What are Dailies?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Dailies are raw film footage which is collected after a day of filming for viewing by the crew and sometimes the cast of a film or television show. They perform a number of important functions, and viewing them can be a festive occasion, especially after filming an intense or especially tricky scene. Typically, they're are not available to members of the general public, for a wide variety of reasons, not least of which is the sheer volume of footage involved.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Dailies are also sometimes called rush films or rushes, in a reference to the speed at which they are produced. To make them, film is developed, synced with the sound, and then quickly printed to film so that it can be viewed. Many modern film and television sets prefer dailies in digitized form, but film versions are still used, especially on big-budget pictures.

For the crew, the dailies offer a chance to check on the basic technical details of the filming, ensuring that scenes look right, and that film wasn't damaged or distorted. The director and members of the artistic team may check them to see if they like the way in which scenes are playing, and to see how things look on film, as opposed to in real life. If footage needs to be shot again, the set should still be fully assembled, thanks to the fact that it was just used, so dailies save money by eliminating costly returns to previous sets and locations.

Some actors also like to check the rushes to see how they are looking, especially when they play with new techniques and looks. It can be tricky to know how something will look on film until the scene is shot and printed, so actors in a sense fly blind on the set, making a periodic glance at the dailies important.

Because this footage is raw and unedited, they can look rough and choppy. For example, special effects have not been added yet, so a scene may look incomplete or very strange, and chunks may be missing if they were shot by a different film unit. They may also jump around chronologically, which can be confusing for people who are accustomed to looking at finished pieces.

Because producing dailies is expensive and watching them is time-consuming, a director typically indicates whether or not a scene should be kept after it is filmed. In this instance, after yelling “cut” to indicate that the cameras should stop rolling, the director will add “print,” indicating that he or she wants to see the footage in the dailies.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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