Demystifying DIT

Matrix Opening

I sat down to write an article about editing, then I realized that there are unsung heroes who make the editor’s life better. No, not you, script supervisors with excellent penmanship or digital devices. No, not you either, amazing assistant editors. The unsung heroes to whom I am referring are DIT (our beloved digital imaging technicians)! Here are some tips for beginning your DIT journey or helping a friend do the same!

So what exactly does DIT do? They bridge the world between the camera on set and post production, like digital shamans. They are responsible for safeguarding and backing up that hard earned footage. They are the file whisperers.

Poster from Mr. Robot

And that begins with knowing the camera used and software needed. DaVinci Resolve is your new friend. Know what’s awesome about that? It’s free. Next, know the camera used. You’ll be using Resolve to make transcodes so that the editor’s workstation doesn’t die of latency caused by the epic 20 billion+ k footage captured. That means knowing what format the camera team is shooting in and therefore what LUT (look up table) to use on the transcodes so that the director and producers don’t lose their mind upon seeing raw, flat footage. You wouldn’t use a Sony Rec 709 LUT on Arri footage. Or would you? 😉

Ok, let’s talk workflow (for smaller films, not blockbuster behemoths). Depending on how big your team and production is, you’ll want to make minimum two backups of the raw footage (organize footage and audio by day, etc). Maybe make three backups for the sanity of the colorist. Or five for VFX. You can’t have too many backups, amirite? (FYI, all of this happens on set, not after. After, you focus on making backups of your backups). Next, transcodes! Import footage into Resolve. Convert footage from the format it’s shot in to H.264 for dailies and the editor. Watch file structure. While transcoding in Resolve, burn in the appropriate LUT as well as time code, etc. Your editor will love you.

Still from Season 1, Episode 2 of The IT Crowd

Last note: It’s generally not a good idea to rename footage outside of an editing app like Premiere or Avid. This can disassociate metadata and can make it difficult for teams (like color, sound, VFX, etc) working with the raw files to relink to the editor’s transcodes. Always communicate with your team about their needs, resources, and preferred file structure. You don’t want to reorganize your hard work after making all of your backups!

These are just a few basics barely scratching the surface of the DIT world, but hopefully they’ll help you on your DIT journey. If you’d like to delve further into the tech or software behind DIT, here are some great book recommendations. I personally love The Filmmaker’s Guide to Digital Imaging by Blain Brown. And if you’re putting together a team for a film project, remember, don’t be a masochist. Make sure you have good DIT instead!

Cheers! Happy filmmaking!

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