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Big Winners: The SmallHD Story

By Julien Lasseur

While I was working at Hurlbut Visuals, Lydia came up with the idea of interviewing our sponsors for the blog and gave me the opportunity to direct those spots, as it was my dream to direct.

Our vision was to tell the story of the people who create the tools that we use to tell our own stories. So the quest began! I stumbled across the very unique story of two of our sponsors, Wes Phillips and Dale Backus from SmallHD. During our discussions of how we were going to conduct the interview, being that they were located all the way out in North Carolina, I heard the incredible story of how they succeeded in winning the legendary “Doritos: Crash The Superbowl Contest” not once… but twice and then how they used their earnings to fund the growth of SmallHD! Wow… as soon as Wes told me the whole story, I called Lydia and said, “We gotta make a documentary about this!” and she was all in.

A couple of months after my discussion with Wes, I found myself flying to North Carolina with a 5DMkII, a 24-70mm l series, a 70-200mm l series, some batteries, cards… and that was it! Managing the very small budget I had to work with, the funds that SmallHD provided went towards a motel, airfare, and a rental car.

Barrett, Wes’ brother and also the head of video marketing for SmallHD, along with Tim, another SmallHD employee, served as my entire crew. Only using one joker light with a chimera and a Lowell pro light, we scrounged up what gear SmallHD had and began interviewing everyone from the guys who worked in the shop to Wes and Barrett’s father, who is now working for the company.

If there is anything I took away from this experience, it was that everyone at SmallHD really loved working there. It was like being welcomed by this big family that is striving to constantly innovate and push their products to the next level. With indie filmmaking, your team and your support is absolutely crucial and SmallHD opened their doors and made the filmmaking process into something very enjoyable. Even the interview subjects had to be substitute gaffers. If anything can be said about indie filmmaking, it is that if you have the support of people like SmallHD and Hurlbut Visuals, you can tell great stories.
 

 
SmallHD
Wes Phillips – CEO
Dale Backus – CTO
Reed Phillips – Business Development/Dad
Barrett Phillips – Director of Creative Management
Nick Dimondi – Friend and Collaborator
Laura Phillips – Former Customer Support/Wes’ Wife

Produced, Directed and Photographed by Julien Lasseur
Executive Producers: Shane Hurlbut and Lydia Hurlbut
Editor, VFX Director and Sound Mixer: Matthew Macar
Camera Assistant and Gaffer: Barrett Phillips
Camera Assistant, Boom Op and Grip: Tim Cheek
Music: Quantic

Author: Julien Lasseur

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69 Comments

  1. Wow, that was terrific. What a great, inspiring story! Thanks for telling it!

    Post a Reply
    • Stas,
      You are welcome and we appreciate your taking the time to comment.

      Post a Reply
    • Amazing and inspiring story! This just goes to show where true passion, friendship, and motivation can take you!

      Thanks for sharing!

      P.s. I had no idea they made that 2010 Doritos commercial. I still remember dying laughing when I saw it. Good stuff. :D

      Post a Reply
  2. Thank you lydia hurlbut i needed that story,going through some tough time a that interview was just what i needed to here!

    Post a Reply
    • Marcos,
      I am glad the story felt uplifting and inspiring. When we hit roadblocks in life, there is nothing like a great against all odds story to help.
      I hope your tough time is behind you now.

      Post a Reply
    • Marcos,
      You are welcome. I hope your tough time has passed. Glad the story helped to keep you inspired.

      Post a Reply
  3. That was very interesting and very inspiring. A really good watch!

    Post a Reply
    • Stu,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It means a lot.

      Post a Reply
  4. I would have loved to see pictures of the ’12’ prototype that you sold on ebay while the story was being told. You must have some documentation of it. Otherwise awesome documentary. I’m a smallHD owner myself. Love it.

    Post a Reply
    • JK,
      Thanks for the suggestion and feedback. Glad you love your SmallHD gear!

      Post a Reply
  5. A lot of learning from these interviews. Thanks

    Post a Reply
    • Amit Setia, I am so glad you like them. I think Julien did a wonderful job.

      Post a Reply
  6. Ohhh Thats was Great. Thanks Shane and Family. Just what I needed

    Post a Reply
    • Blesson,
      So glad the story brightened your day. Thanks for taking the time to give us feedback.

      Post a Reply
  7. “… being that they were located all the way out in North Carolina…”

    Wow, don’t you just love it how some Californias are actually discovering that there are like actual people living in actual far away American federal states, besides California? [This was meant as a joke, so lighten up, okay.]

