How to get an IT job in the film industryBy Simon Mounsey
Over the last decade or so the film industry has had a technological renaissance. The previously grueling process of creating, editing and dazzling audiences can now be done with ease thanks to digital advancements. The tech industry, from implementing the first charged-couple device to developing the first digital editing systems and cameras, is firmly responsible for this shift in direction. And because of this, there are a plethora of positions in the film industry that require individuals who are not only creative but also have a certain degree of technical proficiencies.
What kind of additional training would IT professionals need to get into this field? Ideally, they would learn various editing programs, DVD/Blu-Ray authoring and visual effects. In addition, a solid understanding of Photoshop and Illustrator will come in handy. Some might want to opt to get a multimedia degree with their computer-related degrees. On the production side, it would be beneficial for IT professionals wanting to transition into film to take photography and cinematography classes.
With that said, if you’re a film-buff IT pro, your dream job just might be waiting for you. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics February report noted there was large job growth in the motion picture and sound recording industry. Now could be the time to jump into one of these careers:
The editor has one of the most important of all technical jobs in the film industry. The editor puts all the pieces together. He/she must first organize all data shot on a card or transfer it to a computer, then coordinate with the director/cinematographer, etc. in terms of how they want the film laid out. The editor then must put all the clips together, in addition to special effects (if required), and, depending on the film, may even have to create the special effects or title sequences.
What’s intriguing about the job of the editor is that it requires a vast knowledge of various editing programs such as Avid, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier and Sony Vegas; however, at the same time, the editor needs to be creative and artistic. In addition, the editor needs to know how to deal with the various formats, like HD, 2K and 4K, as well as a number of video codecs. Needless to say, the editor needs to be quite computer savvy in order to pull off the job.
DVD/Blu-Ray Authoring Engineer
A DVD/Blu-Ray authoring engineer has a similar role to that of the editor. He/she is required to be knowledgeable and proficient in various programs; in this case, usually Adobe Encore or Apple DVD Studio, as well as image programs such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. At this stage, the film is complete. However, what the author must do is create menus and insert the film, along with subtitles, commentaries, special features, etc., and make the film a fully interactive experience for the consumer.
They also have to have a keen attention to detail to ensure all the buttons work, the menus themselves are bug-free and the navigation is nice and clean. Much like the editor, the DVD/Blu-Ray author needs to understand various formats and how the authoring system takes the information and implements it into the DVD/Blu-Ray menu.
Last but not least, the engineer needs to have a technical understanding of the output of the DVD/Blu-Ray. In other words, they need to make sure the information can burn onto a DVD/Blu-Ray and in some cases, they have to do the physical burning with the facial design of the DVD/package as well.
There is an abundance of positions in the special/visual effects field for IT personnel. What’s interesting about visual effects is that it was the first department that utilized digital technology, and due to this fact, it is a field that continues to develop at a rapid rate. From creating CGI characters and artificial explosions to texturing, these effects are all added from the comfort of a computer.
Much like the two previous positions, the visual effects person needs to know an array of programs such as Adobe After Effects, Maya, Autodesk Combustion, Apple Shake, etc. Not only do you have to have a creative mindset and artistic background, but a visual effect person needs to understand how to get there.
The visual effects person is also required to understand mathematical algorithms. This is used to create motion and texture, from hair movement to the appearance of a soaked shirt on the live actor.
A newer technology that has been implemented in this field is that of motion capture technology, which is allowing the visual artist a less cumbersome time creating models. Instead, an actor or object is captured and transferred to a computer, where the model is then manipulated on screen.
The visual effects person also needs to understand how to get the effect to coexist with the live action segment. Overall, the visual artist is for the most proficient and artistic of the film techies.
A gaffer is one of the oldest IT positions in the film industry. Simply put, the gaffer is the lead electrician on set. But this position is growing with emerging technologies. The gaffer now is also in charge of making sure monitors, cameras, mics and wireless technology are working correctly.
Bottom line, if something is broken on set, they or their helpers (known as grips) are the ones required to fix it. In addition, the gaffer oftentimes is set to design the lighting plan for the director of photography.
Digital Imaging Technician
Unlike the gaffer, the digital imaging technician is a newer job in the movie industry. In fact, this job essentially was created with the birth of digital filmmaking. A digital imaging technician works very closely with the cinematographer.
This position’s purpose is to coordinate with the cinematographer to create workflow, oversee exposure, apply camera settings and to overall ensure that the best quality image is produced. In addition, the technician may also be the one managing and transferring image data. Needless to say, the digital imaging technician is a very important role thanks to the new era of digital filmmaking.
The above five positions in the film industry are vital to the filmmaking process. In a field where it’s essential to evolve and adapt to new technology, IT pros will continue to play a key role.
About the Author
Simon Mounsey graduated in 2006 from Benedictine University with a B.A. in communication arts and film studies. He has written for several publications covering the topics of travel, technology, business, sports and politics with specialties in film and music. Currently, he runs two blogs entitled "The Chicago FIlm Snob" and "Chicago Metal Head." You can find him on twitter at @chicagofilmsnob and @chicagometalhd.