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DIT and dailies


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#1 Benjamin Lamb

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Posted 05 February 2015 - 11:49 PM

Is it common practice for the DIT to create the dailies himself/herself without sending it off to a post house? Maybe this is more common for smaller budget projects?


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#2 John Miguel King

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Posted 06 February 2015 - 04:24 AM

There's no rule of thumb to this, as it depends on the workflow, which is usually tailored for the job.

The vast majority of times dailies are corrected, graded and processed to an offline format on set or near set. But, as you point out, this is not necessarily so on bigger and longer productions.

What we're seeing is a splitting and reordering of the different tasks, namely camera setup and control, grade, backup and transcoding. So, for example, in a pretty big film with a strong emphasis on colour management that was recently shot here in London the setup was:

 

  1. A senior DIT on set: the station had a grade 1 monitor, LUT box, a waveform monitor and an iris control per camera on any given scene. All the LUT boxes are controlled from a laptop and a colour, with the resulting metadata being fed back to the camera though an ethernet cable. Add a chair for the DOP as this shall become her/his spiritual home during the shoot.
  2. Datawrangler near set, usually on the camera truck or, with luck, our own DIT truck: Checking and collating metadata generated by the senior DIT, backing up onto the codex vault.
  3. Off set Post facitlity: Receiving all of the day's rushes. These are the original mags after all the metadata has been thoroughly checked and corrected by the data wrangler with the codex vault. All the colour decisions on set are written on the clips' metadata, therefore the facility can quickly generate all the graded dailies and deliverables whilst respecting the DOP's intentions. The footage is then cloned onto multiple LTO tapes and the media returned to circulation.

Edited by John Miguel King, 06 February 2015 - 04:25 AM.

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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 February 2015 - 07:37 AM

A senior DIT on set: the station had a grade 1 monitor, LUT box, a waveform monitor and an iris control per camera on any given scene. All the LUT boxes are controlled from a laptop and a colour, with the resulting metadata being fed back to the camera though an ethernet cable. Add a chair for the DOP as this shall become her/his spiritual home during the shoot.

 

I'm aware that this is done. But in a more theoretical sense, do you think it's actually a good idea that's it's done?

 

There are of course upsides, inasmuch as the director of photography can exercise direct control over the way things look going into the edit which, at least politically, can influence how much control is available when the material is finalised. But I've never felt that it's a very good idea to bring this much postproduction effort on set. Film sets are pressurised enough as it is, and it seems to me that introducing all of this extra complexity is unnecessary (well, in a technical sense, it absolutely is unnecessary, as everything done at this stage could just as well be done later). I suggested that it would be possible to do this sort of thing in about 2004 and was (correctly, as I suspect) shouted down by people terrified of the extra on-set workload.

 

One could make all kinds of arguments about this, mainly about being sure that what we're shooting has at least the potential to look as we want it to look, but that facility was never available to people in the photochemical days and great work was done. Are we really dragging what amounts to part of the postproduction department on set, just to keep idiot producers happy? Shouldn't we just get brighter producers?

 

P


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#4 John Miguel King

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Posted 07 February 2015 - 08:24 AM

Good caterers and efficient payroll accountants are the only absolutely necessary elements to any production. Or maybe that's how distorted my view has become after a few years playing the game.

 

The original question made reference as to how the setup can change depending on the budget, and that's what I've answered with a glimpse into this radically different environment.
 

Your question, Phil, and sorry if I come across as arrogant, makes me think that you don't really understand what we do nor why we belong to camera. I don't want to derail the thread. Feel free to start a thread and I'll answer as cogently as I can. Keep in mind, though, that we are the link between what happens in front of the lens and what makes it to post. The ramifications of this simple statement are surprising... and by the looks of it, in the States they seem to be more aware of the actual facts. We're on cam op rates there, whereas in the UK we're between 1st and 2nd AC rates.