    Post a Reply
    • We wish you well and thank-you for your feedback on the documentary.

      Post a Reply
  8. Good story, I love it. It’s inspiring. I love my SmallHD monitors and had no idea how the company became what it is today.

    About the documentary itself: Images are great. Positive criticism: work the sound a little better. Levels aren’t always constant, weirdly panned, and glitches are audible on several cuts.

    I agree with JK. I would have loved to see images of the earlier prototype sold on eBay. That would have made an awesome documentary even awesomer. ;)

    Post a Reply
    • Stephanie,
      Thank-you for your positive criticism. It helps our team young, talented team grow.

      Post a Reply
  9. What an awesome story! I had no clue you guys were behind those Doritos spots. I’m a big fan of SmallHD…just got my hands on the new AC7 with SDI and I love it! Great job with the doc.

    Post a Reply
    • Danny,
      We appreciate your taking the time to comment. Thanks.

      Post a Reply
    • Joshua,
      Thank-you for your kind words and feedback.

      Post a Reply
  10. Wow, not quite sure why so much of the BG was out of focus in the interviews, but I got a large dose of headache out of it. The Super Bowl footage was all chopped up, why? Finally, why were the Doritos commercial now shown at all? It would be nice to know what the subjects of the interview were talking about for minutes on end. Was reminded again never to use lavalier mics. Otherwise, great stuff. Kudos to the SmallHD team and their latest onslaught of amazing monitor products.

    Post a Reply
    • Kaspar,
      We appreciate your taking the time to give constructive feedback on both the visuals and story. The team that shot this are young, full of talent and gaining expertise.

      Post a Reply
    • I actually thought the shallow focus to be well-crafted. It puts the subject(s) at the forefront. If you do try to look at the background, it *does* seem to be a bit of a shambles in some spots (kids’ tricycles, unfinished walls, who-knows-what hanging from the ceiling – or is that the ceiling falling apart?)- maybe Julien was being kind?

      The adverts themselves were not the story. As curious as I was about them, I think Matthew did an awesome editing job (between he and Julien, they made a 1-camera shoot look like it was shot on 2 or 3!) I’m sure it’s a rights issue, anyway. You can always look them up online.

      Post a Reply
  11. Awsome story, enjoyed it a lot. Now I even have more respect for my favorite DP6 monitor!
    Keep it up!
    Amsterdam, Holland

    Post a Reply
    • Rakesh,
      I agree with you that it is great to know the story behind the gear. It gives a greater appreciation each time you use the monitor. Thank-you so much for your support.

      Post a Reply
  12. Love the story. The only thing I didn’t like was the way they were mic’d. The lav mic on the blue-shirted speaker was very distracting.

    But terrific story, lovingly told. Did not feel like 20 minutes at all!

    Post a Reply
    • Greg,
      Thank-you for your honest feedback- well noted! So glad you liked the story.

      Post a Reply
  13. Thanks for sharing a great story.

    Post a Reply
  14. Bringing a group of talent together like yours is exactly what it takes. One with an idea, another with drive, and each with an amount of talent to make it happen. I own one of your monitors and have recommended your products to close friends because they work. I’ve seen them knocked around more than once while dollying thru a doorway and keep going thru all the elements during many twelve hour days.
    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s inspiring to see dreams come true.

    Post a Reply
    • Michael Tackett, it is absolutely true, thank you so much for the comment

      Post a Reply
  15. Great work! It was a great story to tell and it was told very well! Thanks for taking the time to make this mini-doc. It is great to gain a bit more insight as to how SmallHD has come about, especially with all the great products they are making. I’m very thankful thy exist and the DP6 is a huge asset to have as part of my kit! Thanks Hurlbut Visuals and SmallHD!

    Post a Reply
      • You’re welcome! Thanks for taking the time to reply to so many comments as well. All the best.

        Post a Reply
  16. Inspiring story guys! Well shot! keep up the good work.

    Love these monitors!

    Post a Reply
    • John,
      Julien is off shooting but I know your feedback means the world to him. I will be sure to pass it on. Thanks for taking the time to watch the documentary and comment.

      Post a Reply
  17. That is quite a story, and its been well told in this documentary. What comes across is the strong bond of this tight knit group. The determination and passion is apparent. But what is revealed is that they come by this honestly. Their creativity is hard wired in their makeup. And dad giving them the incubator to develop certainly helps.

