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‘Westworld’ Workflow: Post on the Sci-Fi Series

"Until you see the whole episode in front of you, you don't see what the big picture is."

“I’m really interested in narrative,” Westworld editor Andrew Seklir says. “How you communicate ideas, stories, visually, through dialogue. Editing was a way to synthesize all those things together.”

Production on the current season of Westworld began in July 2017 and ran until early January 2018, each episode edited on an 11-day schedule. “I hadn’t touched film in about eighteen years, but they’re shooting on 35mm three-perf,” Seklir recalls. “Our showrunner, Jonathan Nolan [is] trying to evoke the feelings of Westerns we’d seen.” 

Read more: As Westworld Returns, the Creators Discuss Twists, Reddit and Rickrolls

On HBO, Westworld episodes are around an hour in duration, with the 10th finale episode up to an hour and a half. “In terms of the structure of the narrative, Westworld is one of the most complex things I’ve ever worked on. It’s a 10-hour movie, giant interlocking pieces of narrative.”

“They shoot the 35mm and it’s scanned,” Seklir explains. “We get DNX36 and we will do some color correction in the Avid to make people happy, smooth things out, apply a look to something that needs a look.” 

Given the extensive use of remote Utah locations and the need to control cast schedules, “the whole season comes in in bits and pieces,” Seklir says. “You live with the material a lot longer and it gives you time to go back and refine, but until you see the whole episode in front of you, you don’t see what the big picture is.” 

In general, though, Seklir is happy to have the extra time: “On a regular network schedule, when it’s more of an assembly line, you’re moving so fast you can’t tinker.”

Visual effects supervisor Jay Worth, Seklir says, has a workload ranging from comparatively simple fixes to spectacular science-fiction imagery: “There are lots of little things… whether it’s painting out telephone poles that happen to be far off in the background, or they’re frozen and their eyes blink—and then there are set-piece visual effects.”

Seklir previsualizes Westworld‘s visual effects as best he can during the edit: “I’ll mock something up in Photoshop, I’ll try to create an image. I think it’s very important when you’re going through the process. If you’re operating blind and relying on the fact that the VFX guys will take over and fix it… I don’t think that’s as effective.” 

Final material is rescanned in 16-bit 4K and assembled in DaVinci Resolve, an approach guided by new interest in producing an HDR deliverable.

Story, though, is always the principal concern: “In series one, we were playing it out in two different timelines [but] film is something that plays out in a linear way. We were conscious of the fact that once fans got to the end of season one, they would go back and watch some of the episodes again.”

Despite the complexity, Seklir says, “I enjoy editing the show because it allows me to flex a bunch of different editing muscles. Great drama, great action, suspenseful moments, romantic moments, real sci-fi moments… it’s one of the fun things about working in that genre. You’re trying to build different things.”