Joe Steel is a London-based DIT and his work behind the camera extends to projects such as Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2017), Mary Poppins Returns (2018), The Foreigner (2017), Darkest Hour (2017), and Ready Player One (2018).
Codex was able to grab some time with the talented DIT and discuss his recent work on Andy Serkis’s film, Mowgli (originally titled Jungle Book: Origins). Mowgli is based on the beloved story by Rudyard Kipling and is a darker version than what fans are used to.
How did you get to be a DIT? Tell us about yourself.
DITing found me rather than the other way around! My first steady job was in post-production first as an assistant and then as a Supervisor looking after machine rooms - edit suites grading theaters, etc. To be honest, I found post-production a bit dull (not the process but having to work in an office environment) and I wanted to get back to working on set which I had done briefly as a runner. So, I decided to retrain in the camera department. I worked as a camera trainee for a while and then I started loading film. Just as I was starting to get busy as a film loader, digital cameras were becoming more popular. At the time, the busiest digital cameras for me was the Red One and the ARRI D21. With my post background, I felt very comfortable with digital cameras at a time when a lot of assistants were shying away from them. Then my DOPs would ask me to DIT for them so I started doing that. In 2010, I was asked to DIT 2nd Unit on Pirates of the Caribbean in London, which became the film that made me realise that DITing, as we know it today, is what I should be doing.
What do you enjoy most about it?
Working with the DOPs is by far the best part. Some prefer you to be in the background and only call on you occasionally; whereas other DOPs want you right up in the forefront advising, grading every shot, and collaborating. This can be a lot of fun. Especially as I've been so lucky to work with so many DOPs whose work I grew up with and admired for so long. Also, I love to travel and the DIT role is one of those job roles onset that when the production moves across country you never get left behind!
How did Codex help you with your workflow?
This was the first time I had worked with Codex and SHED (at the time Digilab) all the way through production and they made it so easy. The test material was all screened at their facility in Poland Street, London which is where we created the LUT. They provided the lab service using 2 Codex Vaults, which was great to know, since we wouldn't have any headaches at that point, and they also provided a dailies screening service. Having one facility who could advise on capture right through to viewing was great – it made the whole process very smooth.
How was it working on Mowgli?
Mowgli had some quite unique challenges for us. For every slate we did, we would perform three or four repeat passes for the VFX (action pass, character pass, clean pass, balls pass, stuffy pass). Using the Codex Vault to collate and deliver each pass to the appropriate department was made simple. We built the jungles on stages at Leavesden, all the trees and vegetation were real. In between shots and all the way through the night, the greens department would have grow-lamps on and they would constantly water the vegetation to keep everything alive during the three months while we were indoors. Because of this, the studio was constantly hot – probably the hottest I’ve experienced. The 90% humidity was a concern. The ARRI ALEXA cameras with Codex recording and drives fair exceptionally well. We had no issues with them.
The last month was spent on location in South Africa. Having the lab entirely Vault-based made the transition and backup between London and South Africa very easy.
THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME I HAD WORKED WITH CODEX AND SHED ALL THE WAY THROUGH PRODUCTION AND THEY MADE IT SO EASY
The value of RAW for image capture is high, however, people perceive it as a challenge. How do you feel about managing RAW workflows with Codex?
I’ve worked with every format and I don’t see RAW as any kind of conceivable challenge. Obviously, you have more data, but for me the cost of the data is far outweighed by the advantage to the whole film of shooting RAW.
What’s in store for you over the next few years- any projects you’re able to discuss?
My assistant keeps on telling me not to discuss jobs before they happen for fear of jinxing them, so I’m not allowed to discuss anything! However, there is one film that will be released later this year that I worked on: 7 Days in Entebbe, shot with ALEXA on ARRIRAW and Codex Capture Drives and Codex Thunderbolt readers in the lab.
Mowgli was purchased from Warner Bros. by Netflix and is reported to start streaming in 2019.
Camera equipment provided by: ARRI Rental UK
Codex related product and workflows
Images courtesy of their respective owners.