WHAT DO POST PRODUCTION COMPANIES DO?
At its most simplest: post production comes after preproduction and production. It is where footage captured on set/location (rushes) is converted into a format agreed by the production company, edited into a VT story, programme, series or film and then delivered to the channel/broadcaster for transmission. There’s a plethora of hi-tech digital cameras on the market today (eg.RED, ARRI, and DSLRs) that produce incredible HD, 3D, 2K, 4K quality footage. Those working in post production have to deal with a multitude of different digital materials coming in from shoots - though film rushes are becoming a rarity (in TV) these days as it’s so costly to develop.
When RAW footage from production arrive in post, the first process it goes through is ingest (compressed to a low resolution so it takes up less HD space) then it goes to the offline edit. Junior post production staff carry out the ingesting and prepare footage ready for the editors to start a rough assembly using editing software such as Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro and Avid. Editors are guided by Directors (usually in Drama) or Edit Producers (EP) and Series Producers SP (more common in Factual/Documentary), who assert the narrative thread and set the style and pace of the programme. Throughout the offline, rough cuts of the programme are viewed by the production company executive and SP and then sent to the broadcaster to view, usually via online file share sites such as Wetransfer.com or directly to the end user’s server using FTP. After client feedback, the edit will produce a fine cut, which will go through another round of viewing, feedback and amendments. Offline finishes when the cut is ready for picture lock, (all the pictures are fixed - though narration/sound design can still be adjusted). To bring the programme up to TX (broadcast) standard, the resolution has to be upgraded in an online editing suite, which requires a hell of a lot more HD space to accommodate the conform.
Video edits can be made in online as well, usually only minor tweaks though. When offline projects are consolidated for online they usually include handles on video media (each clip includes a few seconds either side of what is being used in the clip), this allows the online Editor to make small changes if needed. Online editing is far more costly than offline editing which is why it is important to get the picture lock as perfect as possible.
In TV it’s quite common now for programmes to be graded at the end of the online edit. Grading evens out the colour tones and irons out irregularities if footage has been shot in different formats, and it’s also used to control the time of day. As a comparison, in Film, colour grading is often used to give feeling to the whole production, sets a theme for the content. Think of the difference between the shine of 'Gladiator' and 'Mad Max' compared to the washed out gloominess and greyness of 'The Wire'. There are dedicated grading suites in most post production facility houses, and Colourists lead the grading process. A fine cut (or final cut) is the last edit process and includes putting in lower frame supers (captions), title sequence, adding a credit roller and Graphics / Visual FX outside of titles as well. Master copies are assessed (QC), then either printed and delivered, or more prevalently now - file based transferred via FTP. The post house will also produce a volume of safe copies for the production company to archive and distribute.
Most production companies producing corporate content will have in-house post production facilities. Post production processes for small independent production companies are becoming more and more affordable, as powerful industry standard software and hardware is getting cheaper and more accessible. Often offline edits will be done in house with online, grading, tracklay, mix and delivery happening at a post house. There is no room for error in TV and Film, so Post Production houses have insurance for making mistakes on deliverables, which takes the responsibility a little out of the production companies hands at one of the most important stages: delivering the goods.
Post production houses offer a range of services to producers including: designing workflows suited to any kind of format or schedule, data wrangling, tracklay, mix, foley, online edit and grading. Technology changes all the time and post production houses have to keep up in order to cope with the demands of the market. They often have a database of freelance editors, runners and edit assistants on their books, but it is up to the production companies to decide if they want use the database or bring in their own editor(s).
What is a runner?
Runners are found at the lowest rung on the TV career ladder. It’s the position most people apply for when they decide to get into the industry. No matter how many student films you’ve made or courses you’ve been on: ‘Runner’ should be at the top of your CV when applying for that first job in TV. If it currently reads ‘Filmmaker’, ‘DOP’ or ‘Editor’, scrub this out as anyone receiving your CV will at best be confused and at worse angry, dropping it straight in the bin. Before you even address your CV - you must think long and hard about a career in TV. It’s an over-crowded industry (especially entry level positions), competitive and incredibly hard work. You will be expected to do a whole manner of tasks, from buying lunches to moving office furniture around.
