Born out of years of experience, Alix Milan’s motto ”fail to prepare, prepare to fail,” serves as the guiding principle for his DIT and video playback rental company We Love Hue. In this interview, Alix shares some insights into his personal DIT cart, and what factors go into consideration when setting up the carts for We Love Hue.
First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview with us! First, could you please tell us a little about yourself and your professional life?
I’m Alix Milan and I manage a community of DIT, video playback operators, and colorists in London through my company, We Love Hue.
After graduating from the Arts University Bournemouth, I went straight to a post facility called Smoke and Mirrors (S&M) in London, where I got lumbered with the role of managing data from the shoot.
S&M allowed me to chat with a bonafide DIT, James Ian Gray, and he very kindly allowed me to tag along on many of his smaller jobs as a trainee/assistant after I left S&M.
Eventually, I felt confident enough to take on some very small projects of my own after spending a lot of time autonomously learning, researching, reading, and going into rental houses to play with cameras. Obviously, you never stop learning, and every day is a school day when it comes to this side of the industry.
Early in my career, there were plenty of times as a trainee/assistant I walked onto set and not been fully prepared for whatever was in store, which, as many people know, is a fast way to get your butt handed to you. Time management, forward planning, and efficient communication have been things I went from 0 to 100 very quickly in order to do the job properly.
Over the next 8 years, I continued to pour money into the never-ending hole that is my ‘kit,’ whilst working on nurturing a community of DITs who share a similar mindset to me in terms of accountability, professionalism, and diligence towards the image and pipeline. Eventually, We Love Hue was born and we never looked back.
Can you please share some details on your work?
I split my time as best I can between set and family. In the past, it’s been all work and no family, but I have two small children now and a very supportive wife.
Before the pandemic, I worked on season 1 of the Netflix show “Bridgerton” with the amazing DP Jeffrey Jur (ASC). We provided the DITs and a data team for that show which wrapped just as COVID was starting.
Following that we had lockdown, and We Love Hue began supplying overnight lab and dailies services to productions, as well as video playback to supplement the DIT on Netflix’s feature film, “I Came By”, lensed by the wonderful DP Kit Fraser.
Finally, my most recent production was the long-form Netflix show “Supacell”— a superhero show based in South London lensed by Aaron Reid, for which We Love Hue provided support on kit and overnight dailies.
Since we entered 2023, I’ve focused more on very short projects, looking to develop more long-term relationships with up-and-coming people. I’m always looking for new challenges and I am moving into a more workflow consultancy-based role as we approach the middle of 2023. I still go out a lot on set (much to my wife’s dismay!) but I have a great team in the office now who can support me more on set and allow me to focus when I need to.
We’re aware that every DIT’s setup varies. Overall, how would you describe your personal cart?
I would describe my cart as a bit of a battle-hardened monster. It’s the same cart I’ve used my entire career, I just keep adding little bits and tweaks to it.
My philosophy when it comes to DIT carts is: fail to prepare, prepare to fail. When you spec up a DIT cart you have to consider a plethora of questions, scenarios, and limitations:
What are my clients regularly looking for? What are the things I do regularly which take up a lot of time? How do I make the experience as stress-free as possible? What sort of shoots do I predominantly go out on? What are the technical demands of the production? What is my budget? How do I want my kit to be presented?
There are so many questions you really have to sit yourself down and ask, what are the most important points for me?
What do you take into consideration when building a We Love Hue cart?
At We Love Hue, we prioritize future-proofing, standardization, and reliability.
Future-proofing is ensuring that all our rigs are 12G compliant with 4K LUT boxes ( AJA ColorBox or 4K ISminis) and 12G Switchers (AJA 3232/1616). We use all 12G cabling internally, so there will never be a scenario where the rig is the limiting factor for a job, even if the show is only HD delivery.
Standardization means that everything is converted to 12V and powered utilizing a custom-built power distro box. Everything is built exactly the same with the ability to add things like additional LUT box modules on a slice-by-slice basis. We use the Whaley Rail II system to ensure all our monitors are securely fastened to our carts which are either the Adicam mini+ or the XL+ depending on what else needs to go on the rig. All our Livegrade rigs are set up in the same exact way— the IP settings, the wiring, the components, everything is designed so that if you’re comfortable on a We Love Hue rig then you can jump onto any job and know exactly where everything is and what it does. Of course, you can customize and amend stuff as you wish but the rigs are designed to be reset at the push of a button for the next job.
