March 30, 2013

Shane Hurlbut Talks the Art & Technology of Cinematography, Shooting 'Need for Speed' on Canon C500

Shane Hurlbut should be no stranger to No Film School readers. He's one of a few cinematographers working at the highest level of the industry who consistently takes the time to share his experiences and his cinematography expertise on his awesome blog. Whether he's talking about how to create a soft and beautiful book light, or the fundamentals of telling a story through composition, Shane is always filling the interwebs with his vast cinematography knowledge. Recently, he sat down with Paul Antico of Anticipate Media for their weekly podcast. Needless to say, Shane and Paul's conversation is absolutely fantastic, and the pair touch on many of the key topics relevant to cinematography in the modern age.

Check out some of the awesome topics covered in the podcast (be sure to subscribe at iTunes or head on over to Anticipate Media to listen to the rest of their fantastic weekly podcasts):

  • Shooting handheld vs. on a dolly or sticks
  • Working with scopes vs. your eye
  • The critical importance of a light meter
  • Lighting with the newest digital cameras
  • High frame rates
  • 4K
  • Need for Speed - how he's capturing it and what on
  • Knowing the role of a DP
  • "Lightmares"
  • BONUS - How to light & lens various story scenarios - Shane gets tested on the spot! Includes things like shooting a fight scene between lovers in a parked car, a character's journey through their past, and shooting a country music video on a porch.

And here's the podcast in its entirety. It's a fairly lengthy listen at nearly two hours, so I would recommend throwing it on in the background while doing something productive (or not so productive), or download directly from the Anticipate Media site:

Shane brings up some truly astounding points in this conversation, but nearly all of them (from his theory on shooting handheld to his thoughts on modern digital cinema cameras) can be summed up in this one amazing tidbit of Hurlbut wisdom.

If you make every choice as a cinematographer based on the emotions of your characters - whatever he or she is going through - you will hit a home run every single time. It is your guiding light. Everything about cinematography is emotion.

This point is why it's so crucial for cinematographers - and all filmmakers in general - to have an acute understanding of human emotion, and to be fully in-tune with the emotional context of the project on which they're working. As mentioned in a recent article about filmmaking advice from John Hawkes, one of the best ways to accomplish this is to immerse yourself in various art forms and to live a thriving life outside of the industry. It's through means such as these that we can build the emotional and artistic skill-sets necessary to making the best possible artistic decisions on set.

Another major topic that the pair hit in their conversation is the debate on higher frame rates. On this subject, Shane presents his theory about how it's part of the cinematographer's job to lay a sort of "gauze" over the subject matter:

I think that so much of what we do as artists is about laying that "gauze" over the world that we're creating. And even if you're shooting a realistic type movie where it's supposed to feel real and present, you've still gotta have that gauze. It's the gauze that takes it from something just shot with a camcorder to a cinematic experience.

While some people will disagree, I'm with Shane on this one. Technology has gotten to the point where capturing an image at extremely high resolutions and frame rates is commonplace, but we often forget the fact that sometimes these technologies can hinder the suspension of disbelief, and that suspension has to be one of our top priorities as narrative filmmakers. While Shane says that film is still his favorite capture medium due to the organic look and feel (its inherent gauze, if you will), he also mentioned one of his favorite methods for creating that gauze with digital capture.

Shane and Paul also spent a healthy amount of time talking about Need for Speedthe next major feature on which Hurlbut is the DP. The main point on which the two talked in regards to the project is the extensive series of camera tests which Shane conducted for the film. Ultimately Hurlbut chose the Canon C500 as the production's A camera, the Arri Alexa as the B camera, and the Canon 1D-C as the C camera/crashcam. He explained that the C500 was the most conducive capture device for this film due to the fact that it fell in line perfectly with the chosen color palette, not because of its resolution or its RAW capabilities. It's another great example of a theory which Shane has espoused for years: that digital cameras and their inherent aesthetic properties should be likened to various film stocks, or digital emulsions.

What do guys think? Do you have any additional thoughts on the topics that Shane and Paul cover in this podcast? Let us know in the comments.