A Runner has the opportunity to experience any of the TV departments - and it’s quite common for Runners to try out a few different departments (across different genres) before settling, or moving up the chain. Even if you think you want to make hard hitting documentaries, any experience is good experience. Don’t just look for jobs in the genre you want to end up in – you could change your mind!
If you’ve been a barista in the summer holidays - this is actually a good parallel to what you’ll be doing as a Runner (making drinks, working long hours, being nice to rude customers, all for a low pay). So if you can cope with that, you can cope with being a Runner. If you fancy being a Runner on Feature Films, take a look at our sister site: www.myfirstjobinfilm.co.uk for more info.
A Runner does exactly what the word insinuates - you ‘run’ errands, make litres and litres of tea, buy stuff, clean all sorts of things, basically be there for whoever needs you, whenever they need you. Post Production Runners interact with a mix of Editors, executives, suppliers, other Runners and the general public - all of whom you need to be super nice to. As the saying goes, “Be nice to those you meet on your way up, because you will meet them on your way down.” TV is a small world, and you will inevitably cross paths with the same people time after time. The most important thing at your disposal is your attitude. A smile will cost nothing, and get you a long way! No one ever remembers or wants to re-employ a grumpy runner.
No matter what you learned at college or uni, your education begins on your first day as a Runner. There are no short cuts as it takes years to understand the TV environment: the hierarchies, the rules that aren’t ever going to be written in a text book and the amazingly complicated structure of the production and creative processes can only be learnt inside the industry. Being a Runner gives you a unique overview, one that you’re unlikely to get further up the ladder when you’re grounded within one department.
HOW DO YOU GET INTO POST PRODUCTION?
Solid IT skills are a bonus. If you’re pedantic about backing stuff up on HDs and are a bit OCD with digital filing and naming conventions, then these are positive traits to have. A background in any kind of administration is a plus. Intensive industry experience is the most obvious route into this role, though it helps to have a grounding in the broadcasting or technology degree.
If you start out as a runner on a feature film, or in-house at an independent production company, try to express your passion for post-production and you could be asked to do some data wrangling or help out in an editing suite. You need to be trustworthy, incredibly organised and accurate with labelling and filing important materials. The UK’s biggest and best post houses are found in Soho, London. Top companies to look out for are: Pinewood, Envy, Evolutions, Splice and Molinare. Televisual magazine publish annual surveys on the state of post-production facilities, in 2015, they published this list of the top 10 best facilities houses.
Making and cutting your own films, or offering to edit other people’s short films is another way to get noticed and hone your cutting and post-production workflow skills. The more diverse the subject area the better, the more footage you get used to handling, in a wider range of formats, the more prepared you will feel when you step into a post production house. You don’t have to spend any money to have a go at editing - if you’ve got a MacBook, you can use free software iMovies, or you could trial professional editing software for free. You may only get 30 days in some cases, but it’s good to familiarise yourself with the different products out there. There’s thousands of free online tutorials on YouTube too, so you can learn editing shortcuts and tricks of the trade in the comfort of your own home, at your own pace.
Once you’ve familiarised yourself with one or two editing programmes, cut a few short films and added them to an online portfolio (eg. Vimeo), you should research the post-production facility houses in your area. Apply for work experience or apply to be an in-house runner, technical runner or receptionist (you’ll find a ‘work for us’ page on most post houses websites with an email address to send your CV to). Ensure that you add a link to your Vimeo portfolio to show that you’re practicing post production. Once you’ve got your foot in the door and proved that you’re resourceful and reliable, you may be rewarded with being given some simple edit tasks such as labelling and storing tapes, backing up data or assisting other post-production staff.
Logging footage is a natural progression from running and often leads into edit assisting. Loggers are employed either during production (especially on live shows, or Fixed Rig documentaries), or in post-production. A Logger’s chief responsibility is to view all the rushes and record key themes, sync and story arcs. After they’ve watched everything and produced their logs using popular video logging software such as Forscene, A-frame and Cinegy, they feed back information about good storylines and provide time codes of good sync/scenes. Feedback is provided in a searchable log format, key moments are identified using time code so that the SP/EP/PDs are able to build stories quickly and efficiently. The role of the logger is important because they summarise hundreds or thousands of hours of footage so that editorial can easily locate the juiciest moments for the edit.
