What do you want to become?
Alternate Career Titles:
Digital Imaging Technician
Career Overview: During production, DITs, or Digital Imaging Technicians, work with DPs to ensure quality images are produced and handle on-set color correction.
General Salary Range: $60,000 to $150,000 or union day rate $250 to $500 (per Local 600)
Become a DIT
A DIT (or Digital Imaging Technician) is an incredibly important, and often evolving job on set. The role of a DIT is still a relatively new one; the DIT role was needed with the invention and crossover into digital in the film industry from a field previously dominated by film. A DIT works directly with the Cinematographer/DP to quality control the image on screen via on-set color correction. The DIT is also responsible for data management and data communication with production and post-production. This is an essential role in an industry that now relies on digital HD video in lieu of film.
DIT Eli Berg has been working on sets in the Camera Department since he was eighteen-years-old. He has watched the industry evolve and worked his way into the role of DIT. Berg stresses almost above all else that finding a DP you love working with will help you find your place as a DIT.
His typical day includes: “I will be interfacing with the Director of Photography going into prep. He or she will often send me looks, or ask me to check out references from other movies, or even photographs from a book. The DP will tell me his or her general feelings about what they might like to do with a scene. At prep, I put together looks for all the scenes.”
Each day on set Berg will then set up camera, make sure everything is working properly and make sure that the camera network is working properly. Berg will then work on color: “I stick with the DP, wherever he goes, I go. We talk the whole time. We will talk with the client on a commercial, and make sure they are happy. In the case of a movie, my main job is to ensure the DP is happy.”
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Like many roles on set, Berg stresses there’s no exact path to the role of DIT — particularly because the job is still so new — but he does see some specific paths for working towards the job.
He says, “Many DITs come from a post background because DITs didn’t used to exist. Everything shifted when digital became the go-to format. It all really started with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, one of the early all digital films. Also, when the RED Camera came out, that changed everything, and really started to define the job of a DIT.
Berg had to take some big risks to get his foot in the door. “When I came out here, I initially told a guy I knew how to load film when I didn’t, but it got me into the Camera Department and I learned, both before the job started and on the job.” Berg took the same big risk to get his first DIT gig. “When someone asked me to DIT, I again kind of fudged it and learned before the job started. When I landed the job I went into every camera house in LA and taught myself to deal with the workflow for the camera we were shooting on, and that job led to another, and another.”
Berg admits the role of DIT is one that is still undeniably evolving: “Sometimes DPs don’t like having a DIT because they don’t know how to use one. A DIT is a tool for a DP, in my opinion. I think it’s important in defining where you belong on set. You have to know who you answer to. I think good DITs answer to the DP. That’s who will get you your next job. You are there to help the DP shine. You are there to help keep his lighting in check. I am there to make sure things are consistent and to make sure the look is defined in a way where he is happy, and everyone else is happy.”
It’s also undeniable that the DIT role can be essential to the whole production. “I am also an insurance plan for a camera,” says Berg. “In the early days when we were still defining the position, I would sometimes have to rebuild the camera in the field, especially with early editions of the RED Camera because it would often fail. Now it’s much more creative, especially when your only role is to help with color, but the job is always evolving because every new camera that comes out is different.”
Education & Training
Now that digital is so prevalent there are many amazing training resources available. For those living in Los Angeles, Berg recommends AbleCine coloring classes, and color theory classes. Berg also recommends for any new camera that may come out, go to a local camera rental house and learn all the ins and outs of the equipment.
Berg also states that some colleges do post-production and color classes, often as a part of their film program, and that’s incredibly helpful. “The best DITs I know, [they] know color theory and the ones who fall short are the ones who are just super techy, without the additional color education.”
Experience & Skills
In terms of experience and skills, Berg says, “In my opinion, you should go through the Camera Dept. I worked as a Second AC for four or five years before I became a full DIT. It makes me less lazy, knowing how important every job is on the camera crew. It’s just super important to get on set time in the Camera Department.”
Berg says this is also how you will find your future coworkers. “Finding a crew that you gel with is super important. When you find that you will continue to work with those people for a long time. Once I found my crew, work became fun every single day.”
