CAIRO - 7 December 2020: On Sunday 6 December, as part of the Cairo Industry Days line-up, Netflix held a masterclass on post-production with a special focus on visual effects.
Held at the Marriott hotel, it was a chance for aspiring filmmakers, writers, or editors to learn from industry professionals.
Even more so, it provided a glimpse into the workings of one of the largest distribution and production companies in the world.
Leading the virtual masterclass were post- production manager Leo de Wolff, post- production supervisor Karim Boutros Ghali, and visual effects manager Gilian Mackie.
The trio broke down what post-production is and explained how a typical work flow unfolds at Netflix.
Post-production is basically what occurs after filming. It encompasses the following: watching rushes (footage), editing, adjusting sound, online and graphic resolution, adding visual effects, colour grading, layering sound, and finally adding music.
Completing only one 45 to 60-minute episode that has been shot can take one to two months.
People like de Wolff and Boutros Ghali - the “unsung heroes” as Gilian Mackie names them - oversee this whole process, ensuring that all teams are creatively aligned.
Operating in a staggering nineteen countries broken down into four regions, Netflix’s post- production team, in each location, aims to do one thing: deliver the highest quality content possible.
“In order to do so,” Mackie explained, “there are three components behind Netflix’s
successful original content. They are time, budget and planning.
In other words: allowing enough time to successfully complete a given project, to bring a story to life; providing and adhering to a budget; planning ahead as much as possible.”
In fact, to the common misconception that one innocently asks, “fix it in post?” de Wolff replies: “no, in prep!” He explained that each story creates its own imaginary world.
It is the job of the post-production team to coordinate with writers and directors to determine what this world looks and sounds like, how it will be brought to life both while the camera is rolling and after.
What colour palette should be designed to have particular psychological effects on the audience? What specific sounds pertaining to this story world are required? What emotional tones will the music convey? In fact, it is easier and cheaper to shoot onscreen graphics than it is to add them in post production.
Now, once in post-production, a host of creative questions must be answered. Does the story work? Is it visually coherent on screen? If the team is unsatisfied after all possibilities have been exhausted, re-shoots are their last resort.
To serve as an example, the masterclass attendees were privy to the first cut of the show The Rain.
We learnt why the team felt it was necessary to add a scene to better introduce viewers to the story’s main character.
Moving into visual effects, Mackie walked
the audience through the ins and outs of this subset of post-production.
Visual effects, not be confused with special effects, are anything created, manipulated, or removed digitally.
They are the digital enhancement of live-action images, stepping in to complete the limitations of practical, on screen assets such as special effects or stunts.
“Ideally audiences should be unaware of their presence, revelling in their seeming reality” Mackie elaborated.
“For example, de-ageing is responsible for Robert De Niro’s youthful face in the critically acclaimed film The Irishman.
Other techniques include 3D modelling, green screen, parallax (positioning objects through space), simulation (controlling millions of particles individually and as a whole), digital matte painting (creating an inexistent environment), etc.”
Through a case study of The Witcher, attendees discovered how a fictional creature is born.
Design, storyboard, modelling, greyscale (a sort ofdigital sculpture), rigging (addition ofmovement) all lead to the final approval.
This particular project took nine months to complete. After shooting for three months, a team of around 40 visual effects artists worked on the monster for a further six months.
Finally, an archive of these effects, which could be re- used, is created.
The Netflix masterclass concluded with a reel of their shows’ visual effects from 2019, leaving the audience simply in awe of their work.