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.

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

  1. Stas Tagios 3 years ago

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

    • Julien Lasseur 3 years ago

      Thanks for checking it out!

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      You are welcome and we appreciate your taking the time to comment.

    • Eric 2 years ago

      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

  2. Marcos Aurelius 3 years ago

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

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      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.

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      You are welcome. I hope your tough time has passed. Glad the story helped to keep you inspired.

  3. Stu 3 years ago

    That was very interesting and very inspiring. A really good watch!

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. It means a lot.

  4. jk 3 years ago

    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.

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      Thanks for the suggestion and feedback. Glad you love your SmallHD gear!

  5. Amit Setia 3 years ago

    A lot of learning from these interviews. Thanks

    • Shane 3 years ago

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

  6. Julien Lasseur 3 years ago

    Thank you everyone for your comments and feedback!

  7. blesson 3 years ago

    Ohhh Thats was Great. Thanks Shane and Family. Just what I needed

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      So glad the story brightened your day. Thanks for taking the time to give us feedback.

  8. Francis Carver 3 years ago

    “… 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.]

  9. Lunerversal Film 3 years ago

    Great story guys, thank you for sharing. I wish you guys the best!

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      We wish you well and thank-you for your feedback on the documentary.

  10. Stephane St-Louis 3 years ago

    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. ;)

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      Thank-you for your positive criticism. It helps our team young, talented team grow.

  11. Danny G 3 years ago

    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.

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      We appreciate your taking the time to comment. Thanks.

  12. joshua heath 3 years ago

    That was actually an amazing little doco!
    Well done….

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      Thank-you for your kind words and feedback.

  13. Kaspar Santos 3 years ago

    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.

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      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.

    • Finn Petersen 3 years ago

      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.

  14. Rakesh MVD 3 years ago

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

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      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.

  15. Greg 3 years ago

    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!

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      Thank-you for your honest feedback- well noted! So glad you liked the story.

  16. Guy DeFeis 3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing a great story.

  17. Michael Tackett 3 years ago

    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.

    • Shane 3 years ago

      Michael Tackett, it is absolutely true, thank you so much for the comment

  18. Todd 3 years ago

    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!

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      Thank-you for the kind words.

      • Todd 3 years ago

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

  19. John 3 years ago

    Inspiring story guys! Well shot! keep up the good work.

    Love these monitors!

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      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.

  20. Gerry Fraiberg 3 years ago

    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.

    • Shane 3 years ago

      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.

  21. Jay Casmirri 3 years ago

    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!

    • Shane 3 years ago

      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

  22. Larry 3 years ago

    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.

    • Shane 3 years ago

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

  23. Frank Smith 3 years ago

    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!

    • Shane 3 years ago

      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

  24. robert peters 3 years ago

    Great story…very Inspiring… SmallHd is the best.

    • Shane 3 years ago

      robert peters, yes they are, Love the passion

  25. Sonny f 3 years ago

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

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      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.

  26. Daniel 3 years ago

    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!

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      I agree with you and believe that authenticity came across in the documentary. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  27. Chris Rice 3 years ago

    Great Inspirational Story……I own a DP4 myself.

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      We value and appreciate your feedback.

  28. Shay Wieder 3 years ago

    Great story !!!! So inspiring , I have the dp 6 and I am from Israel ,
    Love your products !!!

    Shay w

    • Lydia 3 years ago

      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.

  29. Sabyasachi Patra 3 years ago

    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.

    • Shane 3 years ago

      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.

  30. Stuart Penny 3 years ago

    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

    • Shane 3 years ago

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

  31. Finn Petersen 3 years ago

    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!

    • Shane 3 years ago

      Finn Petersen, I agree, they rocked it out.

  32. Greg Hughs 3 years ago

    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!!!!

    • Shane 3 years ago

      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

  33. Adrian Turpin 3 years ago

    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.


    • Shane 3 years ago

      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

  34. Justin Cooper 4 months ago

    It’s great that you were given the opportunity to direct. I hope you have continued success!

    Justin @

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