How To Be A DIT – Part 12 – From The Sensor To The Screen

How To Be A DIT – From Sensor To Screen

A DIT’s (Digital Image Technician) responsibilities cover the entire journey an image will take from the camera sensor to the screen. Beginning with designing the entire workflow starting with ensuring that the cameras are set up correctly through to ensuring the foundations of the final projection a DIT has to be part artist, part technician, part digital workflow guru.

A DIT must be able to collaborate with the camera department, editorial and some of the most senior positions on set including the director and director of photography. It is an emerging and challenging role which requires a huge breadth of understanding of digital imaging and the gymnastics an image goes through to make it to the screen.

In the video above 4KLondon, a DIT agency and equipment house whose recent credits include Ex_Machina, Exodus Gods and Kings and Black Sea, delivers a primer on the fundamentals of being a DIT and what they should be able to do. It’s interesting to note that they create three levels of professional; Data Wrangler, DIT, Senior DIT. For a close look at the kind of equipment they supply (and therefore that working DIT’s use) check out their equipment list page.

The following list by Kwan Khan, quoted here from Robert Trim’s excellent ebook Digital Image Technician, (see 5 Books for DITs) gives you a fuller sense of the DIT’s job description.

– If you sit there dragging and dropping to transfer files, you are not a DIT.
– If you don’t know color theory, you are not a DIT
– If you cannot read a histogram, you are not a DIT.
– If you can’t {do} setups like detail, noise reduction, secondary color correction in the camera in every scene, you are not a DIT
– If you can’t match a whole material on-set instead of “fixing everything in post” you are not a DIT
– If you can’t record the proper signal – so you could use as much information in post as you can, you are not a DIT.
– If you never use a gray card…. and you don’t know why you should use a gray card, you are not a DIT.
– If you can’t advise on exposure, you are not a DIT
– If your DP does not respect your opinion, you are not a DIT
– If you color on-set, yet don’t/can’t calibrate your own monitor, you are not a DIT
– If you are not the consultant on-set for your camera crew, you are not a DIT
– If producers are more excited over your rate that your work, you are not a DIT.
– A DIT is a person who is competent in data management, look creation, and giving knowledgeable advice to the DP on ways to get the best image possible.

Admittedly it’s a bit overstated and everyone does have to start somewhere, but it helps to know what’s expected of you in a professional context. Kwan’s list was originally posted on a RED user forum.

5 Books on How To Learn To Be a DIT

If you want to learn how to become a DIT, there are plenty of great resources on this blog which will help you get there, tons of posts on colour grading and colour science, round ups of the best tools and gear for post production work, and interviews with working DITs.

That said sometimes what you really want is to know what a text book would say. For an emerging field there are only a few books available that are specifically aimed at DITs, the best of these I’ve brought together in a separate post – 5 Books on How To Be A DIT.

**Focal Press DIT BOOK GIVEAWAY**

Thanks to the good people at Focal Press I’m happy to announce this blog’s first ever prize-winning competition! For a chance to win a set of three of the DIT books reviewed in the 5 Books on How To Be A DIT post, simply sign up for the blog’s email newsletter before the end of February and 3 lucky readers will be picked at random. If you’re already signed up (smart decision!) you’re auto-enrolled. You can unsubscribe at any time, but the best part is, you’ll never miss a post.

To enter the competition scroll to the top right of the blog’s side bar and enter your email address in the box and hit ‘Subscribe’…

The video above is a taster film from Blain Brown’s The Filmmakers Guide to Digital Imaging‘s companion website, which has a ton of excellent resources behind a password protected login, which you get access to when you buy the book. Find out all about them in my fuller review here, or pause at 3.30 minutes in the video above to see the list of video resources.

The other books in the post include: Digital Cinematography by David Stump, Modern Post – Workflows and Techniques by Scott Arundale and Tashi Trieu, Digital Imaging Technician – A Very Practical Guide by Robert L Trim and  Data Management, Backup and Archive for Media Professionals by Marc M Batschkus.

Camera Guides for Digital Imaging Technicians

Digital Camera Pocket Guides

One of the best resources online for camera assistants and DIT’s who need to master the intricacies of each and every professional level camera in use today is Evan Luzi’s The Black and Blue.com and specifically his excellent Camera Pocket Guides. There are 30 frequently updated guides that are formatted for easy use on iPhone, iPad or folded print out and cover cameras like the RED Epic, Arri Alexa, Sony F5, Canon C500 and many more. You can buy all of these for only $0.49 each when you buy all 30 for $14.85. A bargain.

Learn How To Create A Digital Cinema Package

Covering the other end of the spectrum you can learn a great deal about creating the files needed for Digital Cinema Projection in a course by Helmut Lottenburger, called Understanding Digital Cinema Mastering, which in just under 50 minutes will guide you competently through the entire process. Helmut was kind enough to offer the readers of my blog a heavy discount of 50% off the normal price for the next two weeks – so only $25 until the 14/02/2015.

Click here to get 50% off Understanding Digital Cinema Mastering

If you’re reading this after the deadline, don’t worry you can still get a discount by following the special link in this previous post on DCP creation.

Understanding Digital Cinema Mastering covers the entire DCP workflow, explaining the XYZ colour space, JPEG2000 compression, assembling the various files that make up a Digital Cinema Package, DCP encryption (in quite some detail) as well as supplemental DCP’s and DCP naming conventions among other things. All-in-all, a lot of content in a short space of time.

