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HDSLR Cinematographer Starter Kit

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

Here is another episode in the B&H series we did in 2011, this time on the HDSLR cinematographer’s starter kit. A transcript follows. Although I’m using the Canon 5D Mk II in the video, this doesn’t apply just to the 5D. The methodology is the same for other DSLR cameras.

HDSLR Educational Series for Cinema
Shane Hurlbut, ASC discusses what you need to work on the HDSLR platform.

Episode 4: Cinematographer Starter Kit

Hi. I’m Shane Hurlbut, ASC and welcome to the B&H HDSLR Educational Series for Cinema. Episode 4: Cinematographer Starter Kit.

You’ve decided to shoot on the HDSLR platform but you’re not sure what you need. Well, I’ve got it all splayed out here on the table for you. I started with this simple device that I call the Man Cam. It’s kind of half handheld, half steady cam. I would move this baby around. You can be low. You can be high. You can swing around. This was my capture device.

What do you need to accessorize the Man Cam? The Z-Finder is one of your most powerful tools in this platform. You have to be able to focus and this gives you that ability. It’s incredible. It has a diopter. You can select different views 2x, 3x, 2.5x magnification. That’s the one I like the best.

The other thing you need is a handheld rig. This is a very light camera and by being very light, it means it gets a lot of vibration if you’re just holding it in your hand. I can pop this baby off the Man Cam. If I go in my hand, this is what we call stripper mode. It’s all stripped down. It’s just you walking and running around with this thing. It tends to vibrate in your hand and not be very stable and there are a lot of rolling shutter anomalies.

What we’ve done is put together this handheld rig, the Redrock shoulder rig. With this high speed base plate, you’re able to snap it right off the Man Cam rig and then put it right back on to this baby and now you’re up and running. Now you’ve got your handheld. It’s very stable. The cool thing about this is it weighs like 7 lbs. You can come back. You can bend down. I’m not taking a knee. I’m using my knees and I’m 46 years old.

It is still a still camera so there’s a little funkiness and a little quirkiness to it. If I’m watching it, no one else can see it. You’re going to need a Marshall On-Board Monitor. This is very important. This clips right on to this baby and gives you the ability to frame off of the Marshall. You send a feed out of the camera through the Marshall Monitor back to Video Village.

Now, follow focus. You’re going to need to be able to follow focus. This is an Arri follow focus that I use in my kit. Zacuto makes one. Redrock makes one. There are a lot of people making these follow focuses. I gravitated towards the Arriflex, which basically goes right down in here, locks in and you’ve got your follow focus.

What else do you need? Well, you need memory cards. The Extreme 8GB is my choice. I have 8 GB and I also have 16GB. These are 60 mb per second and they rock. You need back up batteries because these batteries, they last 30-45 minutes but when it’s hot or it’s cold, they’re going to run down a lot quicker so you need at least 4 or 5 of these to back yourself up.

If you want to upgrade to remote follow focus, I use the BarTech. This device is incredible. It has a motor that goes on to your camera, on to your lens, and focuses remotely.

One thing that gives you the amazing power with this platform that takes something that’s ordinary and makes it extraordinary is neutral density filters. If you’re shooting day exteriors and you’re at 160, you’re going to be in probably 11-16 split maybe even a 22 without filtration, so everything’s going to be in focus. You don’t want that.

This is a filter that I designed along with Tiffen. It’s Water White Glass and it’s engineered specifically for the Canon 5D. It understands its color space and gives you the cleanest filtration out there. Tiffen Water White in 4 x 5 or you can get them also in 77mm. They screw right on to the lens. It’s very simple. You set it up like that.

You’ve got to power this whole rig up. If you want to power your on-board Marshall monitor and your BarTech remote follow focus, you’re going to need some batteries. I use the Anton Bauer 90 Dionics. These babies will last for four days powering up that monitor and this BarTech motor. You also need a charger with it. You can get your tandem charger from Anton Bauer.

How do you monitor this thing if you’re lighting? Well, I tend to not light off of the Marshall. I light off of my DreamColor. This is an HP 2480zx DreamColor Monitor. The reason I really responded to this monitor is because of its contrast range. It felt like it was delivering exactly what my picture style and what I saw through my eye on the monitor.

Now that you’ve seen what it takes to put together a cinematographer starter kit, tune in to episode 5 where we’re going to take the best for motion picture and the best from still photography and collide them into hybrid of etiquette and workflow for your camera.


