Posts Tagged ‘director’

The Value of a DIT in Today’s Digital Workflow

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011
Composite image of flash memory cards, showing...

Image via Wikipedia

File-based work flows in video production have presented an incredible amount of benefits to the overall production process, but they have also demanded that video producers/directors reshape the way they move from production into post-production, and finally, to delivery. One of the key members of a tapeless video crew is the DIT, or Digital Imaging Technician. This individual, depending on the size of the shoot, is responsible for many things, but in my opinion, the most important function of the DIT is managing all of the assets while on location. This means taking the memory cards from the DP or camera assistant and transferring them over to hard drives. Once on the hard drives, a DIT will usually back up those files to a redundant drive and ensure that everything transferred correctly before re-formatting the cards for use again on the set. In addition, a DIT will prep each file for use in post-production and will prepare dailies for the director and the client to review.
For projects with smaller budgets, it may be tempting to forego the services of a DIT and simply let the director, DP, or a production assistant handle the duties of a DIT. Although this approach works, consider the side effects of this approach:

  • Using the director and/or DP to handle this job could slow down the pace of the shoot considerably. Once the cards are full, the director or DP must stop work, start transferring footage, wait for that footage to be transferred, confirm the transfer, reformat the cards, then return to the set. A DIT can handle all of this while the director and/or DP continue their work of shooting, setting up for the next shot, or working with the client and/or talent. This maintains a good work flow throughout the day and ensures that everything stays on schedule.
  • Using a production assistant as a DIT means assigning a less experienced person to do the job. An experienced DIT knows the equipment, knows exactly what he/she is doing, and can properly communicate with the director/DP.

So, even for those shoots that have smaller crews, a good DIT is a valuable asset to the team. However, with the ever-increasing capacity of memory cards, and the ever-decreasing cost of those memory cards, it will become easier for small ENG crews to spend an entire day shooting to memory cards, without ever having the need to transfer and reformat. All of the cards can simply be stored until the end of the day, then transferred at night, and used again the following day. But if the production turn-around is extremely tight, it may be in the producer’s best interest to hire a DIT and allow him/her to transfer all the footage during the course of the day, start prepping for post, and begin work on a rough edit. This will save a lot of time and will allow the producer to get the final video out to the client much quicker.

Ultimately, the use of the DIT depends on the situation, but don’t underestimate the value of that position in the ever-increasing world of tapeless video production.

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You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Budget

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

The above scene is from Jaws and it takes place right at the moment that Chief Brody gets his first look at the great white shark. It’s then that he realizes that he and his team underestimated just what they are up against. The same problem can occur in any video production. It’s easy to underestimate the scope of your project. What seemed like a simple, straightforward shoot and edit can quickly balloon into something entirely unexpected. The last thing that you, as a video producer, want to do is to go back to your client and say, “We’re going to need a bigger budget.” That’s not a fun conversation. Here’s what needs to happen to ensure that neither you nor your client underestimate the scope of the video project.

  1. Everyone (both client and video producer) need to be upfront and honest at the beginning. You as a video producer should never over promise. Be clear on what your capabilities are. And you, the client, should never try to downplay what’s involved in producing the video. If you are working from a script and are not as prepared as you need to be, then you need to tell the video producer, “I’m going to need several takes to get this right.”
  2. All decision-makers need to be involved from the very beginning. If the “higher-ups” wait to watch the video after everything has been shot, you may be forced to re-shoot portions of the video if they don’t like what they see. Re-shoots are costly. You as the client can avoid them by making sure that anyone who has to put his/her stamp of approval on the video is present for all important decisions.
  3. When it comes to budgeting for post-production, the “less is more” mentality doesn’t work. More is more. In other words, you will always need more money for post-production than you think you do. Many clients (and video producers) underestimate just how much time will be spent editing the video. You may accurately gauge the hours you will spend assembling the edit, but you may neglect to consider time needed for encoding, making approval copies, delivering approval copies, approval meetings, phone calls with the client, making changes to the edit, re-working sections of the script, additional color correction, audio mixing, more encoding, more approval copies, etc. The list can go on and on, so you need to be prepared. Always budget more for post-production.

Video producers and clients need to work together so both parties clearly understand what’s involved in the production of any video. These tips are intended to help you avoid potentially awkward meetings wherein you have to ask for more money, because you simply underestimated what you were up against.

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Directing Non-Professional Talent

Friday, September 18th, 2009

There are many corporate videos that feel staged, rehearsed… unnatural. Every action seems forced and the blocking predictable. Budgets often prohibit the hiring of professional actors, so sales and marketing videos usually rely on actual employees to communicate a company’s message. Using real-life employees, however, does have its advantages. It gives the company some transparency, allowing viewers to see the people behind the brand. And it can be a necessity. After all, if you’re producing an employee orientation video, wouldn’t you want to feature other employees within the company?

The challenge for the director then is to instruct non-professional talent so that the video seems personable, open, and natural. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Be clear with the talent regarding the content of the video, what you expect of them, and what you are trying to achieve.
  2. If they are to be interviewed, go over the questions with them beforehand. Again, tell them what you’re looking for, but be careful not to lead them. The answers need to come from them, in their own words.
  3. Before you start shooting, take some time to get to know your talent. Get them talking about things they are interested in. Being in front of a camera can be intimidating for some people. So you need to help them relax before you start rolling.
  4. In some situations, you may find yourself working with children. If so, take some time to joke around with them. Get them laughing. go outside and play with them for a little bit. If they consider you a friend, then they will perform better on camera.
  5. Children are very curious, so let them look at your gear. Show them the camera. Let them look through the viewfinder. Get them excited about being in the video.

