Home Camera Navy Swimmer: Pool Training Sequence With Real Time Workflow

Navy Swimmer: Pool Training Sequence With Real Time Workflow

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

The Bandito Brothers Production Company has a very unique work flow. I have adopted the Bandito Brothers “Real Time” shooting module and combined it with “traditional” filming. Here is how we made it work for the Navy Swimmer commercial.

Imagine prepping, shot listing and then letting the action play out in real time like a play. We put the cameras in and around the Navy SEALS action to document it without interrupting to get amazing moments of serendipity that would not have happened it they were broken down into individual shots.  We shot in real time.

First, we set up  “cover sets,” a concept coined by director Michael “Mouse “ McCoy.  We then discuss the operation and where to best set up our cameras to cover it.  The Elite Team is put in place and we run the image capture live as it happens.  No stopping the action and breaking it down into pieces; we run the whole thing again until we get all of the necessary coverage.

Here is the breakdown for the Pool Training Sequence for Navy Swimmer.

  • 1-camera in deep water housing which captures underwater and split level shots
  • 1- camera on a dolly tracking profile with swimmers that moves at water level and then submerges to see them swim underwater
  • 1-camera on 300mm Canon lensing medium shots of the recruits as they pop out of the water and sit at the pools edge
  • 1-camera on 600mm Canon lensing extreme close-up shots of the recruits as they pop out of the water and sit at the pools edge
  • 1-camera on a high overhead shot as the swimmers head at camera to take in the scope.
  • 1-camera high speed on a dolly tracking at water level with the swimmers
  • 1- camera hand held on 70-200mm Canon Zoom going rogue and capturing little bits
Navy Swimmer 720p

Navy Swimmer 720p & 1080p

The serendipity moments are real; you feel like you are experiencing it as if you are the Navy Swimmer, Diver, or SEAL.  We are able to lens these 3 minute spots for the Navy in 3-4 hours with our small footprint shooting module. Now, there are moments while we are shooting that have Blue on Blue filming, which is a military term that means you are shooting yourself.   For the few seconds where the other cameras are seen, we then go to Brett the magician in the After Effects room at Bandito Brothers to deliver his artistry.  He has painted me out of several shots, the most obvious one was on the swim deck of the yacht on the “Where’s the 5D MIO SEAL operation.”

This is groundbreaking filming which is unique in its style and execution and has only been possible since the invention of the Canon 5D, 7D and 1D cameras.

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Nick Keating November 28, 2009 at 12:03 AM

I love this! Incredible tactic, there is no question that these pieces would not be the same without the “Real Time” mentality. Are you guys hiring by any chance? haha. Nice work Shane.

Shane November 28, 2009 at 7:40 AM

Nick Keating, thank you so much. Yes the real time module works very well. Time and time again we go back to it and are hardly ever disappointed, it feels real. We are always looking for passionate filmmaker’s.

Gord Stephen November 28, 2009 at 12:57 AM

Very cool stuff. Do you bring any lighting gear to a shoot like this, or are you strictly working with the light that’s available?

Shane November 28, 2009 at 7:37 AM

Gord, this is all available light. Trying to shoot at the right place, at the right time. We wanted to have a stormy vibe for the downed pilot sequence we heard weather was coming in, so we altered our schedule to take advantage of the storm.

Bib Kenrer November 28, 2009 at 7:13 PM

Brilliant! Your images do them justice for the challenging work they do.

Peter November 29, 2009 at 2:24 AM

Beautiful Shane, it lets the hard edge of the real world be seen as a vivid work of art, kind of like a deadly snake, behind glass! Especially like the view from above the chopper looking at the paterns on the water. Very nice 🙂

Shane December 2, 2009 at 1:36 AM

Peter, thank you so much, that is one of my favorite shots, it looks like a space black hole in the ocean.

Greg Connors November 30, 2009 at 12:33 AM

Well done you continue to shape and push the camera’s uses. They are plenty out there waiting for the perfect camera and you are proof that its the one that you use now. Know the negatives of a camera but concentrate on the positives of a camera and great vision will flow. That is why camera work is a discipline.
Is it right that 7 Canon 5d MKII/7D cameras were used just for the Pool Training Sequence? Where there other cameras used for the Commercial apart from Canon EOS cameras?

Many thanks for putting it out there too.

Shane December 2, 2009 at 1:35 AM

Greg Connors, yes I used film for the high speed work in and outside of the pool and then the Sony F23 for all of the helicopter gyro mount shots.

S. Swigart November 30, 2009 at 1:19 AM

Great stuff! Enjoyed watching and thanks for posting what lenses were used. Very cool.

Georg November 30, 2009 at 11:14 AM

Great to hear that you can make documentary footage that way.

