A DIT cart can be a heavy and complex piece of equipment, with tons of cords and data cables hanging everywhere – but it doesn’t have to be.
The cart of DIT Sam Petrov for example follows a sleek design with no visible cords from the front. In a recent interview Sam shares some details on his equipment, and explains what Steve Jobs has to do with the design of his cart.
Hi Sam, thanks for agreeing to the interview! To start off, can you please tell us a bit about yourself? For example, where are you based and what projects are you usually booked for?
I love sharing knowledge and my passion for my work! I’m Sam Petrov, an LA-based DIT who primarily works in the narrative realm, namely features and television. I do a few music videos and commercials in between bigger jobs, as I believe diversifying my portfolio keeps me engaged with my career, and well-versed in different shooting styles.
Like many DIT’s, I come from a background in postproduction. I began doing more production work subsequent to my postsecondary studies, and actually spent a year doing sketch comedy (Yes, you can find my name on YouTube and Funny Or Die.) That’s where my funny twist, better known as my “.lol” moniker, originated. I think it’s imperative in an industry where long hours and strong personalities aren’t unusual that we nurture levity, and my branding is an exemplar of that belief.
Let’s have a look at your DIT cart. How would you describe your personal overall cart setup?
Growing up, I was an ardent follower of Steve Jobs, who was complemented by Steve Wozniak. I see most DIT’s take a more engineer-like approach (à la Woz), whereas I am more Jobsian: I prefer to build a cart that seems simple, yet has more effort put into it than anybody would ever believe.
I remember watching the original iMac keynote and hearing Jobs exclaim, “The back of this thing looks better than the front of the other guys’!” I probably spent more time devising the design of the back of my cart than the front. But it’s paid off as I have a cart that both executes and is picture-worthy from all angles. In addition, small things, like cupholders and storage for the DP, are seen as minutiae to many that I spent countless hours designing. My first cart acted like a beta test; I was able to do market research, see what features I liked and needed, and then present a fully-baked product that built on my experiences, which is my current iteration. As with any product, new tech will allow it to evolve on a “rolling” basis. 😉
Please tell us a bit more about the components of your cart – Does it have wheels? Is it foldable?
The cart I use was designed and engineered by one of my colleagues, Matt Conrad. It has a pair of USA-made BMX bike wheels on the back with two small Magliner wheels in front. It breaks apart in the middle for transport, if desired. Most importantly to me, it has a bunch of integrated rack mount track which I sought specifically because I knew it would let me create a clean build that looked pleasing.
The bottom of the cart houses my backup power battery (UPS) and workstation computer when I need to transcode. The top has two pull-out drawers for my trackballs and laptop, respectively. The top exposed carpeted workspace has a cheeseplate that securely hosts all sorts of goodies, from iris controllers to my camera remote control unit to my hardware scope box. It also has rigid cupholders, and I offer soda can covers labeled by job position so drinks are identifiable and protected from damaging nearby equipment.
The rest of my cart is comprised of a few things. Drawers: One for the DP, one for me, and one dedicated to digital loading; a switcher control panel that connects to a patch bay on the cart’s back; fans, to keep all my equipment operating at optimal temperatures; and power strips with internal and external facing outlets. All the internal wiring utilizes velcro so it remains neat and tidy, even during rough rides.
On the top are two stacked monitors with enough space to host plenty of LUT boxes. All the onboard SDI cables are color coded for quick reference. I try to use as little external power as possible, partly to remain self-sufficient and also to reduce cable clutter. All of my infrastructure devices are wireless, minimizing cord use while also enhancing the flexibility to rearrange things.
Everything is self-contained and made to be customizable for the specific job. If I have a loader, for instance, the loading drawer becomes additional space. If I don’t have to do transcodes, the desktop workstation space is instead occupied by batteries. It’s all fairly modular, so it’s flexible and robust.
What is your personal favorite component of your cart?
I think the best part is the way it’s designed to do everything I need it to do while being flexible to accommodate tight spaces and odd places. I’ve been at elevations of 10,000 feet with icy trails as well as five-story houses that just aren’t conducive to carts. In order to get the DP and myself close to the action, I like to carry a small combo stand that I can configure in five minutes with all critical monitoring tools and controls. It’s kind of like the EVA Pod that attaches to the spaceship for maintenance tasks in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
The mounting hardware I possess combined with my cart’s physical layout lets me quickly dismount all my controls and monitoring tools efficiently and safely so I can “deploy” into a small-footprint setup that is totable and fits anywhere the cameras go. Small spaces and narrow walkways just aren’t navigable even with a full-blown cart, so having the ability to break off and quickly bring all essential gear along makes my job so much easier.
What has been the latest addition to your DIT cart?
Like many of my colleagues, I’ve been experimenting with DC instead of AC power. I’ve recently invested in a number of different battery solutions, and am currently in the process of adopting a lithium ion phosphate battery solution as my daily driver. Like everything, it just takes time to ascertain the proper way to configure a new addition, and I look forward to learning more about electricity as yet another piece of technology forces me to grapple with the dynamism of my craft.
Are there any notable stories that have happened with or to your cart while on set?
I think just in general people always complement the appearance of my cart. Most film crew members are accustomed to seeing a DIT or VTR cart that has cords hanging everywhere, a rat’s nest of data cables all over and just an overall “cluttered” feel to it. Though it means being very conscious and aware of what I do not carry or hang from random hooks, it’s worth having people notice when something sets itself apart.
Many thanks to Sam for sharing all these details on his equipment!