If technology and work flows are your thing, you could go from logger to edit assistant then offline editor, which would mean you keep a foot in editorial, but you also have a better understanding of work flows and the storytelling process.
How can I speed up my entry into the TV Industry?
Be prepared to send hundreds of emails and polish up your phone manner - this industry includes a lot of hard graft, even before you land your first job. Research every post-production company listed on The Knowledge and make contact with the ones in your area.
Whilst you’re researching the industry: watch tons of TV! You need to understand the medium before you can make it. Watch a whole range of programmes, on every channel. Decide what you like, what you don’t, and then watch the credits right to the end. Learn the different job titles and what they all mean, and then add the company who made it to your contacts list! When contacting them for the first time – mention a programme they recently made that you liked and why.
Everyone knows everyone in TV, so the sooner you start flexing your contacts, the better. A lot of jobs come up by word of mouth. HoDs will always ask their friends and colleagues for recommendations before they consider advertising a job, so it’s all about who you know and being persistent (without being stalker-ish!).
Remember to keep in touch and follow-up with people on social media. Make sure your Twitter and Facebook are professional though. Every potential employer will look you up so do yourself a favour and hide anything that’s derogatory or embarrassing. (Same goes for your email address: it should be as professional and simple as possible).
What genres do Post Production Runners work in?
Runners are in need on every single genre, which is fortunate for new entrants. Post-production houses take on multiple productions at any one time (could be anything from 5 to 15 productions) - there’s likely to be an eclectic mix of content being cut under one roof. Here is a list of possible genres you may encounter as a post-production runner:
What is the career path if I want to work in Post -production?
Like any area of the TV industry - there are multiple routes in and a number of ways to merge into the department if you are determined to go into post-production. Depending on your previous work experience, a good path is to start as a post-production house runner/receptionist, you could transition to edit assistant in 3-6 months, but it’s more likely to take a year or two. In broadcast and film, once you have got your first few credits under your belt, expect to stay as an edit assistant for anywhere from 2 to 5 years. Your next step would likely involve becoming a junior editor. Again expect to work in this capacity for 2 to 5 years before becoming a fully fledged editor. For a lot of editors, reaching the offline is a successful milestone in their career, but others may cross over into online and specialise in grading as colourists.
After testing the waters in post, you might decide that being office-based from week-to-week isn’t for you - in which case, with your solid understanding of formats and data management, you could cross over into production - working on set as a data wrangler/DIT. Lots of skills garnered in post can be transferred to production, and a whole host of creative and technical departments.
What do Post Production Runners do?
It depends on the size and status of the post-production house. But the most important thing to remember is to do everything with a smile and be prepared to go above and beyond in order to get noticed (and move on to the next job). Main tasks in-house at a post-production facility include:
Provide hospitality for clients and artists
First point of contact for a range of both internal and external clients and visitors
Carry out requests made by the post production team
Keep edit suites clean and tidy
Deal with deliveries and collections
Keep reception, kitchen and bathrooms clean and tidy
Keep tea and coffee making areas clean and tidy
Liaise with suppliers if there are any stock shortages
Ensure Health and Safety policies are observed
Provide admin support where required (eg. checking invoices and job sheets)
Empty bins/sort recycling
Provide cover when required for other junior members of staff
May also work in the Library carrying out archiving and other similar activities
May get involved in digitising materials prior to editing
Carry out basic repairs on office materials - phones, chairs, etc.
Collect cash floats from banks
Routine running of the building, e.g., opening and locking up (may be the last to leave the facility at the end of the day)
What personal attributes do Post Production Runners have?
WHAT IS POST PRODUCTION LIKE TO WORK IN?
It used to be commonplace for editors to work in cave-like conditions - pale people housed in dark, dank rooms with no windows. But the edit suites offered in post production facility houses are much more luxurious now and often have air-con, big windows and sofas too! Edit suites these days are more client-facing and thus more accommodating so the environment is amiable.