Attitudes are changing fast though. The horror stories of the last few years of "kid with a laptop" madness are finally having an effect on producers across the board and it looks like we're finally getting the recognition we deserve. This is happening, let it be said, thanks mainly to the rest of the camera department and the DPs that won't take on a job without their trusted (and very often adopted) DITs.

Peace x


Edited by John Miguel King, 07 February 2015 - 08:24 AM.

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#5 Keith Putnam

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 10:44 AM

 

Are we really dragging what amounts to part of the postproduction department on set, just to keep idiot producers happy? Shouldn't we just get brighter producers?

In episodic television, fewer and fewer DPs are being invited to (or have the time to go to, or aren't paid to go to) final color grades. The color work I do on set is primarily intended to communicate to the colorist, as closely as possible, what the DP wants. I feel this is invaluable (but I would, wouldn't I?). If the final colorist can pull up a LUT and a CDL which the DP has approved and use that as a base to start working from, it helps ensure that final color decisions aren't being made solely by post-producers.

 

As a byproduct, the dailies I generate (or have a post house generate for me from my LUT and CDLs) ensure that throughout the editing process everyone watching cuts gets used to seeing at least a close approximation of the color looks that the DP wants.

 

Basically, in an era when a lot of control over the final image is being wrested away from DPs, having a DIT doing live color on set is a great way to pull back a good chunk of that control.


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#6 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 11:48 AM

I missed John's reply the first time round.

 

 

 

In episodic television, fewer and fewer DPs are being invited to... grades. The color work I do on set is primarily intended to communicate to the colorist, as closely as possible, what the DP wants.

 

The problem is that the cost of having you on set every single day is greater than the cost of paying the director of photography to go to the grade. Yes, I know the producers really are that stupid, and I know these things aren't always decided logically, but that doesn't make it strictly speaking a good solution to the problem.

 

On top of which, as I've said before, a film set is not a good place to make these sorts of decisions. Time is invariably extremely pressurised, even on quite high-end productions. Attention is likely to be split between the production and the grade, to the detriment of both, but my main concern is to the principal photography that's going on. Absolutely the last possible thing that any film set needs is more things to think about.

 

As Keith tacitly admits, I think there is a certain amount of job protectionism going on here. I first took a computer into something approaching a production environment with a view to looking at pictures on it in about 1993, and since then I have seen the practice go through the usual, tiresomely predictable stages of being criticised because nobody understood it, becoming the latest big, popular idea, and then becoming mainstream and everyday. I don't want to make this excessively personal, John, but I suspect I'd realised that on-set colour fiddling was a poor use of a DP's time before most people had even accepted it could be done, which is why I didn't pursue it.

 

P


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#7 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 12:40 PM

paying the director of photography to go to the grade. 

Oh Phil, I had a good laugh at that one...


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#8 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 12:48 PM

On my current movie, the Line Producer didn't want to hire my DIT. He just wanted a data wrangler instead because there was also going to be an assistant editor who was syncing and logging. The editor is working with camera original files in Log C, and has so far proved to be very unreliable in doing the REC 709 transform, so all of his edits look flat and washed out.

 

Luckily for me, I insisted on getting my DIT, and he is creating 709 dailies in Resolve at Pro Res 422, with a basic look applied so that at least the director and I know what we're getting. This is hugely important to me, because if I'm unable to attend the grade for any reason, these dailies and the color timed stills I pull from them will be the only guidance the Colorist has. I've tried to explain this to production, but all they see is dollars and cents.


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#9 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 01:19 PM

...and if they're that into money, they will see the sense in paying you to go and supervise the grade, which will be cheaper than a DIT and all the gear every single shooting day, not to mention the time saved on set. Say it ain't so?

 

But no, they won't see that. It's not a technology problem. It's not even a money problem. It's a stupidity problem, and one I'm very pleased I don't have to deal with.

 

The point, however, remains. It's not a good use of on set time.

