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.
- 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
- Need for Speed - how he's capturing it and what on
- Knowing the role of a DP
- 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 Speed, the 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.