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Shane Hurlbut, A.S.C., is a world-renowned cinematographer who shoots multimillion dollar blockbuster films. Shane brings a level of unparalleled passion and excitement to everything he does. He is an innovative cinematic pioneer that deploys new techniques on every project to challenge him and enhance the quality of his work. He seamlessly blends different camera emulsions to enhance storytelling. One of his recent films, "Act of Valor," was shot primarily using the Canon 5D Mark II camera and is the first HDSLR full-length feature released by a major studio.
"I was 14 and my dad and I were putting a jack under one of our barns that had slipped off its foundation," recalls world-renowned cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, ASC. "He was jacking it from the outside, and I was inside with the come-a-longs, trying to pull the building back into place. The come-a-long snapped and went flying by my face. Then the barn started to go. My dad held the side of the barn while he got the jack back in. Then his back blew out. He was in traction for six months, and it was my responsibility, at 14, to harvest all the crops just as the rains and flooding started."
Being literally up to his waist in challenges taught the young Hurlbut how to respond when plans turn sour. Six months of crafting Plan A might suddenly wash away, and the Plan B you think up on the spot must be even better than the previous approach. That flexibility, spawned from grit, instinct, and insight, remains the critical force guiding Shane’s meteoric career behind the camera. It’s the force that led him from the farmlands of upstate New York to the bright lights of Hollywood, and it continues to shape everything from his lighting methods to his G-Technology-fueled data storage strategies.
Long before he racked up cinematographer credits on titles such as "We Are Marshall," "Terminator Salvation," and "Act of Valor," Shane started off in a two-year program pursuing his interest in radio. By the third year, he shifted into studying TV and won a scholarship sizable enough to provide a full ride to the university of his choice. Showing that early knack for balancing the big picture with the problem at hand, he narrowed the search to Boston, where his high school sweetheart, Lydia, attended Simmons College. Shane chose Emerson’s Mass Communications program, which quickly turned into a four-year film program that he completed in two years. (Lydia, meanwhile, chose Shane, and they’ve now been married for 27 years.) Despite the frantically accelerated schedule, Shane finished first in his class.
Overnight, Shane went from being the big fish in Emerson’s little pond to landing the closest thing he could find to being a brilliant filmmaker: packing grip trucks for $3.50 an hour. However, due to his farm experience, he could drive 40-foot trailers as easily as tractors, and soon he was not only driving grip trucks but helping everyone who would give him the time of day in their own piece of the filmmaking process.
"After a couple of years working in Boston," says Shane, "I realized that the only way I was going to move up the ladder was to get rid of the guy ahead of me. Rather than start a criminal record, we moved to L.A., where I could make my own mark…and then started right back at the bottom stacking grip trucks."
After three months, a producer approached Shane, complimenting his on-the-job passion and asking if he would drive a truck on a new movie, even though it would mean quitting his current job. Without hesitation, Shane jumped. It was 1988. The movie was "Phantasm II."
One of the many contacts Shane met on that job was USC cinematography graduate Brian Coyne, who pulled Shane aside in front of the crematorium set and asked, "Shane, if you were looking at this in the movie theater, would you be scared?" Shane didn’t understand, so his friend clarified, telling him to look at how things were lit. Every nook and cranny was exposed. In a scene meant to inspire fear, there wasn’t one shadow.
"It was like — bam!" Shane recalls. "From that point on, everything I looked at was light. Driving down the road, going into every room, I would study the colors and how light plays, and I’d try to formulate plans to duplicate those realities with movie lights. I went from being a grip truck driver in ’88 to a key grip and then a gaffer in ’89. By 1991, I was a full-fledged gaffer/cinematographer on music videos. Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Nirvana. The people I worked with pushed me into the unknown and helped me formulate my jump-off-the-cliff attitude. They gave me the ability to light any situation as a storyteller."
Whether chasing the love of his life to Boston or chasing the perfection of lighting from music videos into TV and feature films, Shane’s fearless approach to life and career changes may look like blind leaps of faith, but they are always carefully calculated risks. When his family’s $40,000 crop of red kidney beans lay under two feet of flood water, Shane couldn’t drive the tractor with its bean picker — so he hired a bulldozer to pull the tractor, despite the cost and possibility that the work-around might fail. The benefit merited the risk of an unconventional solution.