You need to strike up a good and friendly rapport with the senior post production staff and production managers from production companies, and especially the editors, because if a particular editor spots your talent - they can put a good word in, which can lead to getting work but it’s more about making sure you get on with the production manager. You need to be dexterous and good at multitasking because often, you may be supporting a few edit suites at once (depending on the size of the company). When you become an edit assistant, you will be working very closely with the editor/editors of the show - similar to the IMO editorial / production relationship, you and your editor/editors will become like a mini family as you spend a lot of time in close proximity.
Be prepared that every now and again, the series producer, exec or commissioner will join you in the edit to see how things are progressing (sometimes at very short notice) - so it helps if you’ve got good people skills, and know how to act around execs and high-powered people. Be friendly but keep your eye on the job at hand. If there are no refreshments, make sure you get on it quickly. In these instances it’s best to speak when spoken to, keep your mouth shut when viewings are taking place, do not interrupt the viewing in anyway, and leave the room quietly if you have to deal with something else.
Although editing is a highly creative craft, (you’re piecing together a compelling story from reams and reams of footage) some TV formats (Eg. daytime / entertainment) have rules that must be stuck to, which in turn takes a lot of the creativity away. The editor’s primary focus is to find the nuggets of TV gold, play god with a range of different characters and form a narrative that will (hopefully) please the intended audience and beyond. Yes there are crazy hours to be worked, and the rushes are not always top quality, but if you love a challenge and appreciate well-cut programmes, then this could be the career for you!
Important Post-production Runner No-Nos:
Gossip spreads like wildfire and indecent behaviour will get you noticed for all the wrong reasons, so make sure to be professional at all times.
Don’t turn up late under the influence of anything stringer then red-bull. It’s very important to network, and be involved in social events, but just don’t over do it.
Don’t hassle the editors/sound designer/colourists, or try and make them your best friends. A bit like in the Victorian era when children were ‘seen and not heard’, Runners should be discreet with an VO artists, celebs and presenters who may come in to record commentary. Only talk if they initiate a conversation.
Don’t lose important documents - (try and keep everything in the office - and get to know the shredder well) it will have serious legal implications if paperwork is leaked or picked up by the press.
Don’t disobey confidentiality rules - posting pictures of the editing suites or VO artists/talent on Twitter or Facebook is a big no-no. You may be asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which stipulates that you are not allowed to release any information about the content you’re working.
Don’t moan about the job. Especially in ear-shot of clients. Everyone at this level knows how tough the job can be, and how frustrating it is to want to step-up. But there’s something to be said for someone who can put the graft in and do it with a sense of humour and a smile. Clients remember that. It can take some people a long time to even get to the point of making teas and they’re really proud to have taken that first step. Don’t stamp on the enthusiasm of your fellow colleagues.
What hours do runners work?
Hours may be long (8 - 12 hours a day) and the work can be physically exhausting. For most of this time, you will be on your feet, and as the junior member of the team you will be called upon to do most of the running. As you can be expected to work long hours, make sure to take care of yourself as well as the rest of the Department (tea and water on hand whenever you get a chance to step away from other duties).
Post-production run to very tight schedules to adhere to delivery and broadcaster TX dates, so be prepared to do night shifts and weekends. Quite often, edit deadlines approach and very important viewings come up, so the editors may feel they need to work late into the night to get the work up to scratch. And likewise they may want to come in on a weekend to get cracking. Regular broadcast shows which have a weekly turn-around will quite often need the extra hours put in to make sure they meet the deadlines. Erratic working hours are a given, so lap up the extra hours and think of the overtime you’ll get at the end of it.
Always make sure to log down the hours you work, so that you’re not getting underpaid.
Also, sometimes things can go wrong with ingesting, which means a lot of waiting around. When there’s quite a few runners, you all generally look out for one another and it won’t be one person doing lates and overtime all the time. It’ll be shared as equally as possible. And if you feel you’re doing it all, bring it up with your line manager. They’ll more than likely be aware of this and it’ll just put you in good stead for when there’s a promotion on the horizon.
How much do Runners get paid?
