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Post Production Assistant

If your career plan involves working as an editor, sound designer or colourist starting out in client services at a post-production facility is a rite of passage.

Post Production Assistant Image
Stage
1

Define where in the post production process you see yourself headed editing, sound, colourist. Try your hand on short films to see what happens in production. Create a portfolio and website.

Stage
2

Research the companies you want to work for and tailor your CV to them specifically, look to MFJF for opportunities.

Stage
3

Expect to be a PA for anywhere between 6 months to 2 years before promotion. Use the company facilities to work on your own projects.

WHAT DO POST PRODUCTION COMPANIES DO?

Post-production companies are endlessly evolving to fit the needs of their clients. Gone are the days of dark airless rooms with hard drives the size of breeze blocks heating up the cramped space like a sauna. Current post facilities are often spacious and comfortable, letting in natural light where possible and providing sofas, refreshments, and a team of running staff to cater to clients' needs. Post facilities can vary in their remit; small companies who focus on one area of the post process (offline editing, post-sound, online, and grading) all the way to larger companies who facilitate the whole package, expanding over the past few years to incorporate VFX into their operations. Every business will be adept at dealing with a range of requirements from production, with an in-house production team taking responsibility for the workflow and care of clients.

Members of the post-production team (including post producers, editors, sound designers, colorists, and the VFX supervisor) are engaged to some extent in pre-production. The budget, schedule, crew, edit suite, dubbing theatres, and equipment have already been booked and agreed on before the camera starts to roll, if editorial is working in tandem to the shoot, they will have been involved in pre-production meetings. Post-production supervisors work in close collaboration with the film's producers, production/line manager and VFX supervisor if that is a component, they take the reins from the production office a few weeks after wrap. 

Despite the change in recent years concerning digital formats, the basic elements remain the same when looking at the post-production schedule. If shooting on film, the rushes are taken to the lab where they are processed and put through the telecine, when digitized and graded a copy is sent back to the production for the director and DoP to watch the dailies (the days rushes). In some instances stills are processed from the rushes and forwarded to the DoP and director, the digital files are sent via fiber optic link to the edit suite. 

If shooting in a digital format, the files will be transcoded (files are formatted to a less intensive resolution enabling the edit suite to cope with the vast amount of data) and handed over to the assistant editor(s) who bring the footage into the editing software. The metadata, which is the shot/take number, size of the shot, will be checked. Production sound is synced, script supervisors notes recorded using software such as Continuity.  Assistant editors need to be precise and methodical when working with the amount of data generated from a feature film, the file systems and rigorous backing up requires close attention to detail. 

Once the editor has the footage they produce the first assembly, or rough cut, of the film. This may include guide tracks or music to assist in the flow and rhythm of the edit. The editor makes notes of any missing shots or extra footage needed to support the structure of the edit. If the edit is running in tandem with production this information can be acted upon relatively quickly. Replicating a scene the day after it was shot is significantly easier than going back two months later.  On completion of the director’s cut, a process called spotting and timing takes place. Areas of the film are ‘spotted’ for music, notes on when the music comes in and out are applied and used to collate the ‘cue list’. The list is forwarded to the film’s composer, and once the film is locked the Sound Department become involved. 

Sound editors work through the film methodically, making notes on any lines that need re-recording. They can take dialogue from another take that has cleaner sound or add words to make a line clearer. Any lines that are unsalvageable need to be re-recorded in the ADR (audio dialogue replacement). ADR is a process that involves the actor repeating their dialogue in a controlled environment, matching their speech pattern to the picture using specialized software such as Voice Q or Soundmaster ION. 

Sound editors can then sync up the foley, ADR and sound effects to the picture, also known as the audio conform to picture, creating tracks to be used in the pre-dub. As the original score is laid down by the composer, the sound mixer will start work on the pre-dubs. The mixer will be responsible for an evening out the dynamic range, making sure there is a consistent quality of sound for theatrical and home entertainment releases. By combining the tracks, it brings them tonally closer together, making it easier for the final mix of three tracks: dialogue, music and effects which accompany the finished film. At the end of the process, the film is taken to the colorist who will work with the DoP and director to fully grade the film (having rectified any major problems earlier on in the process).

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE FILM LAB?

