How To Be A DIT – Insights From Working DITs
If you’re looking for the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a working DIT then Charlie Anderson’s excellent blog is well worth a read. In his most recent post he shares some battle stories, technical updates to his cart and some of his DP work. It’s a great example of the range of abilities a DIT needs to master; file based workflows, colour grading and colour management as well as an eye for artistry.
(I was working on) a 2 camera show shooting Alexa at 2k ProRes4444 on SxS cards. I was monitoring in LogC and then de-logging with the usual Film Emulation LUT provided by Company 3.
The shoot itself was pretty hectic, mainly using Boxx wireless to monitor and color a signal (which isn’t exactly ideal but we made it work) and also talking screenshots with Blackmagic Media Express (which is my favorite way to submit reference still BTW, just quick and precise and to the point).
The Lift Gamma Gain forum also recently had a great discussion called ‘Picking a DIT’s Brain’ which develops into the pros and cons of different carts and gear in different scenarios, and the intricacies of live-grading.
If you are grading – even basic LOG-to-Rec.709 – you need to know you have an accurate monitor that you can trust. The FSI CM-171 is a great choice. On features and series, I work with rented 10-bit panels like Cinetal B230, TVLogic XVM and Sony BVM OLEDs, but for the day that those aren’t available and the production insists on their own 17″ Panasonics, I will buy a CM-171. – Patrick Hogue
Lastly colorist Juan Salvo posted this twitter puzzle, the replies to which, are worth reading.
Puzzle for you: DP complains “my field monitor shows banding in an image w/ cam at 320ISO but not at 800ISO.” I said “of course!”, why?
— Juan Salvo (@j_salvo) November 14, 2013
Enders Game File & Color Pipeline
There’s been quite a lot of interesting internet fodder on the VFX and color management pipeline involved on Ender’s Game, not least the excellent 19 minute case study (below) on the “progressive data management and color pipeline” of Ender’s Game from Light Iron Digital CEO, Michael Cioni.
Studio Daily also have a decent interview with Cioni and Light Iron colorist (and co-founder) Ian Vertovec on the particular challenges of providing the film’s post-production file and colour management.
“With Red, it’s very straightforward,” Vertovec said. “We essentially just pulled the Red log film, with a Cineon curve, from the R3D files, loaded it as 10-bit RGB in log and then colored directly into P3 color space.” The DI was performed on a Quantel Pablo 4K connected to Light Iron’s GenePool shared-storage system.
Creative Cow has a nice written breakdown of the same Light Iron case study, but they also have some great HD sized screenshots fresh from colorist Ian Vertovec’s Quantel Pablo which are well worth a look.
Studio System News has a further interview with director Gavin Hood on all the stages of the film’s creation from development to release.
“The glass sphere requires you have artists dedicated to virtually creating glass, how reflections hit that glass, how light bends through that glass. The amount of technical challenges in creating that room were utterly enormous. [Visual effects supervisor] Matthew Butler and his team deserve massive praise for the way they tackled that.”
Art of VFX has this interview, accompanied by tons of great images, with Digital Domain VFX Supervisor Matthew Butler on his work on the film. Cinefex also has a written interview with Butler and Digital Domain CEO Daniel Seah, which Digital Domain co-produced.
As a quick aside from DIT related things, if you’re interested in the UI design work in Ender’s Game then Art of VFX has a fantastically long, detailed and well illustrated article on the intricate work from Ash Thorp the lead motion graphics designer.
Codecs & Compression
If you’re totally new to codecs, wrappers and compression here is a quick common analogy. Imagine a sweet in a foil wrapper. The file format (the .mov, .mp4, .dpx whatever) is the wrapper; it contains the sweet. The codec (Pro Res, H.264, DNxHD, Divx etc) is the flavour of the sweet, inside the wrapper. The compression is the quality of the sweet. The higher the compression the lower the quality (usually).
To stretch the analogy even further you could say the bit rate is similar to the amount of sugar in the sweet. The more sugar, the sweeter it will taste; the higher the bit rate, the better it will look, but the higher the calorie count – in this case the file size.
How To Choose The Right Codec
In this excellent 20 minute tutorial from AETuts, James Whiffin walks through which file formats and codecs are best deployed in any given situation. An extremely accessible explanation that is well worth a watch for any new DIT or editor.
In this quick tip you can learn how to encode your videos in Mac OSX Mountain Lion right from the Finder. It is as simple as: “Right-click on the video you want to convert, then go to “Services” and select “Encode Selected Video Files.”
EOSHD has a nice article on CINEC 2.7, from Cinemartin which allows you to convert files into the H.265 format. At the moment Cinec is only on Windows.
H.265 standard is the biggest codec of the decade. It supersedes today’s most common codec for encoding and internet delivery of video (H.264) and makes 4K recording to SD cards possible on DSLRs. Cinemartin say in their tests a ProRes 4:4:4 video of 590MB was converted to H.265 HEVC with CINEC 2.7 to an output video of 4.9MB with little or no noticeable differences in image quality.
Click through to the EOSHD site for full size screenshots to compare the images for yourself as well as plenty more technical details.
Understanding the basics of Compression
Larry Jordan share’s this useful introduction to the basics of compression in this snippet from one of his PowerUp! webinars. In another article Larry talks about compressing for WebM and HTML5. If this is something you need to do, check out Larry’s tips.