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A SOLID SENDER

Dan Carling is one of the UK’s most sought-after Digital Imaging Technicians.

 


 



DAN CARLING DIT


Dedicated to his profession, and continually curious about the latest advances in digital workflows, Dan has successfully deployed Codex recording and technology for leading cinematographers, such as Florian Ballhaus ASC and the Oscar-winning Anthony Dod Mantle ASC BSC, and has an enviable resumé that is brimming with motion pictures.

Selected Codex filmography: The Darkest Hour (2011), Gambit (2012), Trance (2013), Rush (2013), One Chance (2013), The Book Thief (2013), Maleficent (2014), In the Heart of the Sea (2015), Bastille Day (2016), Snowden (2016), Our Kind Of Traitor (2016), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016).

Dan in a van!

How did you start off in the industry?
After studying media technology at Leicester University, I applied for, and got, a job as an art department trainee on A Cock and Bull Story (2005, dir. Michael Winterbottom, DP Marcel Zyskind). I quickly realised I wanted to pursue a career in the camera department.

And how did you get into DIT-ing?
I worked at Metro Broadcast in Soho for nearly three years on all sorts of corporate shoots, gaining experience with their HD cameras as well as assisting the grip, lighting and camera teams. After that I worked as a clapper/loader on C4’s TV comedy series Totally Frank (2005), shot with Sony HDWF-900Rs, and did live colouring via a remote colour-painting box (RMB-150) on a 24-inch CRT monitor. I got valuable experience working with the DP adjusting the lift, gamma, gain and black point settings. Although I was a clapper/loader, it was really a nascent DIT role. I was using the same colour tools we use today, except we were burning the results on to the live video image from the camera and recording to tape, rather than applying colours non-destructively in a data-centric workflow.

I was also working as a camera trainee on 35mm productions and in between jobs, being naturally inquisitive, spent time in the London rental houses, such as ARRI, Panavision and Ice Film, learning all I could about the technical aspects of film and the emerging digital cameras, such as the RED One. I found it a great way to learn, going through the menus, learning the controls and adjustments, building up my knowledge.

This helped me to secure the role of DIT on a succession of British movies including Tormented (2009), StreetDance 3D (2010), The Devil’s Double (2011) and TT3D: Closer To The Edge (2011).

When did you first see Codex?
It was around 2010. I went to see Codex in Poland Street in connection with The Darkest Hour (2011, DP Scott Kevan), a 3D sci-fi movie shooting in Russia on Sony F35s. Working as the assistant data capture engineer with Steve Chambers, we deployed four Codex Portable Recorders for the four 3D camera rigs, one of which was Steadicam. The HD-SDI from camera was recorded to the Codex Portable Recorder, and to try to minimise data volume we would to trim the tops and tails of shots. A HD-SDI feed out of the Codex Portables allowed us to QC and check sync of the L&R footage, The full data packs were then sent to the Codex Digital Lab where transcoding for the Avid edit was done. This system worked seamlessly. It was apparent how much better the Codex workflow was compared to anything else I had used, and it has since become a solid, standard workflow.


On the set of The Darkest Hour

Gambit was amongst the first-ever ARRIRAW productions with Codex, with innovative colour management. Tell us more about your set-up.
Yes, Gambit (2012, DP Florian Ballhaus) was quite progressive. It was my first ARRIRAW experience. The Codex Onboard Recorder enabled playback of the ARRIRAW directly after a take, allowing us to verify that the material had been captured correctly or to playback an earlier shot. Tethered via an Ethernet cable to a Mac laptop, I also had the option of inputting or changing metadata, such as scene, slate, take and other notes.

Florian, with whom I have since worked on One Chance and The Book Thief, also using Codex, wanted to do live painting during the production. We took the LogC image-feed, and applied CDL (Colour Decision List) grading to this, viewing the result through a custom-made 3D LUT stored on the Truelight On-Set colour management system, via a Grade 1 monitor. Any colour changes were saved as CDL values and were pinged back to the Codex Onboard and stored within the metadata of each frame. The Codex did its job perfectly well in supporting the visual quality and colour consistency that Florian wanted.

Thanks to Codex and its management of CDL metadata, DPs, DITs and colourists know where colour should be all of the time. It’s been a great help on productions where on-set colour has been of prime importance, such as Rush and Snowden with Anthony Dod Mantle ASC BSC.

You were also one of the first to use the in-camera recording technology, developed by Codex for the ARRI ALEXA XT and ALEXA 65 cameras. Please share your thoughts.
Although it was bound to happen, the progression of miniaturisation – from external devices to integrated recording systems – has been amazing to watch, firstly with the ALEXA XT and more recently the ALEXA 65 cameras. I saw a demo of the ALEXA XT on The Book Thief, and I got to use it on In The Heart Of The Sea.

The advent of the ALEXA XT made capturing and managing ARRIRAW even more straightforward than it was before. Considering the sheer data rates required to handle ARRIRAW, it’s a great tribute to the R&D teams at Codex and ARRI that they successfully created an elegant in-camera solution.

It’s even more impressive with the latest Codex Capture Drive technology, which delivers bandwidth of up to 20Gb/s, and is optimised to work with cameras like the new ALEXA 65 and ALEXA XT as well as the Panasonic VariCam 35.

On-set for Heart of the Sea

What’s your experience of using Codex Vault with the ALEXA 65?
The industry is moving from shooting 2K to 4K and now 6.5K. The Codex Vault S and XL-Series solutions are seriously impressive, so fast and powerful. I love that it can ingest from multiple sources and card readers, clone material, make LTO back-ups and transcode all in the one box via a touchscreen interface (Vault S-Series only). With ALEXA 65 supported by beefy Codex Vault processing, cinematographers can shoot and rapidly review their artistic intent with no compromises. ALEXA 65 is only going to get more attractive for cinematographers and I would not be surprised if ARRI doubles the number of these camera systems.

How did you use Codex Vault on Snowden?
Anthony shot Snowden using ALEXA XT, Canon C500, Codex Action Cam, the ALEXA 65 and a prototype ALEXA Mini. We did a lot of live grading on Snowden, very subtle for different points in the narrative.

We had an on-set data wrangler and used a Codex S-Series Vault. We changed the naming conventions on the C500 and Codex Action Cam material at capture so it would be consistent with that of the various ALEXA formats and simplify things downstream in post. This was made straight forward with the Codex Onboard Recorder.

We ingested all of the footage from the various cameras, and the processed ALEXA 65 material, onto the removable 8TB Transfer Drives, (we carried five on the movie). For security purposes, we also made a second copy of the data to another sled, which always remained on-set with the camera original cards.

The Transfer Drive, containing the ARRIRAW and original Codex files, was sent to the lab, at ARRI Munich, at call time plus five hours, where the Vault XL was used to create LTO back-ups and transcode for editorial. As there’s a pre-processing step with ALEXA 65 footage, it was an efficient use of time to do this on-set for our workflow.

On location for Snowden

What would you say to anyone considering their workflow options with and without Codex?
If you want to make things much easier, raise your degree of certainty to the highest level, then Codex is the only way to go. Other systems are just not as robust as Codex for critical data handling. They are not so streamlined in the workflow as Codex either. For example, if you are using different cameras, you can easily streamline the naming conventions of say, ARRIRAW and Canon RAW files. Plus, Codex have always been excellent on technical support.

As a DIT your goal is always to create a workflow that meets the various creative, practical and financial requirements of production and post, and Codex will get you there.

Images courtesy Dan Carling