Recently, I researched other sites and checked out the monster camera configurations that people are creating. I question if that is the right path based on the two things that attracted me to this camera. The filmic-looking sensor and its 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 film industry since 1986. The Canon 5D Mark II inspired me to really break the rules.
Keep Your Camera Simple
My camera is still very small for Studio handheld 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 every day. 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 moment’s notice. Having a large crew would not make this movie a reality, so 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 groundbreaking! 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.
Ocean Cinematography Camera Equipment
Our 10 1st Unit camera pkg. consisted of 1- Arri 535B on a 30’ Technocrane, 1- Arri 435 camera in an AquaCam housing on a 20’ Foxy crane that had a moving fulcrum to submerge the housing, 2- Arri 535B cameras in handheld 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.
Cinematography: Small Footprint
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, and people start to trust, re-invent, think out of the box, and 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 websites. 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.
Keep it Simple
Though it is not always possible, try to start with the simplest set-up and build from there. If you need an onboard 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 backpack. 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 handheld mode to Man Cam by just plugging in cables to the camera, so you go onto a head where your backpack 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.
Looking for mentorship in the film industry? Schedule a 1-on-1 meeting with Shane Hurlbut, ASC today! This is where you can get expert advice from an industry professional on your career or a particular project.
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.