The Bit-bucket World

Where did this madness start…really.DigitalNumbers

When it was digital…but still on tape, roughly the ’90s, that’s when the digital pile began. Ones and zeros saved on tape stock, as was the modality for a decade already in the computer arena. Kinda the same tape as you used for recording audio and video, just updated for the digital data stream.

That stream became a river, which then burst the banks. We were in trouble. Digital moves fast and it moves lots of bits to accomplish the same task we did so efficiently in the analog days. It quickly outstripped the, then, 8 bit computer capacity. 50 megabyte hard drives were really expensive, not very fast and… well, big. Digital data could fill them fairly fast. Handling digital media was not for the financially faint of heart. But boy, was it fun.

Move ahead…today. It’s all digital.

More and more bits and bytes, piles and mountains. Filling the ‘bit bucket’ like a firehose. Fortunately there’s a person who loves putting their mind, body and soul around this problem…and it is a problem. The creatives don’t care how it’s gathered, they just want their image. Their project. Their bit of art. But unlike days of old, you can’t hold the negative or slide to the light and see what you have created. It’s invisible until someone, this new found ‘bit addicted’ techie person, unravels the data. And this would be far simpler if there was just one way to capture and hold all the data images.

This wizard of the data is now known as a ‘Data Wrangler’ or ‘Digital Imaging Technician’ ( DIT ). This is way, way past putting the camera memory card into a card reader and copying the contents to your hard drive. That is already, the wrong way to handle digital assets. Yet most think file copying is all there is to this.

What can this DIT person do for you?

There is this fundamentally vast chasm between the camera and the point where the camera files are edited. It’s mysterious, fraught with bottomless trap doors and points of no return. Unlike the ‘film days’, if the images were scratched, we could fix that. If you lose just a handful of ones and zeros, that file is no longer useable, no matter what you do. It’s gone!

The DIT has figured out a recipe for moving huge amounts of data from camera to editorial without hurting the data, losing the data and ‘preping’ (converting, transcoding, flipping) the footage into something useable for the image editors. It’s very technical (think high end of the geek-factor scale) and still, as a process, being worked out. Actually, it may never settle down with new cameras, technology and file formats appearing every few months. But this should not be your problem as a producer or director. You just need to find that person who knows how to protect your files.

This asset management is not solely relegated to the folks with video cameras. If you shoot stills, capture images in any digital manner, you are in the same arena as the $100 million dollar budget feature film. Digital data has no idea what was spent to create it. Frankly it does not care. That wedding photo(s) or family reunion video shot on a cell phone, all suffer from the same common shortcoming…they’re digital. And as such, very fragile.

Second Edition

Second Edition

Over the next few posts, I will pull the lid off the bit-bucket and we’ll peer inside. If you think you want to do data wrangling or DIT work for a living, I’ll get you started. And as a blatant plug… you should get this book.

Until next time.

Robert Trim


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