A few short years ago film processing companies started to close their doors. The popular consensus was that film was dead and it was only a matter of time until digital was the format of choice for feature film production. It turns out it’s not as simple as all that, there is something about the quality and texture of the image and the process of working on film that filmmakers return to, and in many cases have never left.

If working on film the loader or PA will take the rushes to the production office with the camera report sheets. From here the rushes are dispatched to the lab for overnight processing. After processing the film goes through a telecine machine, which transfers the footage into digital files. As the telecine or ‘one light print’ is simply a light shining through the celluloid it’s no surprise it produces quite a flat image. 

The lab (depending on its remit) can perform a grade to the rushes; this involves extensive conversations with the DoP about the tone, texture and feel of the film. Stills from each scene are emailed to the DoP and director, and the graded rushes are sent via fiber optic or satellite link to the editorial team either on location or at one of the post-production facilities. As the rushes are stored on servers, they can be accessed by studio execs and producers anywhere in the world. Although prints of the finished film are no longer necessary, as almost all cinemas use digital projectors, prints are made for archive reasons as film does not degrade when kept in the right environment. Despite the relative ease of backing up files on a hard drive, the file system can be obsolete in a matter of years rendering the whole process useless. Film, on the other hand, can always be revisited.

WHO IS INVOLVED IN POST PRODUCTION?

Editor and edit assistants.

Editing a film is a technically and creatively demanding process. The director and editor work in close collaboration over weeks and sometimes months to pull the story together. The editor will set the films pace, suspense and comic timing depending on the genre of the film. If your goal is to become an editor, you can learn a great deal from observing experienced editors. Cutting your own projects will give you a greater understanding of what works and what simply doesn't.

Essential skills for working as an editor would be:

  • Being able to work on your own and transition to working in a room full of creative voices.

  • Being technically minded while possessing artistic flair.

  • A strong sense of narrative and character.

  • Check any ego at the door to help the director achieve their vision for the film. However, you may have to express an opinion and defend it if you think it will benefit the production.

  • Diplomacy and tact.

  • Remaining calm and confident when dealing with high pressured situations such as changes in schedule, changes of mind and differences of opinion.

Depending on the type of production the editing team (which will consist of the editor, 1st, 2nd assistants and a junior member of the team if working with a big budget) will work in close cooperation with the DIT, VFX team, post-production supervisor, director and producer(s).

The grade and role of the colorist.

The colorists complete the all-important grade, also known as the color correction process. The film's negative (or the digital files) have primary color correction and color matching applied to the rushes or first cut of the film. A colorist is also responsible for ensuring the film is broadcast legal as there are strict requirements from broadcasters about luminance levels (brightness) and chroma (color).

The colorist can greatly enhance the work of the cinematographer and the visual style of the film and their advice can be sought during pre-production. When the project first enters the post-production facility, rough corrections are taken care of in the offline edit, but the work of the colorist mainly takes place online using high-end software such as Baselight or Davinci Studio. High-grade monitors, external vectorscopes and waveform monitors are used to achieve the most accurate outcome. The colorist will work in close collaboration with the editor, director and cinematographer.

Essential skills for a colorist would include:

  • Sharp eyes to detect the smallest variation in shots such as color, exposure or tone.

  • Being able to capture a feel or tone the DoP wishes to create while keeping the image at legal levels.

  • Technical competency is critical when working as a colorist. Keeping up with any advancements in technology and remaining in contact with the software companies such as Film Light (who make Baselight) is essential. Colourists should be sure they are working with the best possible tools for the job.  

  • Work well under the pressure of deadlines. The colorist work comes at the tail end of production where schedules are usually squeezed.

  • Be able to collaborate.

  • Tact and diplomacy will be required.

Sound designer and the Sound Department.

Post-production sound encompasses a multitude of different processes to bring texture, atmosphere and life to the film.  Their work can be complicated due to decisions that are taken in production, with the fatal words ‘we’ll sort it out in post’ being uttered on set. The sound team are brought in at the end of the post-production process, so schedules are squeezed, and money can be tight, or in some cases already spent! On a big-budget feature, a large team will work on sound design and editing, for low budgets more of the work can be taken on by one person. The post-production Sound Department will be involved with:

  • ADR/Looping. This is where dialogue can be replaced if there is an issue with clarity, delivery or external sound that was not picked up while filming, equally, directors may elect to sort out a known audio issue in post to save time on the shoot.

