Friday, September 24, 2010

Shane Hurlbut

Ever see the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever? Jimmy Dean plays a reclusive billionaire (see also: Howard Hughes) who is rescued by Bond. Watching Shane Hurlbut at the recent Canon Expo NY, I couldn't help but be reminded of the Jimmy Dean character. Loud, in your face, cracking jokes while dashing about the stage, if they decide to remake the movie they should definitely get Shane to play the billionaire role.

But seriously, Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut (Into the Blue, Terminsator Salvaltion) talked at the Expo about film making with the Canon 5D Mk II. He had recently completed principle photography on Act of Valor - a film centered around the US Navy SEALs - where the Canon 5D was used extensively for action shots, low light and under-the-radar shooting.

How He Got Started
In January 2009 I went to an ASC function at Sammy’s Camera, and there were a lot of my peers around, checking this camera out, and I put this thing in my hand, and I saw the future. I saw the future of the movie business and I saw change. That is one scary-ass word. Change.
Guerilla Filmmaking
We took eight cameras, flew them in our overhead bin space, landed and walked through customs, just like that. “Hey, how ya doing?” “How’s it going?” Voom, out the door! No custom papers, no sheet to tell me what’s there and what’s not, just walk straight through, we were photographers.

We wanted to take advantage of this market that had all these mopeds and bicycles and all this stuff, and have the advantage of 15,000 extras, and not pay a cent.
Low Light Performance
I lit [a street] with two people. The Art Department hung a string of bulbs. I used all practical lights. I used three keno flows and two 1200 Pars to light this five block exterior. [...] What I find about this camera is it’s about taking light away, and adding accents. If this was film, I would have had to intensify all those lights because they wouldn’t have read. I would have had to add some kind of ambiance because it would have never seen into the shadow. And it would have taken me about four or five days with pre-rig crew. What I’m doing now is I’m showing up on the day and I’m sending one electrician around to black wrap stuff.

Manicuring and shaping the light is what I found is the recipe for success.

You can’t compare this camera to like the ISO of film. If film is 500, people say "why don’t you just take film and push it a stop? What would that look like?" – crap. "Well, what if you pushed it two stops?" – crap.

You’ve got to understand, I shot this sequence at a 4. The light [here] is a .7. That doesn’t compute with any light meter that I know. So you can’t compare that to film. The only thing you can compare to film is side-by-side, this s$%^ looks good next to it.

You can do a lot of stuff to put cameras on the ground [...] just give me a hammer and a stake. You can drive over these things, they’re only five inches tall. We’ve had to do a lot of stuff in the film business to get you to drive over film cameras. Not doing that anymore. You just put the camera down and drive over it.

I was on a job with a very limited budget, and I had to be able to get a helicopter shot. I needed scope. The helicopter bid came in at about $20,000, I didn’t have that. This cost me $700. It's a Cessna with a student pilot that needed his hours. That guy scared the s&$% out of me. I rigged three cameras; I’ve got a 24mm straight down, and a 50mm at a 15 degree tilt and a 35mm at 5 degree tilt.
Rolling Shutter
It doesn’t exist. If you have very qualified operators you’re going to be moving that thing in a way that [won't cause a problem.] The only rolling shutter we had on the whole picture, after exposing the equivalent of 1.6 million feet of film, was when the M-4 rifle fired a foot and a half from my face. When the muzzle flash hit the sensor only read a third of the frame. And there was a black band across the bottom. So what I did was I went down to 1/30th of a second made that light area bigger, and the black band smaller and then we went in post and actually painted it out.
The Future
If I have anything to do with this, it is all going to change. It is my mission. This camera technology is the greenest thing out there. I have two kids; I want them to have a planet after I leave it. It recycles all it’s cards, it uses two thirds less light. It uses less fuel, less power, less everything, except creative expression.

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