Keeping It Small

I have been doing research on other sites recently and checking out the monster camera configurations that people are creating.  I question if that is the right path based on the two things attracted me to this camera; the filmic looking sensor and the size.

I saw one the other day that was bigger than the Genesis and that baby weighs in at 45-50 lbs in all. In  film the camera is huge and I have been in the mass moving business since I started in 1986.  The Canon 5D Mark II inspired me to throw out the mass and really break all the rules.

Man cam in minivan

Man cam in minivan with backpack on the floorboard

Studio hand held mode in Washington

Studio hand held mode in Washington

Studio hand held in Cambodia

Studio hand held in Cambodia

Motorcycle Stripper

Directors Mike McCoy and Scotty Waugh on Motorcycle Stripper

Man cam with DC-3 Flyover off the Horn of Africa

Rudy Harbon lensing with a Man cam with DC-3 Flyover off the Horn of Africa

Rigged stripper on diplomat's car in Phnom Penh

Rigged stripper on diplomat’s car in Phnom Penh

My camera is still very small for Studio hand held mode, Man Cam, and even smaller for Action Cam mode.  Keeping it simple is our motto at Hurlbut Visuals and one that the Elite Team members believe in as well.  What is the smallest, most compact set-up that delivers the story?

When I shot “Into the Blue,” I asked a lot of experienced cinematographers about their experience with shooting on water and what made them the most productive.  I listened to all of their advice and chose a hybrid route by using some of their ideas mixed with my own. When I discussed my plan, a few of the naysayers said that my set-up count would go down by 75%.  I was also told that Mother Nature would challenge us everyday. Unfortunately that would not be an option for us.  Our budget was tight at 53 million for 60 days of shooting topside and 99 days underwater. It seemed impossible to pull off the director’s vision.

So, we came up with a new master plan that we put into action.  Director John Stockwell loves to keep his crews small and intimate with the flexibility to change at a moments notice.  Having a large crew would not make this movie a reality, so what we opted for a very large camera pkg. that fit into one Catamaran. 45 people and one boat made the entire on the water sequences of the film.   If it was blowing hard and we could not go out, we tucked into a bay and shot to get the day.  Not a huge flotilla to navigate and anchor.  Just one camera boat, a picture boat and a few running support boats for divers and lunch.  We started at 28 set-ups the first day, and then ramped it up to about 35 to 40 a day.  This was ground breaking! But it was a very similar concept; lots of cameras ready in every configuration, small crew, small footprint. That equals speed, creativity, and the ability to capture serendipitous moments.

Our 10 1st Unit camera pkg. consisted of 1- Arri 535B on a 30’ Technocrane, 1- Arri 435 camera in a AquaCam housing on a 20’ Foxy crane that had a moving fulcrum to submerge the housing, 2- Arri 535B cameras in hand held mode, 2- Arri 535B cameras in Studio mode, 2- Arri III cameras in Underwater housings, 1- Arri 435 for slow-motion work, 1- Arri 535B on the Steadicam.  This was all on the deck of a 45’ x 14’ Cat, that had below storage bays, a head and two supercharged Honda 350 outboard motors that blasted this baby across the ocean at 25 knots fully loaded. For further details you can read the ICG article at www.cameraguild.com/index.html?magazine/stoo0905.htm~top.main_hp

Big glass no gack

Rudy Harbon with big glass no gack

I am sharing this with you because it worked well. Now, it is your turn to make the decision for your shoot and it may have a variety of different solutions.  The same holds true for a smaller production. This camera can be huge. I chose to do it with glass but not with all the other gack.

There is one critical question to consider. Do I need to make the camera look like an impressive movie camera for me to be taken seriously?  The answer is NO!  If we are going to embrace this new technology, everything has to change.  The way we work will become more efficient; video village shrinks, people start to trust, re-invent, think out of the box, force their hands.  If we want to achieve this we all have to NOT function like it is business as usual or the camera will blow up to what I see on all the web sites. It is the monster of all monsters with cables, adapters, converters, switchers, battery packs, wireless transmitters, etc.

I worked on all the Navy spots without a video village because the agency watched the playback on my lighting monitor when the directors were happy with the performance and the shot.  If the agency wanted something different, we delivered it and then moved on.  The end result was increased productivity. What shows up on the screen increases in a cheaper, more eco friendly way.

Though it is not always possible, try to start with the simplest set-up and build from there. If you need an on-board monitor so that you can broadcast a signal, put it all into a backpack: an Anton Battery pack, MDR, video converter, cinetape, wireless video transmitter, or a hard line that comes directly out of your back, not near the camera.  Get another Marshall monitor with an Anton Battery back and run a hard line to the director first, then if you have to go wireless, again put it in the back pack. Just remember that adds time and things can fail, so the more you add the more it can go down.

Try out this idea, you go from Studio hand held mode to Man Cam by just plugging in cables to the camera, so you go onto a head where your back pack hangs on the dolly or your sticks.  If you need all this stuff, just don’t put it on the camera.  I would love to see your configurations that inspire and create.  Send some pictures!

98 Comments
  1. Alex Huberfeld 4 years ago

    Hey Shane im gearing up to do a short film and its zacuto sponsored so i have a lot of gear its my first film so is there anythings i should avoid to keep it from looking like amateur quality. Any way to add a stylized look like slow dolly moves throughout the whole film. Also how do keep away from it looking like every other idiot with a t2i. Also do you think to regular audiences (not film people) associate handheld with amateur.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Alex Huberfeld, you have to jump in there. What is the story telling you to do. Don’t move the camera just because it is cool. Let the characters and the story motivate the motion. Experience is what will build you as a filmmaker. I love handheld and have shot at least 8 of my films that way.

      • Alex Huberfeld 4 years ago

        I know handheld looks great but since im only 16 people will attribute it to the fact that im a amatuer

  2. Ian smith 4 years ago

    Hello Mr. Hurlbut

    I am in the greater Indianapolis area and am looking for a dp for a feature film to be shot within the next yr. I want to go for a really good dp for the vision of the film. The budget is 175,000.00 what would the going rate be for a dp of your calibre? It is a military film with a quite unique storyline. Dealing with PTSD. We are perusing the USO american legion and other military support groups. It started as a short film and 3 writers and production companies recommended extending the vision. Any advice on finding a dp and possible producer. This is my first feature and I want to do the best I can to bring this film to life.

    Ian Smith

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Ian smith I can set you up with a bunch a very talented DP’s that will rock your film out. Please contact me via email and I will send you some names.

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