  • Sound effects. Constructing sounds that complement one another and blend smoothly into the mix. They can be anything from doors opening, clothes rustling to a jacket dropping onto a chair or keys jangling. SFX (sound effects) will work in conjunction with VFX to accentuate any of the creations, explosions or animation they produce, bringing it to life on the screen.

  • Foley. The footfall and cup clinking utility sound worked so hard to prevent during production are replaced in post under controlled conditions, so that dialogue can remain clean.

  • Orchestral or electronic musical score laydown. The original score for the film is recorded in a studio ready for the sound mix.

  • Sound mix. Where all the above elements are combined and laid down into single tracks to be mixed together in the final dub.

  • Music & effects track (M & E). An M & E track is used when sending out a film print for foreign distribution. It can be overdubbed at a later date.

Essential skills for working in post-production sound would be:

  • Knowing how to deal with actors when working on ADR. A complicated process as actors are called upon to replicate dialogue shot many weeks or months ago. Working in ADR will require a lightness of touch, ADR operators can request multiple takes if the dialogue isn’t syncing and some actors dislike the process.  

  • Being able to closely listen to all aspects of the soundtrack. Not just clarity of dialogue but any popping, crunching or sound that simply shouldn’t be there.

  • Working in post sound can be quite solitary, in recent years technology has made it possible to run a dubbing suite with just one person. Being able to work on your own is a must.

  • Being calm, patient and able to converse with clients. Dubbing mixers will often be locked in a room with stressed directors, producers and executives.  The pressure is going to be exerted to fulfill deadlines, so being able to deal with all the creative forces in one room effectively is challenging. Mixers also have to deal with a mix of departments, VFX will need additional sound effects to bring their work to life, editors can have set a tone for the film with a guide soundtrack and cut the pace of the film to it. Being able to collaborate is a must.

WHAT ARE THE ENTRY LEVEL POSITIONS IN POST PRODUCTION?

Internships are the first port of call to gain experience in post-production. Usually offered by larger companies, interns can sit in on edits or sound mixes for them to gain the full experience. Making a good impression is vital - you can gain a reference or be asked back as a PA when you graduate. Internships also offer you a chance to see if this is the right environment for you. Working in this area of the business has a very defined career path, so if you want to find out if it's production or non-production that interests you internships can offer an amazing experience. 

If you are looking to make headway into post-production then you will be looking for work in client services. Client services is just that, looking after the clients, taking on some reception duties and getting involved with the smooth running of the business. Client services PA's can be found in independent and studio post-production facilities, working across films, TV, commercial, promos, corporate and digital content. Some companies will specialize in features and commercials, while others may favor factual and light entertainment. The position is available in editing, sound editing and VFX companies. Some, however, may give greater access to equipment to progress your career independently.

WHAT ARE THE OTHER JOB ROLES IN POST PRODUCTION?

 

These are the most likely positions to be found in post-production, the larger the budget, the more people will be employed on a particular project or company. Many of these posts will be freelance; they are brought into the facility by the production company. Some of the larger post-production companies will employ in-house staff.

  • Production Management

  • Post-production: Editing

  • Post-production: Sound

  • Executive in charge of post-production

  • Editor

  • Sound design supervisor

  • Post-production supervisor

  • Colorist  

  • Sound editor/re-recording mixer

  • Post-production producer

  • Assistant editors (1st and 2nd)

  • Music supervisor

  • VFX producer

  • Edit support operator

  • Music editor

  • Junior post-production producer

  • MCR operator

  • Music coordinator

  • Post-production bookings coordinator

 
  • Foley artist

  • VFX coordinator

 
  • ADR/looping operator

  • Post-production assistant

 
  • Assistant dialogue editor

What is the career path if I want to work in Post production?

Producing:

Option one is to work within the post-production company and move your way to the production side. This path will require you to liaise with clients and look after the logistics and workflow of a particular project; it also means managing multiple edit suites. If you are interested in production your path could look like this:

  • Post-production bookings coordinator

  • Junior post-production producer

  • Post-production producer/manager

  • Senior post-production producer/manager

Editing:

If you have designs on becoming an editor you can expect to be working for two years plus as a PA to gain enough technical edit support experience to secure an edit assistant or MCR operator position. While being employed by the company you should use your spare time seeking out other editing opportunities, such as cutting short or student films.