When seven HBO production heads interviewed Shane for the cinematographer position on 1998’s Emmy-winning film, "The Rat Pack," he had to fight not only against his youth but also his background as a technician rather than a narrative filmmaker. Almost no one had ever come into the cinematographer’s chair via the gaffer side, but Shane knew his objective. His passion and expertise and the support of director Rob Cohen swayed HBO into giving him the job. He’s been the cinematographer on over 20 films since then.
The odds of a successful cliff jump increase dramatically when a desired target is firmly in sight and the jumper’s tools are top-quality. (Having a failed come-a-long nearly snap your face off will drive this point home.) In 2009, Shane and his wife Lydia started the Hurlblog as a way to give back to the coming generation and share his two decades of deep knowledge with the world. From the blog soon emerged Hurlbut Visuals, a creation vehicle for shorts and commercials. Again, with no small amount of risk and lack of convention, Hurlbut Visuals emerged from Shane’s blog, then fed back into it. The more Shane shared and educated, including the latest addition of his membership-based Inner Circle, the more work his blog attracted, and the more tools he brought in for that work, the more he had to write about.
After shooting 16 or so movies on film, Shane committed to digital, and that meant finding the right digital workflow tools, especially for data storage. He asked every available post-production expert he could find. Despite there being plenty of external hard drive options on the market, one piece of feedback remained consistent: No one had ever seen a G-Technology drive fail. Shane gave the brand a try and confirmed his colleagues’ opinions first-hand. Today, all of the educational content that Hurlbut Visuals creates, and everything the firm’s DITs handle on-set, all backs up to various G-RAID® drives. The advantages extend across both data protection and improved workflow performance.
"We’ll be shooting," says Shane, "and the DIT will be backing up the footage as we shoot. Sometimes, all of a sudden, we’re losing the light, and we’ll just roll three or four cameras for 50 minutes straight, then wrap. Now, those four cameras with 50 minutes of 5K imagery get dumped on our DIT. If we have to work with slower, inferior drives, production will be looking at their watches and saying, ‘What’s taking you so long? Why don’t you have this backed up?’ Not having these guys sitting around waiting saves a lot of money."
Hurlbut Visuals currently uses several generations of G-RAIDÒ solutions, including 2TB, 4TB, 8TB, and 16TB models. For more portable needs, Shane recently started using 1TB G-DRIVEÒ ev RaW models, in part because of their rugged yet lightweight reinforcing bumpers for improved protection in the field. From PC workstations to the same real-time 5K HP machine that edited "Gone Girl," all of Hurlbut’s systems connect to G-Technology solutions via USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt™ connections. He looks forward to being one of G-Technology’s earliest adopters of even more scalable, high-performance solutions coming in 2016.
In a very real sense, choosing the right storage lies at the foundation of Hurlbut Visuals. Shane needs dependability and reliable protection for his assets. He also needs products able to meet his technical and performance needs, both for today’s work and where his sees his business going.
Of course, simply having the right tools at your fingertips is not enough. Professionals understand that a long-term career gets built on proper workflow and use strategies.
"Making one backup is never going to let you succeed," Shane says. "We often do four backups of everything. One we would hold with us. The second goes back to editorial via FedEx. A third we hand-carry everywhere we go, then deliver back to editorial. The fourth stays in a vault. All those backups are absolutely essential for success when you’re working in this digital age. So many times, I’ve reminded my creative director when he didn’t make a backup — he just saved it once then shipped the drive. He’ll say, ‘I was rushing, I didn’t have time.’ And I’m like, ‘Are you freaking kidding me?!’ That is the wrong way to jump off a cliff."
G-Team members are leaders in their respective fields who use G-Technology products in their day-to-day work lives. G-Team members are compensated for their participation.
G‐Technology external hard drives serve as an element of an overall backup strategy. It is recommended that users keep two or more copies of their most important files backed up or stored on separate devices or online services.