PBSFrom plate to screen: how PBS show “Secrets of a Chef” uses Airtable for post-production

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The process of manually condensing, color-correcting, and otherwise beautifying two to four hours of footage into 30-minute episodes requires careful collaboration between editors and show producers.

Cooking up a Cooking Show

Matt Levie is the post-production supervisor of the national PBS series, Secrets of a Chef, produced and directed by Marjorie Poore.

“One of the things people don’t know about editing is how much work goes into every single minute they see on television, and how much effort went into that minute to make it ‘watchable’,” he says. Post-production is also responsible for determining which angles to use at every moment in the preparation of a recipe—with a fixed set, they’re able to capture multiple angles at once—and for cutting all the footage to fit in the allotted 30 minutes for the show. Levie likens the process to surgery: “You have to make some very hard cuts and sew them up well enough to make it seem like they were never there.”

Finding the right software to help facilitate this collaboration has historically been a challenge: although they thought they’d use traditional project management software, in the end, “it was too complicated and the learning curve was too high for what we needed.”

“It was really hard to cram all that information into a spreadsheet,” says Levie. “So we ended up with a spreadsheet that wouldn’t fit on a screen, and that became annoying, because out of sight, out of mind, so people would forget to update fields because they weren’t on the screen.”

Our producer wanted a lot of information, and it was really hard to cram all that information into a spreadsheet.

Matt Levie

Post-production Supervisor

Workflow highlights

  • The “Changes requested” field is a long text field, where editors can go in and comment directly in the text when specific changes have been made, replacing a clunky, email-based workflow used in years past.
  • Editors can update the status of footage each time work is done and view other fields that need updating. The “Last Edited” date field lets producers see when the last set of changes were made, saving Levie time spent asking for updates.

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