Whenever I come on board to Post Supervise a production, one of the first things I like to ask the filmmaker is, “what do you want to deliver your film on? Is it being submitted to a festival, do you have distribution, is it going online, or all of the above?” The answers to these questions will help determine what you’ll need to finish with at the end, and could be helpful in how you plan your workflow from the start. It’s also great to know what costs you’ll incur down the road for your deliverables so that you can plan for it in your post production budget.
Many filmmakers can only think as far ahead as the submission deadline they are targeting for a certain film festival they are entering. This probably means they’ll need to create a DVD or digital file for a secure online submission system such as the one Withoutabox uses. It’s best to check with each festival you are entering to see what they will accept. For example, the Sundance Film Festival will only accept a standard-def DVD and not a BluRay DVD because it is more efficient to use one standardized format for viewing submitted films. Of course once selected for the festival, you have a few more exhibition format options to choose from. For the upcoming 2013 Sundance Festival, they have already announced they will be able to screen 16mm or 35mm film, HDCAM tape and DCP (Digital Cinema Package) in their theaters.
So what should filmmakers on a budget without distribution or an exhibition plan, finish to these days? “Most filmmakers without distribution leave our facility with a DPX image sequence or ProRes Quicktime file,” says Will Adashek DI Producer of Prehistoric Digital. “There’s really no need to create anything else until you have signed on with a distributor and have a list of deliverables they specifically require, and in most cases, the distributor will cover those costs anyway.” For filmmakers who might be in a holding pattern, either waiting to find out if they got into a festival, or shopping their film around to potential distributors, this seems like a great cost-effective, temporary solution. A ProRes Quicktime, for example, would be called your “Digital Master,” which is a self-contained file that matches or exceeds the codec quality of the original camera acquisition. You will then create a variety of deliverables from your digital master, but until you have a distribution plan in place, protect your digital master with at least a triplicate archive and vault of all the project and source files, which, if your budget allows, should also be triplicated as well.