Home Camera One Sunrise: In One Day, One Moment, A Turning Point Captured Across America for Prudential

One Sunrise: In One Day, One Moment, A Turning Point Captured Across America for Prudential

written by Shane Hurlbut, ASC

image 1 prudential

I had just wrapped “Deadfall” in Montreal and was in need of down time.  I had just started to re-connect with my family when a call came in from the production company Smuggler.  This call was so extraordinary that I could not say no. Imagine being the supervising Director of Photography to more than 125 cinematographers across our beautiful nation who were asked to capture that magical moment: sunrise on the Canon 5D. A moment that happens everyday but never seems trivial, always special. Our mission was a daunting task for any director and D.P. to undertake.

The concept from the Ad agency was absolutely brilliant.  It was so inspiring to walk into the control room on our test day and meet all of the people behind this concept. Here was the Droga5 concept that they came up and the team behind it.

David Droga – Creative Chairman for Droga 5

Ted Royer – ECD

Kevin Brady – Creative Director

Graham Douglas – Copywriter

Ben Wolan – Art Director

Bryan Yasko – Group Account Director

Emily Brooks – Account Director

Ben Davies – Agency Producer

map image

Here is an excerpt from the director Ringan Ledwidge’s treatment.

Turning Point is how this films taps into the idea of a shared moment. This story gives us that moment of pause, a chance to reflect on how every morning we all share this beginning of the day, and it happens to be this beautiful, awesome experience of a sunrise. There are not many things in this world that can just make you stop and be still the way a sunrise can. Even though it happens every day it is just a joy to sit and watch it.

Part of what makes it special is how you can be all alone but at the same time feel connected to a larger world and greater sense of humanity. In this way, it’s kind of like staring up at a starry sky or reading a really good book. The other part that’s so great about a sunrise is how it feels like a great beginning, a start of something wonderful, no matter how ordinary. There is a great sense of hope and inspiration and tranquility in this shared moment and we want to bring these emotional qualities to this film.

His treatment inspired me and I was so excited to be apart of this history-making event.

Ringan and I were up to the challenge.  We reviewed location folder after location folder. Ringan had chosen wonderful cameramen to deliver this vision. Documentarians, still photographers, indie filmmakers, you name it, he found them.  We had 22 A units, then the A units had three to eight B units.  We broadcasted all of the 22 A unit shots via the internet assisted by the Teradek cube WiFi device to a control room in SoHo where they were displayed on 3-60” color calibrated monitors.  This is the reason why the Teradek cube device works with the Canon 5D now.  Originally, the Cube would not handle the 5D down converting of the signal to Standard Def.  I didn’t want to go down this road unless I could lens all of these images with the 5D, which I feel is the ultimate capture medium in the DSLR platform. Teradek figured out a work around and made it happen on the 11th hour.  I never thought that the WiFi feed would be good enough to adjust exposure, color and picture style, but sure enough that is what we were able to do.

Imagine 22 cameras in all different locals, talking everyone through exposures, compositions, lens selections and picture styles on the fly. “OK Jersey shore, we need to lower the camera pan left and get those reeds in the foreground, Brooklyn Bridge, roll your window down, the tint is too heavy, Pittsburgh, we are too wide, go to a 50mm and push in, Ohio Valley, which bus is set to move?  Omaha, where is the sun?  Kansas City, let’s walk up handheld with the subway commuters, keep that sun in the center.”  It was controlled chaos, but so exhilarating for a cinematographer.

The design of the spot we felt should be serendipity.  It should feel like lightning in a bottle.  Every image that I expose has a purpose, a story, an emotional connection, in essence, heart. These images were not just vistas. Ringan and I wanted it to be personal and intimate.  We had our amazing team of shooters with a bus driver in Memphis on his morning route, with a farmer in a truck driving in Nebraska, in a car going over the Brooklyn bridge, with a baby and a father at breakfast in a home in Missouri, with wild horses running on the plains, a self portrait of a person’s hand in Monument Valley, with a farmer in California’s central valley inspecting his crop and a person taking a Tai Chi class in San Francisco, just to name a few.

