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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hi-Tech Studio: Boot Camp

Shane Hurlbut, ASC, and his Elite Team lead the HD DSLR revolution into battle




More and more filmmakers are selling their camcorders and replacing them with smaller, less expensive HD DSLRs, which is having a huge impact on both independent production and select studio work. Now, with the addition of professional still photographers such as Vincent Laforet and Chase Jarvis, who are becoming fully immersed in filmmaking, the HD DSLR revolution is well underway. As you ponder your own foray into motion work, most pros have discovered that there’s a substantial learning curve. Shooting, editing and processing full-motion HD video isn’t just like still work with 24 frames per second. If you’re looking to get up to speed fast, there are some excellent programs, and one that’s getting a lot of attention is run by Shane Hurlbut, ASC.

With more than 15 feature films under his belt, including hit films such as Drumline, We Are Marshall and Terminator: Salvation, cinematogra-pher Hurlbut has become one of the leading authorities on HD DSLR filmmaking. Having recently com-pleted work on Act of Valor—the first big feature to be shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark IIs—Hurlbut believes that HD DSLRs are the greatest thing to happen to the production world since film. I recently attended Hurlbut Visuals HD DSLR Bootcamp—a two-day intensive workshop in working with the HD DSLR camera systems on a more professional level.

Day 1

Like its namesake, the first day, which took place on August 28–29 in Culver City, was structured similarly to an army boot camp. Instead of sitting in a theater and being given presentations, each group attended one of six stations (rotating every hour), ran by Hurlbut and members of his Elite Team. Here are some of the main points discussed and demonstrated at each station.

Station 1—Menus

• Conducted by camera assistant Mike Svitak, Station 1 focused on Canon HD DSLR menu systems. According to Svitak, “You have to tell the camera what to do, not the other way around.”
• Subjects that were discussed included manual white balance, shortcut buttons, Picture Styles and the 1/50 shutter speed.
• Because of the system’s 8-bit compressed color space, it’s best to obtain a neutral look and to turn off all of your automatic settings.

Station 2—Rigs And Follow-Focus

• Rigging pros Darin Necessary and Bodie Orman demonstrated various handheld rigs and follow-focus devices that would help a shooter achieve critical focus on the fly
• One impressive configuration displayed was the Helmetcam, used to great effect on Act of Valor, where it functioned as a soldier’s P.O.V. in battle. The rig consisted of a Canon EOS 5D Mark II mounted to a helmet, but also had a wireless Bartech Follow Focus, a wireless monitor and motor.
• The demonstration of a Steadicam Flyer and Pilot, a J.L. Fisher Model 23 dolly and a Jimmy Jib crane.

Station 3—Lenses

• First ACs Marc Margulies and Derek Edwards dispelled the various myths about working with HD DSLR lenses and showed us many different options.
• Regarding staffing, the first AC position is probably the most important crewmember, and Edwards said he would sacrifice a gaffer before a focus puller due to the camera’s strength in working in low light.
• The camera assistants both feel that HD DSLR lenses perform best at an aperture of ƒ/5.6 and that shooting somewhere between an ƒ/4 and ƒ/8 offers optimal results.

 

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