Digital Imaging Technician

Once upon a time, there was film. When a film crew needed film itself loaded and looked after, they turned to the clapper loader, or second assistant camera (2AC) in the U.S., to load film, operate the clapperboard, and keep track of filmstock. With the transition to digital cameras, that role is still very much needed, but it looks a little different these days, so a different set of skills is required.

The DIT, the spiritual successor to the clapper loader, has a somewhat similar role, albeit with key differences. These specialists are responsible for a laundry list of things: quality control, advising cinematographers (especially those that cut their teeth on film), data management, and file distribution.

With film cameras, each day of shooting produced what were called ‘rushes’ or ‘dailies.’ This was the total amount of film shot that day, and the 2AC was responsible both for tracking it and ensuring it reached the editors safely in order to avoid an entire cast and crew having wasted a day’s work.

That role is still important, which is why “data management and file distribution” essentially means offloading the digital files from a camera’s digital storage medium onto hard drives and depositing these safely on a secure server or storage unit.

A typical DIT trolley on set with everything needed for storage and editing

But don’t mistake a DIT for someone who copies files. That person’s called a ‘data wrangler,’ much like an animal or car wrangler, and it’s a related, but distinct, role. Data wranglers usually work with or under DITs, though.

The key to being a DIT lies in all the other tasks they have. DITs are also meant to be on-set digital experts, charged with optimising workflow, managing colour correction, checking exposure levels, supervising quality control, and occasionally consulting with the other key members of the film crew on marking, lighting, and placement.

On television and film sets the digital imaging technician will be involved from pre-production to post-, maintaining the established exposure and color baselines all the way through for quality control and visual continuity and ensuring the editing and filming teams have a diligent crucial link, guaranteeing that filming and editing wrap up as cleanly and with as little wasted time as possible.

The dailies are still around, and on commercial shoots, that’s what will occupy a DIT much of the time. As much as technology and trends may change, some level-headed person will always be needed not only to make sure the rushes make it to the editing room at the end of the day, but to take advantage of the digital era by making sure there’s always a backup copy of the day’s footage.
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