‘Act of Valor’ Steps Up the HDSLR Game

Act of Valor

I waited patiently for a couple of years or so since I first heard about a Navy Seal movie Shane Hurlbut ASC was shooting on the Canon 5D Mark II.  I’ve read about how Shane lit night scenes with practicals, numerous mentions of his man-cam and helmet cam rigs, and how Zeiss lenses worked in tandem with the 5D Mark II for a big screen blockbuster.

It hit theaters yesterday.  And, I set out last night with a few friends to watch it.  I was not disappointed.

I like a good action movie, but so many are so forgettable.  In terms of just enjoying an action flick, Act of Valor is the best I’ve seen since Black Hawk Down.  While there were some weak spots in the acting along the way and the characters were a little thin, the overall story was immersive and tense throughout – a common thread with all of my friends as we talked about it afterward.  The theater was full and the film received a generous applause as the credits rolled.

Shane Hurlbut posted a couple of days ago about how Act of Valor reinvents the action genre.  The POV and man-cam shots do just that.  It sucks you into the film in a way like no other traditional shots or the sexiest special effects can.  Act of Valor has some of those scenes that will stick in your mind just because they are awesome – like the final bank heist shootout in Heat or the big chase scene in Ronin (a couple of my personal favorites). Just great cinematic storytelling.

If you play video games like Call of Duty or Battlefield, you’ll definitely feel a little crossover into the action you are accustomed to seeing in those first-person shooter style of games.  Again, this is attributed directly to the flexibility of the 5D Mark II.

I think we’ll see a lot more of this creative and immersive look now that smaller cameras are more abundant throughout the range of technical levels.  The C300 isn’t a whole lot larger than the 5D Mark II when you equip either with, say, a Zeiss CP.2 on a man-cam.  The C300 may be a little big for the helmet cam, but there are plenty of DSLRs that can still handle those ultralight roles.  Canon and Nikon both seem to have the rolling shutter figured out in their latest HDSLRs.

What’s amazing is that they were shooting this film in 30p in early 2009 right after the manual exposure firmware update came along for the 5D Mark II. No CineStyle from Technicolor. It was just figuring out the camera before Canon knew what it had and then running with it.

If you’re an HDSLR shooter, aspiring filmmaker, or a just a fan of action flicks, you owe it to yourself to pay $10 to go see what these guys have done with a camera you can buy at a local electronics retailer.

If you want to learn a little more behind the scenes on how the movie came to be, there’s a lot of great info coming from this Adobe Panel at Sundance, in which Jacob Rosenberg (of Bandito Bros) talked about the partnership with the US Navy and other BTS topics from Act of Valor.  There are a ton of great stories out there about the making of this film, and I’m sure there will be plenty more from Hurlbut and others down the line.  I’ll be sure to pass along the interesting stuff that I see.

Have you seen Act of Valor yet?  What did you think about it?



  1. Jim says

    Great film in the opinion of a “non-action film lover”. So what if these guys are not professional actors? They more than acquit themselves doing their “thing” and thank God we have them on our side! You will be proud to be an American by the time the credits roll and you sit in respectful silence seeing the names of the Seals displayed who have paid the ultimate price for our liberty!!