Helmet Cams: Visceral, Intimate, and Emotional Connection with Your 5D
- November 12, 2010
- Shane Hurlbut, ASC
The first job that I ever shot with the Canon 5D was as Director and DP on a webisode series that Director of “Terminator Salvation” McG asked me to do. We produced these webisodes as part of the “Terminator Salvation” marketing campaign to be used before the movie was released. When I saw how amazing the imagery from this camera looked and the way that it moved on someone’s head or in someone’s hands, I was sold.
First person perspective footage was taken to the next level when I signed on to lens the Navy SEAL action picture “Act of Valor” with the Bandito Brothers. Directors Scotty Waugh and Mouse McCoy wanted to think outside of the box for a new look and feel. I said, “What if we put the viewer in the eyes of the Navy SEAL. The film would feel like the video game ‘Call of Duty,’ with this first person shooter perspective.”
We set out on a mission to design and build a Hurlbut Visuals helmet cam that would be rigged on the right side of the SEALs’ heads and over their gun sights. It moved like you have never seen a camera move before. Jumping into rivers, running down tunnels, chasing bad guys in trucks, and going underwater was all do-able while using the helmet cam. The shots were intimate, visceral, and breathtaking.
When Hurlbut Visuals produced the critically acclaimed short film “The Last 3 Minutes,” (http://www.ojaifilmfestival.com/ and http://www.cinemastlouis.org/) the director, Po Chan, wanted a first person perspective that was different from the video game quality of “Act of Valor.” She wanted the footage to be elegant, smooth, and to transport the viewer through time. I knew that the helmet cam that we had designed for AOV was too far away from the wearer’s eyes and that we needed to outsource in order to get the equipment necessary. I called Gary Thieltges at Doggicam to see if he had made anything for this camera system that was closer to the eyes. I have used Doggicam on almost every one of my feature films. I have employed their body mount rigs, carbon fiber remote heads, and unique rigs on bikes and motorcycles. You name it, they can mount it. Gary told me that he had just made a helmet cam that he thought that I would really like. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. In one word, “WOW.” It is so well designed. He had taken a Baseball helmet and cut the right ear flap off. This gives you the ability to get the camera very close to the right eye, which was a more fine tuned version of my original helmet cam design. It uses all of Gary’s special 5/8” rods and rod clamps to mount the camera anywhere you like. This integrates incredibly well with a remote follow focus system and anything else that you might need to add like wireless video, a battery, etc. It has a very simple counter weight design that enables you to balance the rig on anyone’s head, and a neck support travels in the kit as well.
The Last 3 Minutes – Directed by Po Chan
In “The Last 3 Minutes” we slid into home plate with this helmet rigged to my Elite Team member Bodie Orman’s head. We were able to take viewers on a journey, showing them what it would feel like to slide into home along with the emotion that goes into scoring a winning run. We took all of the batteries and the wireless video transmitter and put them in a backpack for Bodie to wear so that we could reduce the weight on his head and neck as much as possible.
The Vietnam sequence was another example of taking this platform to the next level. As a bomb goes off, Bodie drops to the ground with his hands and M-16 in the bottom of frame. The viewer is emotionally involved, and again, it is a visceral experience.
We mounted the helmet cam on Josh Pritz’s head. He was playing our young William. Josh gets into a street fight with my son Myles.
The helmet cam was the only tool that could give us this unique first person perspective with the elegance and beauty that Po wanted.
Hurlbut Visuals helmet cam at work in the Dominican Republic
When we were doing a Travel and Tourism spot in the Dominican Republic for AM Resorts, director Rob Lawe at Fresh Pictures wanted viewers to experience the resort through the eyes of the couple that was staying at the Zoëtry resort. We rigged the Hurlbut Visuals helmet to our beautiful model and she revealed footage of exotic room locations that transitioned right into the aquamarine color waters of the Caribbean, as well as relaxing spas and night clubs.
When you are shooting an intimate scene and you want to be in the middle of the action, a helmet cam is an amazing tool to meet your needs. It is powerful for two things: immersing you in the action and having a first person point of view. The mixture of the helmet cam and the 5D is very powerful. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on what equipment you have used to achieve this same type of effect.