I’ll grant you that there’s a void out there for proper training in lighting for film. But you don’t have to go to film school to learn this craft: Shane Hurlbut’s online Hurlbut Academy is a gem. It’s like finding ice cream on a hot, deserted island. And it’s my insider’s tip to get you from that PA job slinging coffee, to that dream gaffer job jumping onto your own grip truck in search of an Arri, drape or c-stand. But I’m not going to lie; you’ll also need the patience of a saint, lots of time, and probably supplemental work parking cars or bartending as you attempt to become an electrician on a film set.
A gaffer job, the circuitous way
Since your chances of leaping straight into a film lighting department are scarce, you might have to content yourself with PA work helping out the lighting department when they’re overwhelmed. Some PA’s cop an attitude about helping out the lighting department this way; they view it as being taken advantage of since they’re getting paid a lot less. Not only is that total bunk, but also it’s a sure-fire way to stay stagnant in the film and television business.
Another option is to get a job at a film lighting rental house, loading a grip truck while, at the same time, embracing photography as a serious hobby to learn composition, lighting, exposure, and color correction. It blows my mind how many lighting professionals don’t know how to use a color temperature meter or an exposure meter.
The Hurlbut Academy lighting alternative
And then there’s Shane Hurlbut to the rescue, short-circuiting a potentially steep learning curve with his free online lighting classes at Hurlbut Academy. One example of how he does it is by creating a comprehensive online class on how to light night interiors. In this particular course, he starts by teaching you how to create an ambient light source, which in his world is often moonlight.
Shane shows you how to create the perfect room tone and texture to make your interior night scene way above average. He also covers augmenting existing practical lights in a scene while swapping bulbs that work better. Shane shows you how to use a color temperature meter so you can match existing color temperatures to existing sources. Best yet, his course covers comprehensive instruction on fill lighting. Camera placement and camera movement are well thought out and delivered in the course material. He also includes ways to shoot underexposed, wide open, and right at the limits of a digital sensor. Shane’s methods are old school, but it’s the right school for a process that we film world veterans know to be efficient and deliver the absolute best final result. Why make life harder than it already is?
In the class Shane Hurlbut covers:
- How to set the perfect room tone
- Augmenting existing practical lights
- Using depth of field
- Matching color temperatures to existing sources
- How to create moon-light
- How to get that perfect exposure
- Art department secrets
- Fill lighting
- Creating texture
- Using false color
- Camera placement
- Camera movement
- Blocking with actors
- Action drama romance comedy
The best light for the job
The beauty of Shane Hurlbut’s work is that he doesn’t always order super expensive lighting for his grip truck. One of his chosen lighting instruments for this class is the Westcott shallow softbox with a tungsten globe installed. These are lights that you may need to own. They fold up and go into a backpack. They’re portable, relatively inexpensive, and you’ll have them for a lifetime.
Shane Hurlbut’s ability to break down a lighting problem and carefully explain it cleverly is a real gift. His classes are a valuable time investment for your career and will take you from average to excellent in a short time. There’s no one else like him doing such great work teaching film lighting.