Do you know in whose hands all the footage ends up on the movie set? Its processing, primary color correction, and direct communication with the cameraman are only part of the digital imaging technician’s tasks. We had a chat about one of the most mysterious and least known professions, without which work on the film set would simply stop, with Adomas Jablonskis, who has been working in this field for several years and has contributed to various projects, including “Playlist”, “Clark”, “Paradise”, etc. According to Adomas, one must constantly keep learning in this job and if there are no more challenges on the film set, it’s probably time to change profession. Here is what Adomas told us about the work of a digital imaging technician and his most memorable projects.
– Let’s start at the beginning – what brought you to the film set?
– Long story short, it all started with photography. I was working with journalist Romas Dabrukas, who used to travel to hot spots worldwide. I learned how reports are prepared; we cooperated with such news agencies as BBC, CNN, and Reuters. During one of the projects, I met cameraman Algimantas Mikutėnas, director Inesa Kurklietytė, and editing director Ričardas Matačius, who later brought me to the movie set and gave me the whole foundation of my knowledge.
After graduating from film school, many young people have grand ambitions, they want to become cameramen and take leading positions on the set, however, they may also find themselves doing a better job in other fields along the way. Today, I work as a cameraman on certain projects, and I am a DIT – a digital imaging technician – on big movie sets.
– Probably, I will not be wrong in assuming that this is the first time many people hear about this profession. What is the role of a digital imaging technician in the filmmaking process?
– The work of a DIT includes many tasks – from preparation for shooting, choosing camera settings to making backup copies of footage on set, processing footage, and primary color correction. A digital imaging technician works directly with a cameraman and belongs to the camera department. Before filming even begins, we discuss what formats will be used, what the main cameraman wants, and what equipment we will use to process uncompressed (RAW) footage without interference, we plan and calculate how much space the project material will take up on hard drives. Once the budget is approved, the equipment is rented, and then the work on the set begins. On the set, you need to constantly monitor the situation, change camera memory cards, and download data to hard drives (at least 3 backup copies are made). After making backup copies, a quality check is carried out, checking for electronic defects in the material, unnecessary objects in the frame or reflections of team members, as well as initial color corrections. Photos of filming scenes are shared with the cameraman, who provides comments and guidelines, according to which changes are made.
The work of DIT is important for all departments. For example, we do scaled-down versions (dailies) of the day’s shots, to which various team members are given access, from the make-up department to costumes etc. This is necessary to keep track of the continuity of scenes in a film or series, so that the team can review the details of every scene, then recreate them when shooting on other days. We also prepare the material for editing, collect all the necessary information (scene, shot, dubbing, camera settings, etc.), synchronize the sound with the image, and transfer it to the editing.
– What kind of equipment do DITs work with?
– In order to be able to process data, DIT’s work requires powerful computers and special software, for color correction – a suitable monitor that is calibrated and meets the standards set by the film industry. There are cameras that use two terabytes of footage for one hour, so for data storage we work with disk arrays that can store the entire movie.
– It seems that this job comes with a lot of responsibility.
– The work of a digital imaging technician is good for people who know how to follow their established order strictly and are not afraid of responsibility. As a DIT, you can’t get distracted, because you keep all the shooting material, and a single scene may cost several tens of thousands of euros. So the value of the stored material is huge and it increases every day. If you have removed the card from the camera, you will not go to lunch, have a coffee break or chat with your colleagues. In fact, you might as well send them all to hell at that moment, because until you have backups, getting distracted and lost might very quickly lead you to the critical mistake of losing your footage.
– Have there been cases when that critical error could not be avoided?
– Sometimes my colleagues and I laugh that you are not a real DIT if you have not made a mistake.
– What fascinates and attracts you most about working on a movie set?
– The movie set fascinates me because there is a strict order here, it is clear what our responsibilities are, and there is no chaotic distraction. Our film family is also important to me. Lithuania is a small region, a small country, so there are not so many people working in the film industry, we all know each other well, and it’s fun to meet colleagues in new projects.
– “Playlist”, “Clark”, “Paradise”, “Lea” – the list of films and TV series you have worked on is very long. Which projects were the most memorable and important for you?
– All projects where you have the opportunity to work closely with the cameraman and contribute creatively are interesting. I believe that not all cinematographers fully “utilize” digital imaging technicians – we can certainly help realize their ideas.
One of the most challenging projects is the Netflix TV series “Clark”. 75 days of shooting, three countries – Croatia, Lithuania, and Sweden, three constantly filming cameras and long working hours. “Playlist” was no less interesting – at the beginning, we worked with an experienced cameraman who was more focused on the work on the set, and later another operator took over the work, who submitted new tasks every day and exchanged observations. I remember that the shifts went by very quickly. “Paradise” was another very large project that required a cinematographer to spend at least a few hours daily in our department – we worked together on the primary color correction.
You learn a lot from each cameraman, his style, and working principles, if you contribute to color correction, contribute to creativity, and help solve certain problems. As a digital imaging technician, you are constantly learning.
– Are the specifics and attitudes different when working on Lithuanian and foreign projects?
– Not really – everyone adheres to the highest level of professionalism. The budget is what sometimes limits what you can do, mostly when it comes to the equipment because it expands the possibilities. I hope that in the future Lithuanian cinema’s budgets will grow to such an extent that filmmakers will be able to realize their ideas without sacrificing their creative vision.
– Finally, are there any projects, maybe movies or series of a certain genre, that you would be interested in working on in the future?
– Everything is interesting – no project is the same, it is important that there is a place where you can test yourself. Everyone is interested in working in a field where you meet challenges. When you work and say “Oh, I already know how to do this, it’s not interesting anymore”, that’s probably when you should think about career change.
– Thank you for the interview.