My DIT Cart: Allan Legarth Nielsen

12 min read
Pomfort Blog DIT Cart Story Allan Nielsen header image

Allan Legarth Nielsen has been navigating the complex Danish film industry as the only Danish DIT since 2016. We got the chance to speak with him to learn more about the obstacles he faces regularly, and how his mission to educate his professional peers on the importance of proper data management drives him forward as a DIT despite the challenges.

So first of all, thank you for interviewing with us! To start, could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your professional life?

Thanks for having me. I was born in and am based in Denmark. From a young age, I wanted to be in this industry. I dabbled in amateur and professional short films, then attended a one-year filmmaking course in London at NYFA (New York Film Academy). My experience there working with 16 and 35mm cameras shaped my desire to shoot, or at least assist, load or pull focus. I just wanted to be close to those cameras!

In 2010, I returned to Denmark to work at the main camera facility at the time- Kameraudlejningen. This was when the Alexa Classic was released and there was suddenly a huge demand for data management, all of which was taken care of by rental and post houses. Throughout that time period, I worked as an off-set data wrangler on many features and series.

I saw the need for proper data and color management on set and I tried to push for it. Unfortunately, the rental and post houses wouldn’t have it. In 2016, I went freelance and became the country’s only on-set DIT/data wrangler. To this day, I’m still the only freelance on-set DIT/data wrangler in Denmark.

To better understand the challenges that you face as the only Danish DIT, can you dive into the unique situation of the Danish film industry? 

All data management is provided by rental and post-houses. This provides some challenges in and of itself, but on top of that, Denmark has faced two major crises in the last two years. First, a conflict regarding a royalties agreement broke out between streaming services like Netflix, and Danish creatives. This halted all big productions for more than a year and resulted in the Danish government scaring away streaming providers with a special streaming tax.

Denmark has no programs or tax rebate system to attract foreign productions. Big players like Netflix are not only crucial to the Danish industry, but they’re essential for my existence. As a freelancer, I’m brought in when foreign crews come to shoot commercials for cars, beer, Facebook, or other high-profile brands. Therefore, this affects me greatly.

For fiction, it’s still the standard in Denmark that the 2-3 exposed cards of the day leave the set without any backup, and go to a rental or post house after wrap. The cards are then left in a fireproof data safe, and stay there for 9-12 hours overnight until an editor’s assistant, intern, producer’s niece, etc. (these are all credited as DITs in Denmark), take out the cards, and start offloading. Then, QC and transcoding take place, so dailies are not ready for review until lunchtime the next day and no one watches them until after wrap. So, you don’t see your dailies until 24-36 hours after they’re shot, and the editing proxies are not in the hands of the editor’s assistant until the day after. Nothing happens on set. Everything is off-set, in an office, the day after. It’s highly inefficient and unsafe.

There is no look matching, and no one is keeping an eye on consistency. They smack on the LUT, and it’s the end of the world if the DP wants to change anything. That would mean a whole new LUT, a new transcode, and a new upload, and that’s unheard of. So the DPs are used to having almost no control over their footage until they actually sit in the grading suite eight months later. A big part of my mission is to give the DPs the freedom and power that they not only deserve but need in order to stick to their creative vision.

Luckily, for the productions that I do get the chance to be on set with, I provide efficient and prime services to raise the bar of the current industry standard.

Can you please share some more details on your work? 

My DIT Cart: Allan Legarth Nielsen
DIT Allan Nielsen on set

As a freelancer, I started out strong on Thomas Vinterberg’s Druk (Another Round), which went on to win the Oscar for Best International Feature Film. That was a pretty big deal for small Denmark.

For commercials, DPs provide LUTs. I convert and load them into the camera, and they follow the clips as metadata into Silverstack Lab. The DP comes to my cart 1-3 times a day. I also send high-res frame grabs to an iPad Pro, and show the DP references that way, so we can discuss adjustments. I bake the looks into the editing proxies and upload them to the post-houses’ cloud. Then, I back up a client drive (usually Samsung T7), and then to my NVMe for fast transcode and to a RAID. I do a lot of frame grabs from Silverstack Lab for the DP, director, gaffer, and others. They all find it extremely helpful to receive these references on the fly.

Until last year, I’ve really only worked on high-end commercials.

So last year I made it my mission to get into fiction. With extremely low prices, I got four features and series that I shared with two other DITs through my company AKA Digital Imaging. There is Kale, a Copenhagen-based American highly skilled QTake operator, and Derek, a London-based half-dane half-American freelance dailies operator. Having these talented guys help me on my crusade is unbelievable!

For features, it’s roughly the same as with commercials. There is no live feed, so everything is done after offloading. All proxies and dailies are done during the day, so I also function as an on-set dailies lab. Often the DP will come and make adjustments, to stuff we shot days or weeks earlier. I match, and transcode new dailies and proxies and exchange them in o/Dailies, then communicate with the AVID assistant that new versions of certain clips have been uploaded. DPs really appreciate being able to stay in control of the footage even after it’s “left the set.” They’re not used to this.

But I must admit, actual DIT work is the least of my services. I mainly provide data management, dailies, and proxy creation, along with color-management of sorts.

We’re aware that every DIT’s setup varies. Overall, how would you describe yours? 

