The Extended DIT Workflow: How to Manage Live Camera Metadata in LiveGrade Pro v4 5 min read

Update 2018-07-19: Added LUT box with metadata capabilities and direct network/Wifi connection to capable cameras to connection options and link to follow-up blog post.

Typically, cameras for digital cinematography have a lot of parameters to be set – the settings for controlling exposure alone already consist of multiple parameters such as exposure index, shutter speed, internal ND filters, but also white balances and sensor FPS.

LiveGrade Pro v4 introduces a broad set of features to manage this kind of information. Being known as the widely used DIT software for look management, LiveGrade Pro now even better supports the DIT in this workflow, and at the same time extends the capabilities of the DIT within the camera department.

This article shows how the camera parameters are handled and stored in LiveGrade Pro and illustrates how the production can benefit from the extended DIT workflow.

Cameras and metadata

In productions with multiple locations and lighting conditions, camera parameters will vary throughout a production. In order to maintain technical but also creative consistency over a production, the camera team’s responsibility is to make sure all these settings are set right. But having the camera equipment set up “right” not only involves setting these values in the first place in the cameras, but also monitoring the changes over time. LiveGrade Pro v4 gives this camera information much more space – not only in its user interface but also in its underlying database.

Slots for managing camera devices and metadata

Even before version 4, LiveGrade Pro already had the concept of “slots” for a long time –  with the idea that one slot holds together all devices related to one camera (such as a capture device and a LUT box). LiveGrade Pro v4 makes these slots much more prominent in a new “slot bar” above the grade controls.

The slot bar

The Slot Bar displaying image preview and camera metadata

The slot bar serves several purposes:

  1. The slot bar is a tab bar for easy access to switching interaction between cameras.
  2. The slot bar contains a preview image for each camera for a good overview.
  3. The slot bar holds all new features for the management of camera-related information.

Extended Shot Library

For properly managing camera-related information LiveGrade Pro now comes with many newly added fields in the library. These new values are split into several groups:

  • Record: Clip-related information such as timecode, clip name, sensor and project FPS, and original source image resolution
  • Exposure: Typical exposure-related values such as EI/ISO, shutter, white balance and ND settings
  • Lens: Lens information such as lens model, focal length of the lens, aperture, focus distance and applied filters
  • Position: Camera setup such as tilt and roll angles, distance to subject
  • Device: Device information such as camera model and software version, and a few custom fields

All these new fields can be edited before and during a shot for each camera on set.  They also get stored in LiveGrade Pro’s Shot Library together with the full look metadata (such as ASC-CDL values, 3D LUTs etc.). That way you can build a comprehensive log of camera settings over the entire course of a production.

Automatically setting camera information from ANC data

A lot of cameras for digital cinematography communicate their current state (with the mentioned parameters) over the HD-SDI signal in so-called ancillary or ANC packages. With a capture device, a LUT box with metadata capabilities, or a direct network/Wifi connection to capable camera added to a slot, LiveGrade Pro can receive this information and automatically set the corresponding camera fields in the slot bar automatically (please note that some wireless HD-SDI transmitters strip camera metadata which makes the metadata unaccessible in LiveGrade Pro).

This means that the slot bar acts as a kind of dashboard for camera metadata – showing the current state of each attached camera system in real-time together with the preview image.

Currently the camera metadata of ARRI Alexa models, Sony F55 and VENICE, and Panasonic VariCam models is supported.

Benefit of camera metadata in production

The camera department can benefit from having comprehensive records of the camera setup in various ways.

Multi-camera shoots

Keeping multiple cameras set up consistently is not easy, especially when lighting conditions, the location, or even cameras often change. Overseeing the current state and setup of the cameras in one place at the DIT cart increases awareness and avoids errors. The live image and a set of video scopes can still remain the most important ways of checking consistency, but having access to camera metadata in one place helps resolving setup-related issues quickly.

“For the records”

Especially in a large camera department, keeping track digitally of all changes of the most important camera settings gives the department a properly managed process. Being able to look up settings from other shooting days or sets can act as a starting point for camera work at a different time or location and reduces ambiguity.

Communication between units

Picking up shooting in second unit can be much easier when having access to detailed information of how cameras have been used in  first unit. The use of filters and digital looks, but also knowing which lenses have been used, is valuable to maintain a consistent look throughout the production.

Preparing information for VFX

The VFX facilities involved in a production are happy with all camera metadata they can get. The metadata simplifies setting up virtual sets and helps reducing ambiguity for tracking objects. Being able to capture the camera metadata with almost no additional effort can support a VFX supervisor – for example with an extensive PDF report of all camera-related information.

The evolving role of the DIT

Over the course of the last years the DIT evolved into a role that involves a lot of information exchange and communication with other folks on set. LiveGrade Pro supports this communicative aspect of the DIT by giving him a tool at hand that simplifies storing and tracking information from within the department and prepares it for easy exchange.

Overall, the addition of camera metadata to LiveGrade Pro facilitates the extended DIT workflow, and reflects the trend of integrating and consolidating data from different sources, and prearing it for the benefit of the production.

Also see out follow-up blog post “3 Ways to Receive Camera Metadata at the DIT Cart”:

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About the Author
Patrick is a product manager for Pomfort's on-set applications. For his work at Pomfort he combines a technical background in software engineering with practical experience in digital film productions – and a preference for things that actually work.