DIT LONNY DANLER
Codex had the pleasure of sitting down with Lonny Danler, a DIT who recently worked on Downsizing, Jumanji, The Greatest Showman, Kong: Skull Island, Hotel Artemis, Beautiful Boy, and more. We were able to get a glimpse of the man behind the equipment for an intimate interview over a sushi lunch and discuss his work on the newly released film, Downsizing.
With an early fascination with cameras and still photography, Danler received his undergrad in photojournalism in Utah. But with the coming internet age, he felt that he would at some point have to move away from still photography and explore something more tech-focused. After spending many hours in the developing room, Danler started to shift his attention. While working on his Masters, he fell victim to a theft of his camera equipment. Seeing the light through the darkness of such a violation, Danler said it was, “a bit of a blessing because I thought, ‘Ok, maybe I should pursue what I’d rather be doing.’” From there he progressed with his studies to receive a Masters in Film, while still maintaining an immense respect for still photography. After he received his Masters, he started shooting promotional videos, then industrial videos that he would edit and produce. This garnered an awareness for production to post which became a catapult for his career as a DIT. He eventually began to make connections with prominent cinematographers such as Janusz Kamiński ASC, Phedon Papamichael ASC, Seamus McGarvey ASC, BSC, Gyula Pados, etc. Due to these connections, the past few years have been very busy and exciting for Danler.
As we dove into the Yellowtail Carpaccio with our chopsticks, we were able to get a closer look at Lonny Danler’s workflow and how Codex plays an integral role.
On location for Beautiful Boy
Describe your set up and your cart on Downsizing. How often did you use Codex Production Suite?
I find that I’m always adapting my system to best meet the needs of a particular production. For Downsizing, I used my vertical cart that had both video signal for live grading and data management so I could keep the RAW close for review and grading in Resolve but also had a mobile option so I could go lean and mean when necessary. In those cases, my loader would manage the downloads back at the cart. But I always like to stay close to set and usually because of wireless video, HME communication systems, and remote iris control it’s a must.
My vertical cart had two 25” OLEDs up top, two Leader 5330/5333, iris control, an Odyssey 7Q, Mac Pro w/ Codex Dual Dock hooked up for downloads to a fast SSD RAID and then to a bigger RAID 5 with spinning disks and some other bells and whistles. The mobile kit was an FSI DM250 on a rolling Steadicam style stand.
We used Production Suite daily at a wiping station where my digital loader would use a MacBook Pro and a Codex Thunderbolt Reader to format cards and prepare them to go back into circulation. I always like to keep the ingest and formatting in two entirely different places when possible. The Thunderbolt Reader is also a nice backup to the dual dock in case there was a problem with the dual dock. Notably, however, I’ve never had to use it as a backup because the dual docks have been super solid. Nevertheless, I like to have at least two ways to do any mission-critical tasks.
On location for Kong: Skull Island
How has Codex helped you with your job and workflow?
Most importantly, Codex has been fiercely reliable. There are so many other concerns on set—managing the elements, relationships, moving gear quickly from place to place, being able to focus on color, iris, etc… - it’s reassuring to know that the media is in good hands. It’s always there, and when you have A-list talent and multi-million dollar productions depending on it, it’s very reassuring.
Describe working on Downsizing – what were the setbacks, challenges, or successes?
Downsizing was a truly unique film, unlike anything I’d worked on before, more so, unlike anything I’d ever even seen tonally. Working on an Alexander Payne and Phedon Papamichael movie, it feels important, like something I really want to take extra, extra care to make sure everything is working smoothly, is there to help support their vision and how they like to work. Nebraska was like that and Downsizing definitely was as well. What made Downsizing especially unique was that in addition to being a character-driven film like Alexander is known for, it was also a big VFX movie with massive scale shifts from little to big. I knew it was going to be really important to be able to reference scene-to-scene changes so we could match photography and lighting so all those scale changes would be seamless. That is a big part of the reason I put both live grade and data onto one cart so all image control and reference was in one place, and close at hand. I also had a lot of people in my tent often so had to have enough monitoring for everyone to see and analyse the frame critically. A majority of the time I had both my mobile 25” OLED next to my other two 25” OLEDs on my cart so I could pull up any references I had as well as footage that was just downloaded from my dual dock for reference. In addition, Phedon was operating, as Alexander prefers to have him close to set, so I always wanted to make sure he had a calibrated feed of not just the live cameras but could send those same references to his 17” monitor next to the camera. Those were the setbacks, challenges, and successes all in one; just managing all those colour critical pipelines and references, exposure, and keeping everyone happy with what they needed when the needed it. There are daily ups and downs, but you gotta just keep on working to make it better at every turn.
“MOST IMPORTANTLY, CODEX HAS BEEN FIERCELY RELIABLE”
The value of RAW for image capture is high, however, people perceive it as a challenge to manage RAW data. How do you feel about managing RAW workflows with Codex, compared to other formats
such as ProRes, RED, IntraAVC, etc.?
Arri RAW with the Codex workflow is a breeze. Terabytes are only getting cheaper, hard drives bigger, pipelines and throughput more robust, and playback more powerful with GPU acceleration where even a laptop can easily handle the footage if need be. Arri RAW data rates aren’t variable so it’s pretty simple math to figure out where you’re going to need to be by the end of a production once you know your rough shooting ratios. Nothing gets compressed, nothing gets lost. It’s beautiful and easy… breezy.
If Codex could improve something about its service or products, what would it be?
Mobility is key. Having a bus powered, low power draw and/or 4-pin XLR compatible power option would be great for those remote hard to reach locations where you have to be battery powered.
What’s coming up in the pipeline for you? Anything you can talk about?
I’m slated to do 2nd unit for a Netflix show, which in and of itself is a “funny” story as I was slated to do main unit until the DP, sadly, got fired. But the main unit guys were kind enough to take pity on me and put my name in the hat for 2nd unit, which was very kind of them. Phedon has a movie or two coming up which is always exciting as he attracts great projects. Then there are rumours of other stuff. Haha. We’ll see what pans out and what’s meant to be. Roll with the punches, try not to take anything personally, keep my head up, smile and enjoy the process. Those are my goals.
On location for Kong: Skull Island
Watch the Downsizing trailer...
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