A technical question: Is there a recommended shutter speed for helicopters? I am going to shoot one soon with a 5D and am a little afraid that the rotor blades will look like they stand still (as it happens e.g. with the Red Bull Air Race Onboard Cameras and propellers).

Shane December 2, 2009 at 1:31 AM

Georg, the Red Bull cameras do not process the info. fast enough so you get the standing still blades or the bending blades. We shot most of ours at 1/50 sec. That seems to show them off beautifully. The Twixtor 30p to 24p pull up seems to help also.

Joel Bergsma November 30, 2009 at 2:57 PM

Very Cool!

Was the 5D or 7D used for the slow-mo shots at the beginning?

Shane December 2, 2009 at 1:29 AM

Joel Bergsma, No that was shot on film.5201, 50 iso daylight 96fps

Gary November 30, 2009 at 6:16 PM

Great Work!

What is your workflow for audio?

Thank you

Shane December 2, 2009 at 1:27 AM

Gary, we do double system with a DAT recorder, we shoot 30p and then Twixtor to 24p to sync up with the 23.98 audio track.

Carlos December 1, 2009 at 12:01 PM

As I sit in an edit bay waiting for the producer to comen in I’d like to complient the editing. Just got a 7d and I’m hooked. Shane, stu m, phil bloom, Vincent laforet have inspired thousands of up-and-coming film makers. I love this site
Thank you

Shane December 2, 2009 at 1:48 AM

Carlos, thank you so much for your kind words. I will continue to help in anyway I can. The newsletter this month is rocking. It has a list and description of every piece of gear I used to make the Navy Seal movie, make sure you are signed up. I look forward to seeing your work, get out there and make it count.

Dustin McKim December 1, 2009 at 4:41 PM

Brilliant strategy, nothing is better than having tons of great footage in the editing room when it’s all done. I did a test scene the same way. A night time narrative table shoot with 3 7D’s. We spent the extra time rigging the lights from above and through the windows. We hid lights behind furniture to give depth on walls. It took a long time to setup, but once we started to shoot, I’ve never flown through a scene so quick. Didn’t have to break much with the actors, it was amazing. There were issues of course with noise levels from the cameras but that’s another story.

Keep up the amazing work Shane!

Shane December 2, 2009 at 1:45 AM

Dustin, that sounds very cool. I like the stage play; real time feel. I am glad you liked it.

S. Swigart December 2, 2009 at 2:30 AM

I am a graduate film student who is an aspiring cinematographer and is looking to work/intern this summer with an ASC cinematographer. Please visit my website (linked through my name) for a sample of some of my photography. I look forward to seeing your future work.

Shane December 21, 2009 at 3:28 AM

S. Swigart, Could you email [email protected] so that we can add to our list of interns, when we have a project we would love to contact you, Loved your still shots especially the subway escalator. I am based in L.A., where are you going to film school?

Joel Bergsma December 2, 2009 at 3:07 PM

What brand of compact flash cards are you using? And do you ever experience camera lockup?

My Sandisk Ultra 2 8 GB cards have been a disaster when it comes to shooting video.

Shane December 2, 2009 at 7:48 PM

Joel, I use the Extreme IV UDMA cards8GB or 16 GB that process at 45mb/sec. Your camera processes at 45mb/sec so if you card does not you will have rolling shutter issues, really compressed files and artifacts. Never had one of these cards lock up

Joel Bergsma December 3, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Thanks Shane, I absolutely love what you’re doing with this blog – Keep up the amazing work.

kristoffer akselbo December 8, 2009 at 12:37 PM

Great little film..just bought a 300mm manual f2.8 ed ai lens..couldnot afford a cannon. Can u say something about focal lenght. Which prime for What. Just trying to learn som tricks
. Best kristoffer.

kristoffer akselbo December 8, 2009 at 3:33 PM

I forgot to say it was a nikkon 300mm lens.

Darin Raney June 23, 2010 at 7:06 PM

AMAZING stuff, Shane! By far the best 5d stuff I’ve seen…

I’m getting ready to shoot a ‘one crazy night’ comedy using 3 HDSLRs, mostly available light (our entire lighting package will consist of 2 Arri 650s, 2 300s, 2 150s, a couple Kinoflos and maybe a Arri 1.2k HMI Par). Most of the film takes place in fairly well-lit streets, parties, etc.

I’m excited about combining a 35mm narrative film look with the spontaneous, highly mobile documentary shooting style that the HDSLRs allow.

I have a couple question for you… First of all, you mentioned on the Red Center podcast that you prefer shooting 30P and Twixtoring to 24P. Now that the 24P firmware is out, is that still your preferred workflow?

Secondly, do you use any custom picture profiles? I read the article about having a ‘Look’ setting for lighting and a ‘Raw’ setting for shooting. Have you made your ‘Navy Raw’ profile available anywhere? Also, would it be possible for you to post or email the large collection of custom picture profiles that was mentioned on another thread?

