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That Ain't My Job!


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#1 Steve Gyuire

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 05:50 PM

Note: this is my first post. Here goes nuthin'....

At a recent event some very prominent figures within the production community broached this subject?and then it came up again during my daily duties here at HD Expo?and then it came up again today. With all this chatter, I?m thinking it?s high time I asked the people on the front lines what they think of the issue, and ask a few question of my own.

The question posed is, ?When the workflow is file-based, who is responsible for managing the data after acquisition and before post?? In other words, who should offload the files?

Now, I will admit that I am not a DP, AC, or Editor. As a matter of fact, my job is to promote continued education for these positions, so although I have a basic understanding of the processes, my knowledge is far from practical experience. I?d like to hear your thoughts from the real world of filmmaking.

The first position proposed was the loader. I can see the similarities that would lead someone to arrive at this conclusion. Conceptually, in a VERY general sense, the process seems so similar that this choice could be a no-brainer?. If it weren?t for how wildly different they are in terms of the skills required.

1st AC? I know many Indie DP?s out there are looking for AC?s who can manage the data in addition to their normal duties. Having your 1st do this doesn?t seem like a very productive idea. Doesn?t your 1st have enough responsibility already? I personally know a 1st AC who refuses to work on tapeless productions where he is required to manage the data also.

DIT? I hear this is a non-roster union position. Not really sure what that means. From my limited knowledge, isn?t a DIT only responsible for the acquisition?

Assistant Editor? Whoa. Of all the conversations I?ve had about this issue, this suggestion really seems to bring out the teeth from camera department. Is the set hierarchy too engrained to consider a change? Or is this the wrong choice for another reason? Or, is this a good choice that is hidden behind ego?

So? who is it gonna be? And will the community produce a uniform solution, or will the powers that be hand down an order?
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#2 Tom Lowe

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 06:15 PM

Well it will either be the DIT or a "data wrangler," I think. DIT is more akin to a 1st, and data wrangler is more akin to a loader.
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:02 PM

The thing here is that you are talking about a pushbutton operation that can be done in one minute and taught in ten. If it is not like this, you are using the wrong equipment.

A lot of people are using the wrong equipment.

P
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#4 Michael Belanger

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:23 PM

I've worked on 2 low-budget features shot on P2. The term we used was "Media Manager." I was basically a separate depatment from the camera crew with the sole responsibility of downloading and backing up data as it came off the cameras. I'd also review and log footage as time allowed. I worked out of a central office away from the live set.

It might help to think of this activity as somewhat equivalent to what happens in the lab with film as it is developed, spooled, work-printed, and stored. It's "safeing" the footage and making copies that can be worked with, just done on-set rather than over night at the lab. And of course the copies are identical to the original.

As important as the footage and backups on a tapeless shoot are I would be hesitant to ever consider it a "push button" process or to dump the responsibility onto an existing crew position.
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#5 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 07:54 PM

Ideally that role would be handled by a digital loader / data wrangler (I wouldn't be against an Asst. Editor coming in either, but the thought of having another dept. on-set usually blows Production's mind, even if the pay is the same?), but on a few P2 jobs I've done the 2nd will handle the data workflow. It shorthands the Camera Dept. sometimes, but can work out well in a studio setting, where company moves / moving gear takes far less time and energy.
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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 08:40 PM

I would be hesitant to ever consider it a "push button" process


Well that's exactly my point. At the moment it may be difficult to do that, but it emphatically should be a pushbutton process.

P
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#7 John Brawley

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 09:23 PM

The first position proposed was the loader. I can see the similarities that would lead someone to arrive at this conclusion. Conceptually, in a VERY general sense, the process seems so similar that this choice could be a no-brainer?. If it weren?t for how wildly different they are in terms of the skills required.



Is it that different for a loader who has to work on a digital camera Vs a film camera...

