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Digital Imaging Technician


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#1 Josh Gannon

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 03:18 AM

First of all and PLEASE READ THIS FIRST PARAGRAPH CAREFULLY!!!


This is not a topic intended to start a heated debate or any kind of Red v anything forum, I am just giving my idea's and my own personal opinion of what a Digital Imaging Technician's role should be. (From a lot of experience with the Red on set / in production). I would love some feedback off other cinematographers and focus pullers that have experienced the Red in production or any other Digital medium that has required a D.I.T.


1st of all. A D.I.T should know a lot about the camera that he/she is working with, they should be specialists, they should know how to solve any problems that may stall a shoot. They should know there camera through and through, I have found different serial numbers sometimes have there own "personalities" (I have personally dealt with Red#'s 7, 22, 64, 65 and 316). They should be responsible for the camera. Leaving the focus puller free to concentrate on their job!

Shoot me if I'm wrong but in this crazy digital world I believe that a focus puller should only be concerned with getting the image that the D.O.P wants and not the "problems" that arise sometimes when shooting a digital medium.

2. Obviously the D.I.T. has to be a computer nerd. They have to know how to fix problems (and fast!) with both OSX and Windows, they should know how to deal with massive amounts of data, and they should understand how important "the digital negative" actually is.

3. Probably the most important! A D.I.T should be a trained camera assistant, (even if they are crap assistant's) They should know there way around a film set and be able to help out if the other assistants are stressing.


I think there has to be a trade off when we have the convenience of "bringing the lab to set", yes you can view and grade full res rushes on site but there is a cost and you have to employ a professional. (A new breed of computer nerds need to be trained as camera assistants).


So please lets have a proper professional discussion on what we all think.



I also have a good work flow for Red D.I.T's on set if anybody is interested, (I'll start a new topic).


Josh.





P.S. I'm not sure if it has been done before, but today I assisted on a Red, Genesis and Panaflex 35mm side by side.... :rolleyes:
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#2 Alexander Nikishin

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 03:38 AM

How'd it go?
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#3 Josh Gannon

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 03:58 AM

That's another topic.

I will post on that later, with fact, if I can....



Josh.
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#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 04:29 AM

Well, the AC/Focus Puller still has to be a Camera Tech at some level. Which is why I strive to be as educated as possible when it comes to working in a digital workflow. But let's face it, I'm NOT a tech, so a D.I.T. on standby would be a great blessing for any production.

I may work with the SI-2K soon, and we only have a D.I.T. from Silicon Imaging for the tests we're shooting. From then on, we're on our own. I suppose he'll be "on call" if anything tragic happens, but as an AC it would be great to not be the guy the Producer stares at, wide-eyed, if something tragic does happen concerning image acquiring or workflow issues.
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#5 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 26 February 2008 - 10:47 AM

One of the biggest problems currently facing the DIT is that it is convenient for the equipment manufacturers to claim you don't need to be a computer expert, when in every situation I've seen you very definitely do. This can lead to very experienced multimedia systems people working for the same money as a clapper loader, which is... wrong.
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#6 John Sprung

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 03:07 PM

I think there has to be a trade off when we have the convenience of "bringing the lab to set", yes you can view and grade full res rushes on site but there is a cost and you have to employ a professional.

The DIT's job is to compensate for the inadequacies of the technology.

The DIT idea originated with tape cameras, where you have the problem that the recording system can't handle the dynamic range of the sensors. So, you have to make irreversible decisions on the set. That part of it is sort of like the Color Consultant job back in the 1920's and 30's, the person who could tell the DP that the rocks in the BG were likely to come out looking exactly the same color as the actor's face.

Having the lab on the set is a bad thing to the extent that it takes the time of the whole shooting company to deal with issues that might otherwise be handled in post. It's a bad thing to the extent that you have to make irreversible decisions during the shoot. The right place to do color timing is after the picture is locked, when you can see everything cut together. Doing it on location is sort of like making a jigsaw puzzle by first cutting up the blank board, then picking up the individual pieces and painting on them.

