What we can learn from Hollywood's Shane Hurlbut

Recently I’ve taken to following the blog of Hollywood director of photography Shane Hurlbut, best known for his work on Terminator Salvation and the subsiquent webisodes shot on the Canon 5DmkII. He has become one of the biggest evangelists for DSLRs in Hollywood and his thoughts generally re-enforce my views on a lot of technical stuff – but he takes it to a whole other level. Shane is shooting feature films and commercial stuff but that doesn’t mean that we in the news and documentary community can’t learn a lot from what he has to say. His recent work with the US Navy is very documentary like and has the feel I would like to try to bring to News video.

In particular he has written some great posts on camera stabilization and working onboard a nuclear sub On stabilization I think he hits the nail on the head when he says “The secret is weight and where it is placed.  This camera can be anything you want it to be.”

The Hurlblog - great place to learn some top tips

The Hurlblog - great place to learn some top tips

Also really interesting I found was his post entitiled the “Power of focus” which explains why super wide apertures and extreme shallow depth of focus are not always desireable and why Shane chooses to shoot at around F5.6 on a 5DmkII when there is any action. He also explains how the different sensor sizes mean that you have to shoot at f2.8 on a 7D to get the same focus feel as F5.6 on a 5DmkII. The cinematic feel of Shane’s work is a testament to the application of his theory about apertures.

Shane also recommends the use of a focus puller (person who focusses for you) but clearly this isn’t going to happen in most news environments, but given that even using a dedicated person Shane is still choosing to shoot F5.6 it follows that as a solo shooter your chances of getting accurate focus will be greatly increased by stopping down to f5.6 or greater.

I still value a fast lens, but mainly because of their light gathering ability and for stills, not the super shallow depth of focus in video. I might need to shoot f1.4 in a dark spot but would prefer to shoot f5.6 if poss. Sometimes on sit down interviews I find the interviewee can often times move too much forward and back and make even f5.6 seem too shallow to keep them acceptably sharp the whole time.

In another really good post Shane details the differences between lens brands when they are used for video. He favours other lenses such as Zeiss, Leica or older Nikon to the Canon lenses and explains his reasons why.

My collection of Zeiss ZE lenses

My collection of Zeiss ZE lenses

I’ve been buying Zeiss glass for a while now, originally the Contax fit lenses adapted to Canon and now the newer ZE lenses and can testify to how good them image they produce looks. I’ve also started buying old Leica R lenses too based on Shane’s findings.

I’d like to thank Shane for doing all this great research and testing and then sharing it with the rest of us. Please head over to his blog now and read up.

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Posted on February 24th, 2010 by Dan Chung | Category: DSLR video news |

2 responses to "What we can learn from Hollywood's Shane Hurlbut"

  1. Ryan Says:
    February 26th, 2010 at 4:36 pm


    How do you find the newer ZE lenses compare to the older Contax-mount optics? Specifically I’m wondering if the multi-coating is improved, and if it’s better at controlling flare and internal reflections. Thanks very much,


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