Welcome to Part 2 of the Shane Hurlbut, ASC November Cinematography Workshop blog post where I’ll be covering the MASSIVE first day of Shane’s Workshop. So last week, we talked about the tour of FOX Studios (Click here to read more) and how amazing that tour was, big shout out to Jason Honeycutt!
I’ve found that, as an adult, it’s harder to get me excited about things, but GUYS this was like 3 DAYS of early Christmas, so let’s get started! Before we get too far, I do apologize. I was so into this workshop, it often slipped my mind to take photos of what was going on. Just too much awesomeness in one place and my ADD went WILD.
I believe Call time was 9:00am for participants in the workshop. I was staying at an AirBnB location in Burbank, which is where the workshop took place. I didn’t have any clue on how reliable my apple maps were going to be related to the HORROR stories I’ve heard about LA traffic. So, I booked my Uber around 8:00. Well, the good news is it only took me 3 ½ minutes to get from my AirBnB to Hurlbut Visuals Studios. So, I arrived sometime around 8:05 am or so. I got to talk with a few guys from Shane’s Inner Circle while we all waited in the lobby of Hurlbut Visuals. Oddly enough, there were, I think, 6 participants from Texas besides myself. 3 or 4 from the Dallas area and 2 from the Amarillo area. So, it was nice to have some Texans around at the workshop. As soon as we were moved the back of the studio, it was instantly like a family reunion for me. Ross and I made several friends on Shane’s Illumination Experience Tour and most of them were part of Shane’s crew for this workshop. That list consisted of David C. Weldon, jr, Larry Pinto, and Freddie “Danger” Ochoa. From there, it was meeting other Inner Circle Members and finally getting to meet one of my biggest inspirations, Lydia Hurlbut, the CEO of Hurlbut Visuals. Lydia is an incredible woman and she’s a bit like the Den Mother of the Inner Circle. As we reached the back of the studio, they fed us magical breakfast burritos. A standard they would continue to hold every single morning of the workshop.
As we had breakfast, we got to network and make new friends. As breakfast came to a close, our Assistant Director (AD), Alicia, got our attention to direct us how to split up into our 4 groups. I think there were 36 participants at the workshop, but don’t quote me on that. We were divided into 4 groups and were directed to different stations around the studio where we would be learning 4 things: Communicating your vision in Pre Production with Shane Hurlbut, Basic grip knowledge with Key Grip, David Knudsen, Gaffing, power distribution, and load balancing with Gaffer, Eric Forend, and Balancing, Tuning, and operating the Freefly Systems MoVI with MoVI operator, Chris Herr.
I’ll make a quick side note that Chris Herr is the go-to MoVI operator and he’s only 23. Meaning: I need to get on with my life and do something impressive with it. Also going to do a shameless plug for Chris’ VLOG on Youtube. He can always use more subscribers and it’s a blast to watch. So, go click subscribe on his youtube channel. ONWARD!
STATION 1: BASIC GRIP WITH DAVID KNUDSEN
So, I was put into BRAVO group and our first station was Basic Grip with David Knudsen. David is Shane’s go-to key grip. He’s lean, tall, and AWESOME. He was so informative explaining basic grip gear and what the grip department does. I learned a LOT of stuff in that presentation half of which I can’t remember. But I’ll do my best. First, he explained what the grip department is in charge of. The Grip department is in charge of supporting and shaping light. That means they control the light stands (NOT THE LIGHTS, that’s the electrical department, and we’ll get there soon, hold your horses!), Solids, diffusions, gels, light bounce sources, and rigging for lights.