Recording the raw data from the sensor (with data compression, not dynamic range compression) removes that inadequacy, and should eliminate that part of the DIT job.

The other part of the DIT job is fixing things that go wrong. Tragic things can go wrong with a film camera, too. Gear teeth can get stripped, the shutter can get out of sync, etc.... But those really bad things are very very rare, and pretty well known. With electronic cameras, the bad things are less rare and less well cataloged. With time that will stabilize, and people will get comfortable with having a backup body, or depending on being able to fly one in from the rental house.

The DIT also deals with "data wrangling", which properly should be the second AC's gig. Transferring data from solid state devices to LTO's or drives is analogous to transferring film from camera magazines to metal cans with tape around them. It's extremely important, and must be done with great care, because you're handling the end result of all the work and money that went into the shoot. But it shouldn't take any more smarts than getting the right info on the labels and camera reports. Eventually it'll get there.

So, like the Color Consultant of old, the DIT is a temporary transitional job that should go away when the technology becomes more mature. The DIT's themselves, hopefully, will move up to become operators and DP's.




-- J.S.
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#7 Michael Nash

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 05:29 PM

The DIT's job is to compensate for the inadequacies of the technology.

...
-- J.S.


I agree with all of John's points. The DIT is a transitional job, as the established procedures between film and digital aren't the same and are changing. There's still a job for camera techs on film shoots, but that's back at the rental house -- and there's a limit to how much tech troubleshooting the 1st AC should be able to handle on set on a film shoot.

I want to expand on the notion of color correction on set though, especially as it pertains to DIT's and other crew on set. I agree that color correction shouldn't be done on set, and that in the case of the RAW recording it's a moot point. But for other digital mediums it's the DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY'S JOB to know how to manipulate the tools he's imaging with to get the look he wants. The DP has to understand and know how to tweak the camera's processing to get the desired image, including what effect it will have in post. Ignorance of these factors is akin to ignorance about exposure, density, color-correction filters, lab processing and printer lights.

A film DP is expected to know the characteristics of the stock he's using, how to use correction filters to control color saturation, and what the effects of pushing the film to its limits will be. A DP learns this through education and testing. Whenever a DP says something like "I don't know about all that digital stuff. That's for a DIT. I just know how to light and shoot," it's like a film DP saying "I don't know anything about all that lab and density stuff. That's for the lab guys." Can you imagine a top-notch feature DP not knowing how to use a low con filter to control gamma, or how to pull process film to control color saturation?

Sure, it's hard to keep up with all these new cameras and technologies and there's always a learning curve. But a DP makes the effort to keep up. DP's test film stocks -- and not just by shooting them straight out of the box, they test their densities and characteristics -- to keep up. DP's test new cameras and push their signal processing to learn what they can do, and they learn how to do it. THE DP HAS TO KNOW THIS STUFF.

On a film shoot the DP comes to set armed with a variety of "looks" he's created during prep, consisting of different stocks, filters, and processes. He makes judgments on set about what density of filter and exposure on the negative will give him the look he needs for post. The first AC puts the filter in the slot, even though the DP knows how to do it. The DP decides to overexpose the negative because he KNOWS what it will do, not because a lab person told him to do it.

The DP's job in the digital realm shouldn't be any different. The DP's job is to control the image, using the tools at hand, and the DP has to know how to use these tools. IT'S THE DP'S JOB TO KNOW THIS STUFF.

The 1st AC does more than pull focus. He needs to know everything there is to know about the camera being used, and how to set it up to do what the DP needs it to do. Control ramped frame rates, advance film for reverse run, throw the shutter out of phase, thread film emulsion side in; whatever needs to be done. If it's too complicated or time consuming to do on set it's done during prep, if possible. If it's too tech-intensive for the 1st AC then a camera tech needs to help out. I don't see why a digital 1st AC's job should be any different. A first AC shouldn't claim ignorance about menus any more than he can claim ignorance about programming a ramp or using a Lens Data System. There are always new technologies coming out, and we all have to keep up. The 1st AC is in charge of the camera gear. HE HAS TO KNOW THIS STUFF.
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#8 John Sprung

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Posted 08 April 2008 - 08:07 PM

The DP has to understand and know how to tweak the camera's processing to get the desired image, including what effect it will have in post.