Make sure to involve yourself in the technical process as much as possible, troubleshooting, ingesting and EDL creation should give you some hands-on time with the equipment. Spend time in the MCR (Master Control Room) to become familiar with the codecs and workflows of the various formats currently available.

  • Edit support operator/MCR operator

  • 2nd edit assistant

  • 1st edit assistant

  • Editor

Sound Design:

Post-production sound has become a difficult field to break into due to the decreasing number of people needed to run a dubbing suite. Pro Tools has become the industry standard (owned by Avid so the edit and sound software works seamlessly together), making sound desks smaller and fewer hands required. Training opportunities are scarce, working as a PA can be your best chance to make your way into this area of the business.  Ask if you can sit in the dubbing suite with the editors when you’re on a break or have finished your shift, watch how they work and ask questions about the technical and creative process involved.

HOW DO I GET A JOB as a PA in post production?

Post-production companies are always looking for production assistants. If you look at the larger companies, the turnover of staff can be very high, not because people drop out but because progression can be quick for the right candidate. However, you should know if your dream job is working in production - then working in post-production isn’t for you. Companies will usually hire PA's who want to work in post as there is a degree of apprenticeship to any position in the film industry. The hours will be long, and the list of task unrelenting, you need to wish to work in some aspect of post to get the most out of the junior roles. 

If you have customer service experience, waited tables or worked behind a bar make sure to add it to your resume as the job entails the same skills associated with these positions.  It can be confusing at the beginning of your career to know what to include in your first resume; this is where internships will help, just remember to plan dates in advance. Look at the opportunities listed on MFJF, or get in touch with the facility as early as possible - internship placements are in huge demand and get booked up quickly. So if you think emailing the week before the summer holidays will cut it, think again, be proactive and plan.

Collaborations

Cutting films or mixing tracks and soundscapes in your spare time - while getting a foot in the door - is one of the best ways to progress your career. In these first few years, you'll need to immerse yourself in post-production and soak up information like a sponge.

Finding work to cut should not be a problem. You can look on the collaborations board here on MFJF, and check the resources section for other opportunities. Although we do recommend collaborations if you're working with someone you don’t know, be sure best industry practices are being observed; check out the producer's back catalog of work and if working without payment make sure to have your expenses covered. Short film credits as an editor or sound designer can help a resume that is lacking in post-production experience, although you will not be hired for these roles yet it demonstrates how committed you are to working in post. 

Resume

Be methodical when working through a resume and check it against the examples and advice we list on the website. When you are putting your resume together, consider the skills needed for this PA role. It's the soft skills and client-facing experience you can have built up in a part-time job, not the showreel you have created that will land you the gig. These are the elements to highlight as they want to know you have the right attitude to work in a pressured environment, get the job done and keep a smile on your face. It’s harder for a company to attract new business than it is to keep existing customers happy. 

Research

If you're asked in for an interview, you need to be able to demonstrate your eagerness to learn on top of your passion for the work. Part of your progression in post-production is going to mean learning new software as you climb the career ladder, so display your willingness to further your knowledge in your time. There are a host of online resources and information available to you for free such as:

Editing:

Sound:

If you wish to invest in some literature or have a library close to you, hit the books. There are some insightful and well-written books out there that demystify the post-production process for sound and editing such as:

Editors and sound designers have established an engaged community online, sharing their experiences using (and sometimes trialing) the software you are most likely to find in a post-production facility. Spend time becoming familiar with the software that is most used. You don’t have to spend a small fortune on them, look out for free resources such as:

Website and Portfolio

When applying for jobs create a website that you can upload your best work and add a link to your resume. Although most companies will be looking at your suitability for working in client services rather than an editor, you need to be able to check the box that says ‘this person wants to work in post-production’. When listing your software skills, don’t list titles you have briefly used, be specific and demonstrate how well you know them. State the project you used the software on, how many times you used it, what were the outcomes of those experiences. 

Personality and Attitude

Despite the expansion of post-production facilities in the US, competition is still going to be fierce, so be aware that looking for work can be tough. You're going to need a firm resolve to keep sending out those resumes and making those calls. One of the first things to think about is practicality. Post-production companies are based in the major cities, all of which can be expensive to live in. If you don't have any external funding in these early years, earning a wage while looking for work is going to be essential, especially if you're already living in a big city.  Work that offers flexibility like bar work, waiting tables or temping can tide you over while you are applying for jobs.

