What Is a Digital Imaging Technician?
A Digital Imaging Technician (DIT) is the person on the camera department crew who works with the cinematographer (also known as the director of photography, or DP) on workflow, systemization, camera settings, signal integrity, on-set color correction and other image manipulation to ensure that the production meets the DP’s creative goals and maximizes digital image quality.
A DIT is also the liaison between production and postproduction teams on feature films, handling data management from set to editorial suite.
What Does a DIT do?
The DIT position is a fluid one, the specifics of which depends upon the production and its particular DP. These are common responsibilities the DIT has on and off the film set.
- The DIT communicates with the DP before and during production to make sure their needs are being met and their vision achieved. This is especially important when the DP is familiar with film stock but needs help achieving their desired look digitally. To do this, the DIT monitors picture exposure, sets up a daily Color Decision List (CDL) and makes “lookup tables” (LUTs) for the post-production. (How closely a DIT works with the DP on creative matters depends on the DP. Some cinematographers want or need help and others do not.)
- The DIT devises a workflow for the production and post-production crews that all parties agree upon. This is crucial to a successful transfer of material from set to editors.
- After establishing standards and best practices, the DIT maintains the exposure and color baseline throughout production through rigorous quality control, so image quality never lessens.
- The DIT helps camera assistants evaluate focus, watch for boom shadows, unwanted reflections, lens flares, and other gaffes to ensure that what everyone sees on set on monitors is what they’ll see in dailies. When something appears off on their monitor, they communicate with the digital camera operator to make adjustments.
- On set, a critical part of the DIT job description is managing data. The DIT has to make sure that the original camera data and metadata are backed up at least twice daily, ensuring data integrity with checksum verification. They back up data on LTO tape, which is more sturdy than electronic devices and is used for long-term storage. They also make a copy on a transfer data carrier that they then send to post-production along with the reports of the content. The DIT ensure that the data is accessible at all times and saves it in a system where it can be reviewed, displaying the metadata of each clip.
- The DIT delivers the recordings to the post-production team after checking the quality of the material and generating working copies.
- The DIT secures the digital audio recorded by the external digital audio recorder operated by the Production Sound Mixer.
10 Tips on Becoming a DIT
If you dream of adding the DIT job title to your CV, there are several things you can do.
- Work other production and postproduction jobs. Often, a DIT starts out as a camera operator or an editor. In these roles, you learn about the intricacies of different types of digital cameras and processing data, preparing yourself to be a good DIT.
- Take a course. Some of the leading figures in HD video technology offer lessons in the responsibilities of a DIT. You should seek one out to learn about the skills needed for the role, so you can develop them.
- Familiarize yourself with digital equipment. The biggest hindrance to becoming a DIT is ignorance of the gear and applications used in modern filmmaking. You have to know the most current equipment and apps, so you’re up to speed no matter what your particular DP is using on their production. A few things you should definitely familiarize yourself with are the Red One and Alexa cameras, as well as Premiere Pro, R3D Data Manager, Al3xa Data Manager, ShotPut Pro, and Terminal (the Mac app that allows you to send commands to operating systems).
- Work on speedy delivery. Digitization has increased the speed with which productions work. A DIT must keep pace, delivering data to the post-production team with haste—these days, it is common for editors to edit material that was shot earlier that day. Even before you land a DIT job, you need to practice performing your duties rapidly so you don’t slow down production and develop a bad reputation.
- Expand your skill-set. DITs are not homogenous: many have different skill sets. Some specialize in one thing, like image quality. The more diverse your skill-set is, the more you can bring to a production.
- Make connections with potential employers. Production managers, first camera assistants, and DPs may all hire you for digital imaging technician jobs. Seek out these people—especially ones who lack the technical know-how and could benefit from your presence on set.
- Sell yourself. Even today, not everyone in the movie industry understands the DIT’s job and what they bring to the table. You may have to explain your role and how you will help a production to convince people they need to hire you as a crew member, especially because being a DIT is often project-based, not a full-time position. You should, first and foremost, promise image integrity, which sells itself. Own that imaging component. Make sure they know a DIT is more than a glorified data wrangler and loader who copies files onto hard drives.
- Develop your communication skills. As a DIT, you need to be able to speak to a DP to ensure they’re getting what they want. If you spot something that looks questionable, you need to be able to broach that with the DP in a way that is respectful, not questioning them but confirming that you’re on the same page. You also need to speak to the post house to find out their needs for post specs, so you deliver what they need.
- Join a camera union. Some jobs require that you belong to a union. Investigate the DIT jobs in your area to see if they do, and look into local camera unions to see what the requirements are to join.
- Go where the work is. In the United States, many productions are based in New York and Los Angeles, so DITs are needed there. Georgia is another hotspot for filming. As with any line or work, you need to go where the jobs are.
Learn more about film crew roles and responsibilities in Jodie Foster’s MasterClass.