Make Your Video POP: Mastering the 5 Steps of Video Post-Production

Creating video content that captures and keeps attention involves more than justing "shooting and boosting". This guide goes over all the bases you'll need to cover in post production to create a truly captivating video.

Producing a compelling live action video might seem simple at the surface.

Just write a great script and film it, right?

Not quite. 

There are several key steps to take after filming is finished to create a video that truly captivates and resonates with your audience. 

Unfortunately, these processes are usually done behind the scenes. It's usually why your video production studio is taking so long to send your video - even though filming finished two weeks ago.

On the other end, if you're producing your video in-house, you might not know what you actually need to do, and where to start. 

In this post, we'll try to clear all this up. 

We'll walk you through everything involved in the post production process. We'll cover:

  • A brief overview of all the stages of video production 
  • A deep dive into all the stages of the post production phase
  • The software you'll need for post production

By the end, you'll understand all the nitty gritty details involved in post production. 

And remember - getting these right is what gives that extra "WOW" factor to your video (and the reason why your video agency is taking so long to deliver a final product… Sorry 🤷).  

What are the stages of video production?

There are three main stages of video production:

Pre-production (the planning phase), production (the actual shooting phase), and post production (the editing phase).

This involves everything from concepting and brainstorming, to filming and production, all the way to adding the final edits to create a polished final product. 

Stage 1: Video pre-production 

The video pre-production stage is where the production team does all the concepting, planning, and preparing

At this stage, strong storyboarding and scripting are the bare minimum that need to get done.

The team creates a strong vision for the final product. It helps keep the whole team aligned throughout the entire production process.

However, as the production gets bigger, so does the scope of this stage. Processes like hiring, shot listing, casting, costume design, financing, location scouting and booking, and set building can all be part of this phase. 

Stage 2: Video production 

This stage involves actually shooting and recording the scenes from the shot list. 

Beyond just shooting the actual footage you planned, it's important to also have separate on location sound recording for later mixing (as we'll see later).

This stage can also include shooting background scenes and landscapes, and green screen footage. These can be added to the final version in post production.

Stage 3: Video post-production 

Post production is the final stage of the video production process.

It involves a broad range of steps and processes, whose aim is to add the finishing touches that make a video really stand out.

As we mentioned earlier, this stage usually happens behind the scenes, so it's not always clear what needs to get done.

We'll spend the rest of the article diving deep into this to give you a clearer picture of all that's involved in the third and final stage of the video production process.  

The Five Key Steps of the Video Post-Production Process

Step 1: Rough cut

The first step of video post-production is to make a rough edit of your footage sequence. At this stage: 

  1. The raw footage is reviewed, sorted, logged, and categorized
  2. The scenes are arranged according to the storyboard
  3. An assembly edit is put together for review

Note that several rough cuts can be put together if you have lots of raw footage. Comparing these rough cuts can help with deciding on the picture lock in the next step

A loose soundtrack can also be added at this stage, though it's not necessary.

Step 2: Picture lock

The next step is to review the assembly edit(s), and finalize the order of the scenes and video footage

It's very important to get this step right: 

Any later changes in the choice and order of scenes means redoing the next steps of the editing process - in part or in full.

This is why it's essential to consult all the stakeholders at this point. The producers, directors, and client should all agree on the final cut before moving on to the next stage of the film post production process.

Step 3: Video editing

Now that a sequence has been decided, it's time to start editing!

The video editing process involves the manipulation of various visual elements and special effects to create the vision you imagined during pre-production. 

The video editing team can play with a huge range of elements during the video editing process. The most common elements are:

Visual effects

Visual effects, also known as VFX, are the special effects that integrate live-scene footage with computer-generated elements

This can be as simple as adding a fade in/fade out, or simple background elements and textures. And it only gets more complex from there. Visual effects can be added all the way up to creating 3D CGI (computer-generated imagery) to completely change a scene! 

It's easy to get carried away with these effects. Always keep in mind when incorporating visual effects that they should be serving the video's vision, and not the other way around.

Image cropping

Your raw footage might have some elements around the edges that take away from the scene, or the composition might be slightly off.

Image cropping is used to readjust the edges of the image to remove these unnecessary parts and improve the composition.

Image stabilization

The camera can shake during filming, especially during scenes with lots of camera movement.

This can be reduced when filming scenes live using a gimbal, or with a camera that has automatic video stabilization.

Otherwise, it can be done in post production using software.

Every modern professional video editor will have a built-in video stabilization function. Simply select the raw footage you want to stabilize, head over to the stabilization panel, then click to start the stabilization process. After a few seconds (or minutes if it's a longer scene), you have a much smoother looking video edit.

Color grading

Color grading helps create the video's atmosphere and ambience.

The elements of color grading can include contrast, saturation, color balance, color temperature, detail, black level, white balance, and luminance.

