What you can count on Mick for...
In the old days, when film was shot, it would then need to go to the lab for developing, the post house for telecine and dailies and then finally either a work print or videotape was delivered to editorial. In today’s world of digital production, the DIT has taken on those roles as the intermediary between the camera and editorial. The tasks of a DIT can vary from production to production, but in general, they are responsible for capturing the best possible image and delivering it safely to post-production.
The job always begins with a discussion with the Director of Photography and what cameras will be used. This is followed up with a call to post-production to determine the workflow based on camera choice and needs of the production. From there, the DIT works with the DP to develop looks (LUTs) and determine if color will be done live or pre-made LUTs will be used for dailies. Finally an equipment package is assembled so the DIT cart can handle the specific workflow for the project. During the course of production, footage is downloaded, backed up, and a ready-to-edit copy, along with originals, LUTs and audio, is sent to post-production so the editors can begin their work. Daily communication with post helps guarantee the footage is safely delivered and looks as the DP and director are expecting them to look.
Every digital production should have a DIT
The role of the DIT (Digital Imaging Technician) has become invaluable in today’s digital cinema and television production. As a core member of the camera department, a DIT works closely with the Director of Photography to insure their vision is realized utilizing the latest in modern digital camera technology. The DIT is responsible for the technical settings on the camera, management of the digital media, colorizing and creating LUTs, transcoding dailies and generally supervising the overall workflow from camera to post.
As a DIT, I provide the following services:
• Settings and operation of digital cameras
• Help DP determine exposure
• On-set color and LUT development
• Downloading and backing up of footage
• Transcoding footage for editorial as needed with LUTs applied
• Creation of dailies
• Calibration of monitors
• Use of waveform and vector scopes to monitor signals
• Development of workflow with post
• Ensure flow from camera to post functions smoothly
• Deal with any technical questions or situations that arise
On-Set Color and LUTs
In addition to helping the DP with exposure and technical aspects of the camera, a DIT creates a look using LUTs (Look up Table) that can be used to just make dailies or passed down through the entire workflow. These LUTs are applied to the viewing monitors while shooting but usually not to the original footage itself which allows flexibility and changes later on in post production. Most times the LUTs are used on set to transcode the footage into dailies, ensuring the footage is seen as the DP intended it.
Log Images and ACES
Most high end digital cameras record in what is know as Log (Log-C, S-Log C-Log). Sometimes mistakenly referred to as RAW, a log image is an image with an even or logarithmic contrast curve. This allows the capture of the maximum dynamic range giving the most flexibility for later color correction. Because these images are flat looking with low saturation, they require a LUT to give them a pleasing look. To ensure consistent colors, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have developed ACES (Academy Color Encoding System) which is used by certain cameras, hardware and software to streamline color workflow. This helps DIT’s important job of creating looks that accurately represent the DP and director’s vision of the final image.
DaVinci Resolve is the standard software used in post houses around the world for final color on finished project. The newest version is much more focused on-set and can be used for both live grading and for transcoding dailies. There are other color systems such as Technicolor’s DP Lights, TrueLight or LiveGrade; these are all essentially similar and used for live grading on set. The benefit of DaVinci on set is that it offers many more tools to create a look that can be passed down and used as a starting point of the final color grade. The thing to remember is that the looks created by a DIT on set are generally ‘one-light’ quick passes that are simply for making dailies and editing transcodes. The final colorist will have more time and more tools to create a more complex grade inspired by the on-set color created by the DIT.
Workflow and Post Production
The digital cinema revolution has intertwined production and post-production in ways not previously experienced. The DIT has become the conduit between the camera department and editorial. Starting in pre-production, a DIT will being working with post to help determine workflow and identify any issues regarding camera choices or special requirements. Through the course of production a DIT will usually deliver footage twice a day to editorial and continual communication will ensure a smooth workflow. Regardless of the size or budget of the production, a good DIT should be well familiar with all popular editing softwares and the needs of post-production.
Storage, Transcoding & Dailies
The Codex Vault
The importance of the media manager or downloader is often underrated. However it is critical that the person doing the off-loading of footage be very familiar with computer hardware and software. When footage is downloaded it should always be done to more than a single hard drive for safety. That’s where the use of RAIDs and multiple drives are critical. A download station can be as simple as a Mac laptop or as complex and feature rich as the Codex Vault (pictured above). The camera used will determine the size and the amount of footage being generated. This must be calculated into the workflow to assure adequate hard drive space is available. The more data generated could require more advanced storage such as a near-set 20Tb RAID or LTO tape backups for archiving. Determining the right hardware needed for the given project is part of the workflow created by the DIT and post production. Knowing how it all works and more importantly how to fix it when it doesn’t work will ensure successfully delivery of the footage to post.
Most cameras today will produce footage that will need to be processed before use. If it is RAW it will need to be transcoded into a viewable file, usually with color applied. Larger 4K images will also need to be downscaled to HD for viewing and editing. Depending on how much footage is produced, it becomes necessary to have enough computing power to process these images. This is also where the DIT can ensure the color applied during the transcode matches the color that was approved on set. Sometimes the transcoding is done in post in which case the LUTs sent along with the RAW footage must match the LUTs used to view on set. No matter where it’s done, the transcoding process should be developed with the DIT and post in unison to guarantee accurate color representation.
Unlike in the past, more and more dailies are being created on-set by the DIT. Whether it’s H264 mpegs for posting to a cloud or simply making viewable ProRes quicktimes that will also be used for editing, by doing it on-set the DIT can guarantee they match the original footage. While some shows still handle the dailies in post-production, new technologies like LightIron’s Todailies allow low resolution footage to be captured real time on-set and made instantly available on nearby iPads. As with all aspects of digital cinema, there are a number of options available to fit a productions schedule and budget.