The DIT from the Director of Photography’s Perspective

I stumbled across a great website/YouTube channel called Cinefii recently, which features some excellent short bitesize interviews with some of the world’s best Directors of Photography. If you’re a cameraman or DoP you should definitely spend some time rummaging through their extensive archive. I’ve pulled out the best DIT related videos below.

Panavision acquires Light Iron Digital

Panavision Acquires Light Iron Digital

It’s not too often something ‘note-worthy’ occurs in the business end of the DIT world and so it is interesting to note, that Panavision (camera equipment rental) and has acquired Light Iron Digital. In the photo above Panavision CEO Kim Snyder can be seen with Light Iron CEO Michael Cioni. Post Magazine has an interview with both of them on the merger.

Post: Kim, why did you feel the need to acquire Light Iron, rather than partner on a rental basis?
Kim Snyder: “We’ve been following Light Iron for some time and have been very, very impressed with their creativity, their technology and their problem solving. We evaluated the business and talked to Michael and his team, and felt there was a lot of opportunity, across the board, synergistically, to come together and have them be a part of the family, take advantage of our global footprint and bring the two businesses together. I do think there are a lot of interesting, creative things that we can do together uniquely to support our customers in their quest to make motion pictures in the workflow space, in a full ownership model.”

Synder and Cioni both later appeared on the Digital Production Buzz, which you can listen to here, or read the transcript of the show here. What I find interesting is that Cioni’s goal in the acquisition is to develop a wider reach in the filmmaking world and turbo boost his ideas about the future. Whatever happens there should be some interesting things coming from Light Iron in the future.

Larry Jordan: So what’s your plan for the Light Iron Outpost solution? Is that going to continue or are you going to subsume that into something else?

Kim Snyder: It’s absolutely going to continue and, in fact, we plan to have a Panavised Outpost and locate those in all of our offices around the world.

Michael Cioni: We think, Larry, that as workflow becomes more and more challenging because of the amount of variables that are applied to a production community, the community is interested in a more ubiquitous solution, and again that goes back to the reach that Panavision has and the fact that Outpost now has a carrier that can take it and deliver it to all these film makers.

Michael Cioni: But the fact is we’re inventive people and we are going to be reinventing this process. The next iteration of where we’re headed – and you’ll be one of the first to see it when we’re ready – is going to be in that arena where we’re innovating on a level and on a line that other people aren’t and when it comes out, everyone will have another ‘a-ha’ moment when this is ready to deploy and those are the types of things that get people really excited about working in the digital arena.

Free DIT Training

If you want some very high quality and free online (and offline) training on DIT equipment and software then you would do well to spend the time in Light Iron Digital’s OUTPOST University.

In this three part series from Michael Cioni you can get a very thorough run down of the Panasonic VariCam 35, the AVC-Ultra Codec, Wireless CDL and what these tools mean for DITs in film and TV production. The tool that Michael uses for live grading on set is Pomfort LiveGrade. Some of Cioni’s innovations with Panavision seem to be on display here.

Interview with a DIT – James Hogarth

DIT ScotlandDIT James Hogarth was kind enough to answer a few questions about what it’s like to be a working DIT starting out in the business.

To check out James’ CV and get in touch click here.

What’s your background and how did you ‘break’ into the business?

I studied TV at UWS in Scotland and whilst studying, created dailies anywhere I could and worked hard as a runner. Then I moved up to AC, mostly in broadcast, so when I left Uni I already had lots of experience and contacts.

What are the qualities and capabilities of a great DIT?

I think great organisational skills and a real passion for working in the grade and closely with the DOP and Edit. Always studying and learning as it evolves so quickly and is finally being recognised by productions as an important role. When an SxS card goes in the camera it’s worth around £500 but when it comes out it’s worth tens of thousands and I think trusting the responsibility with a ‘kid and laptop’ is crazy and short sighted. I think it’s vital to have someone dedicated and focused on the role of DIT is important. A camera trainee doesn’t want to do it, they want to be on set learning.

How much of the job is technical and how much is creative?

A good technical knowledge is important and the creativity depends on the DOP and what they want/expect from you. These skills can be developed by hard work and experience.

What does an average day look like for you on the set of a TV series?

I’m pretty much part of the camera team so I work closest with them. I set up my drives and folders in the morning then throughout the day I’m offloading, transcoding, grading, making dailies, syncing clips and then doing it all again.

What tools do you use to get the job done and how to you pick them?

Like anything when you have a working system in place it is hard to change that, but it’s exciting learning new ways to do your job faster. My main software is DaVinci Resolve, Avid and RedCineX.

How do you map out the workflow? What things need to be considered?

Prep days are important and workflow is created between myself and the edit. Any LUTS etc. are discussed with the DOP for whatever look they want, so it can carry from set to post.

What makes a DIT job creatively exciting?

You get to watch every shot so you learn about set ups and access to the meta data is great too. Also getting access to the ideas from some top DOP’s

What’s the biggest problem you’ve faced as a DIT and how did you solve it?

A novice camera truck driver smashed my screen on day1 of a shoot and I had to put another one on my credit card while that got fixed. It’s good now I have a back up but as you are in charge of the kit you provide you have to cover everything and it’s not cheap

What reading material/training would you recommend?

I always look through forums and blogs like Nofilmschool, Reduser.net and of course this one. I find them by searching the web and reading all I can. I never stop working or thinking about work. (That sounds really sad).

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