The way a DIT cart is assembled not only depends on the preferences of the DIT itself but also on the environment they are working in. The perfect combination of required features was quite clear to DIT Timur Gavrilenko when he designed his individual cart: As flexible as possible for high mobility on set, yet powerful enough for more demanding workflows.
In the following interview, Timur talks about the different circumstances he had to deal with whilst working in New York City and in Russia and what influence those experiences have had on the design and setup of his DIT cart.
Hi Timur, nice to meet you! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, for example, where you are based and what projects you are usually booked for?
Hi, my name is Timur, and I am a DIT based out of Moscow, Russia.
Contrary to many DIT’s, I come from an Assistant Camera/Focus Puller background. I started my career in a camera department in New York City as a 2nd AC; then 1st, then I started to get involved in some minimal crew jobs, where the number of people entering the location was very limited. I had to be the all-in-one guy for the camera. That’s when I picked up data managing, which later evolved into the DIT path I am on today.
NYC is very sensitive with the way they handle files; a data manager with checksums is required on any shoot. Sometimes the type of checksum you generate is picked by the production you work for. Now, imagine my shock a few years ago, when coming back to the motherland (Russia) to find out that there is very little knowledge of how data should be managed and organized here. That even on the very high end of commercial jobs, it’s common to see people offload using “file size verification” IF there is any software involved at all.
Currently, most of my work consists of short-term projects, with locals as well as with international crews coming to shoot in Moscow or St.Petersburg. And ever since my move, I’ve been advocating for the importance of proper data management, showing how helpful dailies can be and how connecting set with post can save a lot of unwanted headaches and get things done way quicker. Something that I offer here is unique to the area, DIT as a whole is just being born here, and that’s incredibly exciting!
We are interested in your DIT setup because we know that everyone’s setup varies. How would you describe your personal overall setup?
Well, I do still work as an AC. So the goal of my setup was that it can be easy and quick – for the times when I only need to data manage alongside dealing with the camera. But also, it should be powerful enough to scale it into something bigger – for the projects where DIT work is required.
Equipment that I own is nothing but essentials. Everything else, like monitors, LUT boxes, scopes, wireless video senders, Magliners, etc., can be rented. My kit consists of all the key components in a bigger puzzle of equipment, which I find important to be fully customized to my personal preference. I see it as a backbone on top of which I can add muscle power in the direction of every project’s needs.
Please tell us a bit more about the components of your setup:
What are the components that your setup consists of?
My setup was built with speed in mind, as it’s often here that you get three 256 GB cards per camera even though we shoot ARRIRAW open gate. So I designed everything around Silverstack’s cascade copy feature.
My kit is built inside Inovativ’s digicase, which is the modification they do to a pelican 1535. It adds cheese plate mounting points for my laptop and drives inside the case, and on the outside, it adds the ability for the case to be mounted on a c-stand.
To the top of the case’s cheese plate, I have mounted the heart of my setup: A 2018 15” MBP with two thunderbolt 3 buses. Below the cheese plate, I have an Akitio RAID box, bus-powered, with two Samsung 860 pro 4 TB SSDs in RAID 0, as well as CalDigit’s TB3 dock for connecting all the client drives I can possibly need. The dock also helps me to get rid of the factory power supply. A single power cable connects everything on the cheese plate to my small domestic 600 W UPS inside the case. Fewer cords to manage – the better.
How about mobility? Can you easily move it around?
My entire case mounts on top of a rolling stand, which makes it extremely quick to move around location. If we’re shooting in tighter spaces, my kit can find its place on top of a chair, staircase, or even an apple box. Having your setup fully inside the case makes a world of difference; it feels safer to set up in such unusual locations. With a single power cord hanging out of it, it’s as easy as plugging it out of the power and closing the Pelican lid in order to completely move out from the location.
With all the gear mentioned above, there is still tons of space inside the case left for card readers and drives. I designed Trekpak inside the case with the accommodation for 3.5 WD/Seagate drives you often receive here.
What kind of gear is generally included in your setup (software and hardware)?
