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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

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Station 4—Lighting

• Hurlbut and his gaffer, John Guerra, handled the lighting station by lighting an actress and getting feedback from the group.
• Hurlbut discussed the downside of video village on traditional HD shoots where the cinematographer and director are typically away from the camera and action, making it less of an intimate shooting environment.
• Hurlbut likes to treat HD DSLRs like reversal film, and feels this practice brings the power back to the cinematographer, rather than the colorist.

Station 5—Sound

• Zaxcom rep Thomas Popp gave examples of the weaknesses of HD DSLRs’ thin-sounding onboard micro-phone and the perils of Auto Gain, which essentially lets the camera mix sound for you.
• Popp showed different sound options for HD DSLRs, the best being dual-system sound from high-end audio mixers like the Zaxcom Fusion 12 to the popular indie-budget tool, the Samson Zoom H4N.
• With professional separate audio recorders, Popp demonstrated different shotgun microphones such as the popular RØDE NTG-2, the Sennheiser 416, as well as wireless systems like the Sennheiser G3 system.

Station 5—The Key Grip

• For many of his HD DSLR projects, Hurlbut’s key grip, Dave Knudsen, was able to put the small cameras in places that no full-sized HD or 35mm film camera would fit.
• For an aerial shot, if they would have rented a helicopter and gyro-stabilized head, the cost for a one-day shoot would have been $17,000. Instead, Hurlbut, Knudsen and Darin Necessary rigged three cameras to a small Cessna plane, which cost approximately $700.
• The most valuable piece of equipment for Knudsen is a Really Right Stuff L-Plate, a quick-release plate that lets you position or mount the camera in a horizontal or vertical position.

Day 2

At the end of Day 1, we divided into four different groups and were handed a booklet. Inside the booklet was a short script of four scenes that we were instructed we’d be shooting the following day. The film would consist of a chase scene, a fight scene, an interior bedroom scene with an actress on the phone and a scene with a mob boss talking to her on the phone with her dead boyfriend in the trunk of a car. For the shoot, each group had at least six cameras at our own dis-posal, as well as every lens imaginable, ranging from Canon DSLR lenses to Zeiss CP.2 and Master Primes to Dalsa 4K prime lenses. We would also have camera sliders, handheld rigs and a J.L. Fisher dolly to use.

Almost immediately, we all realized there’s no better learning experience than picking up a camera and shooting real scenes with a crew and actors. No book (or blog) can teach you this. Being able to shoot on a set in which a professional gaffer using 18K HMIs pounding through windows was a great gift, as well as having Elite Team members on hand to answer any questions, i.e., how much ND should I use, which camera rig is appropriate, etc. Speaking for all attendees, the shooting aspect was truly exhilarating.

After each scene, we would run our CF cards to on-site editors who would ingest our footage to Adobe CS5 Premiere Pro and then quickly assemble a rough cut in native H.264. At the end of the day, each group was led into LightIron Digital’s screening room in which Hurlbut and colorist Ian Vertovec projected our footage on a 25-foot screen and performed a real-time color correction on a Quantel Pablo. Vertovec balanced color temperatures of scenes and used Power Windows to take down highlights and balance skin tones. In terms of dealing with the cameras in post, the only thing Hurlbut feels is an uphill battle is moiré because of the HD DSLR line skipping.

The 40 attendees weren’t the only ones who were encouraged by the first annual Hurlbut Visuals HDSLR Bootcamp. “That second day was one of the most inspiring days I’ve had as a filmmaker,” recounts Hurlbut. “Just seeing people come together with a positive, can-do attitude. It was truly infectious.”

To get more information about the HDSLR Bootcamp, visit www.hdslrbootcamp.com. You also can visit www.hurlbutvisuals.com. for more information on shooting with HD DSLRs.


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