Digi-Tech Q&A with Luke Hall

This Q&A series is all about shining a spotlight on people in the industry. The goal is to learn about them and share their insights with you. There are many talented people in various markets around the world, and hopefully this series will help you get to know them better.

Q: Who are you, where are you based and what type of jobs do you work?

I'm Luke Hall, a Denver based Digi Tech operating under the business name Azmth7 (az·i·muth·7). Most of my work keeps me traveling, as my start to teching was in remote location work. Commercial jobs have taken me into the backcountry of the Arctic circle and to overnights in the alpine. But that has also grown into more local work both on location and in studio, teching for everything from advertising clients to celebrity editorial. I’ve been very fortunate to have a wide spread of work and locations. Forever thankful for the variety.

Q: How did you become a Digital-Tech and how long have you done it?

I more or less fell into this position; a little by accident and a little on purpose. I had a 7 season long career in the outdoor guiding and active travel industry before finding my way into photography. One of the guide services I worked for was hired out by my photo mentor (Jay Kolsch) to help on a production in Rocky Mountain National Park. To keep a long story short, he then pulled me into his crew as an assistant for a year or two, and when his digi started another role, I stepped into that gap on our team. That was back in early 2019 when I officially started teching and have since built everything else from there.

Q: What do you like most about your work; what do you like least?

        It really is all about the people I get to work with. Good teams have kept me in this, and if it wasn't for them, some of the tougher conditions, long weeks, and heavy lifts would have felt a lot worse. We do a decent amount of type 2 fun on our location jobs, but my go to teams make it worth it every time. I feel really grateful that I've found some crews to have consistent work with, because it seems more and more common now that producers pull from a random list and less from consistent crews. I also love being in the room with people who really have found their creative voice and stride. Those processes are always fun to watch happen.

        I think something I like least about the job is the necessary bookkeeping and accounting. All I can say is find a good bookkeeper if you feel the same. Game changer.

Q: What do you feel is important to learn for anyone starting out or what do you wish you knew when starting?

When I first started out, I wish I had connected with the local community of other techs sooner. Group knowledge is invaluable for someone starting out. It can be tricky not to come off as competition, and there's a lot of humility that should come into play there, but the lack of resources for technical based workflows means the people further along are some of the best resources available. After all, the phase one certification is less about technical know-how and workflow and more about poorly marketing their product (There I said it). I owe a lot of my skill set as a tech to the people I called when things were less than perfect on set, or when brands sent incoherent metadata guidelines. Learning that it's a constant act of translating what is being said into what can be done with our tools is a soft skill needed for any tech working commercially. Being able to gently guide the conversation into what you know is needed while also keeping the AD and CD happy (even when they are throwing wild ideas your way for keywording). And for those people starting out who are reading this, making friends in the industry has only helped me and the other local guys here in Denver as we share some jobs we can't take due to conflicting schedules. The next space to tap into would be certain discord channels, or other community forums that are out there. Lastly, keep curious, keep tinkering, and get your workflow dialed. Because no matter how dialed you feel it is, curveballs are inevitable with this job.

Q: What’s one item in your kit you can recommend to everyone?

        I know this isn't technical, but phone chargers and a speaker. As long as you're executing your role as a tech, it's small things like this that can make you new friends who are decision makers. Those seemingly unimportant interactions of service go a long way with the right people. Also, open up a fancy chocolate bar on the cart after lunch. Leave out a pack of gum next to the mouse and connect with the crews. As much as this is a hard skills job, the soft skills go a long way in getting hired again and again.

        On a technical side for studio days, I'd recommend the app Displays from Jibapps. It's newer to my arsenal but the picture in picture mode, and the resolution features make remote monitors 1000x easier to manage on studio days. It's the first app I've tested with these features, but to date, it's been solid. For location work, a good rain kit is always needed. Whether that's oversized plastic bags/backpacking rain covers or articulating-armed umbrellas. Because of these items, I've been able to keep tethers up in a torrential downpour to keep the shoot going.

Q: What piece of equipment would you like to never see on set again?

Lacie HDDs. Watching the industry slowly adopt SSDs for delivery drives brought the stress levels down on days when EOD delivery is needed.

Q: If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I think I'd like to see more open conversations around best practice, both technical skills and business norms. (*Tips hat to Faini) There's literally always something to learn about this job, as things are ever evolving. I feel like I fell into an older version of the industry, meaning I have solid mentors, and a consistent crew. The tradesman type of relationship and knowledge that comes with this is invaluable. I'm not seeing this as much any more, and due to that, passing knowledge downstream and bringing those up that want the job is critical to the success of sets everywhere. Rising tides raise all ships.

Q: What was your best day on set?

I have a lot to be thankful for in the work I've been able to do. There's honestly too many stories to pick a single memory, but one of the better days on set was in the Alaska far north, as we ripped snow machines three hours out of the backcountry across a section of sea ice, only to catch the aurora later that night.

Q: How do you explain what you do for work to family/strangers?

I tell them I'm a certified forklift operator and let them make up the rest.

Luke Hall




You can read others in the Q&A series HERE