Hurlbut Visuals Doing Exhaustive Digital Camera Test for New Project

Tests everything from RED Epic to film to find right camera

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Digital evangelist and cameraman Shane Hurlbut is prepping for his next feature, Need for Speed (with Michael Keaton starring) for DreamWorks. He had a solid concept of how he wanted the movie to look and set out doing exhaustive tests of every major digital movie camera he could find, and compared it to film. From the Arri Alexa to the RED Epic to the GoPro Hero 3, Hurlbut put them through their paces and, in his own words, pushed every camera to its breaking point. In the end, Hurlbut looks to settle on three cameras.  Here’s what led him to the cameras he’s going to use…

What was immediately clear was that film was not the right choice for this project. We could not mold it and shape it into our vision … The digital file had more data, more information, more latitude, and more color depth. I am not sure if the film scanners are keeping up with the latest technology because of the impending demise of 35mm film.  – Shane Hurlbut, Hurlblog

During a tasking 5 day marathon test, Hurlbut and director Scotty Waugh decided to test all the latest digital cameras that have made a splash recently.  Some Hurlbut was familiar with, some he hasn’t.  But here’s the basic list of the cameras in his own great shootout…

The testing is still ongoing, with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera yet to be put through it’s paces.  But as he sat looking in the color correction suite at Technicolor, one thing seems to become abundantly clear to Hurlbut … digital cameras have not only caught up with film, but have surpassed it.   And after shooting 17 features on film, Hurlbut is finding that his film days may be completely behind him.  Not that he was second guessing his move to digital in the first place.   He’s been a tireless advocate for DSLR digital filmmaking, having shot some impressive features like Act of Valor with the Canon 5D Mk. II, and a 4K short called The Ticket which he showcased last year at NAB.

I have to say I was pretty fearless with film, but I do take things more to the edge with the digital medium because of this one fact.

But as we have seen with the Revenge of the Great Zacuto Shootout, results often don’t yield a one size fits all solution.  The camera to use greatly depends on the shooter and the vision that he’s trying to accomplish with the director.  And Hurlbut has found that digital frees him up to take greater risks, to learn, and sometimes to fail.  “This is the fearless nature that I talk about,” writes Hurlbut. “When you can see it on a monitor exactly how it will look, when you are in the DI suite on set, you can BE ABSOLUTELY FEARLESS!!!

Hurlbut then evokes his mentor, Roger Deakins, who used the Arri Alexa on Skyfall, the latest James Bond epic.  I have to say that I fell in love with the look of that film.  It was gorgeous.  Even the stark, drab look of the Scottish highlands had a beauty that was brought out by Deakin’s masterful hand at the digital helm.   “Roger Deakins said that he felt very much the same way, that he is much more of a risk taker with digital and that he felt that the Alexa was taking his creativity to new heights because of it.”

In the end, it’ll be interesting what cameras that Hurlbut will settle on for Need for Speed.  But one thing is clear, he feels that digital has reached a point where it frees the shooter to make better creative decisions, take risks, and push your craft to the edge of the envelope.   “Trust your instincts and go for it; throw it out there,” concludes Hurlbut. “Make mistakes. That is how you grow as an artist.”

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.