What does a Data Capture Technical Director do?
Data Capture Technical Directors (TDs) go onto a film or TV set to collect information about the live-action footage that the teams in the VFX studio need to add visual effects to.
They take photographs of the set and the way the cameras are positioned. They “capture data” about the type of lens being used, its focal length, filters, focus and color temperature. They also record the camera height, camera mount and distance between the camera and actor, along with other details. They also take photos of surfaces so that the textures can be recreated digitally later on.
All this information is necessary so the exact live action scene can be recreated digitally later on, and so the VFX can be incorporated in a believable way.
Data Capture TDs use a variety of tools to capture data, including cameras and a ‘total station’ which electronically measures horizontal and vertical angles and distances.
They upload, log and backup all data, before sending it on to the relevant members of the VFX company on a daily basis.
Data Capture TDs tend to be employed by VFX companies or studios rather than working as freelancers.
What's a Data Capture Technical Director good at?
Be methodical in your work, pay close attention to detail, have strong problem-solving skills
Technical knowledge of cameras
Have an in-depth understanding of all motion picture equipment, cameras, lenses, monitors and lights
Understand the VFX pipeline
Know the process through which visual effects are created
Use the data sharing application FileMaker Pro. Be able to operate and maintain your data collecting equipment yourself
Work quickly and accurately on set so that the physical production can run smoothly. Organize and prioritize your tasks
Who does a Data Capture Technical Director work with?
Data Capture TDs work with Camera Trainees and Camera Operators on set to gather data about the cameras, camera shots and lenses. They also work with Script Supervisors to the same end.
Data Capture TDs work with the VFX Supervisor and Motion Capture Technicians on set to ensure that the sets and actors have tracking markers placed on them in the necessary way so that the footage can be used by the Motion Capture Technicians and Roto Artists.
They also need to communicate with the various VFX Artists and Compositors who will be using the information that they have provided.
How do I become a Data Capture Technical Director?
Employers tend to want you to have a couple or more years’ experience working either on sets or in VFX before taking you on as a Data Capture TD. As such, one career path is to work in the camera department in the film and TV drama industries. This will give you good knowledge of cameras so you can more accurately collect camera data as a Capture TD. It also gives you on-set experience. Another route is to first work for a VFX company as a Motion Capture Technician. That is an entry level role in the VFX industry. It gives on-set experience and also involves working with Data Capture TDs to place tracking markers on actors or parts of the set.
Here are some tips:
Get a degree: It is not essential to have a degree in order to become a Data Capture TD. It is important to understand photography and cameras; both the DSLR and film varieties. Alternatively, you can take a degree in computer graphics, computer science, computer animation or VFX-related subjects.
Educational requirements: You can take courses in art, art and design, graphic design or communication, computer or computing science, and math.
Get an internship: Internships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. You might want to enter the VFX industry through an apprenticeship as an Assistant Technical Director.
Build a portfolio: Get as much experience as you can in photography, both still and moving images. Create a stills photography portfolio that you can show to admissions personnel or employers. Go to build your VFX portfolio to learn how.
For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.
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