We took a map of America and visually designed which lens would suit the geographic region the best.  Urban, ethnic neighborhoods received Zeiss ZE glass for their cool color and contrasty feel; the South, Reno and Ohio valley regions received Nikon AI glass for their yellow and softer look; the open plains of Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah received Leica for their lower contrast and warmer color tone.  The Cosmopolitan city centers received Canon lenses for their clean, colorful look. This was our Mantra.

How did we even the playing field? I felt we had hired uniquely talented cinematographers to do what they do best, but I wanted the image to have consistency.  I sent out a document that I called the Rules of Engagement. This became every cinematographer’s Bible. Everything they needed to know about how to set up the camera and etiquette the way we wanted it to look.

map image

We employed Technicolor’s Cinestyle on its maiden voyage.  This picture style seemed to work well in extreme contrast conditions and we had that in spades.  The sun had to be in the center of every frame about 2/5th’s of the way up the frame and a specific size, which required exposing more for the sun then the shade to keep the sun’s size consistent.  Imagine those old flip books where the stick figure guy walks across the frame, well Ringan’s concept was the sun rising across America.

How do you acquire this amount of gear in such a short amount of time?  I went to my amazing sponsors to help me pull this off.  Brian Valente at Redrock Micro supplied all of the Man Cams and Shoulder rigs to smooth out all of the shooters handheld shots.  Jill Conrad from Tiffen Filters helped supply all of the HV Tiffen Water White 77mm Neutral Density Indie Kits so that the shooters were able to keep the exposures all around a 4-5.6. To be able to make the Teradek Cube work so that the director and I could see the image in SoHo at Command Central as well as the cinematographer, Wes Phillips at Small HD supplied all of the on-board monitors for the Canon 5D set-ups. Eric Kessler was there to supply his Cine-Sliders to give cinematic movement to specific shots.

Now you have the gear, but who can pull this all together?  We call them “The Dream Team.”  Moira Hurley, Sally Humphries and Andy Coverdale were the Production supervisors.  Along with their amazing staff that shipped lenses, researched filters, arranged location folders till 4 am in the morning: you name it they did it.   In 5 words they “helped pull of the impossible.”  Allison Kunzman was the Executive Producer on this monolith and she delivered with grace. Here is the Dream Team from Smuggler:

Allison Kunzman – Executive Producer

Sally Humphries- Director’s Producer

Moira Hurley- Production Supervisor

Andy Coverdale – Production Supervisor

Danny Hillman – Production Coordinator

Alexis Del Prete – Office PA

James Coker – Office PA

Kelly Cirpriano – Office PA

Now coordinating this event on the test and shoot day as well as the conference call was all on the very talented Assistant Director John Lowe.  I will never forget the speaker phone to all of the units across the country, as well as the 16 hour conference call that John scheduled so that every shooters questions were addressed.  It was a rolling conference call from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  At one point John handed me the phone and I had another phone in my hand as well, I forgot who I was talking to and what I had previously said.  It was crazy, but this long day of prep was worth it on our shoot day.  Everything went pretty seamlessly.

The commercial is beautiful, intimate and inspiring, but the story behind it is what is truly unbelievable.  One day, one sunrise, 125 cameras across America.  This was out of the box thinking at its best.  Here are some still grabs from our test day.

I want to extend a huge thank you to the entire A teams and B teams that made this event possible. Without your expertise, instincts, compositional style and experience this would never have happened.  You inspired me and breathed life into an incredible commercial event.

A Screenshot From My Test Call Locations Version 4.0 Doc

A Screenshot From My Test Call Locations Version 4.0 Doc

the sunrise

man at sunrise

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Mike Collins June 18, 2011 at 7:33 AM

Beautiful commercial Shane. I always laugh when people say the 5D isn’t a “real camera”. It’s inspirational to see you continuing to embrace this platform. Thanks for always being so willing to share with the community.

Shane June 18, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Mike Collins, Thank you for all of your support. Yes this is a real camera, sit back and enjoy. You are very welcome.

Dave Dugdale June 18, 2011 at 9:50 AM

I liked the Kansas City shot and the deer looking up.

