Context, jargon, and clipping

From an article in Details magazine for April 2013, p. 64, a quote given here without context:

“The house doesn’t even have a complete back. We had to be careful about the budget and determined that we could add the top of the roof in post.”

Add … in post is baffling without the context. Things get a bit clearer when I tell you that the house in question is the ominous Victorian house next to the motel on the set of the new A&E tv series Bates Motel (a prequel to the movie Psycho), and the speaker is Mark Freeborn, the production designer for the series. But that gets you only part of the way; you also have to work out that post is a clipping of post-production in the jargon of filmmaking and video production. And of course you need to know what post-production refers to as a technical term in this world.

From Wikipedia:

Post-production is part of filmmaking and the video production process. It occurs in the making of motion pictures, television programs, radio programs, advertising, audio recordings, photography, and digital art. It is a term for all stages of production occurring after the actual end of shooting and/or recording the completed work.

OED3 (Dec. 2006) offers this etymology for the noun post-production:

< post- prefix + production n. Compare slightly later post-produce v. [back-formed] Compare pre-production n. 2.

This has the prefix attaching to a noun to derive another noun. From Michael Quinion’s Affixes site on post-:

After in time or order. [Latin post, after, behind.]

The form is widely used in hyphenated compounds: post-natal, of the period after childbirth; post-operative, the period following a surgical operation; post-war, occurring or existing after a war, especially World War Two (compare post-bellum, from Latin bellum, war, most commonly used in connection with the American Civil War); post-dated, a document or event containing a date later than the actual one; post-industrial, relating to an economy which no longer relies on heavy industry.

It appears in several terms that refer to a revised view of a subject following some crucial change in circumstances or opinion; it can suggest either dependence on what went before or revolt against it: postmodernism, a range of experimental tendencies in art, architecture, the media, and criticism since the 1950s, a departure from modernism; post-structuralism, a set of influential cultural theories that rejected much of structuralism on the grounds that meaning is ultimately always indeterminate; post-feminism, a cultural theory that moves beyond or rejects some of the ideas of feminism as out of date.

In the first set of examples, post- combines with an adjective or noun to derive an adjectival modifier. In the second set, it combines with an abstract noun to derive another abstract noun. Post-production looks much like post-war (in the first set), and it’s suggestive that the OED‘s first cite (from 1953) has post-production functioning as an adjectival modifier (used “attributively”, in the OED’s terminology); the first cite with post-production used straighforwardly as a noun is from 1976:

1953   K. Reisz Technique Film Editing i. 49   A post-production break-down of the finished sequence.

1976   Broadcast 12 Jan. 1/2   Spend a day on post-production using time code computer editing

In any case, once we have a straightforward noun post-production, it can be clipped to a noun post. In the right context.



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