Essential Tools for Digital Imaging Technicians
What tools does a DIT need to have at their disposal? This round up of the latest software and hardware releases will keep you up to date on the answer.
File-based workflows have given rise to the world of the Digital Imaging Technician or DIT for short. But what does a DIT do? Well many things, as they seamlessly bridge the gap between production and post. Part of their job is safeguarding the digital negatives by duplicating the day’s footage, they also create looks with on-set color correction and should have a wealth of camera and post-production knowledge to troubleshoot problems with the creation of digital images. Depending on the nature of the production that role contracts and expands accordingly.
Companies like Light Iron Digital, who supply DIT carts and end-to-end digital workflow systems, now span both coasts of America as the DIT’s role continues to develop and the brick and mortar post-lab declines. Their bespoke systems are built to spec for each production and come in a variety of flavors Outpost is the full-bore DIT cart that can handle anything, while Lilypad and LilyPad Case offer slightly more streamlined systems. You can back up your footage in triplicate, create color graded dailies, handle 3D convergence and securely stream live iPad ready dailies to everyone on set via Todailies. Light Iron really are one of the most forward-thinking filmmaking companies out there and if you don’t believe me check out CEO, Michael Cioni’s excellent presentation at the Amsterdam Supermeet entitled ‘Darwinean Filmmaking Evolution or Extinction.‘
If you’re after something a little more portable and providing a lighter footprint DIT station’s Rogue4 (freshly demoed at NAB 2013) could be just the thing. There’s a lot of hardware packed into this ventilated military grade resin hardcase, that’s small enough to fit into an overhead bin, but prepared enough that it only takes “20 seconds to set up”. Using the Echo Expansion chassis from Sonnet it has 4 PCI Express card slots for things like Red Rocket cards and a max of 12TB RAID. It’s ready to ingest Redmags, Compact Flash cards, SXS and SDHC. What’s more, there’s also a Wi-Fi router and external data and video in and out via dual eSATA, dual USB 3.0, dual HD-SDI, HDMI). Without the 15-inch retina Macbook Pro it will set you back $10k. With the extensive delay on any kind of Mac Pro tower update, systems like these (whether or not you’re a DIT) look more and more attractive for super-fast and portable post production suites.
So once you’ve got your hardware sorted, what do you actually run on it? Well, the market for software that will handle your DIT responsibilities is growing too. These tools fall largely into two categories: Data Transfer and Dailies Creation. Although more and more tools are being launched to provide all in one solutions so it’s worth download a few of the free trials available to see which one you prefer.
In the data transfer set there are a lot of options to choose from although they all offer the all important file transfer checksum, ensuring every byte has copied correctly. They can also copy to multiple locations simultaneously for segregated backups. Shotput Pro ($99), Al3xa Data Manager ($79) and the new Velarium ($79) will all transfer happily your footage from cards to hard drives. Velarium is the newest kid on the block and Scott Simmons from PVC has posted a great run down of its features. I’ve personally used Shotput Pro for any on-set copying (or edit drive back ups at the end of a project) and it is incredibly easy to use.
Red Giant Software (the makers of things like Magic Bullet Looks) have recently launched the public beta of Bullet Proof, demo’d at NAB in the video above. Bullet Proof is their one-stop shop for data transfer, on-set review and color correction and if you prefer to peruse its features in text Scott Simmons again has a great write up. It looks like they have incorporated a lot of very accessible and useful features into one package. With a price of $199 when it ships, it will be interesting to see how it competes in this increasingly crowded market.
Other more fully featured dailies only creation software include Assimilate Scratch LAB ($5,990), DaVinci Resolve Lite (free) and REDCINE-X Pro (free). These tools will allow you to import the RAW camera files from all the major camera manufacturers, sync audio, apply LUTS, colour correct and export your edit ready dailies in a multitude of formats. If you want to see just how this is done check out this two part tutorial from AbelCine on creating dailies in DaVinci Resolve Lite.
More DIT Resources
If you’re after even more DIT resources then check out the DIT User Forum and these two great interviews with DIT’s; one over on Creative Cow with Von Thomas and one on Screenlight’s blog with Griff Thomas. Both interviews have great technical details of their personal workflows and cart set-ups. If that’s not enough for you then check out these 25+ DIT related posts on my own blog.