If there has been one position on the camera crew that should get the prize for fastest-changing, it’s the digital imaging technician, also known as the D.I.T. Six years ago, the position didn’t even exist, at least not in its current state, and certainly not as a union career option under the International Cinematographers Guild banner. But as workflows went from film to tape to file-based, D.I.T.s became more of a necessary staple on set than ever before, and their role began changing as fast as the cameras themselves.
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HDVP got to sit down with three D.I.T.s from around the country to discuss their challenges, rewards, responsibilities and ever-changing roles on set.
Tiffany Armour-Tejada is based in New York City and started out as a video technician in 2005. By 2007, she had worked her way up to video engineering, gaining a depth of understanding in exposure, camera systems, signal management and color science. Her position began to shift to D.I.T. in 2008—the dawn of the digital, file-based-systems revolution. She’s currently the D.I.T. for Netflix’s second season of Orange Is the New Black, an opportunity to collaborate with DP Yaron Orbach she calls “one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my career.”
Washington, D.C.-based D.I.T. Damon Meledones has worked on countless commercial campaigns since he became a D.I.T. in 2008, including RadioShack, GE’s Olympics campaign, Subway and Verizon. His notable independent features include Night Catches Us, which went to Sundance in 2010, and more recently with Olivia Wilde and Sam Rockwell, Better Living Through Chemistry. But before he was a D.I.T., he was a camera assistant working almost entirely on RED ONE jobs. “My background is in IT and fine arts,” explains Meledones, “so when the RED ONE showed up, you needed to basically understand the inner workings of a computer in order to operate it, which quickly turned me into a camera technician.”
Mike Halper, who works out of Los Angeles, started out in postproduction as an editor and colorist, transitioning to D.I.T. about six years ago like the others. Today, he works a mix of D.I.T. and color-correction jobs, and still edits once in a while. Recently, he has worked on commercials for Google, Infiniti, American Airlines, Disney, COVERGIRL, Clorox and MTV, and his features include the Courteney Cox-directed Just Before I Go and Adam Goldberg’s No Way Jose.
HDVideoPro: The D.I.T. landscape has changed over the last decade, which must change your role, as well. What are your basic duties on a set?
Damon Meledones: Quite often, people ask me what exactly it is that I do. I tell them I’m the bridge between production and post. My primary goal is to make sure the two sides communicate with each other and all data makes it smoothly from camera to deliverables.
Tiffany Armour-Tejada: When I started out in 2005, my duties were signal management and ensuring picture quality by measuring the exposure and color with scientific instruments such as waveform monitors and vectorscopes. I also controlled cameras like the Sony RMB-150 or Panasonic AJ-EC3 remotely. Now, instead of sending a tape to post with color-corrected footage, we’re responsible for data management, and applying color nondestructively, by creating LUTs, as per the DP.