Two years ago, if you were to have asked cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, ASC, if he planned to open a camera rental house in Los Angeles, he probably would have laughed out loud. Nonetheless, it’s exactly what he has done. So why would a celebrated cinematographer with more than 20 films under his belt, including Terminator Salvation, We Are Marshall and Drumline, start a rental business, one of the most trying and stressful industries in existence? According to Hurlbut, it was a natural extension of his passion to share his knowledge of DSLR filmmaking with the world.
From the time the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was introduced to the market, Hurlbut became one of the pioneers of DSLR filmmaking. While shooting with this format is fraught with many challenges, the DP feels the single largest challenge has been getting access to all the accessories required for transforming a still camera into a cinema rig. He’s referring to the myriad of support gear, of course. This includes, but isn’t limited to, lenses, shoulder rigs, car mounts, helmet cams, matte boxes, filters, follow-focuses and 15mm rod systems. Just like a clock, if one cog is off or one wheel is missing, it’s not a clock, it’s just a box of parts.
Hurlbut’s idea of a rental house was birthed by necessity. While prepping for his DSLR shoots, Hurlbut and his camera assistant, Mike Svitak, never were able to find one rental house that had everything in stock. So Hurlbut began buying everything he needed to ensure they had it when they needed it. Needless to say, the gear began to stack up quickly. Hurlbut and Svitak came up with the idea for the company while driving to Mexicali to film the big shootout sequence for Act of Valor, one of the first features to be shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark IIs. By this time, Hurlbut and Svitak had already amassed 15 camera bodies and a truckload of support gear. With that in mind, they felt a small boutique rental division made total sense.
Although the idea of having his own rental house was appealing, Hurlbut wasn’t interested in merely renting out camera bodies with a few accessories. What he really wanted to offer people was a complete camera system. He wanted to give people the very camera system he had perfected over several months of shooting on three features, more than a hundred commercials and several short films.
“The DSLR is a very quirky device, and you have to understand how to not show the cons of the format and really bring out the pros, and that’s what our system does,” says Hurlbut.
THE RISE OF HURLBUT VISUALS
In an effort to give back to the film community, Hurlbut began chronicling his 5D exploits by writing about them. So, in late October 2009, he and his wife and business partner, Lydia Hurlbut, began telling his story through weekly blog posts, in which Hurlbut shares his experiences and shortcuts, and tirelessly speaks as an ambassador for DSLR filmmaking. Since that time, Hurlbut has been imparting his wisdom to all who would listen free of charge. The HurlBlog grew, attracting a global audience. As their readership increased, so did the demand for Hurlbut to formalize this education.
After several months, the blog garnered a cult following of professionals and enthusiasts who demanded more. People wanted Hurlbut in the flesh, and thus Hurlbut Visuals HDSLR Boot Camp was born. The boot camp was the most intensive, hands-on course ever, where Hurlbut and his Elite Team crewmembers shared what they have learned firsthand in the field.