Tag Archives: Lighting

Shane Hurlbut’s lighting classes can improve your film career and grip truck gear

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. 

Dave's Grip & Lighting grip truck in Wynwood Miami
Dave’s Grip & Lighting on location in Wynwood, Miami

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:

  1. How to set the perfect room tone
  2. Augmenting existing practical lights
  3. Using depth of field
  4. Matching color temperatures to existing sources
  5. How to create moon-light
  6. How to get that perfect exposure 
  7. Art department secrets
  8. Fill lighting
  9. Creating texture 
  10. Using false color
  11. Camera placement 
  12. Camera movement 
  13. Blocking with actors
  14. 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.

Do you have Shane Hurlbut’s ‘book light’ gear on your grip truck?

Shane Hurlbut teaches HOW TO BUILD A BOOK LIGHT lighting techniques
to film and lighting professionals at Hurlbut Academy.

Starting his career at the bottom and no stranger to a grip truck, Shane Hurlbut is one of my idols! Shane Hurlbut, ASC, is a director of cinematography, film and television lighting professional, who I’ve known for a long time. I remember him working as a gaffer alongside me on Gloria Estefan music videos in Miami — more years ago than I’d like to recall.

I’ll never forget how he required everybody in the grip and lighting department to be on their walkie-talkies with an FBI surveillance mic in their ears. Not carrying a radio was not an option. He was super-serious about communication on film sets, and when he needed something from the grip truck, someone always brought it to him seconds later.

Shane’s ability to anticipate what the director of photography was going to need and then have it on hand when asked for was truly remarkable.  The grip truck could be four blocks away but, somehow magically, Shane had everything when needed right there on location.

Why the Hurlbut Academy is awesome

Shane’s blog and website are some of the best content that I’ve ever seen when it comes to lighting instruction for high-end digital cinema productions. Hurlbut Academy is nothing short of genius. I put a couple of my grip truck crew guys through his program when they brought their academy classes to Fort Lauderdale a few years ago. As part of the academy instruction, they brought in an airplane interior from a movie film set. My guys came back inspired by Shane and with a bunch of simple yet inexpensive lighting techniques that are old school but also the right school. Shane obviously loves teaching and it seems to give him great joy. There’s no one on earth who offers the value-per-dollar-spent to train you as a gaffer or cinematographer the way he does.

Hurlbut Academy’s Free Book Light Tutorial

Shane Hurlbut’s free book light tutorial on Hurlbut Academy is fantastic for film and television lighting. One of the things I like the most about this tutorial is that he’s not all hung up using the latest and greatest grip and lighting products. He gives you about seven choices for lights to recreate the book light look. He shows you how to use everything from the up-to-the-minute latest film and lighting gear that you’ll find on a professional grip truck in Miami, to the most essential and basic movie lights that you might find on a student film that cost maybe $50 apiece.

DIY Film & Lighting Techniques

At the same time, Shane’s a DIY kind of guy. If you don’t have professional diffusion, for example, he recommends a shower curtain. If you don’t have bleached muslin, he suggests using a T-shirt. There are many ways to skin a cat, and Shane Hurlbut offers many excellent suggestions when it comes to film and television lighting.

Among his free tutorials, the book light tutorial is one of my favorites. It has a lot of wow factor for customers, and it looks expensive but it’s not. Hollywood’s been using the book light technique since the beginning of time, and it always produces great results because it does a fantastic job of wrapping light. 

I’m a Shane Hurlbut fan. He also grew up in Ithaca, New York, near one of my favorite places, Cayuga Lake. He’s a tall guy with an unbelievable curiosity for life. He worked his way up in the film industry, from the bottom, and he’s one of those 25-year overnight successes.

NAB 2019 is shaping up nicely for lighting and grip rental

Who’s going to NAB2019 from the Miami grip truck crowd? Give a shout out if any of my Miami lighting and grip brothers and sisters are attending. Not to mention any crew new to the business, and seasoned veterans.  Stay tuned here on my blog and Facebook page about unique opportunities to interact with people, and new lighting equipment at NAB 2019. I’ll be chatting up all the lighting and grip reps on the floor. Here’s a look at some of the lights I’ve written about at previous NAB’s.

Also, hoping to get out into the desert as usual for my annual sunrise hike:  Red Rocks Vegas.   Everybody’s invited!

And, check out this: The Hollywood Reporter Cinematographer’s Roundtable. It’s a great chat with an amazing collection of top DP’s who’ve lensed some of the most impactful movies of 2018.