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Friday, 05 November 2010 21:54

Shane Hurlbut’s HDSLR Boot Camp

Written by  James Thompson
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High-end digital content just took a major leap: Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, ASC is pushing the envelope of capturing HDSLR images with an intense two-day “Boot Camp” to inspire filmmakers wanting to perfect their craft while respecting ecological footprints.

After studying and developing content using Canon DSLR Cameras, Hurlbut saw how the format can present opportunities to all filmmakers. He now thinks the industry’s movement toward HDSLR is an “inspiring” global revolution. “For me, it’s putting the power back in the hands of the artist,” he said. “It’s given me an advantage when we’re in that time period when money matters. We just had that financial crises when the whole world almost came crashing down. When are we going to get it?”

Filmmakers from as far away as Africa, Iceland and Europe trekked to Alternative Rentals in Los Angeles, Calif. to receive specialized training from Hurlbut and his elite team, a group of experts who have worked with the DP on commercials and short films. The Team helped to design the HDSLR workflow system to shoot Act of Valor, a feature about Navy SEALS for Bandito Brothers and Legendary Pictures.

Day One started with breakfast and a screening-room gathering before attendees split into six groups. In the Menu group, Instructor Mike Svitak started from scratch by disabling the cameras’ enable menus. Custom menus were developed by Hurlbut and the Team, and Svitak gave predetermined menu choices to obtain certain looks using various lenses. One advantage of the Canon 5D camera is the size of its sensor –– the way it captures images sets it apart from other HD cameras. “You really have to take control of the camera and own your own images,” said Svitak. “That goes as far as setting your own picture styles [and] bending the curve.”

For the Camera Rigs, Focus Motors and Video Village session, Darin Necessary and Bodie Orman showed how to set up specific rigs, use support equipment and create a video village. Marc Margulies and Derek Edwards discussed various lens possibilities and taught attendees how to build a remote follow-focus system that works with still and cinema-style lenses, indicating that the real challenge is getting high-quality footage in clear focus. Margulies and Edwards also discussed using cinema-style lenses to open up range and color, adding that a high-end cinema lens gives an extra three stops and “can hold things that you can’t hold with a still lens.” They noted that still lenses are acceptable if your budget is limited or if you’re shooting for TV or the Internet, and you don’t plan to project on a 60-foot screen.

Thomas Popp offered great advice on recording audio with the Canon cameras. He handed out wind covers to put over the camera mics and demonstrated different recording methods. Jake Burack and Julien Lasseur discussed all aspects of Media Management, including formatting hard drives, labeling cameras, and downloading and logging footage. And Dave Knudsen shared terrific info about rigging different camera setups. He raved about the opportunities the Canon SLR offers via its light weight and size: “The thing about the 5D is it makes everyone a great rigger. There is something about the sensor that is magical.”

On Day Two, everyone worked on location in various production positions. Scenes included a walk-and-talk sequence in a warehouse; a bedroom setup for glamour shots; exterior dialogue; and confrontation and chase scenes through alleyways and warehouses. It was fast paced and required attendees to think on their toes, and Hurlbut and his Team were there to troubleshoot and provide excellent pointers.

Several equipment manufacturers and suppliers provided the tools to help capture exceptional shots. Attendees could strap on a Steadicam; create smooth camera moves on a J.L. Fisher dolly; simulate chase scenes wearing Doggicam Systems head gear; experience the superb quality of a Zeiss lens; create soft glamour lighting with a Kino Flo; and set up grip equipment from a Turnkey HD van. “I don’t think there was a single piece of technology related to HDSLR that wasn’t there and available for you to put your hands on and use,” said Justin Alpern, an independent filmmaker. “Shooting for an entire day on set with a team and shooting all the various scenarios that we shot with all the various rigging, it’s impossible to not become a better filmmaker.” For Thomas Dadourian, a UCSD student, the highlight of the Boot Camp was shooting at f-stop 5.6. “I had been shooting everything on whatever the lowest aperture my lens could handle and [then] lighting from there,” said Dadourian. “But at 5.6 you get a completely different, cleaner picture.”

To close the Boot Camp, Hurlbut projected the footage everyone shot on a 25-foot screen at Alternative Rentals Digital Cinema. This verified the power of HDSLR filming and solidified the participants’ newfound knowledge of this emerging technology. “I’m not saying shooting in 5D is the end of film,” said Hurlbut. “It’s just another brush.”

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