Going To Battle

Explosions, beautiful bikini-clad girls, yachts and Navy SEALs. What else could a man want? If you’re the DP, it starts with an equipment list to turn these elements into exciting footage. Shane Hurlbut, ASC, a native of Ithaca, N.Y., is helping to lead the charge into the convergence of the still- and video-camera worlds. For his latest project, his weapon of choice is the Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera, and he takes it where few movie cameras would dare venture. Hurlbut and his crew are among the first to use this hybrid camera for a studio motion picture, The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday (working title), which is due for release in September 2010.

Hurlbut has worked with almost every type of image-capture device, starting with an 8mm camera his father gave him to document a family vacation to Yosemite National Park. After graduating from Emerson College as a film and television major, he moved to Hollywood and landed a job at Keylite working with grip equipment. A producer who was renting from the company asked him to work on the crew for a horror film called Phantasm II as the grip truck driver. Seven years and many steps later, Hurlbut became a cinematographer.

He has since filled his résumé with an impressive list of projects, ranging from The Adventures of Seinfeld & Superman advertisements for American Express shot in MiniDV with a Canon XL1, to the films We Are Marshall, Swing Vote, Into the Blue and Terminator Salvation, where in order to achieve the desired postapocalyptic world, he utilized the OZ process from Technicolor, which leaves three times the silver on the negative during development, thus, creating intense desaturation along with deep blacks and blown-out highlights.

Hurlbut met with HDVideoPro to discuss how he’s turning the Canon EOS 5D Mark II into a high-tech moviemaking machine.

DP Shane Hurlbut, ASC (pictured at far right), had an arsenal of 5D Mark IIs outfitted with different lenses and accessories, depending on the shot.

HDVideoPro: Why did you decide to shoot your latest movie with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II?

Shane Hurlbut: The decision to shoot with the 5D was threefold. We knew we would have to keep our crew size small to take advantage of the assets that the Navy was providing us. I can move with a nine-camera package with sticks and heads in about 12 cases. The second reason was the concept of putting the audience into the eyes of the Navy SEALs. We thought the helmet cam would be the best way to do this, but we didn’t want to be limited to a lipstick camera, so we engineered a helmet cam that could house the Canon 5D. It puts the viewer in the action. The third reason was to be able to pull it off with shifting dates and schedule changes as dictated by the Navy and to stay on budget.

HDVideoPro: Can you describe a scene that illustrates how you put the camera into the action?

Hurlbut: The first sequence of the film that we did was a takeover of a yacht in the open seas off of Key West. The SEALs storm the yacht with two HH-60 choppers, two Mark V high-speed boats and two high-speed ribbed Zodiacs. Imagine the logistics to pull this off. We did it four times from 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. We had cameras in choppers, helmet cams with SEALs fast-roping out of a helicopter, underwater cameras, cameras inside and outside of the Mark Vs, cameras on the Zodiacs and cameras on the yacht as they storm it. One morning, we had 15 crewmembers, six cameras and four operators. I think this demonstrates the power of this platform.