Close up of Allan Nielsen's DIT cart inside of his van
Allan’s DIT Cart

My main setup is a fully spec’d Mac Studio M1 Ultra on a Nebtek Nomad cart. I back up to two RAIDs or one RAID and a client drive, depending if it’s a feature or a commercial. I also do a third backup to one of my OWC NVMe drives (4M2 with 4x 1TB RAID 0), I use it as a scratch disk for quick offloads. I transcode from the NVMe to an identical NVMe with very high speeds. All of the transcodes, both dailies and offline proxies, have to be done by the end of the day. And sometimes they scream for them as we shoot. Many times on commercials they edit as we shoot so I need to upload on the fly.

On features, dailies have to be ready for review no later than 20 or 30 minutes after wrap. We don’t have the budget for reshoots or building a set again, so often the creatives have to see that all is good before the next day. That’s why I have to mag reload 5-10 times a day just to keep up.

When I work on fiction, I do LTO archiving through Silverstack Lab back in the office after we’ve wrapped. I don’t need to leave Silverstack Lab. I can keep track of everything in one software, and it’s nice that all backups as well as the LTO archive are in the same PDF reports that I send out from Silverstack Lab.

Could you please walk us through the bits and pieces of your overall setup? How is it organized? Do you work with a DIT Cart? 

I try to be as compact as possible. Our locations are always tiny, and if I’m lucky to get near the camera or even in the same room, I need to have the smallest footprint possible. I don’t route any video so that automatically scales things down.

Danish Digital imaging Technician Allan Nielsen's DIT cart with Flander's monitors
Allan’s two monitor setup

I use a Nebtek Nomad cart. I’m currently building a smaller setup on a sound cart. I have another iMac Pro setup on a small Adicam cart.

My cart has two monitors- Flanders DM 220 for color and grade, and an LG 5K working display. The video and computer gear included in my setup is the following:

  • Fully spec’d Apple Mac Studio M1 Ultra
  • Sometimes a Touch Bar MacBook Pro for Livegrade. 
  • Two small NVMe enclosures, with 4TB each (RAID 0)
  • Usually an Areca RAID. (2x on fiction, 1x on commercials)
  • Flanders DM220
  • BMD UltraStudio 4K mini
  • BoxIO LUT box.
  • Tangent Element panel
  • Areca T12 RAID rack version and GoSymply LTO-9 deck rack version (back at the office)

Which Pomfort Products do you use and why? 

Digital Imaging Technician Allan Nielsen Live grading on set
Allan in action!

I use Silverstack Lab, and it allows me to stay in one software. I can do all of my copying, transcodes, LUT/look editing and LTO archiving right there. I don’t need anything else. I have live-graded a couple of commercials with Livegrade Pro and synced the looks through ShotHub to Silverstack Lab.

How do you handle power supply on set?

Power Supply on set
Power supply on set

I use EcoFlow Deltas. I have three. I charge them on location or at base camp. Sometimes, the electric department lets me charge from their truck generator. I use 4-5 a day. Everything goes through a 1U 1000W lithium UPS. I work out of my van quite a lot, so being self-powered is really nice. EcoFlows made my life so much easier!

Danish Digital Imaging Technician Allan Nielsen's DIT cart inside of his van
Allan’s van setup

What are the accessories and special features of your cart/setup? 

On my main cart (Nebtek Nomad), I have made the grading section detachable. It’s a small shallow compact 3U case, with a Tangent grading panel, a BoxIO, and an Inovativ laptop plate on top, to fix my MacBook Pro. Then, I have a small hand-held live grading setup, that I can sit with in a corner, put on a table/cart, or even on an EcoFlow that powers the whole thing.

Danish Digital Imaging Technician Allan Nielsen's portable livegrading setup on set
Handheld grading section

What’s your favorite component of your setup and why? 

I love the FlandersDM220, which is the latest addition to my setup. It’s a great monitor and the DPs are really happy and feel safe when they see it. It really eliminates doubt and skepticism surrounding color correction.

Are there any notable stories that have happened with or to your setup that you’d like to share? 

I was on a sound stage once, and I looked down to find a dog peeing on the rear wheel of the cart! Luckily, nothing vital was affected, and nothing came of it. But the dog, and the rest of the crew, got a scare when I started shouting!

Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to add? 

I hope my fellow DITs around the world will send some good karma to the film industry over here in Denmark, to help us make proper data/color management the standard practice.

Also, a huge shoutout to of course Pomfort, that goes without saying. But also to Ben Hagen from Ottomatic and his amazing dailies platform o/Dailies. I can’t recommend it enough. As a Silverstack Lab user, it makes dailies distribution a smooth and uncomplicated task. Especially for a one-man band like me. The sync between Silverstack Lab and o/Dailies is amazing, and it lets me do all of my work in Silverstack Lab without having to use another application!

A big ‘thank you’ to Allan for sharing his experience and the details of his cart!

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Allan Legarth Nielsen, DIT

Allan lives in Denmark with his two amazing children and supportive wife. He is the only freelance DIT in Denmark. He tried to implement effective data and color management upon the arrival of digital film cameras but to no avail. Allan is now on a crusade to educate the Danish film industry about proper data management and convince them to take the DIT position seriously. He wants to help DPs and provide them with the support they need and deserve.

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About the Author
Mae is a Marketing Content Manager for Pomfort’s Silverstack and Shothub applications. When she’s not chasing down exclusive production insights, she’s busy planning a constant stream of editorial content.