During this period keep editing/designing other people's projects, gaining more experience with short films will strengthen your resume and remind you why you're trying to break into post-production in the first place. Reflect on your resume if you are having no luck; it could be a lack of experience, the way it’s presented or if you’re sending in generic resumes and covering letters - remember to tailor each one to each job role or production.

 

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What are the responsibilities of a Post production PA?

The work of client services in the post-production environment may sometimes feel insignificant, but it’s fundamental to the smooth running of the business. Client services are the face of the company and the first port of call for clients needing information. Some of the duties you undertake can be:

Keeping edit suites/theatres clean and tidy.

One of the first jobs of the day can be making sure the edit suites or theatres are stocked with refreshments. Don’t tidy any paperwork that has been left by the occupants, just make sure the environment is clean and refreshed for the day to come.

Arranging meals.

If you're working at an independent production facility, editors, sound mixers and all the key personnel can work through the day, not wanting to travel too far for meals. Client services can often be found preparing and presenting meals in the kitchen, so keep your fingers crossed for a dishwasher. Make sure you know where all the best places locally are and keep some menus in the kitchen, or if they are a deli write down what they have to offer for future reference. 

Front of house.

When working on reception, you need to have a clear and professional telephone manner. The company should provide full receptionist training, but if they're a small business without the infrastructure in place ask how the internal phone system works when you take the position. Make sure to repeat back to the caller their name and number just to check you have the correct information and forward it on straight away. 

Client services are the first to enter the building and the last to leave.

You will need to be on standby if a client is working late into the night. You will be responsible for locking up in the evening and opening up, bright and early the next morning.  

Meet and greet.

Actors who are scheduled in the ADR suites, directors, producers and executive producers will all need catering, which can be one of the most difficult elements of the job. Try not to take anything personally if the atmosphere is tense, and proactively assess what their needs might be. Equally gauge how often is too often to check if refreshments are required, knowing when to ask is a skill in itself. 

Building maintenance.

This aspect of the job will never leave you short of anything to do, from light bulbs to making sure the restrooms have enough hand towels.

Running errands.

Running errands is the foundation on which the position exists. You can find yourself collecting rushes from the lab, escorting rushes from a location or accompanying paperwork/hard drives to another department. When going on runs make sure to let someone know when you leave the building and take a phone with a map facility/app on it. Always make sure you have planned a route and are organized in advance, take petty cash just in case. Planning enables you to be quick and direct with your runs, something the rest of the team will appreciate. Where possible, avoid the subway as you’re uncontactable (in case the delivery gets canceled or the destination changes).

Ingesting footage.

Taking responsibility for imputing the clients rushes into the company servers. Depending on the company you are working for you may be working on TV and film post-production.

Dealing with petty cash.

Make sure you are meticulous at your receipt handling, use a clear pencil case so you don’t scrunch up the receipts in your back pocket. Always remember to take petty cash if you are out on a ‘run’; of course, the company will reimburse you for any expenditure, but this can take time, and if it was a big spend it might need to go through accounts first. Most companies have a system in place for logging client expenses such as taxis, lunches, etc. 

 Handbook.

In most places, there will be a handbook or checklist of all your duties. If there isn't, ask if you can make one.

KEY SKILLS FOR WORKING AS A PA in post production

A PA needs to prioritize and reader of situations, as well as a mind reader - instinctively knowing when the kitchen is running out of supplies. The key attributes needed to be a PA are:

  • Being proactive: If a job clearly needs doing then get it done. Acting on your initiative shows confidence and resourcefulness. This is all in context, do get some flowers and make sure the fridges are stocked if you have an important client coming into the office. Don’t go and tidy away the editor's notes and alphabetize them for the next day. There is always something to do in a post-production facility, be it offering clients other refreshments, looking after staff or cleaning. Standing around chatting or being on your phone does not look good from an employer’s perspective.

  • Being able to prioritize: You are going to be asked (told) to do a lot of things when you’re a PA by many different people who think you exist to fulfill their tasks alone. Try not to tell people you can’t do something - or are too busy, use your skills of diplomacy and let them know their request has been put ‘on the list’ and you will get to it. Unless someone looks you dead in the eyes and tells you the whole company hinges on this one email being sent, work through the jobs methodically.  

  • Enthusiasm: Your employers are going to want to know you want to be there. Editors and sound designers who have been working for thirty years still bring an enthusiastic approach to their jobs; it’s one of the signs that people enjoy their work. Make sure you have that same enthusiasm throughout the day. 

