Mastering Digital & Data Workflows with DIT, Jane Fleck

Nikita Raja

NAB 2019 is here in T-2 days, and we’re excited to see you all there! This week, we bring you a frank Q&A with Digital Imaging Technician, Jane Fleck. Jane is a master in managing digital data & files and has worked as a DIT on a variety of shows like Anger Management and Adam Ruins Everything. We are thrilled to have her as part of our New Digital Workflow Panel on April 8 at NAB. Here’s a quick preview on Jane’s journey:

You’ve been in the business a while.  Tell us about your transition from editor to recordist, to your current work as a Digital Imaging Technician?

My goal to work in the industry started when I was 7, watching Bozo the Clown.  I ran into where my mom was and told her “I want to work in TV. I can do better.”   

My career started as a producer, working on the National Ford account in Detroit.  I attended my first online video session, sitting at my assigned seat, which happened to be next to the character generator.  Over the course of a week of editing, I watched the equipment and figured out the Chyron better than the operator who worked for the post facility.  The owner noticed, and asked, “Would you consider a career in post?”

I asked what it paid.  His answer was 25 cents more an hour than I was making as a producer.  Six months later I was working as an online editor.

After a while, there were few challenges left in editing.  I took a break from the business, Then a long-time editor friend called and asked if I knew how to do ‘files.’  I said “yes”, as I was intrigued.

He told me to come down to the stage. It was the first day of production for Charlie Sheen’s new show, “Anger Management.”  My career was re-invigorated and I discovered that I love production. I worked on that show for three years as a recordist and data manager.

On my off days I trained with an experienced DIT and expanded into doing Digital Imaging Technician work. That is mainly what I do now.

Picture by Photographer, Trae Patton

Tell us how the landscape has changed from the time you were editing ‘Alf‘ to acting as DIT on  ‘Adam Ruins Everything’ (currently on Netflix).

“Alf” was fun and I was hired not only for being a good comedy editor, but also because I was technically skilled at list management back through multiple recuts on tape. At that time editing consisted of dubbing segments of one video tape to another tape, creating an offline master.

That first offline cut was then altered by duplicating it down to another tape, and another, and another.  When a “picture lock” was completed, complicated software was used to “trace” the time code information back to the original tapes, which were then used to create the locked cut. That preserved the quality of the video. I was very good at using “409,” the software used to do that tracing back of the edit decision lists (EDLs) back in the day.

Fast forward to today.  Files are copied from camera cards, loaded into an edit system at low resolution and used for cutting directly.  Each subsequent revision uses different pieces of those same digital files. When picture lock occurs, the system automatically can be re-pointed to original high resolution files that create the final master.  It’s much simpler. Not to say that it can’t be made complicated — as always “GIGO” applies (Good in, good out — and — Garbage in garbage out).

What is your favorite part of being a DIT and why?

Every day on set is different.  When I was in post I used to think “How could they possibly miss this problem during the shoot?”

Now I am on set, I am amazed daily that anything gets shot at all – production is the proverbial wheelbarrow of frogs. Every day is just pushing that barrow down the road, trying to keep all the amphibians under control.

 

Working on set and on location I get to troubleshoot any issues where it is still possible to solve them before they become a problem that needs to be “fixed in post.” My goal is to ensure a smooth transition from the data capture on set into the post process.  My post skills are a great asset to help producers facilitate the post process from closer to the camera.

What do you think of the current state of filmmaking and broadcasting in today’s mainstream and digital world?

The incredible increase in production – both quantity and rapidly increased quality – is an awesome opportunity.

How has the industry changed for women since you started?

Occasionally I am not the only female technician on set.  That is wonderful. I hope to see ladies move closer to parity as the industry expands.

Please share an anecdote from a particularly challenging shoot.

32 cameras shooting 4K images for 14 hours = 44 Terabytes in one day.

Please share an anecdote from a particularly fantastic shoot.

Working with top-notch teams from Hollywood every day is fantastic. On February 21st this year, we were in Acton, CA shooting in the desert as a stand in for Arizona.  It started to snow, the production called lunch and the entire crew had a snowball fight.  It was very fun.

What are your preferred technicals (camera/editing software/etc)?

Arri Cameras. Avid editing systems.

What are some new upcoming projects you’re working on?

I am currently working as a DIT on a new NBC series.