Next he moved to the basic grip stands you’re going to find on set: C stands, Baby C stands, then moved onto combo stands, Low boys, etc. See? I’m already forgetting ha! From there, we went up into his Grip Truck and looked at all the adaptors he keeps on the truck. These basically let you mount any light to anything you want, it’s a little scary. There were C Clamps, baby C clamps, Cartoni Clamps, norms pins, baby nail on plates, etc. Gosh there were so many darn adaptors, you’d need a catalogue to know them all. After we looked at adaptors, we moved on to his C stand and grip carts. He gave us the basic breakdown of the C stand cart he designed and what all it holds. Then he took us to his grip cart which held a BUNCH of 4×4 frames with every diffusion could think of: Roscoe 250, ¼ Grid cloth, Full grid cloth, Half Soft Frost, there were so many diffusions that it has diffused my brain. The same goes for all the 4×4 light gels. As well as scrims. Singles, Doubles, everything you could dream of. After we looked at the carts, he had us gather around and learn some of the basic rigging knots you have to tie. I think the only one I remember is the clover knot. There were some more advanced knots, but I couldn’t tell you what they were. Brain Sponge = FULL. And we still had 3 STATIONS TO GO.
STATION 2: MoVI balancing, tuning, and operation with Chris Herr
Our next station was with Chris Herr, who showed us how to Balance, Tune, and Operate the MoVI M15. As well as gave us a demonstration of the NEW MoVI Pro. This machine is a WICKED camera support and I really loved learning from Chris and learning how these MoVIs operate with heavier camera packages. It was also REALLY helpful to learn how to accessorize the MoVI and in that accessorizing know how to balance the MoVI. Then we got to tuning the MoVI which was incredible to watch. Chris moves with such precision when it comes to tuning and balancing. And yes, there is a little bit of wait time, but for the most part he moves so efficiently that it takes him no time to get the MoVI rigged. All of that to say, I learned enough to know I would love to hire him out to be our MoVI operator. Alright, 2 STATIONS LEFT! WHEW!
STATION 3: Communicating Your Vision with Shane Hurlbut
The next station had to be one of my favorites. It was all pre-production talk with our good friend and mentor, Shane Hurlbut, ASC. In a simple sentence, Shane is BRILLIANT. He’s dealt with several VERY different directors over his course of shooting. So this station was filled with a CRAZY amount of information on how to communicate your vision not only to your director, but to your filmmaking team. This went from having still photo references to writing a shot list within the script and sending it out to everyone in production. He also talked about being prepared and having several plans in place for different shooting scenarios. One, in particular, that I remember was a day interior from his most recent show, Into the Badlands on AMC, that had this WICKED skylight that made the scene really look cool. The issue was with the movement of the sun, the shafts of light from the skylight were also moving the entire day. So they plotted the sun and eventually blacked out the skylight and recreated it with their own lighting. It was really eye opening to see the importance of having a plan B, C, and D for your situations because they usually never pan out like you envision them. There was so much info in this station I’m having a hard time remembering what all exactly Shane said. But, it was AMAZING!
This is the film Father’s and Daughters. Do yourself a favor, get amazon prime, and download this baby. Incredible film!
This is FREDDIE DANGER. He’s been a great friend of our’s for years now and he was best boy gaffer on this station!
STATION 4: Power Distribution and Load Balancing with Eric Forend
This was a much needed, but hard to understand station. Nothing against Eric or his VAST wealth of knowledge. Personally, I think it would take me 3 days to truly digest and understand everything that goes into power distribution and load balancing. The passion each one of these station leaders has is astounding and Eric was no different. First off, Eric began with different size “putt putt” generators”. Essentially, these were the kind of generators you can rent at any home improvement store local to you. He explained what kind of wattage you can plug into these generators and he gave us a demonstration of what overloading the biggest generator and what will happen. Next, he moved to amperage and wattage and how to not overload a house electrical circuit. THIS WAS INVALUABLE. Considering that we shoot in houses or small businesses 99.9% of the time. We definitely don’t shoot anywhere that we’re going to have to distribute 220 amp service, but the 120 amp (basic wall plug) distribution was invaluable. We’ll use that again for the rest of our lives. After the 120 amp service talk, Eric moved us onto distribution of power. What cables carry what kind of service, how to wrap those cables to set your team up for success and keep the rental house happy, and what sort of breakout boxes do what. I’ve seriously still got total brain fudge from this talk. Like I said, I would probably be ok with taking a 3 day course on power distribution and load balancing. But for an essential crash course, it was really really fantastic!
