At IBC this year, Teradek announced that they were looking to solve the countless color-matching problems DIT’s and cinematographers encounter on-set. Cameras from every manufacturer see and deal with color differently, which can make color-matching a chore. After talking with DIT’s and other production professionals, Teradek moved forward with the creation of COLR, a wireless camera control and provides versatility for every on-set workflow which is available now.
It’s one thing to tell you about a tool that can solve problems like this, but it’s quite another to actually hear and understand how it actually works. That’s why we grabbed DIT Jamie Metzger to find out those details. As one of the DIT’s Teradek worked with around the development of COLR, Jamie is uniquely qualified to discuss the problems he was looking for it solve as well as whether or not those issues have been resolved now that the COLR is available.
Jamie is also involved with an organization called the American Society of Imaging, whose goal is to be a sister organization to the ASC. It’s designed to be a group that unifies the entire modern imaging pipeline from production to post and represents DITs, colorists, VFX artists, and post-production artists/technicians. That’s a topic I’m going to be revisiting with him, but for now, I wanted to focus on questions that dealt with his career, how the DIT position has and continues to change, how the COLR has impacted the approach he takes on set and plenty more.
ProVideo Coalition: Tell us a little bit about your career and the sort of things you’ve worked on. Did you always want to become a DIT?
Jamie Metzger: I graduated from the Academy of Art in 2007, unaware of the existence of the DIT position, but knew that I needed to learn digital. I wish I would have taken the switch to digital more seriously. I was AC’ing at the time and the DP’s I worked with asked me to learn the RED and the F23; which were quite intimidating at the time. I was soon only working in digital, with a film job happening rarely for me, so I started to take the DIT side of things serious. Every job was a learning experience of what to expect, what to provide and what the DP/production wanted out of me. Everything has changed so incredibly fast, that now it’s up to me to find new services to offer the people I work with.
What are some of your most recent projects?
I recently completed a feature film for Marc Forster and DP Matthias Koenigswieser, called “All I See Is You”. We shot in Thailand and Spain. I was able to provide on set coloring and the lab for dailies and editorial creation. I was able to help the DP maintain a look throughout the film across multiple camera’s and locations. This job was extremely rewarding for me, because I was able to handle a large feature with a small and efficient footprint.
Before we started prepping the movie, I called around LA to 6 major dailies facilities to get competitive bids – only one facility wrote back, it took them 10 days and their bid was incorrect. Anyone I spoke to on the phone was weary taking on the job considering the travel aspect, and so ultimately I took on the responsibility of handling everything a lab would, at a fraction of the cost, while remaining incredibly flexible to the production and being supportive to the DP and Director.
What are some of the essential tasks you do as a DIT which few people realize?
One of the most essential aspects of my job is assessing how much I can help or offer up to the production. Some jobs I have to stay lean and close to the camera with just a waveform. Other jobs I can get into power windows and adding film grain to dailies. It really depends on what the DP wants, and if I think I have the time and resources available to accomplish my tasks properly.
The one thing I really like to do is to grade the footage in Resolve, export stills and hand the DP an Ipad Mini 4 for review. I’ll get notes from the DP and make changes if necessary. Once we have our grove down, the DP can relax about my side of things and the director, client and agency can see the stills on my iPad on set, or on my Dropbox each night. This gives confidence to everyone that might have any concerns.
I think the role of the DIT is constantly changing and it’s up to us to explore what there is to offer productions. I know large dailies facilities will charge production per frame grab, which I think is ludicrous. On “All I See Is You” I had my dailies op’s pull stills from the footage each day and upload to an organized Dropbox. The DP, Gaffer, Director, hair and makeup all got a link in the morning to those stills and they responded really well to them. You can’t beat ensuring confidence to the people you work for.
It’s often said that DIT’s replaced film loaders, but that’s kind of an apples and oranges comparison, isn’t it?
No. I did not replace a film loader. I replaced a Lab. I do lens tests, hair and makeup tests, LUT tests, project lenses with the 1st AC during prep, check filters…etc. I try to be as involved as possible so the production can benefit. I love seeing other departments use my stills or view the dailies that I created, to help them do their jobs better. It’s a team effort, and I am setup to be as flexible as possible.
How often do technical challenges, whether they’re software, hardware or communication based, cause issues during production?
