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Thursday, November 5, 2009

••◊ Them's some fine lookin' toys Mr. Hurlbut

On Monday I was restless at work and decided to see what was going on with the San Diego film maker's on their Facebook page. Shane Macdougall of Infant Monster Productions had left a brief note saying that anyone who wanted to meet Shane Hurlbut, ASC could do so the following evening. Wow, this was quite a conincidence. I was just on his blog earlier that morning checking out some of the amazing work he does with the 5Dm2. To say Shane is an evangelist of the HDSLR movement is putting it mildly, sort of like saying the Pope is kinda Catholic. Check out the $40k Panavision glass he has attached to the left 5Dm2 in the following picture.

Shane brought in his main filming equipment, including two under water cameras, a shoulder rig, his "man cam" (second picture below), and tripod based big lens rig. With only half a dozen observers showing up, not including his crew, it worked out quite well. I had a chance to try out the rigs, which was good and bad. Good experience, bad news for the future of my wallet. I have shaky hands like a junkie looking for a fix, so a camera stabilizer is somewhere in my future. That, or I need to work on the next JJ Abrams shaky-cam Godzilla knock off.

So, here's a bit of what I absorbed.
  1. Shane mostly shoots at around f/2.8 or so, which is wide open on my lenses. He said that they quickly switched over to Carl Zeiss prime glass to get better performance at wider apertures. Totally understandable from my perspective. The Canon glass doesn't *really* get sharp until about f/8. It's made for studio portraits and still photography, not film. I run into this too.
  2. Camera stabilizers make a big difference (good ones at least).
  3. The Canon 1Dm4 coming soon seems to have 4x the performance of the 5Dm2 in terms of noise. Wish I had $5k to find out. Shane mentioned that having the little less shallow depth of field on the 1Dm4 can be helpful. Shooting the 1Dm4 at f/2.8 is like shooting the 5Dm2 at f/4 because of the 1.3 sensor size crop factor.
  4. Shane confirmed what I already experienced. The 5Dm2 does have incredible light sensitivity.
  5. The Panavision glass seems to give him a 2-3 stop increase in contrast performance over the Canon or Carl Zeiss lenses. I didn't know the lens made *that* much difference above a certain price point. Canon, if you're listening...better lenses please!
  6. After talking with his focus puller I found out that they use both distance estimates and a range finder to pull focus. Pulling focus with live action shots is definitely something that I think hindered me while filming mountain bikers. I had real issues trying to pull focus with moving subjects without auto-focus and while using the barrel instead of a proper follow focus setup.
  7. Standing in front of firing machine guns (with blanks) may cause dental problems. After a couple days filming Navy Seals head on while they fired their weapons, there was enough teeth grinding going on that Shane's dentist took notice.
  8. Other stuff, which is more technical...and I want to talk about pretty pictures again.
I have to say that it's guys like Shane who are busy industry professionals and take the time to talk to us that make film making great. This was done gratis on his part and he hosted us for nearly 90 minutes after a long day of shooting. We all need a little encouragement every now and then to just keep going.
This is just a side note to the evening. Before the evening commenced I went upstairs to the hotel balcony and took some photos of the city at night. Nice view, but I wish I had brought my tripod. I really wanted to get a panorama at night. Mr. Shaky Hands prevented that, even with stabilization on a balcony fence post.

More exciting news this weekend.

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