Cinematographer Sean Ruggeri

In episode #47 host Brett Stanley chats with cinematographer Sean Ruggeri who’s work with Red Cameras and Gates Housings has really taken him to some amazing places.

They chat about how he worked with Red to refine their Camera’s underwater abilities, his role in the new movie The Colony, and what happens in a submarine when you need to go to the bathroom!

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About Sean Ruggeri – Underwater Cinematographer

Sean Ruggeri is an established underwater cinematographer with work featured on projects such as the Emmy Award winning ‘Year In Space’, feature films like ‘Red Notice’ and ‘The Colony’.

Groundbreaking expeditions such as OceanXlplorer’s maiden voyage in the Red Sea which had Sean camera operating on scuba, inside subs and with ROVs for OceanX.

Sean was a full-time staffer with RED Digital Cinema for 12 years with a focus on supporting the nature filmmakers of the world while helping with product development and being the test pilot to shoot and publish the first underwater footage for all new cameras/sensors released by RED.

Based out of Southern California and working worldwide with a passion to explore and bring groundbreaking cinematic storytelling to the world. 

Podcast Transcript

47 – Sean Ruggeri

[00:00:00] Brett Stanley: Welcome back to the underwater podcast. And this week I’m chatting with cinematographer. Sean Regeri, who’s worked with red cameras and gates housings has really taken him to some amazing places. 

We chat about how he worked with red to refine their cameras, underwater abilities. His role in the new movie, the colony, and what happens in a submarine when you need to go to the bathroom. All right. Let’s dive in

 Sean welcome to the underwater podcast. 

[00:00:58] Sean Ruggeri: Thank you Brett. Glad to be here with you. I appreciate your podcasts. I love it very much, man. I love your work too.

[00:01:03] Brett Stanley: Oh, I think you dude. Yeah, I mean, I love your work too. And I guess what I would love to know is, is kind of get more into that, especially in this episode of, of, the Sean’s underwater world. how did that start?

[00:01:13] Sean Ruggeri: you know, I think it started way before photography for me. I think. grew up as a fish, you know, growing up in Southern California, you get to the beach, every chance you can, you know, we’re snorkeling, we’re surfing or swimming, whatever it is. And I grew up wanting to be a Marine biologist. I held onto that for a while too.

You know, definitely may have strayed away from it sooner or later once. Other fun things got involved and you kind of lose track of, of, of that type of thing. But when I, as a kid, I just gobbled up everything. I could ocean, you know, any book I can get with dolphins and whales and sharks lived off national geographics and then all the movies I could find.

Um, like I said, you know, you straight away, you find other things and then really held on to photography. Once I found that my dad got me into that and, Yeah, it just kind of came full circle, getting into cinema, take film classes, really not geared anywhere towards, um, nature filmmaking, but sooner or later it came full circle.

And that, you know, that I think happened after my time at red for a little while, and started connecting with a lot of the natural history filmmakers and red was really taking off in that world. 

[00:02:25] Brett Stanley: Okay. 

[00:02:26] Sean Ruggeri: I really concentrated in. My efforts in, on that crowd and try to support them as much as possible. And then it ended up being them, supporting me too, and kind of ushering me into the underwater cinematography world that they opened a lot of doors for me, a lot of, a lot of my colleagues in that world.

[00:02:44] Brett Stanley: And so, so in terms of that you’re talking about red, camera’s kind of, kind of pushing you into the underwater. 

[00:02:51] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. And I mean, that happened, you know, some years into my career at red where, you know, I started with them in 2007. Before they actually shipped the camera. So it was cool to see the last bit of development they had on the red one, which is the first camera and start out as like tech support for them going out on sets, you know, trying to support these big films that were just getting started with these real cutting edge technology.

Then eventually got a chance to get my hands on a gates housing that was built for the red one, started shooting that. And then, um, do you have really, like, it really took off for me and I wanted it, but it took off and actually was enabled by the new camera development. Somebody had to get it underwater in an alpha testing situation, you know, before we could really offer it to the public.

And luckily I really injected myself into that scenario. I kind of force myself into that role and wanted to be the guy to get an underwater. Once we had the first epic camera that had to get underwater gates, build a housing for that and let me go run with it. And it continued with every sensor read made.

After that, I gotta be the first person to get every new sensor underwater through the whole chain of, of sensors that was made for awhile.

[00:04:13] Brett Stanley: So it was red, really pushing for the underwater stuff where they was. It was it a. Were they really wanted to get into. 

