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How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial, part 9

the handling off of cf cards

Part 9: How To Approach Data Management On A Budget

Welcome to part 9 of this ten part series on how to bring a cinematic look to a small budget commercial. In this series I am sharing with you the behind the scenes process of how we at Bleeding Thorn Films make a project happen– warts and all, from script to screen. In Part 8, I covered how to build a rain bar. In Part 9 I am going to show you how we approach data management on a budget.

Our Approach To Data Management

In the digital production age, how you handle your data can make or break a production. When digital data is handled carelessly, it can easily result in lost or corrupt data. At the same time we recognize the need to be able to appropriately scale our productions up and down in order to meet differing project requirements. Here are the three approaches that we choose from for every project we take on:

    • Hire A Professional D.I.T. (Digital Imaging Technician) $$$

In my opinion, DIT’s are worth their weight in gold. A professional DIT brings with her a wealth of knowledge and technical expertise that can be life-saving on set. She can step in as a second set of eyes to help solve and address any technical issues that arise, especially when the data, or the contents of what has been shot, is not going as planned. A typical DIT will also have a specialized kit that will enable her to do her job quicker and more reliably then we and our laptops ever could. Not only is it her job to backup the footage, but she will visually review the footage to make sure it is there, and she can process, transcode, or complete a one-light grade to the footage if needed. Off loading this task to a trained professional means that we can be more focused on the task at hand– telling a compelling visual story. With this level of expertise, we can feel confident erasing and re-recording over media as we go through the shoot. At the end of the day, we can walk away confidently with three copies of all of our verified media in hand processed and ready for editorial.

a very basic DMT station

Above: A very basic DMT station

    • Hire A D.M.T. (Digital Media Technician) $$

Although the terms DIT and DMT can be interchangeable for some people, I see them as two distinctly different levels of expertise. In my experience, the DIT is a highly trained professional with a commiserate level of equipment. In contrast, the DMT is the entry-level professional. The experience & knowledge base of the DMT can fluxuate, as well as the tools that they have experience with. (He may only have his laptop and a few card adapters). The biggest difference between the two, in my opinion, is their level of experience in image verification and manipulation. The DMT will do a decent job at making sure that your footage is backed up properly at the end of the day, however, he most likely will not have the tools or expertise to evaluate, process, or create one-light dailies of your footage. Because of this, a DMT can be a more affordable choice for one of our smaller productions. The DMT is great for projects that need a skilled technician, but doesn’t have the resources for a DIT. Just like the DIT, the DMT allows us to offload the task of media management so that we can stay focused on telling our stories.

    • Shoot Film Style $

When we are working on a project that doesn’t have the budget for a DIT or DMT, we return to our roots as filmmakers and manage our media film style. What this means is that we plan ahead and make sure that we have enough media on hand for our entire shoot. Then, on the day of the shoot, we only shoot the content we need. We don’t needlessly film everything. As media is filled, the card is labeled appropriately, and it NEVER goes back into the camera. This exposed media is treated just as carefully as an exposed roll of film used to be handled. We put it in appropriate cases, and keep it away from anything that could potentially damage it- like magnets or water. At the end of the day, we go back to our office and do the data management ourselves. By avoiding the data management on set, we free ourselves up to remain fully focused on the job. The one potential pitfall of this approach is that, just like it is shooting on film, you will not know if there are any errors in the data, or with the camera, until the shoot is over. And if there are problems, the cost of a reshoot will likely be more than the cost would have been for hiring a DIT. That is the reality of choosing this option.

If you haven’t guessed by now, on this commercial, we opted to shoot film style. When the shoot was over, I took the media back to my office to manage it appropriately. I spent about an extra hour at the end of the day using ShotPut Pro to do a copy and MD5 checksum to verify to three separate drives. I then scrubbed through the footage to visually verify each clip. After completing that task, I could rest knowing that our data was all there.

the final tented house

Above: The Final Tented House

Stay tuned for part 10 where I’m going to show you how to black out a house.. And Keep an eye on our blogtwitter or Vimeo Channel to follow us on our latest storytelling adventures.

This is part 9 of a 10 part series, click the links below to view the entire series.

Part 1: Landing The Client and Creative Ideation

Part 2: Budgeting and Creating The Proposal

Part 3: How to Location Scout

Part 4: Story-boarding On A Small Budget

Part 5: How To Create a Lighting Diagram

Part 6: How To Create a Shooting Schedule and Call Sheet

Part 7: How To Conduct A Camera Test

Part 8: How To Build a Rain Bar

Part 10: How To Black Out A House On A Budget

Join the conversation

One Response to “How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial, part 9”

  1. Michelle Boone on January 30th, 2015 1:31 pm

    Thanks so much for the mention in your blog, How To Bring a Cinematic Look to a Small Budget Commercial, part 9. We have a LTFS archiving application that is also quite affordable called PreRoll Post. I would be happy to provide you with more information about the app if you are ever in need of material for an archiving article.

About the Author


Born in 1980 in Seattle, Washington, Ryan has had a love and passion for the visual arts since a young child when his grandmother, an avid photographer, took him along on photo expeditions. As he grew up, his parents furthered that passion by enrolling him in various art programs and lessons. While he enjoyed painting and drawing, something was always missing - the ability to capture motion. Once introduced to the art of cinematography in high school he never looked back.Ryan E. Walters, Cinematographer Since that time, Ryan has developed this passion and turned it into his career. As an award-winning cinematographer his work has allowed him the opportunity to travel worldwide in the pursuit of telling stories that are visually compelling. Ryan's distinct experience includes feature films, documentaries, commercials, and shooting for Comcast, TLC, Oxygen, and the Discovery Channel. Not only does Ryan seek to deliver cinematic images for his clients, but his commitment, organization, and professionalism means he constantly goes the extra mile to ensure that the results he delivers exceed his clients expectations.

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