Shane Hurlbut, ASC – Letus Master Cinema Series Launch Video Blog

Ethics Notice: Letus paid my expenses and invited me to the Los Angeles Launch Party so that I could document the event for my blog. I am not being compensated for the shooting, editing or writing of this blog. I was sent home with a working ‘Shoulder Cam’ rig because I was excited to use it straight away and hope to keep it indefinitely. I have work lined up to use the gear in the next few weeks. I highly recommend this rig and only endorse products on this website that I feel work as advertised and are worth the investment.

UPDATE 11/16/11
I was mistaken in this video blog reporting that Shane used the Master Cinema Series rigs on the upcoming film, “Act of Valor”. He did not use the exact rigs that Letus is selling today. Shane did use custom rigs with bits and pieces from multiple manufacturers. Some parts he fabricated himself to create the ultimate rig for use with 5dmk2 cameras on “Act of Valor”. The Master Cinema Series was created because Shane felt that there were no solutions from a single manufacturer on the market that worked for him. Sorry for the error and resulting confusion, it was not intentional. I did not create this video blog as an advertisement, I want to get the to get the word out. I remain firm in my opinion that these Letus/Hurlbut MCS rigs work the best so far for me.

Until a few days ago, the 5dmk2 camera body was uncontrollable, hard to handle and I could not find a good way to shoot with it hand held. Most of my work was limited, because I refused to hold it while shooting and only used it on a tripod head.

Yea…there are many solutions on the market today, but I have tried shoulder rigs from different manufacturers and felt like they were too expensive for what you got or not designed to feel like a real shoulder mounted camera. The pads were wrong, the balance was off and they were just a mess of long rods with knobs or screws that bogged me down. Product designers finally understood that the eyepiece viewfinder needed to be off the shoulder rig, but the support systems were slow to use and painful to operate! In fact, I have been using my 5dmk2 with a monopod to run and gun! I also had to resort to mounting the camera on a Glidecam 4000 Pro just to get rid of the rolling shutter problem when shooting off the hip. High frequency shake (and the resulting jelly-image) is the biggest problem when shooting with these CMOS sensors.

I have never blogged about a shoulder rig on this website because the stuff out there was unacceptable…until now. I have finally found a rig that I can recommend to my readers. The Master Cinema Series.

Letus, the guys who dominated the 35mm lens adapters a couple years ago, are back in the manufacturing spotlight. They have teamed up with veteran cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, ASC to create a support system to tame small form-factor cameras. Shane has worked in the television and film industry for many years and knows what works and what doesn’t. He designed the new Master Cinema Series out of necessity. Just like me, there was nothing on the market today that worked for him as a professional director of photography. This is the difference between Letus and all other DSLR support kits in the wild today, the new Letus gear was built by a cinematographer for cinematographers.

Act of Valor movie trailer

Shane worked on the upcoming Navy Seal action flick, “Act of Valor” and wanted to use a handheld rig to get the audience engaged into the feature film. Over 80 percent of the movie was shot on Canon DSLR using the Letus kit. (Correction: He used a custom kit built from parts manufactured by other companies and himself. Shane later went to Letus to create the ultimate one-shop kit, the Master Cinema Series). He has an aggressive shooting style and understands the value of these sensitive, sharp and small go-anywhere cameras.

I joined Shane Hurlbut, Aaron Pinto, Hien Le, Matt Jeppsen, Ron Dawson, Tim Park, Planet Mitch, Ryan Connolly, Russell Carpenter, Vincent Laforet, Rodney Charters, Freddie Wong and many other Hollywood professionals at the Letus Launch Party near Bandito Brothers Studios in Los Angeles, California. Shane had all 4 configurations of the system set up for viewing and testing. The plan was not to just see the rigs sitting on a table top, but to run them through their paces in actual production environments.

The complete package will cost about $6,500. This includes the power cage, IR stem, Lemo-style cables, matte box, follow focus, rods, handles, pads, viewfinder leveling brackets, quick release plates, screws, Anton Bauer Gold-mount, weight plates and backpack. With all this stuff you can build any of the four configurations below.

Action Cam – $1,450

Man Cam Bundle – $2,590

Shoulder Cam Bundle – $3,270

Studio Cam Bundle – $4,000

I am really impressed by the ‘Man Cam‘ and ‘Shoulder Cam‘. These two configurations renewed my love for the Canon 5dmk2. I can now comfortably shoot aggressive handheld with the small camera systems and achieve the results I want. The leveling viewfinder option on ‘Studio Cam‘ is also exciting and will help me when I work off a tripod or dolly system.

I highly recommend the auto ratio adjusting Zacuto EVF and Z-finder as the eyepiece monitoring option. This is sold separately. Letus will soon offer the Hawk diopter for use with the Zacuto EVF so you have a different choice.

The best part of the Master Cinema Series is that it is modular. You are future-proofing your investment. The build quality is excellent and I like the use of solid Lemo-type connectors on the power cage. The quick-release plates making changing configurations fast and do not slow you down during production. Above all else, the system can be used with many small form-factor camera systems, including future camera support. Letus plans on making cages for the new Sony cameras as well as the unreleased Canon that will be announced on November 3rd.

I will use the Canon 5dmk2 and Master Cinema Series rigs in ‘Shoulder Cam‘ mode on a web series I am shooting for National Geographic over the next few months. I will have a BeachTek XLR adapter mounted to the cage along with Sony UWP wireless microphone receivers. I plan on powering everything using Anton Bauer Dionic 90 batteries.

I will be DP’ing a music video and independent horror film in the next few weeks. I am looking forward to using the Canon 5dmk2 with a wide angle CP.2 prime in the ‘Man Cam‘ configuration. It’s gonna be a blast tossing it around with my arms and getting very close to the stories I am capturing. I hope to blog about these experiences with some BTS pictures…stay tuned!

Matt Jeppsen, of put together a quick edit of the launch event shot on his Canon DSLR. You can see me running around in the background with my Sony SR11 on a monopod! He also has more pictures from the event, you can find them here.

If you are interested in buying the new Letus Master Cinema Series gear, please visit the online store here. The kits plan on shipping in November.

Update 11/16/11: Shot a music video using the Hurlbut/Letus Master Cinema Series. Check it out here.