I think you're underestimating loaders. I personally hate the idea that a whole job position has been created in this way. In the same way that we all learn the new equipment and processes what's so different about this. And as phil points out. it's not rocket science to copy files. Just diligence and process. No different at all to a loader who has been give the SAME degree of responsibility.

I think DIT's are the modern version of a CCU or video engineer. Lot's of camera's don't even need a deep knowledge of the setup to get the results you want from them. Now how many DIT's are truly qualified like their forebears were...very very few i suspect.

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#8 Michael Belanger

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 09:35 PM

Well that's exactly my point. At the moment it may be difficult to do that, but it emphatically should be a pushbutton process.

P



It's not that it's a difficult procedure, it's just good to have one person who does that and nothing else. Someone who can focus totally on methodically downloading and backing things up. With a film shoot the loader safes the film and that's that till it gets to the lab, where a bunch of methodical guys do lots of stuff to process it, dry it, catalog it, etc. With tapeless a lot of the happens as you shoot. It's basically moving a crew person from the lab to the set.

The other option, having the regular camera crew handle things is kinda like asking a painter to also troubleshoot your server issues. The DP, AC, etc focus on capturing the image and the MM handles the data.

By the way, I was on a music concert shoot with five HVX-200s running at once, downloading to a single powerMac and we were barely able to keep up with the data flow (should have had 2 machines for that one). It's all much easier on a feature where you're getting a couple of 10 minute cards per hour if you're lucky.
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#9 Kevin Zanit

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Posted 21 August 2008 - 11:10 PM

There is almost no reason I can think of that the DIT could not handle this job under most circumstances. If there are a lot of cameras, I could then see it getting a little difficult for the DIT to handle in addition to all his other responsibilities.

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#10 Tom Lowe

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 12:10 AM

In terms of a "Data Wrangler" you are definitely looking for a meticulous, detailed-oriented, book-worm type. The job is more akin to a file clerk than a cameraman.
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#11 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 12:32 AM

In terms of a "Data Wrangler" you are definitely looking for a meticulous, detailed-oriented, book-worm type. The job is more akin to a file clerk than a cameraman.


hahah


I usually ask for the editor or asst editor to handle this task, because it frees up my 1st and 2nd from this boring process. It also enables the editor to be present and catch problems before we leave a location. If things go correctly, an editor can mention to the director that we might need a cutaway or an establishing shot...this can be helpful/detrimental depending on the situation and how he/she handles it.
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#12 Mitch Gross

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 12:57 AM

This is a Loader position all the way. To say that it isn't a similar skill set is to not truly understand what the Loader does. Sticking film in and out of mags is the least of it. Logging, inventory, equipment tracking, timecard for the whole department, tons of paperwork. It is this methodical bookkeeping work that makes this person perfect for the Digital variant of Loading.

On a more pedantic level, it is important that this remains in the camera dept. if only so that the DP or 1st AC can lord over him/her. **(obscenity removed)** up and you're fired -- not "I can't find the file -- the DP must have forgotten to roll." This is insanely more important than you might think. Until it leaves set, the media should be the responsibility of the Camera Department. I see nothing about the fact that it's data instead of film emulsion that should change a well-established workflow and job description.
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#13 Fran Kuhn

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 01:30 AM

This is insanely more important than you might think.



Mitch,

You couldn't be more on the money. The first time some files go missing people will have a newfound appreciations of how important this position is.

One of my DITs refers to his position as one of risk management!

-Fran
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#14 Michael Belanger

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 01:47 AM

Mitch,

You couldn't be more on the money. The first time some files go missing people will have a newfound appreciations of how important this position is.

One of my DITs refers to his position as one of risk management!

-Fran


Absolutely. Maybe it goes without saying, but we should stress that we're talking about tapeless systems, so all that original footage is being copied to backups then immediately erased so blank media can be sent back to the camera. That's a damn scary prospect.
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#15 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 06:38 AM

There is an inconsistency here. P2 media gets erased and sent back to camera. Mags for things like S.2 get archived until their backups are verified.