    Post a Reply
    • Gerry Fraiberg, I agree, what an incredible story. When Julien first showed it to me I cried because of how honest and passionate these innovative filmmakers were.

      Post a Reply
  18. How can this be true? Just goes to show, real talent, intelligence and hard work can not be held down. I am as amazed by this story as I am by my DP-6! And the doc really held my interest. Well done!

    Post a Reply
    • Jay Casmirri, I cannot thank you enough for your kind words. I think Julien our director/cameraman really did an incredible job. I will pass this onto him

      Post a Reply
  19. Now I want to take apart our DP1 and see if I can see the band saw cut on the board. That was hilarious and scary at the same time, cutting boards down free hand in the back yard with a band saw.
    Loved the story, I would love to see the ads, and the original monitor sold on ebay.

    Post a Reply
    • Larry, ha ha, I know its crazy. Me too. We asked for all that but they did not have the archives.

      Post a Reply
  20. Great piece. Oddly enough I live in Raleigh…AND have pre-ordered one of their new monitors (which has yet to be completed). Great story. One gripe… It doesn’t take much effort to hide a mic. Seing a mic dangling from a shirt is just so distracting and says… amateur (which clearly this is NOT), So… just hide the darn thing. Companies like Countryman actually design some mics to be worn under clothing… or use a shotgun. Just my 2 cents worth, but what do I know…. I’ve never won a Doritos contest!

    Post a Reply
    • Frank Smith, ha ha, I will pass that note onto Julien who was the DP, Director, sound recordist and 1st AC. I think the guy did an amazing job pulling this story together on a shoestring

      Post a Reply
  21. very inspiring.. this give me a different ways to look at my two boys

    Post a Reply
    • Sonny f,
      I completely agree with you! we have a very curious, creative 11-year-old boy and it is important to encourage thoughtful discovery as you never know where it might lead.

      Post a Reply
  22. Having known these guys personally for more than a decade, well before they had any professional success, the best of part of their story is that they are truly good, generous people. It’s refreshing to see the good guys winning!

    Post a Reply
    • Daniel,
      I agree with you and believe that authenticity came across in the documentary. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Post a Reply
  23. Great story !!!! So inspiring , I have the dp 6 and I am from Israel ,
    Love your products !!!

    Shay w

    Post a Reply
    • Shay,
      Thanks for your feedback. We believe the story had to be told as it was both inspiring and unique in terms of the family support/relationships.

      Post a Reply
  24. This is a very inspiring story. I haven’t used any products of this company, however, after watching this story, I suspect that I would tend to use their product sometime soon.

    Post a Reply
    • Sabyasachi Patra, that is very cool and I suggest you check them out. They are the real deal not some big corporation that doesn’t care.

      Post a Reply
  25. Really enjoyed it! Felt a real connection to the people and journey as many of us out here are pressing forward on faith, which can be the hardest part at times….congradulations to you all for success both in the accomplishements and the ability to appreciate the journey even more….very inspiring…I own the DP6 and just recieved my AC7 OLED which I am anxious to use after I get over this flue….cheers, Stuart

    Post a Reply
    • Stuart Penny, Yes I think this company is so cool and passionate. Thanks for the support

      Post a Reply
  26. Film makers shooting film makers turned manufacturers – hooda thunk? Really nice to know the story behind our DP-1 kit, saw-cut circuit boards and all! Nice job Julien, Matthew and Hurlbut Visuals!

    Post a Reply
  27. This is why good advertising works. Not only is their Doritos story inspiring, but getting to know the owners of Small HD in this way and seeing their passion for monitoring products is enough to make me switch my allegiance from Marshall. Great job on the video. An unexpected journey, but one that really made a believer out of me. I look forward to supporting these guys with my future on-set monitoring purchases!!!!

    Post a Reply
    • Greg Hughs, not only do they deliver great products, they are good human beings, this is a one tow punch. Small HD all the way

      Post a Reply
  28. Hi Shane

    Small HD seem to be a very good option for a 7″ monitor that can be a viewfinder AND a lighting monitor. But, I was wondering if you’d had any chance to look at the Convergent Design Odyssey 7 which is a very similar product that they claim has more features than the Small HD and at a cheaper price. There must be a catch and I would love to hear from anyone who has experience of this alternative product. If you get chance to get your hands on one and compare the two, that would be very, very useful.

    Adrian

    Post a Reply
    • Adrian Turpin, so sorry I have not tried that monitor out. But for me if they are pretty much the same then it comes down to people and Small HD are great human beings, so I support them and believe in their products

      Post a Reply

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