 

P


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#10 Mark Dunn

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 01:24 PM

Shame there isn't a system with the colour management all built in, really, where you let the DP light the scene then just run the camera.

Hang on a minute, I used to use one of those (see avatar).


Edited by Mark Dunn, 09 June 2015 - 01:25 PM.

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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 01:28 PM

Digital cameras can be run that way too, perfectly happily, by people who know what they're doing.

 

The fact that people choose to add all this extra unnecessary shit, then whine about the expense, is entirely that - a choice.


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#12 Keith Putnam

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 03:45 PM

...and if they're that into money, they will see the sense in paying you to go and supervise the grade, which will be cheaper than a DIT and all the gear every single shooting day, not to mention the time saved on set. Say it ain't so?

 

The point, however, remains. It's not a good use of on set time.

Given that this thread is about "DIT and Dailies" I suppose it's relevant to mention that my hourly rate and my gear rental is far more than made up for by the money I save production by generating dailies on set. That's kind of the whole financial key to this. Having a DIT make deliverables on set is so vastly less expensive than having a post house do it, on the order of multiple tens of thousands of dollars over the course of the production, that having a dailies-generating DIT on set is far cheaper for the production than sending all the camera media off to be processed elsewhere. Now, of course, if the major post houses were to reduce their rates for this by several orders of magnitude then the game would change.

 

As far as my services being "not a good use of time on set", I suppose all I can do is refer you to the multiple ASC DPs I have worked for, and continue to work for, who would passionately disagree with you and who continually request my presence over and over. They clearly think the time spent with me is extremely valuable. And that's not to mention the gaffers and key grips I collaborate with who feel the same way.

 

So. Let's see… I save the production money, I facilitate far more accurate communication with the colorist than would otherwise be available given current standard production practices, DPs seem to find a huge amount of value in what I do for them… yep, DITs are clearly a pointless extravagance. But you've obviously made up your mind, and that's fine! On the tv series and movies you DP, you will likely have the power to refuse to use a DIT. Every DP should be able to work the way they want to work.


Edited by Keith Putnam, 09 June 2015 - 03:47 PM.

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#13 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 07:09 PM

Having a DIT make deliverables on set is so vastly less expensive than having a post house do it

 

Sure, I know that - the point I'm making is that that's just an utterly ridiculous situation. I generally avoid talking about this because the reality is unpopular, but the point remains: running some files through a conversion utility really is fairly trivial work. It's viewed as clever and special because the film industry is still confused by, and often afraid of, IT. In other areas of computing it'd be viewed as a task for an intern on a low-cost workstation. It's just not a big deal, and I suspect that eventually even the film industry will recognise this.

 

Yes, of course, DITs often do more than just run files through a conversion utility, but that's the stuff I'm really not convinced is necessary or desirable. Your ASC-led shoots are not a model for all world filmmaking. In fact, in terms of sheer number of frames shot, they're probably very far from the norm. It's quite common for people from the expensive end of film and TV work to assume that everyone else can work - or even wants to work - in the same way as big American serial drama and features. I'm not knocking anyone, here, but it's not possible for the overwhelming majority of filmmaking to be done that way.

 

To put it in even easier language: you may have time for the DP to kick back with a vanilla soy frappuccino and grade the morning's work between takes. Very few of the rest of us do, and insisting that this stuff is essential doesn't do anyone any favours. Digital cinematography struggled for years, and continues to struggle, with the popular perception that it had to be complicated.

 

It manifestly doesn't.

 

P


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#14 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 09 June 2015 - 11:57 PM

As some post person put it to me, the profit margins at post houses are so slim these days that they essentially have to charge by time or amount of footage to be converted to dailies, and that amount varies each day, so the cost of dailies varies each day.  The reasons why some producers, networks, or studios like doing their own dailies on set is that they don't have this unknown budget factor to deal (because they don't know how much footage is going to be shot each day), because they are paying some person a flat day rate more or less to handle dailies.  So it's not only that the costs are lower, but they are more predictable.


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