[00:04:20] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. You know, I think it came from a personal interest more than anything that the camera lends itself perfectly to that world. The high frame rates, really high resolution, you know, the red was the pioneers of 4k realistically and. That technically, it makes sense for that world, but realistically, what happened is we all love it.

You know, the, the owner of red, the president of red, all those, all those cats, they are very into nature films and it’s stuff that just impresses visually 

and kinda, it makes, it makes the product shine no matter what. Right. But, but we all also had a very. Strong interest in both the conservation aspect of the environment, but also telling the stories visually.

So yeah, it was a perfect marriage, really?

[00:05:06] Brett Stanley: So what sort of things did you have to take into account with that, with that sort of R and D like the development to take the red camera underwater? What sort of things were the factors. 

[00:05:16] Sean Ruggeri: Uh, yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s an interesting question because, um, I would say it turned into an obsession of mine for at least like three years. We had the dragon sensor come out and there were reports of this magenta shift in water. Everybody called it the big magenta problem where you’d have this crystal clear blue water.

But a lot of times with a lot of particulate in it, you know, a lot of kind of sediments stirred up that, that type of, um, blue water that, you know, came an island sometimes Bahamas where it’s crystal clear, but there’s a lot of stuff in the. And a lot of folks were coming back with footage that kind of look magenta ish in, in their blue water.

And it was hard for them to color, correct out. Wasn’t a real easy, easy repair. And I tapped into some of the greatest minds in the industry. Um, David Blackcomb, uh, John Shaw were huge helps, and a lot of the research they were already doing was in UV. Cutville. And they were finding good results out of using these filters that cut the UV spectrum at a certain certain point.

And we really jumped into. Testing those out, bringing the footage back to genius minds like Graham mattress, who’s the color scientist for red. And he would tweak the footage, start figuring out what was lacking, what was missing, what was shifting, what was happening stuff way above my pay grade and definitely above my head, you know, but 

he would come back with, with, uh, kind of data points for what was working and what wasn’t.

And we developed the underwater old PF the UDS. You know, uh, optical low-pass filter and what it does is basically cuts UV off at a certain point of the spectrum. Let’s read through as much as possible. Cause the color red is filtered out first, you know, and water has a lot of us know. Um, so it was very specific to that market and it was a big effort.

probably not the greatest thing for the. To throw out there, but it costs a lot of money for them to develop. And they probably knew that maybe they wouldn’t even gain that money back as a product, but that wasn’t what was important. What was important was making the footage, shine, making this product really worked for that market because we were so interested in it.

[00:07:32] Brett Stanley: Absolutely. I mean, that’s something that I’ve never even really thought about. Like, you know, I, I think about the housings and I think about lighting and all that. So stuff I don’t, I don’t think about how the cameras change once we take them under water, you know, I feel like, you know, that’s kinda, that’s our problem, you know, it’s like, that’s a post production problem, but, but finding out that, that they’ve spent that much time to make the camera work better under the water.

Anyway, that’s great. 

[00:07:57] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. was agonizing at times, but a lot of fun too, you know, we gotta, we gotta take a couple of trips that came and islands and do the, do the alpha testing and, you know, jump in the water, shoot some color charts. And once we got done with that, go find some turtles.

[00:08:12] Brett Stanley: yeah. That’s exactly right. Let’s find some moving targets. 

[00:08:15] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah.

[00:08:16] Brett Stanley: So in terms of those of those kinds of changes that were made, are they things that happen in the camera above water as well? Did like does the camera and. To be changed, like, is there a setting that needs to be changed to tell it that it’s now under water? 

[00:08:29] Sean Ruggeri: Uh, no, not necessarily. Um, early on, you know, if you would do something like. Install that underwater old PF, you would have to go into the menus and you would have to tell it, you’re now using this filter, which is, you know, if you guys aren’t familiar with this, it’s basically just a filter that’s in front of the sensor.

It’s a piece of glass. And so you’re telling it, you’re now using this filter instead of the one you had previously. So switch your color science to adapt to that filter. And so that was something you had to do manually, but then eventually in the new iteration of the cameras, it had intelligent pins to detect.

What LPF you’d already put in there. So once you turn the camera back on it automatically switches all that for you,

[00:09:09] Brett Stanley: Oh, okay. So this is actually like a, like a physical filter that you,

plug into the camera. If you’re going to use this 

[00:09:14] Sean Ruggeri: correct? Yeah. Yeah,

[00:09:16] Brett Stanley: That’s amazing. And it made that much. 

