In the first of a series of articles that look at job roles and their relationship with technology, Alana Foster speaks with three digital imaging technicians whose credits include Black Mirror, Skyfall and McMafia.
Digital imaging technicians (DIT) work across film, TV and commercials and are responsible for the handling of content and image quality control from creation throughout its lifecycle on and off set. The growth in use of digital camera resulted in the creation and progression of the DIT position, with the role evolving from on-set engineering to technical workflows and colour correction and oversight of the production workflow.
Tom Mitchell, Mission Digital Technical Director
Mitchell is passionate about new technologies and creating new workflow solutions and is Mission Digital’s resident colour science expert. He set up the company after working as a freelance DIT for over three years on productions including the lab on Skyfall as well as on Under the Skin and Pirates of the Caribbean amongst other projects.
How do you describe the role of a DIT?
There is certainly confusion on the job role and what it entails. Most people mistakenly think onset DITs are just there to download data. The core responsibility of a DIT is managing the image pipeline and taking care of the camera.
I consider it for four separate and key functional roles that are amalgamated together in the same way as in the camera department; such as the focus puller, clapper loader, central loader.
The four key roles:
DIT (Digital Imaging Technicians) responsible for the camera systems, colour pipeline, negatives and ensure the image is consistent from start to finish.
DAS (Data Acquisition Supervisor) principal role is ensuring all the data is backed up, Ensure metadata is collected.
Digital Dailies works in the lab, operating thorough quality control, sound sync, process, checking deliverables, paperwork, admin, metadata input.
Digital Dailies Colourists create a best light, make sure all shots are balanced the same way throughout the project, as well as assist in the Lab operations. Normally supported by an operator, thus Labs are often run day and night each doing alternative shifts.
On larger jobs you need separate people for all the roles but on smaller jobs such as a simple pack shoot you would maybe have a focus puller covering all the different job roles as the requirements for the job is much smaller.
On larger features and high-end TV shows the responsibilities are divided up, but as jobs scale down this can be reduced to a DIT that also downloads data on set.
With the digitalisation of technology and now writing video to disk the role of a DIT has expanded from downloading footage instead of just labelling up a SR tapes and expands to digital processing in a lab, ingesting the footage to ensure the colour was applied to the offline footage with metadata to track the changes and the final media is backed up either to hard drives or now a LTO tape.
What does a typical working day entail?
I worked on 47 Ronin, starring Keanu Reeves, which had a scene where a wall needed to be blown up with 40 extras in Samurai outfits. There were few rehearsals and I had noticed that the foreground soldiers were barely visible and we wanted the scene to be chaotic and busy.
We had only one take for this shot so I had to make a call with the Director of Photography (DOP). If we had not spent 20 minutes to relight the set, moving the production cranes that had with huge lighting rigs attached, the scene wouldn’t have looked as it did in the film.
It requires thinking on your feet and having the confidence to speak up to your superiors under high pressure situations.
How has technology evolved the role of a DIT?
The technology we use is constantly evolving. The job came first and the tools had to catch up. We’ve been in a race against the capabilities of the tools and what is being asked of us. Today, computers are getting faster and the high-end shooting produces more data and therefore requires more processing power.