Hey there and welcome! It’s great to have you here with us. Before we dive into the details of your setup, can you give us a bit of background on your journey so far and some of your past experiences in the industry? We’d love to hear how you got started and what brought you to where you are today.
Pedro: Thank you so much for having me. My name is Pete Aguirre, I’m 21 years old, based in one of the film capitals of the world, Los Angeles. My journey began when I was a kid, going to the movie theaters, analyzing cinematography, to then picking up cameras and experimenting on my own. I was 18 years old when I officially came into the industry, starting from the bottom of the hierarchy chain. I worked on set part-time as I had just started college, but I spent as much time on set as I could in my free time.
I was always intrigued by the camera department, I loved the creative problem-solving aspect of the role and using both technical knowledge and artistic eye to achieve the perfect visual result. More specifically, I was enraptured to become a Digital Imaging Technician, DIT for short. The gatekeeper of all footage, the person who works collaboratively with the Director of Photography to ensure maximum quality of footage through camera settings, recording formats, and color grading to achieve the desired look of the film. I loved the involvement and responsibility the role held. I was fortunate to cross paths with amazing people on set that would then take me in as their mentee. Special thanks to Ellen Feldman, for coaching me and training me how to navigate the industry. Thanks to Ellen, I was able to land my first shoot which was a relatively small music video, my kit at the time included just my laptop, a powered dock, a battery backup, and ShotPut Pro. Fast forward to today, I am working with my favorite actors, athletes, artists and brands to help bring their visions to the big screen.
What types of productions do you usually work on? What are the main ways in which they differ from each other?
Pedro: I work on all types of productions, from commercial work to music videos to feature films and docu-series. They all differ significantly from one another, however, I enjoy every one of them. Each production requires its own workflow/set up and could be very specific. For example, I’m currently on my 10th feature film right now which requires me to monitor exposure, offload, transcode, sync audio, color grade footage, and upload media to post. When working with docu-series, my set up is tailored for travel and quick run and gun shoots. I manage to fit everything I need into a 4U rack case for easy transportation.
Pedro’s DIT Setup & Work on a Music Video
And a follow-up question to that, do you have a favorite type of production to work on?
Pedro: My favorite type of productions are feature films. A feature film can range anywhere from 3 weeks to up to several months. Along the process you’re bound to come across and work with amazing crew who will then become family by the end of the shoot. I am a firm believer that the industry is a lot more enjoyable when you have friends working alongside you. Suddenly, 14 hour days don’t feel so long. I find features to be the most rewarding. Being able to contribute from prepping the camera to seeing the final image displayed on the big screen is incredibly fulfilling.
Now everyone has different preferences and a different cart/workstation set-up, could you tell me about yours?
Pedro: I’m currently rocking a Voyager 36 cart by Inovativ fully tailored to my feature-film workflow. I had a dual monitor vesa mount system attached to my cart which holds up my 24” Flanders Scientific colour accurate monitor and Apple display. I also have an Odyssey 7Q+ OLED monitor by Convergent Design that sits right under my monitor which allows me to record and provides me various scopes when shooting. The Odyssey is extremely helpful when monitoring exposure thanks to the built-in false color feature. This remarkable piece of equipment is now discontinued but still heavily sought after by many DITs and filmmakers.
Moving along to the brain of my station, I have a brand new Mac Studio M1 Ultra capable of transcoding absolutely anything I toss at it in a matter of minutes which is crucial when having multiple deliverables due at wrap. Moving down to my rack case, I have a 20×20 Blackmagicdesign router which allows me to give everyone on set camera feed and distribute my live grade. A few other notable pieces of gear I own worth mentioning are my CalDigit Thunderbolt Dock, Decimator Dmon-quad for quad split screen, Ultrastudio HD mini for capture/playback, Furman power conditioner, Ecoflow Delta Pro, and my super fast NVMe Raid.
Pedro’s DIT Setup on his Voyager 36 cart by Inovativ
For those that may just be starting to build their cart/workstation, or are in the early stages of it, what are some pieces of equipment that you consider absolutely essential?
Pedro: One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve received from my mentor is to not buy any gear until you actually need it. I would stay start off with a solid computer, high RAM, CPU, GPU and build from there. Depending on what type of work you end up doing, you’ll quickly realize what’s more beneficial and effective for you. ShotPut Pro is another essential, the detailed reports are very easy for almost anyone to understand and provides you checksum verifications to ensure all media was safely offloaded. I also recommend buying your own card readers, specifically the cameras you find yourself working with the most. This will prevent you from dealing with slow/cheap card readers sometimes provided by the camera rental house. A battery backup is also recommended to prevent any corruption of media if the power were to go off mid offload.
Going along with the previous question, do you have any tips for beginners in the field? What’s something you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
Pedro: Never be afraid of asking questions, learn as much as you can when you’re on set. Everyday is a new learning experience so try to soak up as much as you can each day you’re on set. Always sit with your team during lunch and build connections with everyone around you. I’m usually the youngest crew member on set and I wouldn’t have got here so quickly if it wasn’t for my networking skills and connections I made along the way. Never be scared to speak up and know when something has to be brought up to production/DP. I recommend finding a good mentor who is willing to coach you and guide you on negotiating and navigating the industry. I have several mentors and am part of a small community of DITs all around the world in which we all contribute and help each other out.
Do you have any on-set stories you’d like to share?
Pedro: A DIT’s worst nightmare is arriving to set to find out production did not provide the drives you requested. As a DIT, one of your main focuses should be to avoid bottlenecking as much as possible. A slow drive can be detrimental to your workflow and cause you to fall behind very quickly. There are many other factors that can cause bottlenecking in your workflow from card readers and cables to camera cards, always ensure you will be working with equipment that maximizes it’s total bandwidth. Unfortunately for me, I’ve had to deal with being surprised with slow drives while working in an extremely remote location where there was nowhere to go run for new more competent drives. I had to finish overnight in my hotel and clocked in over 17 hours.
That’s awesome. Thanks so much for taking the time to be here with us! Your responses give a ton of insight on building valuable connections in the industry and things to keep in mind when first starting out. Also, don’t forget to come back next week for another Data Expert Interview!