LET IT BE SAID THAT LUNCH EVERY DAY WAS INCREDIBLE
Now that’s over, we can move on to “Lighting a Night Exterior in an Urban Environment”
Lighting a Night Exterior in an Urban Environment
Ok, so guys this was the HIGHLIGHT of this day. We had GREAT talent there for this walk and talk scene happening next to “a strip of restaurants/bars”. Shane had us bring out one of the RED Dragons that were a part of the camera arsenal for that weekend on a fisher 10 dolly, just to have a reference camera to light to. I was on camera team for this particular scene/scenario, so once we had the reference camera set for Shane, we followed Chris Herr to get our “A” camera set up on the MoVI m15. This was a really cool system, but the HIGHLIGHT of the rig was the 40mm Cooke S4 lens attached…. it was BEAUTIFUL. For those of you who don’t know. This particular lens runs somewhere in the $19,000 purchase range. Alright so we got the camera rigged with the follow focus, teradek wireless encoder, iris control, matte box, etc. Now that we were done with camera, we got to watch them set up some really cool lighting. Shane decided this scene needed to be lit with sodium vapor lights. That normal orange street lamp you see basically everywhere, at least here in Texas. So they set up 4 of those I believe. Ultimately, they were flagged off the backside and had a color gel on them. There was so much going on, it was hard to remember all the details. So that was their “Key light” that the talent would dip in and out of while walking down the street. Then, from there they used arri sky panels plus a bounce card inside the building next to the talent to add some color to the scene. I believe the Sky panel wound up being red to simulate a neon street sign.
this is the focus pulling monitor. You can see the “in camera” image and result of the lighting here. Isn’t it AMAZING??
From there Shane started lighting the background of the shot which was totally awesome. First, they took a water hose and wet down the asphalt behind the talent, because it helps the asphalt have a little character and reflect the light in the ambience. Then they took 4 different lights, I want to think they were arri 300w tungsten fixtures, but I wasn’t in that department, so I couldn’t tell you for sure, and they put these “party gels” on the lights to tint them green, magenta, blue and red. It was way off in the backdrop so the lights were out of focus, but you could see how they were playing across the wet asphalt and it transformed the shot ENTIRELY. It gave a whole new depth and dimension to the image. Giving it that “Cinematic” look we’re always striving toward. Lastly, they set up a boomed china ball with a Wescott Flex light inside for the front fill of the actors. The boom operator’s job was to stay behind camera and keep the fill even on the faces of the talent. Once we had the light set, it was now time to get the MoVI rigged on the MoVI pro, which was then rigged on the Walter Klassen Slingshot support rig. We then got the MoVI operator, James Latimer (I think), positioned. After that, we assigned Focus pulling to me, and camera operation with the Alpha Wheels (?) to someone else and we were ready to get the first shot off. It was REALLY fun to watch a walking stack of people, on the camera side of the shot, move with the talent. You had the MoVI op, his spotter, the boom op, and his spotter. It’s so cool to learn the fluid symbiotic movement of the whole camera team and see what it takes to make a movie happen. I think my favorite part of this workshop had to be these different “REAL WORLD” shooting scenarios. The coolest part is that once we ran the shot, we reassigned operations to different people who wanted to try them out. Either focus pulling, camera op, MoVI op, boom op, and the spotters were all swapped out after each shot.
Wow. So what a PACKED DAY RIGHT??? And Guess what, THERE ARE TWO MORE AFTER THIS ONE! I hope you enjoyed this in depth breakdown of the first day of the Hurlbut November 2016 Cinematography Workshop! If you’re reading this for fun, I hope you found it enlightening. If you’re reading this to decide whether or not you’d like to attend one in the future, I hope it swayed you toward going. It’s simply amazing and totally worth every penny. Look out next week for Day 2 of the Hurlbut November 2016 Workshop!
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