  • Confidence: Especially when talking to colleagues or anyone who comes in to use the facilities. Don’t be overly confident; no one likes a show-off, just be yourself. When and if you are introduced to clients or freelancers make sure your handshake is firm, and you make eye contact when you say hello, please don’t look at your shoes.  

  • Adaptability: Situations can change at a moment's notice, something may come up that needs all hands to the pump, or you may find yourself dashing across town with a hard drive and a handful of petty cash.

  • Professionalism. The key to life in the industry, and the watchword for your career - ‘professionalism’. Ultimately being professional means doing the job to the best of your ability, putting a brave face on when things aren't going that well and getting on with the tasks at hand. Never hold a grudge, harsh words can be spoken, and a professional will weather that storm and wish them a pleasant evening as they leave. Take pride in what you are doing and do it well.  

What is Post production like to work in?

Working in a post-production company is a 24/7 operation. The larger the space, the greater the capacity to house a variety of productions working to different time scales, from TV to features to commercials. 

If you look at the responsibilities bestowed upon the PA, it’s obvious that working in post is going to be hard work. You're going to be on your feet all day - ‘running’. The long hours and lack of rest can affect your judgment and make you question if this is the right career for you. Fortunately, you will not be alone as you will form some long-lasting friendships with the other PAs who are on the treadmill with you. Although you will feel the pressure of having ‘ten things to do at once’, it’s nothing compared to the pressure of pulling the goods out of the bag with the client standing over your shoulder in the edit suite or dubbing room. So enjoy your time as a PA, you only get to do it once (theoretically).   

Do I need any qualifications to work in Post production?

There are no academic qualifications needed to work in post-production. Although a degree will demonstrate you have sound reasoning and analytical skills, a degree is not a requirement for working as a PA in post-production. Suitable candidates should be able to display a focus in their resume for editing or post-production sound. However, they are hiring someone to do a specific job that requires customer service skills. If that is all you have on the resume that does not mean you are out of the running! Ultimately with all aspects of filmmaking, passion and hard work are the most vital tools to get you where you want to go.

WHAT EQUIPMENT AND SOFTWARE SHOULD I BE FAMILIAR WITH?

Each post facility will be working with different software, research the equipment companies are using before you apply. The most commonly found software and equipment would be:

  • Avid Media Composer. The majority of feature films are edited using Avid.

  • Premiere Pro. A great platform for lower-budget productions or independent films.

  • Final Cut Pro. The emergence of Final Cut X has left many editors in a quandary and sparked industry-wide debate. Final Cut is still a preferred editing software when working on low-budget independent films.

  • Pro Tools. Manufactured by Avid, Pro Tools is the industry's favorite post-production sound software.  

  • Local and external Drives, servers and networks. It sounds basic but if you want to work in post you need to demonstrate you can navigate and understand an operating system, work with shortcuts that have been set up by editors and the production team, move files safely, and know how to delete files from the system.

  • DaVinci Studio. Grading/Colour correction software.

  • Baselight. Made by Filmlight for high-performance color grading.

  • Pablo. Grading and finishing for HD, 2K, 4K and Stereo 3D.

10 ESSENTIAL TIPS FOR WORKING AS A RUNNER IN POST-PRODUCTION

 
Always arrive early.

The golden rule of the industry and post-production is no exception.

 
Carry out every task with good humor.

From making the tea to answering the phones. Some of the jobs may feel low-grade, especially if you have just left higher education and did not expect to have to start your working life as a PA. Everyone has to start somewhere. 

 
Take pride in your job.

Just because it’s lunch and not an edit, it shouldn’t mean shoddy workmanship. Good PAs who have the right attitude progress significantly quicker than those who regard certain jobs beneath them. So take some time to present the lunch, clean bathroom mirrors or sweep the floors.

 
Don't take anything personally.

Don’t lose sight of why you are doing the job. If the main creative forces behind a feature film are wedged into a room for days at a time, frustrations and tempers may fray at points. Don’t be too downhearted if your simple question “Can I get anyone anything?” is dismissed with a scowl and a wave of the hand, or worse.

 
Make connections.

