THE EVOLVING ROLE OF THE DIT
Twenty years ago, the term Digital Imaging Technician didn’t exist. The role of the Digital Imaging Technician or DIT came into existence during the transition from film to digital origination. Digital cameras required a new skill set, or at the very least the application of skill sets learned elsewhere. Some cinematographers were more comfortable with this new technology than others and so many came to rely on a trusted DIT to assist and support them, working with them on multiple productions. For example, Simone D’Arcangelo has supported Vittorio Storaro ASC AIC on multiple feature films including Wonder Wheel, A Rose in Winter and Café Society and generally works with him from pre-production through to the digital intermediate grading to ensure that the look he creates makes it to the theater or home.
Scene from Wonder Wheel
Although the job can encompass many things, this is a critical role - working alongside the cinematographer, ensuring that he or she can achieve their desired look digitally. In the short time that the position has existed, the role has evolved and the importance of the DIT has increased. Interestingly, in the United States, the new President of the Local 600 or International Cinematographers Guild is Lewis Rothenberg, a New York based DIT who has worked on many feature film and television projects, including The Greatest Showman, In Treatment, The Dead Don’t Die and Nurse Jackie.
So who becomes a DIT? Their backgrounds can vary from an experienced video engineer to a novice cinematographer to a computer nerd. Some have gone to film school, some have learned on the job. According to Tom Mitchell, technical director of Mission, a UK-based DIT and digital services company, the three top skills that a successful DIT needs are good communication, problem solving and technical know-how, none of which are necessarily taught in film school.
Scene from Yesterday
Although it doesn’t always happen, in an ideal world, the DIT works with the DP during pre-production and camera tests, planning and testing the workflow and color pipeline in conjunction with post production personnel such as the digital intermediate colorist or the dailies facility. They are often the liaison between production and post production during production, if not creating the dailies then working closely with whomever is. During shooting, the DIT is a key member of the camera crew, handling settings on the digital camera such as recording format, frame rate and outputs. In order to assist the DP in creating and communicating his vision, the DIT performs tasks during the shoot day such as monitoring exposure, creating and applying look-up tables (LUTs) and live grading using software like Pomfort’s Live Grade. Additionally, although a crew may sometimes include a data wrangler of digital loader, the DIT is ultimately responsible for quality control and ensuring the original camera data and metadata are backed up, sometimes multiple times a day. The DIT may also be the last one standing at the end of a long shoot day, creating dailies for editorial and viewing if there isn’t a dailies facility involved, as well as backing up data.
Scene from Spider-Man: Far From Home
Given all the tasks and responsibilities now falling under the purview of the DIT, perhaps it’s time for the role to be expanded to something like a Digital Workflow Supervisor or a Digital Acquisition Supervisor. As an example, Francesco Luigi Giardello, one of the busiest DITs in the world, seems to have made this leap. On Spider-Man: Far From Home, Giardello worked closely with Codex to design an innovative color pipeline that delivers balanced footage as Open EXR files to the VFX facilities, along with CDL data. This approach removed the need for a dailies colorist and ensured that cinematographer Matthew Lloyd’s vision was carried through from set to post and VFX. Another example is the recent Danny Boyle directed movie Yesterday, shot by Christopher Ross BSC with multiple 8K RED cameras. In this case, DIT Thomas Patrick had to supervise the color and data workflow for the concert scenes, which utilized up to 17 cameras. Patrick worked with Mission, mentioned above, to design an array of 10 Flanders Scientific calibrated monitors, which enabled him and Chris Ross to monitor the feeds from all the cameras. He also designed a color pipeline which began on-set with live grading but then continued with DaVinci Resolve so he could iron out inconsistencies between the lenses. In addition, he was responsible for planning how many and what capacity RED MINI-MAGS were required to store the large amount of data generated (10-15 TB per day) as well as figuring out when reloads would take place and supervising the two people responsible for wrangling data at the concerts.
DITs like Francesco Giardello and Thomas Patrick, along with many others, have taken the role of the DIT to a new level.
Codex related product and workflows
Images courtesy of their respective owners.