Sebastian Kubatz June 18, 2011 at 11:04 AM

wow this is really inspiring
would love to do that kind of project across Europe too

– Sebastian

Shane June 18, 2011 at 2:24 PM

Sebastian Kubatz, thank you so much for your kind words and support, I felt that this was such a cool, innovative idea.

Sebastian Kubatz June 18, 2011 at 2:40 PM

Yes it indeed is a cool and innovative idea.
What do you think? Would that be possible in Europe too?

Anyways thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.

– Sebastian

Shane June 18, 2011 at 2:49 PM

Sebastian Kubatz, absolutely!!!

Dave June 18, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Beautiful. Which I could embed it to share. Has it already run?

Michael Dalton June 18, 2011 at 2:04 PM

This is so awesome! One of the best Americana videos I’ve seen. So inspiring.

Michael Nease June 18, 2011 at 4:18 PM

Really inspiring! Great job!

Bill Walsh June 18, 2011 at 7:32 PM

It’s so incredibly seamless and natural. I was stunned when I placed my cursor on the first frame of the sun and watched every additional frame of the sun nail it from then on. Very cool hearing about your use of the Teradek and communication methods, though it’s though for me to see you had a shooter 10 minutes from me on the Jersey Shore, where I often watch the sunrise with my dslr.

Bill Walsh June 18, 2011 at 7:44 PM

It gets better upon every replay of the video. Your use of flares, reflections, direct/indirect sunlight as representations of the moment and transitions were flawless decisions. Such invisible cinematography where the viewer picks up on your cues subconsciously is extremely inspiring and will be in mind when I take on my next project.

Justin gustavison June 20, 2011 at 6:42 PM

I am inpired! Thanks Shane, for being a fearless leader in this movement!

Shane June 23, 2011 at 3:01 PM

Justin gustavison, thank you for all of these kind words and support.

Brendan June 20, 2011 at 9:37 PM

Teriffic job Shane. Thank you

Shane June 23, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Brendan, thank you man for your support.

Matt Short June 21, 2011 at 7:43 AM

When I first saw this spot on TV, I thought that must have taken weeks to get all those sunrises. And I thought that was a great feat. Now that I find out it was actually shot in a day – holy crap! How were the locations scouted? Some are obvious choices but did you ask the individual shooters for scouting picks or did someone take a massive road trip to figure this spot out logistically? I thought this was an amazing piece even before I found out what it took to make it.

Shane June 23, 2011 at 3:00 PM

Matt Short, thank you so much for your support and the kind words. Yes we had the shooters go out in their areas and send shots back where Ringan and I would sift through all of them to find the gems.

Satsuki Murashige June 23, 2011 at 5:25 AM

Hi Shane, I was one of your unit 22 B cam ops in San Francisco (Filbert & Hyde St). Interesting to hear how the project came together behind the scenes! Thanks for your energy and vision sir, it was a pleasure working with you 🙂

Shane June 23, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Satsuki Murashige, right back at you co-collaborator. We rocked it out.

Satsuki Murashige June 23, 2011 at 5:32 AM

P.S. I had a question about which picture style you ended up using in the final grade, since we bracketed styles for every shot. Did the Technicolor give an advantage in holding dynamic range and was there a noise penalty after grading it? What is your verdict on the Technicolor style – will you now be using it for every job?

Shane June 23, 2011 at 2:53 PM

Satsuki Murashige, No I will not. This was a great place to use it, but all the shots that didn’t have this extreme conditions look much more vibrant and alive then with the Technicolor Cinestyle.

Satsuki Murashige June 23, 2011 at 5:00 PM

Copy that, good to know. Thanks Shane.


Travis Guerra June 24, 2011 at 3:59 PM

Great Job. Maybe you could of asked your fans to submit there work for possible use? I personally filmed some that I would of loved to have submitted for you to use. Just thinking out load.

Shane June 25, 2011 at 10:22 PM

Travis Guerra, thank you so much for that support. That is an interesting idea, if I was directing.

Hal Smith June 25, 2011 at 9:54 AM

Caught it on the air the other day, your spot looked fabulous on my 58″ Samsung Plasma.

