The first job that I ever shot with the Canon 5D was as director and cinematographer on a webisode series that McG, the director of Terminator Salvation, asked me to do. We produced these webisodes as part of the Terminator Salvation marketing campaign to be used before the movie was released. When I saw how amazing the imagery from this camera looked and the way that it moved on someone’s head or in someone’s hands, I was sold.
First-Person Navy SEAL Perspective
First-person perspective footage was taken to the next level when I signed on to lens the Navy SEAL action picture Act of Valor with the Bandito Brothers. Directors Scotty Waugh and Mouse McCoy wanted to think outside of the box for a new look and feel.
I said, “What if we put the viewer in the eyes of the Navy SEAL? The film would feel like the video game ‘Call of Duty,’ with this first-person shooter perspective.”
We set out on a mission to design a Hurlbut Visuals helmet cam. It was rigged on the right side of the SEALs’ heads and over their gun sights. It moved like you have never seen a camera move before. Jumping into rivers, running down tunnels, chasing bad guys in trucks, and going underwater. It was all doable while using the helmet cam. The shots were intimate, visceral, and breathtaking.
Doggicam Helmet Cam
When Hurlbut Visuals produced the critically acclaimed short film The Last 3 Minutes, the director, Po Chan, wanted a first-person perspective that was different from the video game quality of Act of Valor.
She wanted the footage to be elegant, smooth, and to transport the viewer through time. I knew that the helmet cam we designed for AOV was too far away from the wearer’s eyes. We needed to outsource in order to get the equipment necessary.
I called Gary Thieltges at Doggicam to see if he had made anything for this camera system that was closer to the eyes. Throughout the years, I have used Doggicam on almost every one of my feature films. I employed their body mount rigs, carbon fiber remote heads, and unique rigs on bikes and motorcycles. You name it, they can mount it.
Gary told me that he just made a helmet cam that he thought I would really like. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. In one word, “WOW.” It is so well designed. He had taken a baseball helmet and cut the right ear flap off. This gives you the ability to get the camera very close to the right eye, which was a more fine-tuned version of my original helmet cam design.
It uses all of Gary’s special 5/8” rods and rod clamps to mount the camera anywhere you like. This integrates incredibly well with a remote follow focus system and anything else that you might need to add like wireless video, a battery, etc. It has a very simple counterweight design that enables you to balance the rig on anyone’s head. And a neck support travels in the kit as well.
The Last 3 Minutes – Directed by Po Chan
In The Last 3 Minutes, we slid into home plate with the helmet rigged to my Elite Team member Bodie Orman’s head. We transported viewers, showing the feeling of sliding into home. This along with the emotion that goes into scoring a winning run. We took all of the batteries and the wireless video transmitter and put them in a backpack for Bodie to wear. That way, we could reduce the weight on his head and neck as much as possible.
The Vietnam sequence was another example of taking this platform to the next level. As a bomb explodes, Bodie drops to the ground with his hands and M-16 in the bottom of the frame. The viewer is emotionally involved, and again, it is a visceral experience.
We mounted the helmet camera on Josh Pritz’s head. He was playing our young William. Josh gets into a street fight with my son Myles.
The helmet cam was the only tool that could give us this unique first-person perspective with the elegance and beauty that Po wanted.
Hurlbut Visuals helmet cam at work in the Dominican Republic
When we were doing Travel and Tourism spots in the Dominican Republic for AM Resorts, director Rob Lawe at Fresh Pictures wanted viewers to experience the resort through the eyes of the couple that was staying at the Zoëtry resort. We rigged the Hurlbut Visuals helmet to our beautiful model. Then, she revealed footage of exotic room locations that transitioned right into the aquamarine color waters of the Caribbean. Not to mention, relaxing spas and nightclubs.
When shooting an intimate scene and wanting to be in the middle of the action, a helmet cam is an amazing tool to meet your needs. It is powerful for two things: immersing you in the action and having the first-person point of view. The mixture of the helmet cam and the 5D is very powerful.
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About Filmmakers Academy Cinematographer Mentor Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Director of photography Shane Hurlbut, ASC works at the forefront of cinema. He’s a storyteller, innovator, and discerning collaborator, who brings more than three decades of experience to his art. He is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, the International Cinematographers Guild/Local 600, and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Hurlbut frequently joins forces with great directors: McG’s Netflix Rim of the World and The Babysitter, plus Warner Bros. We Are Marshall and Terminator: Salvation; Scott Waugh’s Need for Speed and Act of Valor; and Gabriele Muccino’s There Is No Place Like Home and Fathers and Daughters. His additional film credits include Semi-Pro; The Greatest Game Ever Played; Into the Blue; Mr 3000; Drumline; 11:14, which earned Hurlbut a DVDX nomination; and The Skulls. Notably, his television credits include the first season of AMC’s Into the Badlands.