The Data Wrangler

The Data Wrangler

No not the peson you hired to download your compact flash cards. There's a robot that will do that for you now. Well not exactly a robot but it is quite large and could possibly be sentient. More on that in a bit. First, I'm going to use this opportunity to address a bit of nomenclature.

What would you call the person you hire to download and manage your production's digital media? These days there are a lot of people out there who would call this person a "DIT". Maybe that's an accurate description by some accounts but in my opinion this position should really be called "Digital Loader" or "Digital Asset Manager".

Prior to the widespread use of the RED One, DIT's were, and still are in my opinion, video engineers who primarily deal with images. Hence the job title, Digital Imaging Technician. Not Digital Compact Flash Card Technician. If I'm not working closely with the DP to craft the digital image and help them get the most out of the camera, I don't feel like I'm doing my job as a DIT. Not to say that I don't have the utmost respect for RED Tech's and what they do. On some shoots, the RED Tech is making enormous visual contributions. But sometimes they're just downloading compact flash cards. There in lies the ambiguity - is a RED Tech a Loader or an Engineer or Both? Either way It's a crucial position within the camera department even if the job description is hard to pin down. I guess by own criteria, if the technician is involved with the creation of the images, they are a DIT. If all they're doing is downloading and backing up data, they're a Loader. 

My own experiences working as a RED Tech have varied wildly. On some jobs I've done nothing but sit at the cart and download cards all day. Very boring. Other times I've worked closely with the DP, ensuring a color and exposure baseline throughout the scene, creating and managing custom looks, doing sample grades to identify problematic exposures, etc. I've found working as a RED Tech in this way, where I'm actually contributing to the image, to be far more enjoyable. Occasionally I've been asked to pull focus and/or perform the duties of the 2nd AC in addition to managing the workflow. This is truly ridiculous and I have no desire to work with any production that would deny colleagues work or run someone ragged just to save a little money. There's obviously a lot of confusion these days regarding the DIT's job description, but we are not camera assistants. That is someone else's job and a completely separate skill set. If this is the trend, then it needs to stop.

Another issue I have with all of this regards rates. It seems a lot of productions have gotten used to paying someone, often times someone with little training or qualifications, a couple hundred bucks a day to download and manage their media. They call this person a "DIT". This then sets a precedent for such unacceptably low rates. When these same productions call me to DIT on something that actually requires some video engineering, I tell them my rate and they're often very surprised. I often don't hear from them again. What's happening right now isn't good for anyone. More on this later..

Now meet another Data Wrangler. A new product from 1 Beyond that is designed to streamline and take some of the variables out of the tapeless workflow. And yes it wants your job ;)

It's a great idea. It looks expensive though and I didn't see any prices anywhere. This would be fantastic on a Phantom shoot with its 10GB Ethernet connection. No more overnight downloads from the CineMag. Seems like it would be good for multi-cam too where you had lots of different formats to deal with. One box to take care of it all. I like the sound of that.

I'd love to try out The Data Wrangler. If anyone in NY has it and would be so kind as to show it to me, let me know.