Getting the Look Right in Camera Saves Clients Time and Money — and Protects the Integrity of the Image — in Post

Two cinematographers speaking on an NAB New York panel agreed that the mix of speed and precision required on a commercial set makes the DIT a valuable collaborator when setting the look of a given spot. But they differed, somewhat, on the exact nature of that collaboration.

Joe DeSalvo, a New York-based DP who specializes in automobile spots, said that the DIT can help ease tension by showing clients the visual options available in a given shot. “People aren’t quite sure what they want,” he said. “A DIT on set can take what you do and make it cooler, or crush the blacks …”

And then Adam Kimmel, ASC, said, “You’re way more generous than me. I never do that.” Instead, Kimmel said, he works with his DIT to make sure the client sees only the look that he has approved.  “I go to the DIT and quickly say, ‘This is what I want. You adjust it here and then send it to the monitor.’ If everyone become a DP it starts to unravel.

“So I do it differently, but using the same person,” Kimmel concluded.

No matter what exact role the DIT fills, both DeSalvo and Kimmel agreed that having a trusted collaborator in that key position can go a long way to keeping production on track. “What I like about having the DIT on set,” DeSalvo said, “is it’s another creative person. They’ll come up with great stuff sometimes.”

Panelists on stage at NAB New York

From left: Michael Chambliss, Kazim Karaismailoglu, Adam Kimmel, Joe DeSalvo, and David Satin.

The panel, presented by the International Cinematographers Guild, was titled “Nailing a Commercial’s Look & Sailing Through Post” and was moderated by ICG Production Technology Specialist Michael Chambliss.

Addressing ways to work faster on set, DIT Kazim Karaismailoglu described a talk-back system rigged between a playback monitor on set and his cart that allows him to eavesdrop on what’s being said by people looking at the image while controlling camera settings via Wi-Fi. “It makes it faster to set up lighting,” he said, noting that DPs appreciate not having to run back and forth between camera and cart.

Asked by Chambliss how he interacts with agency reps on set, DIT David Satin said he doesn’t. “There is no question that I am there for the DP,” he said. “Those other guys are shapes to me. I don’t have to interact with them in any way. The thing is to be precise, to own any problems, and don’t be afraid to tell truth to power. The only color-correction this job may ever see is what we do on set.”

Karaismailoglu put it another way: “The DIT’s job is to fix what has gone wrong.” And he earned a round of laughter from the panel when he noted, as an aside, that sometimes the role of the DIT is to provide someone for the DP “to throw under the bus.”

But the mood on stage was collegial and respectful. “I fight for a DIT,” Kimmel said. “I justify it by saying, ‘If something goes wrong and you have an untrained person working these carts, it’s like in film — the kid who goes to the lab can ruin everything.'”