Thanks so much! I’m in total agreement that we’re hitting a new wave of filmmaking technique and I thank you for having the vision to champion these new tools. I honestly would not have been able to secure funding support for my film without the work that you, Philip Bloom and others that have produced that shows what these cameras are capable of.

Shane June 25, 2010 at 10:30 PM

Darin Raney, thank you so much for your words and support. I would go with 24p, you are going to be much happier. Yes I have custom picture style profiles that I have put together. These are very personal and are what sets me apart from the other people in this fish bowl. I have no problem giving you the keys to the castle but my personal picture styles is one of the things that makes my Hurlbut Visuals Moviemakers unique. I hope you understand. You are very welcome and I am very excited that we all had a role in getting your film off the ground. Rock it out my friend!!

Darin Raney July 1, 2010 at 11:28 PM

That’s quite understandable… Any advice on the moire issues? I shot a suburban street of brick houses the other day (as a test) and was MORTIFIED when I watched it on a 62″ HD monitor. Any thoughts on the Caprock filter?

Shane July 3, 2010 at 2:40 PM

Darin Raney, was that with a 7D or a 5D? Look at your sharpening tool. If it is on at all it will increase your moire effect.

Darin Raney July 6, 2010 at 11:53 PM

That was with a 7D. I didn’t have the 5D with me on that day. We’re using two 5Ds and 2 7Ds on the film (7Ds for slow-mo and when we’re shooting under f 4).

Shane July 7, 2010 at 10:22 PM

Darin Raney, That is what I thought. Watch your 7D slow-motion, it looks like video at 720. Very soft, more alaising issues also. What picture style are you shooting with?

Darin Raney July 8, 2010 at 12:02 AM

That particular test was shot with Standard with the sharpening turned down two notches. I’m finding I’m getting much better results from both cameras when using custom picture styles.

For wide exteriors without people, a custom profile called Velvia seems to work extremely well. The colors are very vibrant and it seems to hold the highlights better than anything else I’ve tried. It doesn’t work well at all for skin tones, so I am working on a happy medium that’s less saturated with better skintones.

The other profile I’ve been using is one I made myself to approximate the DVX-200’s Cinegamma. It has fairly subtle tweaks to the gamma curve that seem to open up the shadows a bit and hold the highlights a bit better.

I also made one that I’m calling WideLat that APPEARS to give me 12 stops of latitude. I made it by shooting a grayscale still as raw and then tweaking the curve to give me as many gradations as possible. It has problems though; it seems to require a lot more light than other profiles and the skin tones look a little weird. Given enough light, it looks fantastic with certain types of shots though. I could send it to you if you’d like to take a look at it.

Shane July 8, 2010 at 8:43 AM

Darin Raney, First off I would love to take a look at your picture styles. Second your best bet for shooting is to be on Neutral. If you are using Canon lenses then your contrast should be at -3 and your saturation at -1. No sharpening tool at all. That is why you are getting the moire’ issues. Dynamic range is one thing, but I find that once you achieve that everything else has gone to hell. This 8 BIT compressed color space will hand you your hat quickly. Neutral rocks!! Period.

Bill July 27, 2010 at 7:36 PM

When the media manager formats the cards on a computer does it matter if it is on a Mac or PC and when he does should it be Fat 32 or NTFS formatting?


Shane July 28, 2010 at 3:27 PM

Bill, It does not matter what computer you use as long as you format the external hard drives to Fat 32. Never format cards on the computer, always format on the camera because you can address the card to the camera. Using the file numbers generated by each individual camera (ex. MVI_0000) you can identify which camera is which at the beginning of every shoot. Say cam A is (MVI_2000), cam B is (MVI_3000), and cam C is (MVI_4000). So long as you select “continuous” for the file numbering in the menu, you will always be able to tell, after shooting, which card came from each camera. Card A1 for example would be MVI_2001 – MVI_2020 (this would be after 20 takes). Formatting in the camera allows you to have that option. Also, after you have downloaded the footage in your computer, rename the EOS…etc. folder to something else like “done” that way when the card goes back to the camera department, no image will register on the camera. This totally helps any confusion when the shit hits the fan and cards are being exchanged quickly with multiple cameras crackin’.

Bill August 13, 2010 at 9:41 AM

Shane Picture Styles, I know what they are (sort of)do they effect film clips as well as stills? Do you know of a site that has “Picture Styles for Dummies?”

Thank you,

Rory McGuinness June 12, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Hi Shane, thanks for the wonderful blog.

Can you offer any advice about shooting underwater with DSLRs? I’m DPing a project this summer which will require a fair amount of water stuff. We’re using the Sony F3 as our A-Camera, but will probably shoot underwater with the 5D or the 7D.

What housing did you use? Are there special problems (other than the obvious) which I should take into consideration when planning these shoots?




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