Shane June 25, 2011 at 10:21 PM

Hal Smith, thank you so much for your support. Silly still camera, yeah right!

james June 29, 2011 at 6:14 PM

fantastic spot….you never cease to amaze me with your images.
would it be too much to ask for the names of the talented dp’s who participated
in this project? would love to know.

thanks again, and looking forward to upcoming material!


Shane July 3, 2011 at 10:14 PM

james, the talented 22 A Team shooters are listed on the test day call sheet on the blog. If I can help in any other way please hit me back. Thanks so much for your wonderful words.

Steve July 1, 2011 at 12:36 AM

Im so inspired by this Shane. Every time I see footage from you and your team its overwhelming. Did you use Tiffen WW ND on this? any tips on color correction like this beautiful commercial. The 1st & 2nd shots are amazing details WOW!

Shane July 1, 2011 at 7:22 AM

Steve, that was all in camera with my Leica picture style, not Technicolor. I used Techinicolor’s when the sun was more extreme in contrast. Thank you so much for your kind words and support.

Steve July 7, 2011 at 3:51 AM

Leica Picture Style? With that picture style it was awesome 🙂

mirko September 24, 2011 at 8:54 AM

Hi Shane do i know what settings you used in your leica Picture Style?

Daniel Thomas July 1, 2011 at 11:23 AM

saw this as a commercial spot on CBS news last night. Wow, it held up beautifully on my LCD and plasma. Watched it several times and was amazed at how good it looked on a big screen. Congrats. The immensity of prep work is staggering and it came off perfectly. One of my favorite spots you have done. Your work is an inspiration for us who use this camera for music videos, tv work, etc and worried in the beginning that this camera wasn’t good enough.

Shane July 1, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Daniel Thomas, thank you so much for your kind words and support. I agree this camera is pretty spectacular but what makes it shine was all the talented shooters behind it. Remember it is just another tool to expand your creativity.

KIMU July 2, 2011 at 5:03 PM

Would you mind to give us a general idea of the entire Budget for this WONDERFUL Project ?

Bill Pryor July 3, 2011 at 7:11 PM

A truly beautiful spot! Excellent work.

Shane July 3, 2011 at 10:07 PM

Bill Pryor, thank you so much for your kind words.

Damon July 5, 2011 at 4:46 PM

So if I read this correctly, the Command Post was at PostWorks NY in SoHo? I am an aspiring DP who’s just started an internship at the midtown office and I was wondering what PostWork’s involvement was beyond hosting the command center. Did they grade the footage as well? Back home I almost exclusively shoot on the 5D or 60D but I shoot more on “instinct” than on really knowing the guts of the camera and codec. I would really like to talk to someone here that really knows the ins and outs of working with DSLR footage because I desperately want to eliminate as much of the “guesswork” as possible. I feel like I’ll never make the leap to the professional level until I master this.

I am so glad I’ve discovered your blog! Thank you for all that you have written about this subject.

Kasper Pedersen July 7, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Hi Shane

Just amazing! I had an internship in New York three years ago. The director had a goal in live – to move, touch and inspire people! That is exactly what you did with this piece of art!

Thank you!

Pardon my english and bad gramma.

Kindest regards Kasper from Denmark

Bruce July 11, 2011 at 1:11 PM

great spot, did all of the shooters (125 in all ?) get there day rate ? or did the agency low ball and ask
for all rights and and a coupon for a Subway sandwich in lieu of payment ?
great work needs to be compensated !

Prudential “Turning Point” | The Photogenic Lab September 13, 2011 at 9:48 PM

[…] The treatment by Ringan was something that had not been attempted before: exploring a shared moment on the dawn of a new day. The idea was to have over a hundred camera operators film the same identical sunrise as it appears across the United States in one morning spanning a total of 3 hours. This meant having these cameramen spread out over the country in their respective A and B units grabbing the shot. The A cams were feeding their signal via a wireless Teradek cube to a control room LIVE so that Shane and Ringan could oversee the shots in real time. The logistics of this sound insane and are described in more detail on Shane’s blog. […]

ShannonVisualsLLC March 3, 2013 at 2:51 PM

I love everything about that commercial. And this website. Thank you for everything you’ve done for up and comers like me!

Shane March 3, 2013 at 3:19 PM

ShanonVisualsLLC. Thank you for the kind words and support.


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