DIT 2015: The CTO & CIO of the Film & TV Set

It’s a week before the NAB 2014 trade show and rumors are flying and early product announcements are starting to hit the twitter and blogosphere. Of course this year it’s all about 4K acquisition and every camera manufacturer that hasn’t announced or shown products in that space will do it now. Subscription based Cloud solutions for post production, asset management and dailies review options will be everywhere. And yes, you will see a few people wearing Oculus Rift VR headsets in a few booths flailing their arms around and freeking out and too many 3-axis camera gimbals running around the show floor.

But my personal prediction of the most important and interesting theme I expect to come into focus for those paying attention at NAB 2014 is how our content acquisition and creation tools are going to start to evolve around the exploding market of The Internet of Things - and how I think it will profoundly impact certain roles in film production. When I look into my crystal ball and imagine being on the set in 2015 - I see the biggest potential impact to be on the role of the DIT. 

I have said before that after the “lab” has moved onto the set - eventually - the “lab” will be in the camera. Todays most standardized workflows in the industry are very obviously “transitionary” and many feel like a series of “hacks” as opposed to a “thinking outside the box - if it could work way we wanted it to work - what would that look like”. And you will seeds of this at NAB 2014 if you look closely.

In Scott Kirsner’s must-read book INVENTING THE MOVIES - Hollywood’s Epic Battle Between Innovation and the Status Quo, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs - Kirsner really drives home how much of a “preservationist” mentality exists in the film industry and how the industry almost sub-consciously works to avoid progress and change. In a tough business to even get into - with someone else always positioning to take your job - taking risks is … well … risky. Nobody gets fired for buying IBM = we have to use the same camera systems and the same workflow we used on the last film. 

I’ve often debated how the role of the DIT might shake out and change in the future as technology advances. Michael Cioni, the CEO of LightIron wrote a blog post called The Dit Dilemma where he discusses some thoughts on the what the role of the DIT actually is, and or should be. It’s a bit of a hot button topic to some folks as some productions and producers want to see the role go away all together and almost every post production company is now trying to get a slice of the on-set, near-set dailies creation business, local 600 DITs see their kit-rental rates shrinking, etc.

But, IMO, way too much of the focus on these debates seems to be about who does what with coloring and on-set dailies creation. And those things are, IMO, are VERY weak things to bet your future on because they are about to become functions of the “lab on the camera”. And as great as it is to get paid a high kit rental - it's better to get the jobs and get paid a premium for your EXPERTISE. Especially since the very components of many kits are becoming cheaper and cheaper.

But … before all the DITs reading this start flaming me to death on the internet … there’s another huge opportunity that I think is perfect for DITs to position themselves to facilitate as their roles and necessity evolves. That is an opportunity, IMO, to provide a greater value to the production as the entire process of content creation evolves. And it will evolve - faster now than most people think. 

Let’s look back for a moment - 

It seems like only yesterday there was a flickering black & white video tap and the only exposure tool a cinematographer had was a light meter and their wisdom.  And yes, there are many amazing looking films with tack sharp focus before any AC’s ever had a CineTape or PanaTape or HD monitors. And somehow, someway, we managed to make movies and television shows without 3D LUTs, CDLs, “secondary color correction” and without studio executives watching same-day dailies on their tablets and cell phones. We edited with razor blades and scissors - literally. It’s hard to even believe at one time the state-of-art VFX in movies were all done “in-camera”. 

But technology marches forward and things change.

Okay back to the Internet of Things. And 2015. And the DIT.

All those “devices” on the set are going to be connected. Cameras, proxy recorders, audio recorders, media management appliances and applications, video assist, monitoring and review tools.

I have always said “Most Tags Wins”. Meta-Data is the new currency that powers efficiency and facilitates monetization of content. Creating and collecting more tags while content is acquired is a powerful premise.

What if the DIT in 2015 was a combination of a CTO - responsible for the integration and supervision (not necessarily operation) of the various connected devices on the set - and a CIO - where the “I” (information) is all the meta-data created on the set and in the production office?

There will be a cloud on the set. A connected network of devices. It's already starting.

Someone needs to manage the integration of devices and be responsible for the collection, organization and security of collected data - both media and meta-data. In addition to managing the integration of the technology on the set.

Change and disruption are can be both exciting and scary things - but it creates opportunity for those that look a little forward.

See you at NAB 2014.