Each of these suggestions is designed to help your talent feel comfortable. If they feel at ease with you, your crew, and the situation, then their on-camera presence will be incredibly strong.

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District 9 Exceeds All Expectations

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

district9posterGuest Review By Troy Wagner

Sometimes movies completely surprise you. They leave an impact that you never saw coming. Perhaps it’s because you go in with lowered expectations, believing that what’s to be on the screen will be nothing more than a formulaic summer movie with some explosions and, get this, aliens. While District 9 has both of those things, there’s no way you will be calling it formulaic, and is likely to be one of the best movies you see all year.

Okay so, movies about aliens. That should seem pretty familiar to most people up to this point. We’ve seen them terrorize countless space crews, attack arctic research labs, and outright invade on plenty of occasions, be it on patriotic national holidays or not. The main problem with these, however, is the fact that they’re not all that rooted in reality. What would realistically happen if aliens were to come to Earth? District 9 has a pretty good guess.

The aliens, later known as the “prawns”, have arrived. Their enormous mothership comes to a stop over Johannesburg, South Africa. Once the millions (yeah, MILLIONS) of prawns are taken off the ship, they are placed in holding areas sectioned off by the government, the eponymous district 9. Time passes and these areas soon become slums, occupied by the prawns, who have now become dirty, diseased foragers. The government decides to rellocate them to a more isolated area to appease the paranoid public. A beaurocratic pencil-pusher named Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copely) is appointed to lead the massive undertaking.

In all honesty, that’s all you should know when going into the theater to see District 9. It is made all the more fantastic the less you know beforehand. This could be said for any given movie, but it really needs to be emphasised in this case. It’s inspiring to see how the filmmakers turn such a simple premise into something pretty remarkable.

Essentially every aspect of District 9 is masterfully executed. It’s director Neill Blomkamp’s first feature, yet it easily excells above other, more well-established films of the genre. However, while nearly all of it deserves praise, lead actor Sharlto Copely is the centerpiece that holds everything together and makes it work so well. He’s the lead amongst very few flesh-and-blood counterparts, and plenty of CGI prawns (not to mention the fact that many of his scenes are improvised AND District 9 is Copely’s acting debut). Wikus is a very complex character to watch on screen. He goes from being despised, to tolerated, to loved, and back again multiple times. It’s just staggering to realize that Sharlto Copely had never truly acted for the camera before until District 9. His performance is incredibly powerful at points. It really just blows you away.

District 9 is right on the verge of being revolutionary. But it’s not flat out perfect. Jumps from the documentary style to being behind the fouth wall can be jarring, and the CGI is dodgy in rare instances. But those are relatively small blemishes on an otherwise amazing film. As long as you’re not squeamish about intense violence, of which there is only a handful, District 9 is a fresh and exciting film that absolutely deserves to be seen.

9 1/2 out of 10

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The Numbers Game – Part One

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

budgetI talk with many prospective clients who express interest in producing a video for their business. When all the discussions are over it’s time to sit down, fill out my budget, and submit the proposal to my contact. The cost of a video production is affected by several factors and so the budgeting process must be thought out very carefully. Otherwise, it can be easy to overlook certain items.

I have created a spreadsheet that itemizes just about everything that one could possibly have on a shoot. Those items are divided into categories for easy reference (Creative Fees, Crew, Per Diems, Travel, Editing Fees, etc.) One column lists my estimated costs and another column lists my actual costs. That way, at the end of the shoot I can compare both columns to see how accurate my original estimate was.

The main thing to do when budgeting a video shoot is to prioritize. In part one of this two-part series, I want to cover what I believe are your top priorities when creating a budget. In part two, I will go over those items in the bid that can easily be overlooked. Here are my suggestions:

Estimate Your Time

Start with yourself. Think about the amount of time that you will spend on this video project. Obviously you want to include the amount of time in production , but you never want to neglect the time you invest in the pre-production and post-production stages. Pre-Production includes conceptualization and scripting, scheduling the shoot, meeting with the client, scouting, meeting with the talent, and meeting with your crew. You’ll spend more time in pre-production than you might think, so budget accordingly. Post-production not only includes the time to edit, but it also includes your time to record the voice-over, meet with the client to go over the edit and make necessary changes. I always like to pad my post-production budget to account for revisions the client might ask for.

Estimate For Your Crew

After you ensure that your time is reflected in the budget, you want to allocate monies for your crew. Surround yourself with quality people and the entire project will turn out much better. Think about how many people you will need and how many days you will need them.

  • If you aren’t as confident in your skills behind the camera, consider hiring a DP to handle the technical aspects of lighting, framing, etc.
  • If you aren’t as confident in your abilities to manage the project and handle all the logistics of a production, consider hiring a producer.
  • If you have on-camera talent, you might consider hiring a hair/make-up artist.

Aside from actual shooting days, will you need the crew to come in early for a tech scout? If so, make sure they are paid for their time. And don’t forget your post-production crew.

  • Will you need an assistant editor to help you with the final cut?
  • How about an audio engineer/mixer to record the voice-over?
  • Will you need to hire a graphic designer to create a custom disc label and DVD warp-around?
  • Will you need to hire a composer to write a custom music track?

Estimate Your Equipment

This is where you need to factor in the costs of any equipment rentals your shoot may require. Budgeting for a dolly or a camera jib will really increase the overall production quality of your video. In this category you also want to factor in the cost of your media:

  • tape stock or solid state media cards
  • hard drives
  • blank DVDs (for when you need to send your client copies of the video for review)

Check back in on Monday, August 10 for part two on how to create a video production budget.

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