[00:09:20] Sean Ruggeri: it did. Yeah. It’s in specific, uh, environments, especially, you know, that, that real blue water and I’m shooting back at the surface things like. It definitely did. And in certain sensors it made a bigger difference than others. Um, dragon needed it. Absolutely. Nowadays it does make a difference in certain situations, but the LPF that red is producing now in front of the newer sensors are so good.

And so in tune with a lot of the things that were brought up with that development, that they kind of, they kind of make it, um, negate the use for underwater LPF at certain times.

[00:10:00] Brett Stanley: Okay. So you can just use the one that’s already there, 

[00:10:03] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah, nowadays, you know, you, you, you don’t have to think about it as much. It’s more of a using the standard. OLPF, we’ll get you by in most situations. Um, could you optimize it further with the underwater? LPF that’s, that’s definitely a question to ask and, you know, in certain environments it might help.

[00:10:20] Brett Stanley: Yeah. And then, so how did the relationship with gates come about or did You already have a relationship with them? 

[00:10:25] Sean Ruggeri: You know, the, the way gates was introduced to red was that very first NAB, uh, a mutual friend came over to John L. Brock. Who’s the owner of gates along with his wife, Karen, and introduce him to red, said, you got to see this, come check this out. This is like the future of cinema. You know, um, there was a lot of buzz, you know, that first year or two, there was a ton of buzz and.

He introduced them to Jim Dennard, the owner of red. And Jim looked at John and said, well, we’ve got our underwater guy then. And they had a close relationship developmentally, um, all through R and D you know, it’s, there’s with a, with a product like red, you, you kind of had to keep a lot of stuff secretive because it was so groundbreaking and John had access.

To those, a lot of those secrets in development because of the close relationships. So, you know, NDAs were signed before. A lot of folks can get an NDA in front of them. And it’s, it’s been a strong relationship since, and they’ve created, uh, housings for each one of the cameras that have come out since.

[00:11:33] Brett Stanley: Yeah. they definitely do seem to go hand in hand. Like when you think of gates, I think of red and.

[00:11:39] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. I mean, gates makes incredible housings for, you know, all the top cameras out there, all the proper areas that are being used, the mini and, and everything. That’s really out there that’s being used, um, commonly, but yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s always been, uh, a beautiful marriage. What’s what’s been done between red and gates. 

[00:11:58] Brett Stanley: and I think, think with the thing with gates too, is what would I associate with them is, is custom stuff. Like they seem to be. Um, you know, if there was a camera that maybe hasn’t got a housing yet, you know, like gates.

seem to be interested in, in pushing that envelope a bit. 

[00:12:12] Sean Ruggeri: True. Yeah. I mean, on the engineering side, they’ve they can really tap into something different than I’ve seen from a lot of folks. And I’ve watched them do some amazing custom work for LA people. Like the, the, the big BBC shows, um, worked with them. Uh, when Elisha productions was Alicia productions before.

Evolved. And, um, they created custom housings for their submarines, um, and integrating the red cameras into those custom housings. And then I came along with kind of helped tie up the loose ends of the camera side of things and got on board Elisha, which was, you know, featured in, in blue planet two quite a bit.

And a lot of the footage from those submarines featured. Uh, so yeah, they, they, they do a lot of custom work and realistically I have a feeling they could pretty much do anything as long as somebody is willing to fund it because I’ve 

[00:13:08] Brett Stanley: Yeah, 

[00:13:09] Sean Ruggeri: do some pretty wild stuff.

[00:13:10] Brett Stanley: that’s it. And I think as engineers like that, that must be the fun part. Yeah. I kind of the problems. 

[00:13:17] Sean Ruggeri: I had imagined, so yeah. I mean, It’s pretty incredible too. When you see the final results, like the mega dome, they did like the split shots that came from that, that were, that was in blue planet two. That was phenomenal. It just, 

[00:13:29] Brett Stanley: Yeah. How big was that dog? 

[00:13:31] Sean Ruggeri: it large

[00:13:33] Brett Stanley: It was like measured in feet. Right, 

[00:13:36] Sean Ruggeri: it’s measured in a washing machines, I think is, is the new term. 

[00:13:39] Brett Stanley: right. 

