Don’t Confuse a DIT with a Data Wrangler or Runner.

Bit of a rant here as one of the roles I perform on some shoots is that of DIT or Digital Imaging Technician.

What does a good DIT do? Well lots of things. One of the key roles of the DIT is to work with both the camera department and post production to ensure that the shoots proposed workflow will work. Some DIT’s may even oversee some parts of the post process, ensuring the footage is correctly handled all the way through the production chain. On set the DIT may be responsible for camera setup including any paint settings, gamma curve and gamut choices. The DIT will work with the DP to create LUT’s for use in the camera, on set as well as in post production. Then the DIT may (but often not) be responsible for gathering the media and rushes from the camera and copying it or backing it up. Next the DIT will look at the footage checking for issues, not just file corruption but any other technical aspects that may trip up post production, possibly apply a first pass grade on set so that the production team can get an idea of how the footage will end up looking.

A good DIT will have a sound technical knowledge of the way a video camera works, how to set it up, how to best handle the footage plus how to ensure the footage passes through the post production chain. It is not an easy role as a good DIT can make or break a production.

But often the term DIT is used to refer to a person tasked with copying footage from the camera. This role is more normally referred to as “Data Wrangler”. A good Data Wrangler will manage the backup of the rushes from the camera. All backups will have their data integrity checked and log sheets with checksums and details of the contents of the files will be produced. As footage is passed from the shoot to post the data wrangler should keep a log of who has received what and track all copies of the footage. Sometimes a Data Wrangler will also perform some roles similar to a DIT such as producing footage with a first pass grade applied or viewing copies of footage. The role of the Data Wrangler is extremely important. But a Data Wrangler will not normally be asked to produce LUT’s, setup a camera or oversea any part of the post production process.

Finally the term DIT gets most abused when it is used to refer to a runner or other production assistant who is simply tasked with copying the footage from the camera to a hard drive or other backup. Sadly this incredibly important job is often given to the least skilled or cheapest person on the set. It’s often perceived as an easy job that anyone can do. But it really needs to be done with great care, lots of checks followed by lots more checks because a mistake at this stage could put the entire production at risk. Checksums should be used, log sheets made and you want to use a reliable person that won’t be distracted and will treat this highly responsible role with the respect it deserves. Not use some spotty faced kid that spends his time on facebook waiting for the copies to finish when he could be playing back and checking clips for problems.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Confuse a DIT with a Data Wrangler or Runner.”

  1. Couldn’t agree more. Started professional life as a clapper loader which with 1000 ft 35mm rushes in ones sweaty rushed hands instilled a healthy discipline in the importance of such matters. Beggars believe that whole shoots rest on the shoulders of the least experienced, with often no one being remotely concerned bar me. Even find myself being the one to instill the importance of at least 2 back ups. My particular gripe is booking an experienced focus puller, only to find production fully expect him/her to also data wrangle. All totally uncool.

    I try and keep well clear of it all but a question all the same: Is ‘drag and drop’ madness? Fully checking data files correspond with random checks. Is additional software like ‘Shotput Pro’ better. I’ve heard such mixed opinions (claims that the transfer software is just something else to go wrong etc…?

    What I do know is a good DIT seems to be busy all the time.

    1. Drag and Drop is absolute madness. It works beautifully, until it doesn’t and then you have to spend thousands of dollars/pounds/euro/cash with a data recovery expert preying your reformatted data card can be recovered.

      Also drag n drop can invalidate your insurance coverage.

  2. Well said and I have learnt a lot from this discuss.
    I will like to ask, is there any school one can attend to take a professional DIT training?
    Also I know there is a DIT kit but all my effort to get it online is to no avail
    Kindly recommend where to get one

    1. DIT’s are normally experienced camera operators with extensive post production experience. There is no school where you learn this craft, you become a DIT by obtaining the skills you need through experience. The equipment needed will depend each individual project and the needs of the camera department.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.