With the breadth and width of DSLR shoulder rigs and tripod-top camera support systems available today, is it possible to completely redefine the HDSLR camera support ecosystem?
Before we attempt to answer this question, let me tell you a little bit about Shane Hurlbut. He’s a top working cinematographer here in Hollywood. His work includes a long list of beautifully photographed feature films, plus a variety of commercial work as well as short films and labor of love projects such as The Last Three Minutes.
Shane Hurlbut is truly unique among his peers, because of his no-holds-barred approach to capturing and creating cinematography. Unlike your typical DP, whose team consists of a First and Second AC, Shane has created what he calls “The Elite Team.” Your average run-of-the-mill camera assistant need not apply. Any and every Elite Team member is willing, able and capable of operating a camera or performing any other task related to getting the shot. Elite Team members don’t even blink if they’re asked to perform a duty two steps above or two steps below their pay grade. They’re a singularly focused unit of ass-kickers capable of getting a shot under any circumstances.
These guys have broken the mold on how camera teams operate and they have battle tested gear under the worst possible conditions you can image. Can you imagine what would happen if they designed a camera support system?? Well that’s exactly what happened. The Shane Hurlbut Master Cinema Series DSLR support system from Letus is truly unique. Using it, you get the sense that it was designed to turn a HDSLR camera into a true cinema camera like a Panavision or Arri. Quality is on par with top level support equipment such as Zacuto, but the design is clearly different. Where Zacuto excels for the on-the-go new-school shooter, the Master Cinema Series is clearly targeted at the traditional cinematographer who is accustomed to using Fisher dollies and geared heads.
The system is extremely well thought out. The camera can be extricated from the cage without dis-assembly. The cage features a battery hatch so the camera battery can be exchanged without removing the camera, and there is a left-side start-stop switch to roll the camera. The entire system is smartly modular and can convert from a proper dolly mounted camera system to a shoulder rig in seconds. The EVF leveler is nothing short of remarkable. All of the padding is made from handsome stitched leather. The quality of the machining is on par with the top equipment on the market today.
“This equipment is designed and priced for every filmmaker to enjoy, no matter what the budget. Whether someone is lensing a wedding, documentary, music video, commercial or a full-length feature, this is their form factor. Hurlbut and Letus have married 20 years of movie making experience, along with 4 years of DSLR photography into one powerful rig. Letus has prototyped and manufactured 16 individual components for Hurlbut’s Master Cinema Series system. The complete system morphs from one form to another effortlessly and converts into 4 specific configurations: Studio Cam, Shoulder Cam, Man Cam, and Action Cam. They have designed a forward thinking rig series to maximize your investment because it will work with future DSLR camera models.” says Hurlbut.
The product launch featured stations where you could do hands-on testing of the equipment. I had a chance to operate the equipment on a Fisher dolly, and I’m not exaggerating, it makes the 5D operate and feel exactly like a Panavision camera. The ergonomics were fantastic and all of the adjustments were exactly as you would imagine, smooth to adjust and solid on the lockdown.
So back to the question, is there room to redefine the camera support system in 2011? The answer is yes. The Master Cinema Series is the clear choice for professional cinematographers who are trying to replicate to operational capabilities and feel of a proper cinema camera. These are proper filmmaking tools for proper filmmakers. Congrats to Shane and the entire Elite Team for creating something truly unique. That Master Cinema Series is rockin’.