What Does a DIT do and Why Should I Care?

Since the motion picture industry has transitioned from film to digital, a lot has changed for filmmakers and producers.  One of those changes is the creation of the position of Digital Imaging Technician (DIT).  No two days are the same for any DIT, but here is a general breakdown of their responsibilities.

1. Adjusting exposure.  

What's this mean? The cinematographer has creative control and uses cameras and lighting to adjust the exposure (image brightness) as they see fit.  The DIT supports the cinematographer by guaranteeing the image is robust on an engineering level - that it meets industry standards and is of highest possible quality.

Why does this matter? The point of this is to maintain the cinematographer's vision, and make the post-production faster, and therefore, cheaper.  If the exposure has a lot of variation, or is not being monitored properly, it could cause a lot of extra work in the color correction process, resulting in extra time and money.  If there is too much variation that is uncorrectable, then the viewer will notice and be distracted once they watch the finished video.  

2. Media Management.  

What's this mean? The camera shoots on to digital media cards.  The DIT oversees the that the camera data (digital negative) that is on the media cards, is safely transferred to hard drives.  He also logs the amount of information on each card, and generates reports of his work, noting information relevant to the editor and colorist.

Why does this matter? If Media Management is not handled properly, it can result in PERMANENT LOSS OF ORIGINAL CAMERA MEDIA, requiring a costly reshoot.  Additionally, a good DIT will log additional information that will greatly reduce the organization and communication required for the editing process - all resulting in a time and money savings.

3. Color Management 

What's this mean? The DIT is responsible for making sure color is consistent when multiple cameras are being used, and also in alignment with the creative intent of the cinematographer.

Why does this matter? Much like the monitoring of exposure, the point of this is to make the post-production process faster, and therefore, cheaper.  If there is inconsistency in the image's color, then the color-correction process also takes longer.

4. Transcoding

What's this mean? Transcoding essentially means "converting from one format to another." Another way to think of it is a simple photocopy of the camera's footage for the editor to work off of.  The DIT uses a computer made for heavy computing tasks, and converts it to a custom format, as requested by the editor.  This is typically done at a pace in relation of the the footage shot - for example, an hour of footage needs 15 to 60 mins to "transcode" depending on many variables.  

Why does this matter? What's beneficial about handling transcodes on set is that the footage is ready to be edited the moment that the footage reaches editorial - this greatly reduces turnaround time.  Additionally, you can color correct your footage before transcodes, supervised by the cinematographer, which removes any guesswork about creative decisions down the line. 

5. (Lastly, and MOST importantly) Workflow Design and Implementation 

What's this mean? When it comes to supporting the cinematographer with the right tools, it is the job of DIT to make sure all departments involved in the process are working on the same standards - Post Production, Sound Department, Video Playback (VTR), Script Supervisor, Camera Department, and Production.  A good DIT will be able to consult on why one workflow may be better than another, or present opportunities to save money by utilizing newer techniques or technologies.  

Why does this matter? A lot of money is wasted when there is not a dedicated person responsible for the technical workflow of the entire production.  For this reason, it's imperative for someone to discuss workflow economics before the beginning of production.  This is best handled by the DIT on the day of the camera prep, once all departments have been hired, and creative decisions have been made by the director and cinematographer.

Bottom Line

The main difference between THEN (film) and NOW (digital) is that film was a tried and true process that was essentially the same workflow each time.  With digital, there are so many variables, and so much new technology each year, that each project requires an assessment before the shoot begins in order to prevent unnecessary spending.  Picture Block On-Set has expertise in workflow implementation,  and offers a FREE consultation of your production's technical workflow - at any stage, with no strings attached.  Contact us to learn about potential cost savings, and how to avoid unnecessary spending.