This is representative of a very different level of data security, and I suspect one which is driven by cost and value rather than risk management and engineering concerns.

In either case as far as I know every tapelessly-originated feature film so far has, despite all the hype about LTO backup and server storage, had a simple laptop computer as its single point of failure.

P
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#16 Michael LaVoie

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 06:42 AM

On most of my shoots I've heard this job referred to as the "P2 tech". It's been the assumption that almost anyone can do this as we had an intern doing it for the first week and then a computer software writer was actually doing it the second week. How he came on board I have no idea. Finally when he got frustrated with it and left the producers took over and started dumping the cards themselves. Which I was actually most comfortable with anyway. If something were to happen I'd prefer the producers assume full responsibility. In my contracts I always state that it is the sole responsibility of the production department to collect and keep safe all media containing the days footage whether electronic or analog.

Like a lot of jobs on film sets, it varies with the level of the budget. On smaller no budget stuff, having the assistant editor or the actual editor doing this can save a lot of time later. In addition to emptying the cards, there's a lot of other cool stuff they can take care of such as labeling the files, metadata and importing into an NLE for shot matching, for waveform verification, etc. This is impossible to manage with a rotating crew. It's a job for a permanent crew member. Not an intern/student type of position.

Edited by Michael LaVoie, 22 August 2008 - 06:43 AM.

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#17 Steve Gyuire

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 10:57 AM

On a more pedantic level, it is important that this remains in the camera dept. if only so that the DP or 1st AC can lord over him/her. fu** up and you're fired -- not "I can't find the file -- the DP must have forgotten to roll." This is insanely more important than you might think. Until it leaves set, the media should be the responsibility of the Camera Department. I see nothing about the fact that it's data instead of film emulsion that should change a well-established workflow and job description.


Like a lot of jobs on film sets, it varies with the level of the budget. On smaller no budget stuff, having the assistant editor or the actual editor doing this can save a lot of time later. In addition to emptying the cards, there's a lot of other cool stuff they can take care of such as labeling the files, metadata and importing into an NLE for shot matching, for waveform verification, etc.


It seems I've forgotten a very important point here. The budget. The decision to use a tapeless workflow is most often a financial one, right? Keeping the responsibility in the camera department makes perfect sense both in a practical sense, and from an "organized labor" position. But if the budget is relying on both the absence of film AND loader.... bring the Asst. Editor to set?

This is impossible to manage with a rotating crew. It's a job for a permanent crew member. Not an intern/student type of position.


Having sat through tapeless workshops, and heard how things can go wrong, I agree completely. Pretty simple job when set up right, but a lot of responsibility.

Edited by Steve Gyuire, 22 August 2008 - 11:02 AM.

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#18 Mitch Gross

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 11:43 AM

Why would going tapeless have anything to do with shooing on a lower budget? Fact is, in a short time this will be the only way to work. Then what?

You can shoot film and still have a lower budget with only a single AC, who now has to do the job of the loader as well. On those jobs I usually suggest adding some mags so the AC can do the Loader part of the job at the beginning and end of the day. Again, I don't see the difference here. Get more cards if you don't want to pay another crew person, or you can add to the workload of one person and risk a catastrophic failure. No difference between media.
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#19 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 08:58 PM

Mitch,

Your statements are all put incredibly well. Its amazing that such a simple truth can be ignored by many productions under the excuse of budget constraints and "ease of use" (of course it all seems easy if you're not the one doing it?). Also, it stands to reason that if you're juggling fewer balls its more likely that they'll stay in the air longer.

Thanks for that input, I'm sure many of us will be paraphrasing a lot of content from this thread to UPM's and Producers in the future. Now if they listen?
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#20 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 22 August 2008 - 10:25 PM

Quite true. You'll probably pay for it in the end one way or another. Nicely put.
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