Links:

Your Comment

29 Comments

Nice, but podcast doesn't seem to be showing up properly on the page.

Would love to see more of these lengthy podcasts with dop talking shop, technique etc as can go into greater depth than in a 10min youtube video etc. Any recommendations on where to go? Would prefer free but if there is a decent site with a decent sub price I could be swayed

March 30, 2013 at 9:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Chris Lambert

Hey Chris, check this from American Cinematographer: http://podbay.fm/show/259748235

March 30, 2013 at 10:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Stelios

Thans Stelios for some reason I can subscribe but not download the old poscasts which is gutting as it looks like theres some great stuff on there good find!

March 30, 2013 at 12:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Chris Lambert

Chris, just go to itunes or this page: www.anticipatemedia.com/podcast. There are links to everything you need including the direct files there. Thanks for listening!

March 30, 2013 at 3:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I'm having the same issue, comes up with a down load error on iTunes. Went to the site, can't load it there either.

March 30, 2013 at 10:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Steve M.

You can download it at Anticipate media. He gives a download link, otherwise you could also right click on the embed and choose to save.

March 30, 2013 at 11:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

I should have mentioned, I'm attempting this on an iPad, I've never had any problems with any other podcast downloads off iTunes. I would think he, Mr Antico, would want to check into why there are download errors for his podcast on iTunes, then again, perhaps not.

March 31, 2013 at 10:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Steve M.

Steve, I'm sorry you are having issues but I'm not sure why. I have no issues downloading on an iPad or iPhone, but I do subscribe via iTunes and get it that way, if you're mobile. That should work for you (10,000 downloads came to iOS devices alone in the last day so we know it works). We use Libsyn like most others do. Nothing special about it. Try the subscribe and download approach via apples Podcast app. Or just download the free Stitcher radio app and start streaming immediately from there. That works like a charm.

March 31, 2013 at 10:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Cool! Didn't know you were on Stitcher. I appreciate the reply, thank you!

April 1, 2013 at 3:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Steve M.

Hi Chris,

Check out interviews in both video and podcast at www.crafttruck.com

March 31, 2013 at 1:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jesse

While I think its great that the C500 is getting a run, I thought the fact he made sure an Alexa was still on set was interesting. I've worked with C500 footage and its a bitch to cut into other cameras.
The podcast is terrific, and I hope a ton of young DPs/gaffers/ACs listen to it. There are a lot of very good bits of info in there.
As for his 'gauze' comment : he's exactly right if a little inelegant about it. We receive so many clues to a story from the style in which its presented (including no style). Its not just about making sure everything looks beautiful, its about transmitting atmosphere via visual (and audio) style. That requires 'tricks', and is the very artifice that the original Dogma films hated, but that all those directors returned to. Novelists do it, most great records do it. Cinematography, production design, music and even the title sequence are what put you into that new world before a single motivated action has taken place. And if its good, it keeps you there, even if the story is weak. Being able to build that 'gauze' is the real art.

March 30, 2013 at 11:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

One more thing - Chrome keeps flagging the Edelkrone ad a s malware. Just so you know.

March 30, 2013 at 1:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

And TrendMicro flags the Edelkrone site as untrustworthy!

I went there recently anyway... Not sure if NoFilmSchool picked up on this, but they were having a birthday sale -- free shipping, which does make a difference if you're not living in Turkey.

Sale might still be on...

March 30, 2013 at 5:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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It's an issue with their ad, it should be fixed now but their site may still be giving the message.

March 30, 2013 at 5:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Most of act of valor was 5d.
Only the helicopter shots were shot film... according to Shane.

March 30, 2013 at 3:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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vinceGortho

+1

March 30, 2013 at 3:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kenneth Merrill

One of the best podcast episodes I've ever listened to.

March 30, 2013 at 4:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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March 30, 2013 at 5:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Grant

Haven't listened to the podcast yet (but I shall -- thanks for the link!). Two random thoughts:

-- I think there's a documentary where Jack Nicholson says that one thing he learnt from Kubrick, especially in connection to The Shining, is that it's not about taking a picture of the reality, but a picture of the picture of the reality.

