Posts Tagged ‘DP’

The Value of a DIT in Today’s Digital Workflow

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

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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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Shooting the Grocery Store

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

Twice this week I have been up all night working as the DP for Filament Artists’ latest short film, entitled “Love at the Grocery Store.” The screenplay was selected as the winner of the Production Prize at the 2008 Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival and will premiere at this year’s festival on September 26.

Shooting inside a grocery store has its particular set of challenges and so I wanted to pass along some things to remember if any of your projects take you inside the same environment.

LIGHTING & TONE

Most grocery stores are lit with fluorescents, meaning that everything will be washed with a flat, even, diffused light. If the tone of your piece calls for high-contrast lighting, you might want to see if the grocery store manager will allow you to turn off the overheads, giving you more freedom to light as you see fit. If this isn’t possible and you still want to create a surreal look with high-contrast, you can always light your subject with hard, direct light, that comes from the side, creating harsh shadows. The hard light will force you to stop down your f-stop. This should darken the background, while leaving your subject properly exposed.

Since fluorescent bulbs cast an even, diffused light, your subjects can come out looking drab, flat, and uninteresting. You will need some additional light to help create more natural skin tones and make colors that pop just a little more. However, reflectors alone won’t get the job done. They just won’t provide enough reflected light underneath fluorescent bulbs. And aiming a 1Kw or 650w tungsten at your actors will create an obvious difference in color and tone.

To give your shots a warmer look under fluorescent lighting, start by using your tungsten lamps and reflectors together. Mount a large piece of white foam core onto a c-stand and then bounce light from a 1Kw lamp onto your subject. The result is a soft, diffused light that isn’t overbearing, and yet one that warms up the scene a bit more. And I always recommend a little rim lighting to help your subjects stand out more from the background.

Bear in mind that the above solution assumes that you want a natural, warm tone for your project. If the mood of your film is a bit darker and somber, then you might like the sterile, flat, “blue” tone that the existing lights create.

LIGHTING & COLOR

Shooting under fluorescent lights can affect the white balance of your shot. If not properly monitored, the lights may cause the color of your shot to drift slowly from a cool tone to a warm tone, then back again.

However, I’d advise you to look back at our previous post for a more extensive look at shooting under fluorescents. To that article let me add that using a Kino light bank will be a big help. Kino’s do use fluorescent bulbs, but unlike the bulbs installed overhead in a grocery store, these bulbs burn at a constant color temperature. This will give your shots more accurate color representation while maintaining a consistent look with the rest of the lighting in the store.

Fluorescent lights might also appear green on camera. A green tone might work well for your project if the mood is more sinister and the location of your story more urban, decayed, or threatening.

Look for the comedy, “Love at a Grocery Store” at this year’s Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. The screening is tentatively set for 9pm at the Alabama Power Building.

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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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Checking Continuity a Breeze When Using P2

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

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In film production continuity is incredibly important. In short, continuity refers to the consistency of actors, props, plot points, locations, events, etc. seen by the viewer. Filmmakers must make sure that if an actor opens a door with his or her left hand on one shot, he/she must do it the same way in subsequent takes. There are people on set whose job is to watch out for these visual errors. It can be very difficult to keep track of all the details within a particular shot, but careful consideration of continuity will make the film seamless.

Last weekend while shooting a scene for my upcoming short film “If Only,” we ran into a situation that demanded we pay careful attention to the light falling onto the set. That particular day we began filming around 6pm while it was still daylight. It was an interior scene staged against a large window. I wanted the scene to take place in the late afternoon, but I knew that we would never get the coverage we needed before sunset. It was up to our cinematographer to match the lighting in subsequent close-ups with the daylight we saw in the establishing shots.

Fortunately, we were shooting 720p/24p on a Panasonic HVX-200a. All of our footage was on our P2 cards. The beauty of P2 is that every take it itemized as a separate file. Therefore, users have the ability to go back to any take without the need for rewinding tape. Rewinding tape to review footage can be risky due to possible time code breaks and the potential for recording over important footage. However, with P2, my cinematographer and I were able to review our wide shots from earlier in the day, examine the way the light was falling onto our actors, then match the close-ups accordingly. I think the results were excellent. This is another reason why I am a big fan of solid-state recording.

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“If Only” Production Stills – Days 3 and 4

Monday, June 1st, 2009

We started production on my latest short film, “If Only” on April 19. We were forced to postpone subsequent shooting days due to bad weather. Finally, the entire cast and crew was able to re-convene this past weekend in an effort to wrap up shooting. Things went along beautifully until we were forced to wrap early Sunday night. Fortunately we have been able to schedule one final day of shooting next month. Here’s hoping we don’t run into any more delays. Enjoy a few production stills from the weekend’s shoot. Thanks to everyone for their hard work. 

DP Michael Praytor lights the set

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