I'd say that the DP has to know the entire range of possible results that can be extracted from the camera. For the details of actually extracting them, he or she can rely on the services of the DIT. It's like the DaVinci color corrector. The DP knows what it can do, but uses the colorist's expertise in actually spinning the three black billiard balls. Or delegating to the gaffer the job of delegating to an electrician the job of setting a hair light.

When we get through the transition and have the technology working right, the camera will be simple enough that it won't take an additional full time employee beyond the conventional film camera crew.




-- J.S.
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#9 Dane Brehm

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Posted 10 April 2008 - 06:35 PM

I personally might not call myself a DIT just because I've worked with Badass DIT's like Jim Rolin who knows practically everything there is to know about HD, Video, and historically what it has become (F23). Most DIT's know little about RAW and how that applies to newer cameras like the Red, Dalsa or the Phantom. Historically there's been multiple ways to adjust things like Flare, Blacks, Whites,Gamma,Knee, Contrast, etc so when you talk to a 25 year veteran about how there's no flare compensation in the Red they go Why?

A word of Advice to would be DIT/DMT/ Next Gen AC's. Always keep the DP happy because even though you may get alittle extra attention from the Director, Producer or E.P ultimately your assisting the DP. On one of my First Red jobs, I made that mistake after leaving camera side so many times on a Intel job to Show/Grade with the Director and Exec. Creative Director. The DP felt i over stepped, so with great power ( DATA/RAW/onset Color) comes great responsibility ( your career).


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#10 Tom Turley

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Posted 01 May 2008 - 04:24 AM

I shy away from labelling myself a DIT for precisely Josh's 2nd point -- I'm not a computer nerd. I sell myself more as an AC/Red Tech.

Generally I encourage clients to bring someone from their post team to sit at the laptop and dump over the footage, make redundant copies and check the data's integrity. I've done it myself but I can't downgrade someone's quicktime in 3 secs because they haven't done it when I asked them to, and I don't feel confident that when a computer kicks off I can sort it in minutes. I can teach them what they need to know quite quickly if they then have a couple of days and some red footage to run tests with prior to the shoot.

The camera however, I have been working with for months and on a lot of different jobs and tests. When she kicks off, I do know how to solve it quickly. I can answer DOPs questions as to how it might react if you do this or that. I know every menu inside out, have gained a reasonable instinct for knowing when a CF card is going to run out when I'm not near the camera etc.

So this is the system I prefer:- to have one man dedicated to his computer managing the data. He should never have cause to leave his chair, so he can be permanently supervising his data transfers. Then to have the AC/Tech running the media to him, ensuring that the 'digimags' are swapped properly and the right one goes to the right place safely. --clearly between the two of them they are responsible for the 'rushes' safeguarding.-- Then the AC/Tech is also on hand to skip through the menus quickly, solve problems relating to the camera's (occasionally bad) behaviour, build the camera at the top of the day, look after batteries, lenses, filters etc as normal.

So basically I agree utterly with points 1 and 3, but I think 2 should be delegated elsewhere, because I believe that for the data's complete security, the DIT(?) should be with the computer at all times.


Tom Turley
AC/RedTech
London
turleyt@googlemail.com


Josh, I would like to hear about your workflow? Also, sorry but I've babysat the RED with Genesis, 35mm, 16mm and F900r+Pro35 all side by side! And on a separate test against the D20. Do I win anything?!

Edited by Tom Turley, 01 May 2008 - 04:25 AM.

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#11 John Sprung

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Posted 01 May 2008 - 12:13 PM

Do I win anything?!

Only if you post full test results here.... ;-)



-- J.S.
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