Digital Imaging Technician

  • Digital Imaging Technician

At some point in the near future, we might have to stop calling them films. Today, high-definition and 24p digital video are becoming increasingly popular among moviemakers, eliminating the roles of film processors, colorists, and timers, and replacing them with the new role of the digital imaging technician.


Duties

The digital imaging technician, also known as the video controller, is a member of the camera department under the supervision of the director of photography (cinematographer). The primary function of this crewmember is to manipulate the settings of digital video cameras to accomplish the desired look expected by the director of photography and director; this is known as the digital image creation process. Traditional modern film cameras have numerous manual controls (pots) that can be adjusted for lens aperture, shutter speed, and film or sensor sensitivity. A specifically trained camera engineer or operator would be responsible for adjusting these settings to vary how the camera captures an image.

On the new breed of HD and 24p video cameras, electronic user interface menus have replaced those pots. Additionally, digital video allows for on-set manipulation of picture qualities like exposure, saturation, density, and other qualities that were previously adjusted during the post-production processing of the film. The digital imaging technician can make on-the-fly adjustments to the camera during photography that eliminate the need for many post-production duties, allowing the DP and director to see the end result of saturating and under exposing the shot while on set, rather than waiting weeks after filming as wrapped. Further manipulation of the captured images happen on set while the DIT prepares dailies (tapes of footage recorded that day), using software to clean up the shots, affect the look (color, lighting), and make other visual adjustments.

Skills & Education

A solid foundation in the operation and artistic techniques of traditional camerawork are key to this career, but specific training in the manipulation of HD and 24P video cameras is required. There is more to being a digital imaging technician then memorizing menu settings, the DIT must understand what the DP is asking for when he or she wants to accomplish a bleach by-pass look for a scene, translating traditional film processing techniques into digital manipulations. Skill comes in the form of understanding the traditional lineage of the film technique, how to accomplish it with the on-camera controls, and making the adjustments quickly; it is not as simple as selecting a predefined setting on a list. The DIT is one part gear nerd and one part visual artist.

A college degree in film and television production with a particular emphasis on HD and digital video is recommended for this career. Continuing education seminars and training courses are widely available from product manufactures to keep professionals up-to-date on the latest camera innovations.

What to Expect

The filmmaking (or moviemaking) industry is in a constant state of technological innovation, and yet, change does not always come easily or quickly. Many directors of photography, camera operators, and camera assistants are still uncertain where their jobs end and the DIT’s job begin. On set, you’ll find that many camera department members will be reaching over your shoulder to make camera adjustments, flipping through your menus and playing with settings without your instruction. There is a sentiment among many in the profession that the industry at large is still unaware of the careful craft and precise skill necessary to perform the job of the digital imaging technician. As such, some DITs find themselves pushed to the side and relegated to the task of cable puller or video playback. Don’t be dissuaded, with the new technology comes some growing pains. Developing a good professional relationship with your cinematographer and operator will allow you to better assert yourself in your job, educating them (politely) in the subtleties that distinguish your craft from others in the department. Talent is recognized, if you are knowledgeable, it will shine through and gain you greater autonomy.

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