Reliability: Everything is wired, planned, and built with a sensible amount of overhead, from cable gauge to voltage calculations and temperature regulation, the boxes themselves are designed to deal with extremes so they never fail at the wrong time. Everything is individually fused with resettable fuses for safety so that if something did happen, replacing that individual component is a breeze and doesn’t affect anything else.
To learn more, could you please walk us through the bits and pieces of your setup(s):
So in my cart, there are:
- AJA 3232 12G
- Space for up to four AJA Colorboxes for 4K or FSI BoxIOs for HD workflows
- OWC PCIE chassis – with an AJA Kona 5 card
- OWC 4M2 chassis with up to 16TB of M2 SSDs
- OWC Thunderbolt Pro Dock
- BMD Ultrastudio Mini 4K
- Ethernet Switcher
- Custom Studio3cine PSU with under-the-top shelf mount break-out power module for accessories
- Leader LV5333
- Convergent Design Apollo Recorder
- HD Decimator Quad
This is all housed in a 6U shallow SKB box. I power everything from a 2U UPS. That is powered by an Ecoflow DeltaMax, which powers everything for a good 5 hours depending on how many monitors and accessories I have on at any one time.
Everything sits on an Inovativ Echo 36 (this was my first ever cart) and yes it is chunky. The wheels and disc brakes have literally been an absolute lifesaver on many jobs when rolling kit around hilly areas or out of vans.
I always use 2 Flanders Scientific DM240s/ 220s unless the DP needs something else— one for live feed and one for me to noodle about with looks on separately. The beauty of this is that you can have 2 separate inputs into each monitor for greater versatility.
For HDR work, I monitor using the Flanders Scientific XM311K. It’s easily one of the greatest monitors I’ve ever used but heavy as hell!
How would you describe your work style on set?
I refuse to work out of a van. I always gently push to get as close to the camera as possible and provide as much as I can to the cinematographer so that they can achieve what they need to. A lot of that comes from planning ahead and having the time and forethought to make sure you never arrive under-prepared for a shoot. You never know what could happen and experience tells me it’s better to “have and not need,” than to “need and not have.”
Do you have one fixed setup that you bring on every job? Or does the setup vary depending on the job requirements?
I tend now to use one rig for most jobs. Lots of my jobs tend to be similar requirements either by design or by choice. I will take a standard lab package and utilize 2 monitors— 1 for live footage and 1 for playing with color.
There are certain scenarios where the rig is not going to work. Often, I’ll just pull the Leader and my Apollo off the rig, clamp it to a 17-inch monitor on a stand, and travel around with that for very tight spaces, trains, or buses.
If I need a portable network I bring along my network box to allow me to still connect to multiple cameras at once over a mesh network.
Personally speaking, what’s your favorite component of your setup and why?
There are a number of contenders:
- Wildcards and auto-generating folder structures in Pomfort’s Silverstack on an offload.
- My Leader/ Apollo combo for log/linear lighting assessment and external recording of up to 4 feeds at once.
- My Ecoflow Delta MAX Lithium Ion batteries are a game changer in terms of not being reliant on anyone for AC power.
My cart trough contains numerous snacks and hot sauce condiments to utilize when the food on set is a bit boring or bland.
For Longform, Shothub allows our dailies team & on-set DITs to pass projects, metadata, and feedback to each other quickly and efficiently. It also gives the entire team immediate access to the information requested from post. Shothub really ties everyone together and allows you to then export your own chosen, centralized database easily and quickly.
What has been the latest addition to your setup?
The 12G upgrades have been the most recent addition. Making everything 4K compliant has been a journey, for which we now utilize AJA Colorboxes for a 4K HDR workflow.
Are there any notable stories that have happened with your setup that you’d like to share with us?
I occasionally get the opportunity to live grade and/or deal with very large Multicam shows with 16+ cameras. The most recent one with Brett Turnbull & Nat Hill had 15 MiniLFs, 2 Alexa35s, and a few little minicams. That’s always fun trying to get sorted last minute!
I’ve been in some pretty dodgy areas on some recent shoots with locals gathering around trying to work out how they can walk off with stuff, but we had a great security team, so nothing came of it.
We had reports of two guys running around an estate with real guns. Everyone had to gather inside the flat location and go into lockdown until the situation was resolved. That was definitely the most stressful situation I’ve been in recently.
What would be an absolute dream project in the future?
The dream project is anything that has a good crew, nice food and wraps on time. I prioritize any project that allows you to get the right team of people on the job (data manager, assistant), over a project that asks you to do everything without the right level of support.
Mental health and safety are very important.
Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to add?
Thanks to Pomfort for reaching out and providing the industry with such a great range of tools to help us do our jobs!
Thank you to Alix for sharing these helpful insights with us!
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