You could make the scenes dark, blue, and muted to build a sense of gloom and suspense, or instead boost the saturation and contrast to add extra life to your video creation.

Text elements

Finally, text elements can be added in post production. These help provide the viewer with additional context and information. These visual effects could be used to give more information about the current scene, the images on the screen, or the soundtrack and dialogue.

They can range from titles, subtitles, credits, bottom thirds, and call-to-actions.

Step 4: Sound mixing

Next, the various sound layers have to be added.

There are three main sound elements that can be added during the sound editing step of post production:

1. Voiceover and dialogue

As we mentioned earlier, the audio tracks are recorded and stored separately from the video files. These layers need to be synced in post production.

To streamline this step, it's important to use a clapperboard (aka a dumb slate) when recording the live scenes. Simply line up the sound of the clap with the closing of the clapperboard, and the layers should be in sync.

As well, sounds of conversations may be lost with the wind, or other unwanted sounds (like car horns, bells ringing, etc) can interfere with your script sound recording. When this happens, a voiceover can be recorded in post production to replace the lost dialogue. 

2. Sound Effects

These are sounds that are added to make a scene or footage more realistic or engaging.

Often, the sounds recorded during production are muted or masked by other noises. A sound designer can recreate these in the studio.

The sound effects you want can just be a recording of the actual objects in the scene.

For example, for footsteps, you might just record someone in heels walking across a plank of hardwood.

But sometimes this doesn't fully capture the depth and texture needed to make a captivating audio track.

Instead, Foley effects are often used.

These are sound effects that are re-created using various objects and props to make a richer, more engaging audio experience.

Instead of shoes and hardwood, your footsteps could be a block of wood being tapped against a hollow block, or a car crash could be nails scraping on chalkboard followed by a bunch of glasses being dropped.

3. Soundtrack

Musical elements and background music need to be added to create moods and evoke emotions. 

At the very least, the musical score should be properly synced with the beginning and end of the scenes, with simple fades in and out. Beyond this, the soundtrack can only get more tailored to the scenes (think of the soundtrack from the classic thriller Psycho). 

You also have to consider whether you want to use something from an artist's current repertoire, or if you want an original musical score.

When using someone else's music, make sure you have the rights to use their music (and pay for the rights as needed).

On the other end, not every musical score has to be a Hans Zimmer masterpiece. An original score might be cheaper than you expect.

Sound levels

Once all the sound effects have been added, it's important to make sure that the video's audio levels are consistent.

At the very least, you can use your video editing software's automatic levelling functionality to make sure no sounds are too loud or quiet.

You can also turn this into a very detailed process and perfect every sound in your video. Start by just taking a look at the height of your audio tracks' waveforms, then just dive in deeper from there.

Step 5: Final cut

All the key elements of the video creation process have finally come together.

At this point, the final product needs to be reviewed. Look for:

  • The big picture: Does the overall video capture the mood and tone you're aiming for? Are there any aspects that disrupt the video's flow or overall story and intent?
  • The little details: Are all the elements properly synced? Are there any glitches or inconsistencies in the VFX? Is the colour tone consistent in every scene?

The finished product is now presented to external stakeholders for final review.

If all the previous stages were well done, the revisions should be minimal.

It's also good to remind everyone that this is the last chance to make changes before the video's final delivery and release.

Bonus: Our favorite post production tools

There are a wide range of post production tools available for different budgets.  Our favorite options are:

1. Adobe Premiere Pro

This is our personal favourite.

It has the most features that all allow for the most intensive editing. Any detail that you could imagine editing can be done with Adobe Premiere Pro.

It also integrates easily with the rest of the Adobe Creative Suite. Since we're often incorporating animated elements into our live action videos (and vice versa), this is a huge bonus for the Rocketwheel team.

The major drawback is the learning curve. All the complex elements and features make it tougher to just download the software and start using it. You'll need to incorporate lots of tutorials and practice before you can start using it for truly skillful editing.

2. Final Cut Pro

This is Apple's video editing software. Like most Apple products, it's designed for intuitive use and collaboration, integration with the rest of the Apple ecosystem, and works best on Apple hardware

It's an excellent editing tool that creates great video productions quickly. Although not as in-depth as Premiere Pro, it still has advanced tools like voice noise reduction, automatic color correction, and 360 degree VR support. As well, its Metal engine allows it to render complex projects quickly and without delay.

3. Davinci Resolve

Davinci Resolve is a mix of the first two options.

It's not as visually intuitive as Final Cut Pro, but not as overwhelming as Premiere Pro's interface. It's also easier to access and edit the advanced features compared to Premiere Pro, but you can't quite get the same level of detail and customization during editing.

It's a good option for editors that want the extra level of customization, but don't need Hollywood-level editing detail.