Making contacts within the industry at all levels is a worthy endeavor. Building a network doesn’t have to be as mercenary as it sounds. From your fellow PAs to producers and production managers, making friends and professional contacts requires the same set of skills. Making connections with fellow entrants can have long-standing benefits, who knows where you will be in 15 years.

 
Learn about the equipment.

If your employers are open to it, use the edit and dubbing facilities to work on your projects as often as you can (always make sure you ask a senior member of staff beforehand). The information you gather as a PA is valuable but learning via your own work is equally valuable. It can also be a way of starting a conversation with the editors, sound editors, or VFX guys who are using the facilities during the day. If you do ask for advice, make sure you get your timing right. Bringing in the tea and toast in the morning can be a good time.

 
Keep editors, VFX and sound guys caffeinated.

Three or four asks a day should be enough; you don’t want to badger them too much. Also, liaise with your colleagues about who has been asked and who hasn’t, this can go a long way to preventing tip No.4.

 
Remember everyone's name.

Yes, some people may forget yours it’s true, but try your best to remember everyone else’s. Most people find a way of achieving this, whether repeating it three times in conversation on meeting them or finding words that rhyme with their name. Find out what works best for you and use it.

 
Learn how to become a team player.

Post-production companies need their staff to work together to support the production companies who hire the suites. Use your time as a PA to implement that same protocol; it will make you a better PA and a better editor, VFX artist or sound designer in the future.

 
You will sometimes be required to work late.

As much as that might play havoc with your life (social and otherwise) try not to complain. There are many people desperate to have the job you have, work hard, keep smiling and you will move up the ladder quickly.

 

TERMS EVERY ENTRANT SHOULD KNOW WHEN WORKING IN POST -PRODUCTION

 

  • Codec. A way of converting an analog signal or stream to digital, each make of camera uses its own codec.

  • Native file. The original file system that was used in production.

  • Transcoded files. Footage that is configured into a lesser demanding codec for offline editing, useful when the editing equipment is not going to be able to handle a large volume of footage.

  • Proxy files. A downgraded file from the native file if the editing system when it's plagued by drop frames or sluggish performance.

  • 2K, 4K, 6K are the resolutions that the camera is shooting.

  • DI process. Digital intermediary, a term used when the project is in its digital state.  

  • Green screen. Chroma green is a color that does not exist in the natural world making it an ideal color to work with for keying in a background.

  • DI Suite. A theatre with a cinema-sized screen to sync and dub the film.

  • Online and Offline editing. Most editing systems are capable of working with the native footage, so this phrase has changed in meaning. Offline editing was born from the need to preserve original video footage, as tape stock can downgrade very quickly when replayed. A copy of the footage was used and an EDL (edit decision list) made from the edit. With the EDL a cut could be made using the original higher quality footage before the grade, or if working on film, the negative could be cut as per the digital EDL. If working with a system that will not handle the digital files, and editor will be working offline with the transcoded files, moving into the online where the original footage can be used.

  • Raw. A file format that is uncompressed and unmodified usually used in relation to stills. 

  • EDL. Edit Decision List. Created from the offline so a cut of the film can be pulled from the original (best quality and data-intensive) footage.  

  • LUT’s. Lookup tables. Each LUT comprises of different elements, some mimic different film stocks, some color wash the image. LUT’s are applied in the grade; they can also be used by the DIT before the rushes are handed over. 

FAQ’S

 

What hours will I be working?

This is largely dependent on each company and the hours they choose to keep. PAs can work on shift patterns, which change from week to week. This can involve a night shift as well as two separate shifts during the day. Your pattern can be rotated each week, which can be slightly disconcerting for many new entrants to the industry, be warned your social life outside of work may suffer.

 

What are the industry bodies for post-production?

 

How long should I expect to work as a post-production PA?

Post-production is one area of the industry where you can be a PA for months or years. Promoting yourself while still doing your job to the best of your ability can make a huge difference. You may also be at the mercy of luck! ‘Being in the right place at the right time is never truer than in the world of filmmaking. Sometimes you have to be brave in this industry, if an opportunity comes up to work as an assistant editor on a low-budget feature as a freelancer, it's going to be up to you to decide if the permanent wage is worth giving up for the opportunity.

 

How long should an internship be and what can I expect?

Take care with internships that they are not just using you for free labor. Internships you either be exchanged for college credits or a wage (all be it minimal). Internships run with the season, book your place early and gain as much experience as you can about the world of professional filmmaking. 

 

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