consuming, than attempting to hide the object while you’re shooting on location. While shooting, time is typically at a premium, and it can take an unforeseen amount of time that wasn’t accounted for in the shooting schedule to fix an unwanted sign being in the frame, as compared to completing a usually simple and time-efficient task during the edit.
When it Becomes its Own Problem
Conversely, an example where it isn’t wise to address an issue in post is if a person is wearing something that is unintentionally distracting. For example, if you are conducting an interview with a woman who is wearing a very glitzy and reflective necklace that is creating unwanted lens flares, it is best to ask her to remove the necklace as opposed to masking it in post like we did with the sign in the above example.
The reason for this is because unlike the sign that was a stationary object, the necklace is on a person who is most certainly going to be moving. Even if this movement is more subtle, you are now going to need to track the mask in post to ensure the mask follows the movement of the object you’re masking. Additionally, the complexity of creating a mask around the necklace, whether it be over skin or clothing, that will accurately and seamlessly blend into the rest of the object’s background is often extremely difficult and time consuming even for the most advanced editors. A much easier fix to this would be to ask the woman to remove the necklace altogether. If she refuses to remove the necklace, well that’s an entirely different article altogether. The point being that the additional time it would take an editor to track a mask in post is substantially longer than the amount of time it would take for the woman to remove her necklace.
So, the next time you’re on set and “fix it in post” is mentioned, give that mantra a serious thought. Sometimes that sentiment rings true and sometimes you’re opening a whole other can of worms. More often than not, time is the most precious commodity throughout every stage of production, and you need to do your best to determine when “fixing it in post” is simply more time efficient or if it’s more time efficient to fix it on set.