Most of the time when I’m digging through the internet for video gems and new production companies to obsess over, their presence is geared towards the internet – creating viral videos, online marketing campaigns or just low-budget productions. But this weeks article is about someone totally opposite of that: Shane Hurlbut. He is a world-renowned cinematographer and often works on big-budget films, for example We Are Marshall, Terminator: Salvation and Act of Valor. He’s a pretty big fish in the pond, but the reason I decided to focus on him was because of his blog. It goes hand-in-hand with the idea I love of paying-it-forward in this filmmaking community, where he discusses what he’s learned about workflow, lighting, composition and more.
This article is amazing not only because Shane breaks down the significance of different compositions but because he also backs it up with examples from movies he’s worked on. He adds some fun little stories into his explanations, getting a bit of a “behind the scenes” look onto the set. He goes into detail on wide shots, the “cowboy” shot (which I’d never heard of prior but now see it everywhere), the two shot and, most importantly, breaking the rules. To have this knowledge is essential for anyone interested in visual storytelling, and it’s especially fun to read this article because of the support images and even a couple video examples from his movies.
In this article, Shane discusses color awareness while shooting. A lot of people these days think “shoot now edit color later” which is a valid idea, but Shane gives a good argument for being conscious while shooting. He also discusses the difference that using existing light can have on a movie, and he uses the movie Crazy/Beautiful to exemplify this. While working on this movie, the director gave him a reference book of the look and feel he was going for, which was more than just the color palette. It’s a very interesting read in that Shane discusses the intentions for the imagery of a movie based around the characters. Since it is a movie about teenage unpredictability, he wanted the images to replicate that rather than it being a produced, Hollywood film with “correct” lighting and composition. The article continues to discuss creating light meant for the scene, and delves into different lighting options (it all gets a bit technical). I love how he prefaces the lighting discussion with the theory and practice he’s done over the years.
I love this article. Reading it in succession with article #2 really gives the audience a wealth of knowledge of color correction theory and technical workflow. They give you all the pieces of the puzzle to go try it yourself. (Disclaimer: This article wasn’t written specifically by Shane, but since it was published on his website I will still treat it as a “must-read” resources from him). Camera settings for picture profiles are discussed, mentioning how first you want to work with a “flat” image (lots of midtones, not dark dark blacks and burnt out whites) so that you have a range of tones to work with for editing. They then discuss the order in which you should deal with color correction to get the best possible image starting with de-noising and balancing the image through ending with grading and sharpening. Color correction can be a massive process, and it’s really easy to get carried away (or to lose sight of the initial image you wanted) and this article helps keep you on track, in terms of where the shadows should live and how to make sure to adjust the midtones properly for skin tones. This article is a really good starting point for color correcting your image properly and you can play with it from there. Color is a subjective topic and is a very powerful tool for conveying mood and messages, so be sure to think carefully about what you’re going for.
Shane Hurlbut has a lot of great resources on his website with tons of experience. His articles are always humorous and factual, filled with priceless information. He devotes lots of time to writing about these topics for the rest of us in the field to learn from, and for that we thank you Shane!
All photos courtesy of Shane Hurlbut