- MacBook Pro 15”
- 8 TB SATA SSD RAID 0
- 2 TB Shuttle SSD
- CalDigit TB3+ dock
- 600 W UPS
- Inovativ DigiCase Pro Kit
- Matthews rolling stand II
- X-rite ColorChecker Classic and ColorChecker Passport Video
- lots of spare cables and readers
- probably the most important: RoboCups
Also, I’m a big fan of the old school approach to exposure, so I use my Sekonic 758 cine to measure exposure as well as Minolta IIIf color meter to match lights.
Key components are: Silverstack Lab and Parashoot. They are the essentials for managing my setup, even if I haven’t slept for 40 hours.
But there is also:
- DaVinci Resolve
- Adobe CC
- Image2Icon 😉
- variety of speed test programs and drivers for all the types of media out there
- and much more, smaller stuff.
How do you handle power supply on set?
The only thing I was able to fit into my 1535 is the small domestic power supply rated for 600 W. It runs my setup for about 15 minutes, depending on the load. In this build, it’s enough to pause an offload in case I lose power. It’s also enough for me to move my setup around the location without powering down and get a power line to the new spot.
What are the accessories and special features of your setup?
My entire build is done around a single Silverstack feature – cascade copy.
This allows me to work extremely quickly and efficiently with the media, run transcodes, as well as copy to an unlimited amount of drives without slowing anything or anyone down.
ALEXA Mini’s CFast cards, same as RED Mini-mags, offload at the speed of 450 MB/s, add to that – running a proxy render uses about 100-150 MB/s, and then copying to an average client drive is another 120-150 MB/s. Therefore ~700 MB/s speed is needed to manage data without bottlenecks, and that’s not counting extra headroom for playback. Having an intermediate SSD RAID with a speed of 800-900 MB/s is crucial!
This workflow also allows me to queue jobs from my cascade SSD to the client drives. That way, slow drives literally never take breaks from copying. As soon as I receive the first card and until the end of the day, drives don’t stop spinning – not even in the moments when I change a card in the reader.
I don’t read data, run transcodes, or do playback from slower spinning delivery drives, so the main bottleneck of everyone’s setup is optimized to its full potential!
On top of all that, this workflow also means that I end up with a copy of all shot material in my hands as well. It’s stored on my portable SSD and is backed up overnight to my home raid, where I store the media for as long as I can.
What is your personal favorite component of your setup?
This may sound insignificant, but it’s not even hardware.
It’s my “blank project” preset for any new job I do with Silverstack.
Folder structure and path wildcards, which are done in a way that I only need to plug the card in and press offload. It automatically makes all the folders I need it to do. It runs transcodes in the presets that have been tested on many shoots.
This goes back to the topic of speed but also adds reliability. It’s very important when working really long or on rushed shoots to have a setup that has been tested and trusted. Having a simplified workflow puts as little risk as possible into something as precious as media.
What has been the latest addition to it?
Codex CFast 2.0. reader.
As someone who’s cares so much about speed, I’ve been really digging the new Codex HDE workflow. HDE allows 256 GB cards full of ARRIRAW files to be compressed into 140-150 GB without losing any quality. It uses your computer’s CPU power to do the compression your camera isn’t designed to handle.
Only catch is that this workflow is only allowed with Codex readers. ARRI ALEXA Mini is probably the most popular camera in Russia, and I work with it a lot, yet it doesn’t always come with a Codex reader. So I got my own!
I am sure that HDE with proper offloading software is the future of shooting raw. Especially with new LF sensors becoming more mainstream. Alexa LF open gate generates 2-6 TB a day, per camera, which can be HDE compressed to 1.5-4 TB. That’s 2 TB less to copy per day to the client’s drive!
Are there any notable stories that have happened with or to your setup while on set and that you’d like to share with us?
Well, the most exciting part about my setup is speed and mobility. And it does both of those flawlessly.
Every time we shoot exteriors, run’n’gun documentary or do two company moves a day… I mean anything more exciting than a studio shoot – these are the days I feel very happy with my kit. I know that it wouldn’t be right to set up my computer in a bed of a truck or on a bench in a park, but with a ruggedized setup like mine, I can deal with the media anywhere I happen to be with both fast deploy offload times.
There are a lot fewer awkward moments when media has to copy after everyone has packed. Generators can stop working when planned; AC’s take their cards and readers back as well. Nobody waits for the DIT no more. ?
Thanks a lot to Timur for sharing all this information about his DIT cart with us!