When asked about the type of personality that would do well as a DIT, Berg says, “I do think that depends on what crew you are running with. I think DITs have a reputation for being quiet and nerdy, and I don’t think that’s the case now. I think overall the personality type you need is simply to be able to communicate with the DP — that is the most important thing.
Communicate with production and communicate with post. You are the bridge between all of them. You get the footage, download the footage, and transcode the footage, and send it to post, so you have to be able to communicate with all these people. It’s key to be able to communicate.”
What’s the lifestyle of a DIT like? “I don’t balance work and life well,” jokes Berg. “I think you really have to learn how to say ‘no.’ Take the jobs with the people you care about the most. Just prioritize. One year I figured out I only had 20 days off the whole year and that was rough. What do you do with your life like that? But simultaneously it was important to go through that and learn not to do it. That’s why romantic relationships can be so tough in this industry.”
Berg encourages all aspiring DITs to spend time as a Production Assistant. “Do it once, at least,” he says. “PA-ing in super important. It creates humility, and you learn how to take care of each other on set. It teaches you to respect every single position. I was an Electrician and Grip before I switched to camera. I have been doing this since I was eighteen. Just try to get into the Camera Department as fast as possible, if you know you want to be a DIT or DP.”
Berg also encourages reaching out to people to help you find a crew to work with. “Finding a mentor is super important. I definitely had that. A mentor helped me a lot. Having a really good relationship with a DP that doesn’t mind you might still be learning on the job is truly the best. Try to work with people who will teach you. Some DPs will use you as a safety net. Some will use you as an extra creative step, and that’s my favorite. If the production has the money and the budget, and the time to light properly, that’s the most fun because then I am just coloring. DPs who value having a partner in the creative conversation are awesome.”
“All work as a DIT is freelance, so the goal is to get in the union and then you’re making good money,” Berg says. “Until you are in the union you are probably not making great money. I started out making 150 dollars a day on music videos. You bust your butt and find a DP you can keep working with. You gotta get in the union and respect the union. It’s there for a reason, and it does make sure you are getting paid a decent amount for your time.”
Berg also says building out his own rig gave him an instant step up as a DIT: “You might build out your rig to the specs the DP you work with the most likes. Your rig is definitely the most expensive investment, but you rent that to productions as you go, and you slowly pay it off. It’s kind of like being a Steadicam Operator who would also pay for their own rig.”
DIT Michael Romano has offered a look at how he built out his specific rig. Again, as technology evolves a rig will also evolve.
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
“Your union as a DIT is Local 600. It’s the same as the camera union, and again, respecting the union is a must in my opinion.”
Berg also recommends the Digital Imaging Technicians Facebook Group. “You can be added once you have a few credits,” he says. “It’s a good up-and-comer group to be a part of.”
“Just get on set as fast as possible, and learn set etiquette immediately,” says Berg. “The first year of being on set you will just be learning. It just takes time. You just need to get out there.”
- To build experience, volunteer for student or indie films when you’re just starting out.
- Get very familiar with cameras. Stay up-to-date with the technology.
- Find a mentor.
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“Just go and find someone who is willing to teach you. I think this job was a little closed off for a while, but I am not like that, and I know a lot of good DITs are not like that. If you want to learn and want to be part of the community, find someone willing to teach you. I am helping someone younger than me right now, and I think that’s great, and I love helping him. Invest in the community. That’s it.
Whatever you do, don’t undercut yourself or the going rate. You have to respect what people are trying to do, and that we are all in it together.”
What’s the #1 mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“Don’t sell yourself short with rates. Also, you should know the camera top to bottom, and be prepared for any situation. You have to know how to fix the camera and have all your bases covered when you go into a job. If the camera is unfixable, know where you are getting that back-up camera at a moment’s notice.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“Nobody fully knows what we are doing. People walk by our little blackout tents, and they don’t fully know what the position is. Unless you are in the Camera Department or a DP, people don’t know. Educating people will help as this role continues to evolve.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Eli Berg was born in Denver, Colorado. He studied at the University of Colorado at Boulder, graduating with a BFA in Film Production. He is the co-owner of Mustache Monocle Films, which is a bi-coastal production company. The company focuses on making high-quality, high-concept commercials, music videos, shorts and features. Mustache Monocle Films is based in Los Angeles, Denver, and New York.