“Act Of Valor” – filming with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II around LIVE ammo!

by planetmitch7 Comments

If you've been following planet5D at all, you know I'm a huge fan of Shane Hurlbut and the Hurlbut Visuals team – and Shane tweeted this “Act of Valor” (IMDB) featurette this morning about shooting with LIVE AMMO, and if this doesn't get your blood moving, I don't know what will!

If you haven't heard, “Act of Valor” was primarily shot on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II and is coming to theaters around the USA on Feb 17 – just 3 weeks from now! I can't wait to see the 5D2 up on the big screen again.

I still feel so blessed to have been able to even simulate just a tiny little bit of what it was like to film this movie when I was invited to the Letus and Hurlbut Visuals unveiling of the Master Cinema Series event. As you may recall, they had a ‘course' set up where we could follow 2 real Navy Seals with the ManCam unit filming as they re-enacted a capture of a terrorist in a dark building. It was a blast running down that hall filming with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II and then watching the replay out in another room with the Seals. What a fun night that was! Take a few moments and read about the event.

Act Of Valor – Official Real Bullets Featurette [HD]

[tentblogger-youtube oD7j4vmWHi0]

Release Date: 17 February 2012
Genre: Action | Adventure | Thriller
Cast: Roselyn Sanchez, Emilio Rivera, Nestor Serrano
Directors: Mike McCoy, Scott Waugh
Writer: Kurt Johnstad
Studio: Relativity Media
Plot:An elite team of Navy SEALs embark on a covert mission to recover a kidnapped CIA agent.

Other trailers and stuff

Act Of Valor Making Of Featurette Official 2012 [HD] – Navy SEAL Movie [tentblogger-youtube VRECg_a-ta4]

Act of Valor – Official Trailer [HD] [tentblogger-youtube cUkKuImX_ok]

Act Of Valor – Official Trailer 3 [HD] [tentblogger-youtube 6oLSBOIMX3o]


  1. I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of this film last night on 1/27/12 . Being an experienced union DP and a owner of a 5D MK II I was excited to see this film knowing that some of it was shot on the 5D MK II. The screening room had a top of the line projector and audio gear. With that said I knew I could get an accurate representation of what Shane was going for. I must say there were some focus issues and some rolling shutter problems (inherent in hdslr’s) and exaggerated on the big screen. I also noticed that some of the shots with a high dynamic range didn’t hold up as good as I thought they would. i.e. Zacuto’s “The Great Camera Shootout ” The highlights got clipped and had at times a yellowish tinge to them. I also noticed that some of the first person aerial shots look like they were filmed with Contour cameras. But even the short comings of the technical limitations of the cameras didn’t pull me out of the story and for the cost of the gear to the image quality you get on screen is awesome. Cudos to Shane for his great cinematography as well. The film has an almost docu-drama first person video game feel which really worked for this style of filming. It is also a little scary on how advanced the militaries gadgets really are too.
    The film is well worth seeing for the action sequences, live firing of ammunition and sound design gave me chills on the back of my neck. However, they should of used real actors or at least a couple of good actors for the lead roles. I felt at times I was watching a history channel show.

  2. Great post, Mitch! If any readers are interested in finding out more about Shane’s work on Act of Valor, I interviewed him last summer and have written two articles about it for MovieMaker Magazine. You can see the first one here:


    The second article just hit newsstands in their Sundance issue (currently available in print only). I saw a rough cut of Act of Valor a few months ago and can assure everyone that it is one wild ride. The 5D footage looks amazing on the big screen. Not that I was surprised by that… in 2009, I directed one of the first 5D features — www.jasonsbigproblem.com — and even though we had shot it in 30P (remember those days?!), it still looked great when we did our festival screenings in 2010. The audience just assumed it was shot on 35mm film… just as they will for Act of Valor, I’m sure.

  3. I agree with cameraman, I saw an advanced screening 1/27/12 in Sacramento. It was packed and I was upfront, close to the screen so I could see everything.

    I saw one shot with visible aliasing that I remember, the aerial above the submarine showing the water – it was quick but it looked to me they took aliasing out of the water digitally.

    There were focus issues but it fit the action and story. Overall, it was soft when compared to a RED but not bad or even near bad. Please understand what I am trying to say: it all worked together with this powerful story visually.

    The scenes at night, with the platoon going through the grass, lit by the moon: everything was perfect for that 5d. I have hit this once in my amateur videos, where when I got in post, it had this natural roll off with dynamic range, great color and detail.

    That scene blew me away, it all worked. That scene would cut with any camera – an Alexa or RED – perfectly. It just held up. The low light noise is better than a RED One for sure.

    Other scenes were beautiful, but soft. The interrogation with the squad leader on the boat has a full beard and Shane was close enough so you could see the pores in his skin: I just kept thinking how that shot with a RED or film would of been razor sharp, but it was good.

    Now here is the kicker, the important aspect of any film: I go with buddies who represent the general audience and know little to nothing about resolution, line skipping, 4k and other stuff we obsess about.

    Their comments: the camera angles have never been shown before in a movie – they were true first person and took them in. The background blur was so blurry at times, they were surprised and remembered it – it gave the movie a unique look. The colors and overall shots were amazing. They wondered why sometimes people were OOF, but they thought it was more realistic, not as polished, but more gritty – like the subject matter.

    Acting – main character dialog was hard to watch at times, definitely knew they were not actors but they forgave them because they are real Navy Seals and when it came down to the action scenes, this by far is the most realistic military/action movie to date.

    Nothing said about aliasing or being soft.

    My final comment: this by far is the most realistic military action movie to date and the reason why is because of the small details: the technical terms they call out, their body language, how they load and shoot, how they communicate with their hands and a touch each other’s shoulder, how they aim and shoot, conserve bullets, ect.

    Hollywood has portrayed it so wrong it isn’t even funny.

    1. I think you really nailed it with that comment. Yes, there are plenty of image details that trained eyes most certainly will notice. And yes, some of the acting is what it is. (The Chief and the villains had some really nice stuff, though.)

      But to the lay person — the average moviegoer who just wants to get lost in the world of a story — I honestly believe that this movie will blow them away.

      Shane Hurlbut has said that he was going for an immersive visual experience unlike any other. And I believe he has certainly achieved it. People with an appreciation for military hardware are just gonna be pumped when they watch this. Plus, let’s not forget that the cameras people try to compare the footage to cost so much more than our 5Ds.

  4. We can all point out the shortcomings of the 5D2…right? The fact is that it “worked”…Plain and simple. That is pretty damn amazing considering it is a an affordable DSLR.

  5. I am just speechless. It is amazing how they managed to make an entire film on mostly a DSLR. This is going to expand the DSLR world so much. Also, imagine what filmmakers are going to be able to do in the future with the Mark III and new HD DSLRs to come. A $3,000 camera making one of the best films ever (in my opinion)! WOW!

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