Shane Hurlbut, ASC
HDSLR Educational Series for Cinema

Julien Lasseur – Director
Karlyn Michelson – Producer
Shane Hurlbut, ASC, Lydia Hurlbut, and Brad Bitton – Executive Producers
Clint Milby – Associate Producer
Bodie Orman – Director of Photography
Edited by Karlyn Michelson
Sponsored by B&H

Shane Hurlbut, ASC – Instructor
Eli Jane – Model in Introduction

Production Coordinator – Anne Gaither
Camera Operator – Kevin Anderson
Camera Operator – Eric Wolfinger
Camera Operator – Valentin Vignet
Steadicam Operator – Hayden Houser
Key Grip – Fabio Newman
Hair/Makeup – Teddie Bergman
Sound – Vincent Fatato

Production Assistants – Brian Touhy, Lucas Petri

Special Thanks to Mole-Richardson

Buy the Canon 5D Mk II

Watch episode 1 – Know Your Camera: Canon 5D MK II – Turning Your Still Camera Into a Movie Making Machine
Watch episode 2 – Canon 5D MK II: Challenges and Solutions
Watch episode 3 – HDSLR Challenges: Working With a Still Lens
Watch episode 5 – HDSLR Workflow and Etiquette
Watch episode 6 – HDSLR: A New Digital Film Language

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Gianluca July 31, 2013 at 7:33 PM

Shane now is time for NDs that are screwable and 105mm for the Canon EF 4K primes.
Can’t wait you make with Tiffen something like that. Canon 1Dc 4K, 105mm NDs, BarTech and Mōvi 10 is going to be a killing cocktail, too bad that there is always to wait so long before accessories are ready.

Mark DePasquale August 1, 2013 at 7:55 PM

Hi Shane, I just wanted to say that I absolutely love all of your posts! They are always extremely in depth and very very interesting. I’m currently a high schooler with a huge passion for filmmaking, and my entire team and I are completely self taught in all things related to filmmaking as our school has no classes for media. It’s high quality content like yours that educated me throughout the years and not only inspired, but allowed me to follow my dreams and make movies. For that I just wanted to say thank you to take time out of your hectic life to share such useful knowledge to those like me who cannot gain said knowledge elsewhere. Through content like yours I was able to teach myself the different aspects of movie making and as a senior in high school I have now made my first feature length film (it is an hour and forty minutes). If you have a free minute, I’d love for you to check out it’s trailer at this link, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPVNDaLIbBI the film is called Retrieval. Without you and your willingness to share your knowledge there’s a good chance this film would have never been made.

Mark D

Dustin M. Mankin August 4, 2013 at 6:18 AM


You are remarkably well spoken for a high school student. Good luck and God bless. A lack of media classes isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I had a high school media course and I graduated from Ohio University Southern in T.V. Production. I can honestly say I’ve learned more on my own from researching online (especially here) and doing than I did in any of my classes. That’s not to say that an education isn’t valuable, it’s just that you don’t necessarily need it to follow your dreams. Keep up your strong spirit and chase the light!

Mark DePasquale August 6, 2013 at 11:56 AM

Thank you for your very kind words Dustin, I greatly appreciate it! I’ve already hit my fair share of hurdles and road blocks throughout the production of all of my films and I anticipate to hit many more in the future, but I have no plans of giving up either. Your encouragement truly means a lot to me!

Shane August 24, 2013 at 9:11 AM

Mark DePasquale, WOW!!!! I am really glad that all of this information and inspiration has helped guide you. It was the intent of my beautiful wife Lydia to give all this out. To educate, innovate and inspire filmmakers that might not have the resources of a film program. I will check out the trailer and thank you for all of your wonderful words and support.

Mark DePasquale November 21, 2013 at 7:23 AM

Hi Shane, thank you so much for responding, I greatly appreciate it! I look forward to all of the content you’ll continue to post here on the Hurlblog, it is truly outstanding and again, greatly appreciated. I wish you the best of luck on all of your future projects, I know I’ll be in the theaters checking them all out when they release!

Shane November 22, 2013 at 8:14 AM

Mark DePasquale, you are very welcome and I appreciate all your kind words and support of this blog. It comes out of my passion and love for what I do and that love transforms into sharing with all of you. Thank you and I want feedback when you see Need for Speed on March 14, 2014.

Sarah Le July 20, 2014 at 10:36 PM

Hi Shane, I don’t see any video for this post. Do you have an updated link for it? Thanks! Love your website and blog! Thank you for sharing all this knowledge!

Shane July 21, 2014 at 10:20 AM

I just shot a new introduction, and we will be making the videos available again in just a couple weeks. Stand by.

Norbu November 26, 2016 at 3:46 AM

Hi Shane, I just bought a FotodioX Pro Lens Mount Adapter Arri PL to Canon EF for my Canon 1DX and 5D Mark III to take Cooke S4/i and Angenieux Optimo 15-40. It did not work out at all. Could you please tell me what kind of lens mount adapter I should get to make it work. Many thanks.



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