Some productions will have you on a 5 or 6 day working week, with a 10 hr day cited as ‘social hours’. Other companies will offer you an hourly rate. Bectu (Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union) have their recommended Freelance Rate Card for Factual TV, which lists a Runner as £397 per week (inc holiday pay). Don’t ever accept less that £350 for a 5 day week, as that will take you below the National Minimum Wage.
Try and keep a log of the actual hours you work - as these will inevitably be longer than originally quoted. Bring it up with your Line Manager/Facilities Manager - Runners have as many rights as everyone else. Even though your FM may seem intimidating, exhaustion can really hinder you and accidents are more likely to happen if you’re not getting any sleep. If you don’t feel you can talk to your FM, approach someone on the crew who you feel you can trust and show them your hours - or if you’re a member of BECTU, they’ll give you free advice. /p>
Can I start a career in Film and cross over to Broadcast TV?
Yes, it’s possible. If you’re a data wrangler working with a DoP on feature films, you often liaise with post-production houses, which is a good way to step into editing, as you’ll have a strong list of contacts and be familiar with the layout and anatomy of edit suites. TV edit suites are pretty much identical to those used by film editors and most post houses cater to both TV and film production needs, so you could quite easily transition to TV. Diversity of the content that you’d be cutting will be the biggest variable. Due to the growing use of file based systems across both genres - there are more similarities these days.
Do I need a driving licence?
To stay ahead of the competition, it helps. You won’t do much (if any) driving at a post-production facilities house, but if you decide to supplement your career with production assistant or runner positions, it will be beneficial - and the further up the career ladder you go, the more likely you’ll need a licence. It doesn’t matter if you don’t own a car, as productions usually supply hire cars for crew. Be aware that your age could count against you if you’re fresh out of Uni. Being old can work in a Runner’s favour because insurance is cheaper for over 25s. If you live in the sticks, you will definitely need a car as the majority of post production companies are based in cities such as London, Manchester, Cardiff and Bristol.
Will I need to move for work?
Cities offer more work. If you don’t live in Bristol, London, Birmingham, Manchester or Cardiff - you might want to consider moving close to one of these cities. Or, check to see if any of your friends live there. Runners are usually on short contracts, so mates won’t mind if you crash for a week or so. You can also find very cheap accommodation on Air BnB, SpareRoom, or Crew Rooms if you’re not within commuting distance of home.
Will I be handling company cash?
It is likely that you’ll handle cash in one form or another. You may be asked to collect cash floats from the bank. Occasionally SPs/PDs and Execs will give you their bank cards (and pin numbers) to get cash out or to pay for their food if they’re too busy to leave the office. Be very careful not to lose these! It’s a good idea to keep a separate wallet, or zip-up bag to keep float money and cards separate from your own. Always keep receipts, you’ll need these to reconcile your float. Make sure receipts are VAT receipts as the accountant needs to claim VAT charges back from the government.
It’s handy to keep some petty cash vouchers with you at all times, in case a supplier or shop keeper can’t issue you with a receipt - make sure the supplier signs the voucher too!
If you’re given a cash float to buy things on behalf of the post production house, you will sign a form or receipt to prove the money was handed over. Your float needs to balance when you reconcile it, (it will be a mix of receipts and loose change by then) - this is usually logged on an expense form. Once you’ve filled it out and checked that the float balances, a coordinator or facilities manager enters it into the budget as money spent.
Is there a department hierarchy?
Yes, so tread carefully until you learn the hierarchy. The Heads of Departments (HODs) and talent are at the top, unless you’re being visited by Executives, Commissioners or Clients. Rule of thumb is: just be nice to everyone. When it comes to catering and refreshments - always prioritize those at the top of the hierarchy first.
What is the difference between a Data Assistant and an Edit Assistant?
Edit assistants are usually employed by the production company and data assistants are usually employed by the post house. Edit assistants are usually focused on one production at a time with a wider variety of tasks whereas data assistants usually work across a series of productions but primarily focused on managing media for the relevant project. Often the roles overlap and often they work together hand in hand.
Thank you's ...
My First Job in TV would like to thank Keiran Jones, freelance post production runner, for his input into the guide.