Ever watch a less-than-professional film that was editing together but hasn’t had the necessary finishing work? Rougher than a professional rough-cut, and somehow they think they’re done, these mess-terpeices share a couple of obvious problems. Most audience members will comment as to the terrible acting, writing that makes very little sense, shoddy camera-work and direction that appears less directed and more chaotic, as well they should, but those challenges are upstaging more technical problems as well. If the acting and direction were perfect, the technical aspects would be more obvious, and would kill the production completely.

We try for perfect. The less we have to fix in post, the better. But slight differences in lighting from shot to shot can create problems in the editing room, where the mid shot seems a little off-color when compared to the close up, and the over-the-shoulder of the same scene is a little off of the close-up but way off of the mid-shot. Color correction makes it seamless, because the audience isn’t supposed to notice when the film cuts, it should feel like a natural conversation.

The audio will be different as well. For wider shots, the boom has to be farther away. As long as clean audio has been captured, it will all turn out ok, because audio correction will also make for a seamless conversation while the original cut of that scene unintentionally varied from whispers to shouts in the same sentence, jumping between cuts.

There are places to save money when making a feature length film and then there are places not to. While star-power will fill seats, so will talent once word gets out, and the world is full of talented actors who are still unknown and available, which makes them far more affordable than a star with a several million minimum. Setting the story in one location is an option, as is using flexible locations, like repositioning several times in the same campground to appear as though you’re tracking through miles of forest. Being able to see with a film-frame helps identify hidden treasures in the world around you, and with careful framing the same local park can be a school yard, an urban hide-out near the train tracks, and Africa. It’s as much about what you manage to cut out of the shot as it is what you include, and as long as the swings are out of the frame, you’re in Africa.

You can’t save money on the camera, because if the footage is terrible there’s nothing that can be done to make it not-terrible. A lot can be done with correction and effects, but there is no substitute for clean footage. You need a good microphone, too, because the same goes for sound. If you then want to film a bunch of unknown actors willing to work for a percentage of the profits wearing their own clothes and filming in your grandmother’s house, you can make the film itself essentially for free. Then you need professional finishing, otherwise all of the hard work in writing, acting and directing will be lost in the inconsistencies.

If you don’t have equipment for finishing work, there are options. You can hire a team. You can purchase your own equipment. Or, if you don’t think this is something you’ll use often, you can rent it. Independent filmmakers may decide that renting the equipment and doing the work themselves is less expensive than hiring a team or buying the equipment outright. If you know you will use the equipment on at least three projects, seriously consider buying, because rental costs can add up. Turnkey stations are available either way.

There is no excuse for a lack of finishing work. Even “found footage” would look terrible without some audio and color correction. Film in your aunt’s backyard, cast your cousin as the star, but please budget for professional post production or no one will notice the talent behind your work.