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Codex caught up with Nicholas Kay DIT, talking about Passengers and an enviable filmography



New York based DIT Nicholas Kay is one of the most sought after DITs in the United States. Nick and his company, Frame Logic, have supported many feature films and TV shows shooting in New York, Atlanta, and around the world including Passengers, Pirates of the Caribbean 5 (DIT Ted Viola), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I & II, Going in Style (DIT Matt Selkirk), New Years Eve, Gotham (DIT Dan Brosnan), and The Smurfs to name just a few. He has recently also been involved in one of the first TV shows to shoot RAW with the Panasonic VariCam 35, The OA (DIT Matt Selkirk) for Netflix. Nick shares his background with us, along with his experience with Codex.

How did you get to where you are today? Did you go to film school?
I went to school at NYU for Film and TV Production. My classes were more about compositing and Maya/HDR lighting though. While everyone was fighting to do their thesis on 35mm, I got the F950 cameras that were used in Star Wars Episode 3 and built a computer to capture direct to hard drive instead of going to tape. This was when PCI technology just hit 1.5ghz clock speeds, so the digital/computer world was just opening up and this process was cutting-edge. Plus 8 Digital provided the cameras and when they saw what I did they hired me in the engineering department. I became a DIT shortly after. Since I had technical hands-on knowledge of both camera imaging and computer imaging, it was a natural fit. Plus Panavision then purchased Plus 8, and after the transition I was involved with supporting early Genesis cameras there as well, from my work at Plus 8, which led me to work more in movies.

I started my company Frame Logic in 2008, because there were not a lot of DIT solutions at the time. Standards were still less regulated, so there was an early need to reproduce fine control, across multiple shooting units, with high precision.  When media acquisition changed to file-based solutions, we were already very familiar and ready to support productions and their big data needs. So it was all based on necessity, and we were in the right place at the right time.

Do you have any mentors in the industry?
I was fortunate to be taught early camera engineering by Rob Strait when he was the engineer at Plus 8, then Panavision, in NYC.  Now, interestingly, he also works with me, and Frame Logic. So we have a very unique and longstanding relationship, through the evolution of HD. Whereas my focus was more computer-based early on, Rob taught me camera shading and early HD standards and calibration. 

I was also fortunate to start at the time when HD was first transitioning from film, and to have had the good fortune to have been “trained” by the film process also. It’s a privilege to have both survived and grown from that time of film, as well as HD technology, which was extremely demanding, Thanks to the assistants at the time for putting up with me!

Also, my approach is to be neutral, and learn from each cinematographer on every job. About how they respond and see the image of the project, which is a great privilege and gift. I like to re-learn how to like, and hate, certain looks on a project, only to embrace them on the next. Thanks to the cinematographers for training my eyes and putting up with me over the years.


Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to keep doing what I'm currently doing, offering more services in the digital world, working in HDR, and 4K, and helping to create flexibility in scene-linear colour pipelines, and providing greater levels of production support, for ever more demanding jobs.

When did you first come across Codex?

I first came across Codex probably back around 2009, I had some experience with early Vaults, but got more involved once the Onboard Recorder became available, which was a big game changer from shooting to tape. My comfort with computers really helped with the heavy lifting that early file-based workflows needed.

Tell us about your experience with a Codex workflow with the ALEXA 65.

My Codex experience with ALEXA 65 was great. Passengers was one of the first movies to be entirely shot with the ALEXA 65. Media management was handled like a conventional XT ARRIRAW job, essentially.  We transferred and processed the ARRIRAW footage on set on 2 Vault XLs, and sent high-speed shuttle drives to the lab, like a normal shoot, but with 10GigE transfer stations in between. We averaged about 12TB a day, but we managed to wrap up within about an hour at the end of the day. It sped up things for the lab substantially by being able to start ingesting and working right away, and regulated our Capture Drive count to 20 2TB drives, since ingest and turnaround was quicker. This saved time and money for production.  We ended up shooting about 800TB by the end of the show, so everything we could do to speed up the process was very helpful.

What about The OA? What’s different and/or the same about the VariCam 35/Codex combination?
With The OA, shooting the first V-RAW job, we are using similar high-speed transfer stations as Passengers, and also breaking media to the lab conventionally on high-speed shuttles, but again shooting about 8-10TB a day. Even though the data rates are high, we are able to keep up with the media, and the new Codex docks are keeping up speed very nicely. The DIT was Matt Selkirk, I know he had his hands full on that job, but I looks like it came out great, really nice job on his part. 

Why did you decide to invest in Codex equipment yourself?
My company, Frame Logic, invests in Codex because it is a workflow solution provider. For years now we have been working on the heaviest data jobs using Codex, and we continue to find ways to make workflows more conventional for production and also manage hardware costs and data turnaround. By working with Codex and providing Codex solutions, we have better control regulating both budgets and efficiency, so it offers the best balance for production. We have a good number of DITs and DPs that use Frame Logic for their preference of precise imaging and high-speed data transfer solutions, and we are privileged that productions and crew continue to trust us with their image. 

To learn more about Nick and his company Frame Logic, click here

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