When you get a new show, many Post Producers and Post Supervisors think that the first thing to do is review the budget. But it really all starts with the schedule. The Post Production budget is informed by the Post Production Schedule. Sure the numbers are important, and budgeting will end up being a multi part series, but if you want to accurately budget a show you need to ask some basic scheduling questions. When does production start shooting? When must you deliver?
The Essentials of a Post Production Schedule
Start at the beginning. When does shooting start? This is fairly obvious but the reason for the question isn’t semantic. Between the time you start and the first shoot day, is the time you have to figure out what needs to be done before shooting.
Studios are asking for shorter and shorter prep time for Post Producers and Post Supervisors. Often as little as two weeks to set up a whole series. Of course, you can’t set up a series in two weeks, so you may have to work on flex time. That is when the studio tells you that you don’t have to show up every day and that you can spread the two weeks they are paying you over several weeks of prep. The Executive Producers on the other hand usually expect you to be working full time for the prep. But Prep is another article.
The Prep is how long you have to figure out workflow that you will need to set up. Don’t underestimate the time that this takes, particularly if you haven’t done a file based show yet. Everything is new, give yourself time.
Depending on your project, production will be easier to schedule, unless there are a lot of visual effects. How many days are you shooting seven? ten? If it it is a complicated show their may be overlap days, that you will need to accomodate.
Next you need to calculate how long you will need before your first anything is due. Often something is due and you don’t won’t have a cut. Budget it. Studios are notorious for having lots of marketing and promo needs while you are in production. You need to understand and schedule them (budgeting comes later, even though I know you want to get there now).
Post Production Schedule
O.k. we get to the gravy. Schedule Editor’s Cut at least two days, Three or four if you can spare it, from last day of dailies. Really. Do your Editor and yourself a favor. The better the Editor’s Cut the happier everyone will be down the road. In episodic, when pinched squeeze the Director’s Cut, unless they are an Executive Producer. By Director’s Guild rules they are required to get 4 days. This is not a contradiction, just something for tactics. Which is another article. Producer’s Cut (this is an episodic television schedule still). Should be four days, at least. The really good ones, that understand editing will want more time six to seven days at least.
The Studio Notes will take days to give notes if you let them. Only allow 1 Day and push to keep it that way. Network Notes will based on the Studio Cut (which contains their notes) another day. And 1 day to Lock Picture. Spotting sessions are one day, but can actually take place on Lock Picture day now, if necessary.
Visual Effects are difficult to schedule in the abstract. You need to know how many and how complicated. If you are on a tight delivery schedule, visual effects may need to begin before picture lock. Sometimes way before.
Most Sound Companies want 5 days from turnover to mix and will get finicky. Make sure you understand when you will get hit with a short turn around fee and schedule just the safe side of that. Mixing will be two-four days depending on the show. Laybacks can occur, the night of the last mix day, unless it is a complicated sound show. Delivery dubs will take a day.
Known when you have to deliver, it may have no resemblance to the air date. When I started Lost we could deliver day of air if necessary, by the time we completed the series delivery was three business days before air date because of international needs. HBO needs even longer lead times. A month is common.
Schedule first, budget next. The most important thing to watch is whether you are on a short turnaround for anything. That will effect the budget. An Article on Post Production will be come soon.