I try my hardest to solve my problems quietly so that no one feels stress from my hardware or software malfunctions. Even on a day where every piece of gear I use works fine, my job is still very difficult. DIT’s have a great network to get answers to problems fast, and we all try to help each other as fast a possible, knowing that we might be the person who needs help next. I can’t say that I’ve had an issue on my end that has caused production to stop shooting, but I have had to have PA’s pickup a new battery backup for me when one of mine died on set. If I am running into issues that I can’t fix, I’ll talk to the DP and offer up a backup solution which is typically more than fine. DIT’s do carry a large responsibility to alert the right people to a pressing issue in a timely fashion. Only experience can educate us as to what is truly mission critical, and what we can get by without.
How do you see camera operator and DIT positions evolving with new technologies and developments?
The camera operator is so essential to the process. I’ve worked with so many wonderful operators that can setup beautiful shots with their dolly grip, all while the DP works with the gaffer and key grip to finish off the lighting. New technologies like the MoVI will enable operators to control the pan and tilt from a cart while the movi op can move through the set and get very unique shots that might not have been possible until now.
How does that impact your responsibilities?
The biggest responsibility of the DIT is to never get comfortable. The best DIT’s I know are constantly researching how to do their jobs better and faster and how to offer more value to the DP’s they work for. I always tell people that when I’m not working on set, I’m working at home. My work is never done. New technology is great, but the best technology is the kind that is invented with DIT input so we can guide the design process to be as flexible as possible.
Take the Teradek COLR for example – I had the engineers at Teradek come to set and showed them our onset workflow. I asked them to make a wireless LUT box (half joking) and then they did. It’s huge for DIT’s and it packs a lot of features into a small box. When companies work directly with their end user’s, they guarantee a great product and they won’t have to worry about sales.
I’m trying to do what I can with manufacturers to make our jobs easier, but to also integrate products from other companies into a homogenous ecosystem, if you will. I connected Flanders Scientific to Fuji so that the IS-mini would help calibrate my CM-250 monitor. This collaboration was incredible to witness. The same thing is happening with the Teradek COLR and FSI as well.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about COLR, which is a mini converter box that helps manage color spaces across connected devices. What can you tell us about your first impressions?
I mentioned earlier that I asked Teradek to make this box, and I was really impressed with what they came up with. Teradek let DIT’s know that they are committed to color science and the DIT position, which we all really appreciate. The box can do a lot more than I asked for, so it’s wonderful to have features coming down the line that will continue to empower the end users.
What has been your approach and mentality around color matching on set?
Color matching on set is fun! Again, it all depends on what we are shooting. If it’s LogC Prores, I try to nail the white balance to be as close as possible since that information is burned into the files. If we are shooting ARRIRAW, I know I can fix white balance and tint once I have the files in resolve. It’s all about knowing when it’s appropriate to bring the camera down from a crane to adjust white balance, or if it’s not pressing I can do it later. Luckily the COLR will allow camera adjustments wirelessly, so I should be able to adjust anything on a RED camera wirelessly and soon to be an ALEXA.
Logistically, how does this tool impact or change the approach you take on set?
I can control the camera’s wirelessly now with Foolcontrol for RED’s or via the Arri Web server. It can cross convert HDMI or SDI in either direction. It can also up and down convert 720 to 1080 in both directions in P or i. There are also more features coming that I can’t talk about yet. I think this box will allow DIT’s to have more “tools” in their tool chest and make color on set more seamless and mature.
Very cool to hear there’s already more features in development. Do you see these sorts of developments impacting the expectations of a DIT on set, or how those DIT’s can work with manufacturers?
I just want to work hard and create pretty pictures. If that process can become easier and more powerful, I’m all for it. My job consists of nothing but technological problems and advancements, so I hope DIT’s can continue to work with manufacturers to make excellent products that benefit us, which in turn benefit production.
I’m currently working with a group of very talented individuals to help the cinematic community. It’s called American Society of Imaging and we aim to “Serve the cinematic medium in all its creative and technical intent.” You will be hearing more from us soon.
What sort of professional is going to get the most out of COLR, and what would you say to anyone who is curious about whether or not they should try it out?
This box is definitely aimed at DIT’s, but also for a lot of other people. Drone users will benefit from the camera control aspect as you can enable the COLR to join a robust wireless network so you can extend the range of the COLR dramatically.
In Los Angeles, any interested parties can stop by CSLA (Creative Solutions Los Angeles) and play with all of the Teradek, Paralinx and SmallHD products in the store. It’s a great resource for “trying before you buy”.
Want to get in touch with Jamie to find out more about COLR or the ASI? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and get in touch.