-- Making choices based on emotions of characters,,, I don't know the context (haven't listened yet!) but the more I think about it, the more profound it seems to me.

My initial reaction was, "Hang on, that doesn't suit all scenes and all styles. What if the camera adopts a more objective standpoint? Or what if it's more documentary style? Or what about making choices to affect the audience, or to convey a message? And if you actually put Hurlbut's rule into practice, isn't simply reflecting what the character's feeling a little bit simplistic? The acting and writing already do that!"

But, then, any example of conscious cinematography decision I could think of, or any example of cinematography that affected me, seemed to be related to something the character(s) was feeling, even if it wasn't the main thing they were feeling.

Some random examples:

-- black and white in Sin City. Apparent reason for the choice is about noir and comic books and recalling those things and those styles. But the choice also reflects characters' views of the world.

-- shooting only on wider lenses in Taxi Driver. Stated reason was that tele lenses feel too "aristocratic", so it might be interpreted as a choice about engaging the audience and drawing the audience into this world. But it's also part of what the taxi driver is going through -- feels he's stuck in this filth and can't get out of it.

-- documentary-style camera movement in UK The Office, where the camera pans from face to face during an awkward moment. On the face of it, it's a choice about realism of the mockumentary setup (this is what a real documentary camera would do), or about rules of comedy (reaction shots create humour). But it also reflect the character's awkwardness, where they're suddenly conscious of what other people are thinking, and the moment seems to hang in space.

March 30, 2013 at 6:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Very good points there.

March 31, 2013 at 7:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Hey, NFS crew. Your reply to comments feature doesn't seem to be working correctly.

March 30, 2013 at 7:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

It's working fine, but this thread is now permanently messed up because of some comments that were deleted.

March 30, 2013 at 7:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Joe, I understand the necessity of preserving civility but, for the sake of continuity, have you considered editing the comments instead of deleting them entirely? Might be a way to retain a semblance of the entire thread. And, it would serve as a device for exposing the slanderous here on NFS, as well.

March 31, 2013 at 12:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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dixter

Yeah what I could do is just edit the comment to say nothing. I'll consider that in the future for the threads that might get messed up.

March 31, 2013 at 12:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

It's interesting that you choose the Alexa as a day exterior camera. I always shied away from it in those situations (as well as Red) because of the IR contamination.
I was just on the electric crew on the new Scorcese flick (Wolf of Wall Street) and they're using the Alexa for low light and Panavision for day exteriors.

I know. I know. They're all just tools to get the image you're looking for. Interesting nonetheless.

March 31, 2013 at 6:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Harry

The difference in look for Act of Valor (for some shots) is because they were using 5dmarkII's before the 24p update. They had to postconvert a lot of stuff into 24p. It - to me - looks like it was shot on the 5dmarkII. I have no idea why here are so many crazy conspiracy guys here. It looks great, but that's because it's lit well.

March 31, 2013 at 8:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Some guys love to make audience feel like they are looking through old dirty glass with lots of grain and flicker (35mm and especially 16mm film), some filmmakers don't. I think digital HFR suits high-octane action and sci-fi more than old time fantasy adaptations though. Not to diss PJ or anything.

March 31, 2013 at 10:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

Wow..so off the mark...no cinematographer would ever choose
a camera for $$. Your name and career is on the line everytime
you shoot and are worth more than anything. Your rep. is priceless.

Hope you keep up all this stuff you do...Shane. Cause right
now you are doing more to educate and inspire people through
the digital revolution than the entire ASC organization. Where
do you get the Energy..?..What are you drinking for breakfast..?..heheh..

April 1, 2013 at 1:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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sammy

This is why I love what I do. The gauze I talk about the artistry of cinematography. 70% 5D, 20% film and
5% Sony F950 for aerials. Not 5% 5D. I did my job. Have a nice night

April 2, 2013 at 1:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Shane Hurlbut