For everyone who’s ever dreamed about working in reality television and imagined the joy they’d experience in watching their finished project come to life, I must warn you… there will come a day when you and your editor and your post team will cram into an edit bay for a QC (quality control) screening and wind up in a heated discussion about whether or not your action in a 16:9 image is actually 4:3 safe and whether or not you’ll be able to pick someone’s face out when you uprez (short for up-resolution, since offline eds work in lower resolution than the finishing online editors).
I am not embarrassed to say that I have, during some stressful weeks, fallen asleep while watching down shows. It’s hypnotic. You’ve transcended story and now you’re just watching your show as a collection of shots and sounds, floating above it like a dead person hovering over their body in the hospital.
Here’s the thing, though — this is your last chance to really make sure everything’s just right, so brew up some coffee and be ready to pay attention to the following:
Even if you’re in 16:9 HD, are your characters performing in 4:3 safe or will viewers NOT watching at the proper aspect ratio only see a pair of noses on the edges of their screens? Solution: Have your editor swap for another angle on the same action if one exists.
Look out for general image issues. There are some strange ones, like the camera that somehow produced content with one dead pixel in it. Solution: Point out the issue to the post team. They may simply have to redigitize the content or figure out a fix for the image.
Your clearance team should provide you with a list of blurs and omissions to execute, which may happen later in the online. If you’re watching the show down and you notice a character in a baseball cap, but you don’t see a request to blur the sports team or designer whose name appears on the cap, you could be in for trouble later. Solution: Point out the logo and ask post to check in with clearance as to whether it’s an issue.
Unreleased participants are a nuisance… there’s always one guy in a brown shirt in the background of your restaurant shot who flat-out refused to sign a release. Make sure he doesn’t come up in the end product or that he gets a blur assigned to his image. Solution: Clearance usually catches this, but if you remember the guy from the field, say something just to be sure he’s marked for a blur.
How’s the continuity? Does someone have their hand up in a shot and down in the angle you cut to? Speak up! Solution: Ask the editor if they noticed the offending cut before. They may be able to select another angle or “cheat” content in to cover the flub.
Lower thirds / chyrons: Is everyone’s name and title correct on your lower thirds?
Do the tracks in your score begin and end and/or flow into each other? Watch out for abrupt cuts. Solution: Point out to the editor and as to have stings or decay present to convey the end of a track.
As with the above, does anyone speaking get cut off in an odd place? Listen for clipped speech. Solution: Point out to the editor.
Learn to listen to your mix and see how hot it is. The rule of thumb is that dialogue should be uniformly mixed to around -8db. Also, don’t hesitate to ask to bring down the music or swap out a track if it’s overpowering a scene. Solution: Listen!
Listen for offending audio, like air conditioner or refrigerator noise, cast members or their clothing brushing or striking their microphones. Solution: Ask the editor to see if there’s any alternate audio from a boom or neighboring microphone that may give you the same dialogue without the offending noise.
Editor and Producer friends — what else do you suggest newbie story people start looking and listening for in the QC?