Person editing video and using smart phone.

For anyone desiring to incorporate a multi-location post-production workflow there are several factors to consider. Take time in advance to understand the possibilities; setting things up properly will help a collaborative workflow be successful.

Plan In Advance

Planning is the key to a successful multi-location post-production workflow. Without a good plan work can be redundant, files can be lost, and the edit won’t be cohesive. Any good plan starts with a goal in mind. Establish the goals of the edit — what is the purpose of the production, what is it trying to achieve — and communicate those goals with everyone who is working in post-production.

The next step is to establish roles and responsibilities. Traditionally in post-production, there are multiple roles, each addressing different responsibilities, such as an editor, an audio engineer, a colorist and a motion graphic designer. As technology changes, the lines separating roles are getting blurred, often times an editor is coloring while they edit, and motion designers are designing audio while they animate. This why it’s necessary to define roles up front, who is responsible for what aspect of post-production. Are the roles categorized by task, or are people responsible for a specific segment within an edit?

Here, the primary editor sends relevant files to the rest of the post-production team. After their work is done, the editor makes final adjustments and exports the completed project.
Here, the primary editor sends relevant files to the rest of the post-production team. After their work is done, the editor makes final adjustments and exports the completed project.

Any good plan has a schedule. Estimated dates, milestones, and timeframes detailing the completion of various tasks. Every individual working on the edit should be aware and accepting of the schedule.

Another consideration that needs to be made is whether this is an offline or online edit. An offline edit allows the contributors to work with smaller asset files and share their project files without having to send assets back and forth. This is a quick and efficient way to share files but can cause problems if assets and projects aren’t named and set up consistently across users. An online edit allows the contributors to get hands on with the actual assets but is dependent on everyone having access to the original files through remote software, which they may not have. The other online solution would involve only one person working on the project at a time with lots of file transfers, not necessarily an efficient process.

What’s in a name?

Filenames and file structure are vital in a collaborative post-production workflow. All parties involved should use the same naming convention for assets. This way, anyone working on the edit can look at a file and identify it by name. The simplest way to do this is have a set nomenclature, such as a series of digits and/or letters, that identifies various attributes of the file. This might include scene number, shot number, camera, date and version. Metadata tagging makes it even easier to identify and files during post-production.

Cloud storage like Dropbox helps ensure all team members will have access to the files they need. Communication tools keep everyone up-to-date on the production’s progress.
Cloud storage like Dropbox helps ensure all team members will have access to the files they need. Communication tools keep everyone up-to-date on the production’s progress.

Just as a standard naming convention is important, a standard file structure helps keep things organized. If every instance of the project and its associated files is structured the same way, there is less of a chance for the dreaded screen warning of lost media. File structure should be established and shared at the start of the project.

Tools to Get the Job Done

There are a wide variety of tools and platforms available to facilitate multi-location post-production. Often times several tools, each with separate functions, are incorporated into the workflow. The most foundational and common tool is the editing environment itself. While multi-location post-production can be executed by individuals working on different editing platforms, it’s more efficient when the entire process is executed using the same software package.

While multi-location post-production can be executed by individuals working on different editing platforms, it’s more efficient when the entire process is executed using the same software package.

Adobe and Avid, both popular editing suites, offer collaborative tools in Adobe Anywhere and Avid Everywhere. These tools sets provide collaborative and shared media storage, file and project syncing, as well as project backup and activity monitoring.

If the multi-location project is getting put together without the aid of a subscription based collaborative editing tool, there will need to be a repository from which editors can access the project’s assets. This is often done through an FTP server, but there are other solutions available as well. A shared Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive account are possibilities. When there isn’t a software package tracking assets and edits, the aforementioned naming convention and consistent file structure is vital to this sort of collaboration.

There are software packages and tools available that are helpful for project management. Tools such as Basecamp and Asana provide excellent communication tools and task management tools to keep teams up to date and on track. Project management provides a centralized location for information and cuts down on the need to search through emails. It makes post-production more efficient and manageable.

Multi-location post-production is becoming more prevalent as collaborative work is more common across multiple locations. It’s a process that can be global in scale and allows producers to access a deeper and more diverse talent pool. Multi-site collaboration is common in other industries; don’t be surprised to see it become a common practice in post-production.

Chris “Ace” Gates is a four time Emmy Award-winning writer and video producer. He loves motion graphics and BBQ, especially motion graphics about BBQ. It’s a short playlist. 

Did you find this content helpful?

Chris Ace Gates
Chris "Ace" Gates is a four time Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. He is a big fan of animation and transmedia storytelling.