[00:13:40] Sean Ruggeri: What I hear. Yeah. It’s definitely, it’s, it’s large to travel with. It’s large to use. You need a little bit of crew. Um, the folks at a spree did phenomenal jobs of constantly maintaining, buffing out scratches and supporting the productions that would use that.

But it, yeah. And the proof is in the pudding, like to say, you know, to see what came from that was, was really amazing.

[00:14:04] Brett Stanley: Oh, yeah. I mean, those split shots and like the, the BBC stuff, the, you know, the blue planet and all that series, As, as a kind of, uh, I’m not a, not a geek, I’m like a visual geek. and just seeing how they would do these shots, like, was it like, it seemed like half the series was trying to do shots that they’d never been done before. 

[00:14:25] Sean Ruggeri: Absolutely. I felt the same way because it. It’s kind of come to that point, hasn’t it? Where, you know, it’s, you got to get some incredible animal behavior and if that’s not what you have in the bag, then it’s gotta be done in a way that’s just never been seen. Right. It’s gotta be completely groundbreaking cinematically.

It was very cool. And then when you get both of those together where you have incredible animal behavior and something that, you know, hasn’t been filmed that way before it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s.

[00:14:53] Brett Stanley: it’s.

so immersive, you know, like I remember when, I can’t remember what the series was called. Maybe it was planet earth, like, you know, 10, 15 years ago. and you, they using like military grade optics out of helicopters and stuff to, to, you know, to chase antelope and stuff around, but.

you know, the distances are way that they could get from their subjects meant that they weren’t disturbing or, you know, effecting the subjects. So it was so real. It was things that had never, never been seen before. 

[00:15:20] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah, that is the, that is the coolest, you know, when you are. Just there, this literal fly on the wall situation for animal behavior. I mean, it’s kind of the goal, right. Is just making sure that you’re not influencing anything.

[00:15:33] Brett Stanley: Yeah. I think at the end of that, planet earth series, like an end of every episode that had like a little short documentary on how they got some of the shots and they would kind of talk about the gear they used and all that sort of stuff. And I think one of the ones that blew my mind was this, you know, long tracking Dolly time-lapse up this massive pile of bat crap. 

[00:15:53] Sean Ruggeri: Oh, with all the Beatles running all over it. And.

[00:15:58] Brett Stanley: And just how they set that up and it was stinking hot and, you know, it was, it was kind of like camera on a wire sort of thing. And, um, and it was just incredible. 

[00:16:07] Sean Ruggeri: No I’m with you. That was one of the most incredible BTS things I’ve ever seen and made me appreciate that crew so much for what they were doing to go what they were going through to get it.

[00:16:16] Brett Stanley: Oh, totally. And that’s what I get. That’s what gets me about wildlife? You know, people in general is that you never know if you’re even going to get the. You know, you might do all this work and come away with nothing. 

[00:16:29] Sean Ruggeri: Absolutely. I mean, it is, it is a gamble. Every time you try to set yourself up for success best he can. Right. Um, try to knock out as many factors as you can to put yourself in the best situation, but it’s, it’s always a gamble.

[00:16:44] Brett Stanley: So for you, what do You what are you doing? What are your kind of processes to try and get the results?

[00:16:51] Sean Ruggeri: You know, if it’s something I’m doing for myself, um, it, it’s very different where I will preplan and try to figure out best practices. I mean, a lot of the times I’m being told what folks need and kind of doing it on the fly. Um, I, I feel like I have. I feel like I’ve excelled a bit in really improving in the moment to adapt to whatever’s happening in that situation and change whatever our plan might’ve been to possibly something better.

If a plan goes out the window and then if the plan is what we wanted, being able to stick to it, but still being able to put my fingerprint on it a bit and kind of giving it a bit of my own.

[00:17:37] Brett Stanley: And so is that the sort of thing that you’re doing on the fly? Like once you’re under the water shooting, so you, you kind of can’t check in, or is it a, like a semi, approved kind of. 

[00:17:48] Sean Ruggeri: I’ve spent a good bit of time filming other people underwater other than just animals. It’s people doing their thing underwater and it becomes a fun kind of improv play where I’m responding to what they’re doing.

You know, I, I can’t have. Preconception of what to do, because I need to base my moves and what I’m doing to cover what they’re doing. And it’s actually a really fun game to play. I gotta say, like to just improv on the fly and make things up creatively underwater it’s, that’s a blast.

[00:18:24] Brett Stanley: No, I, I totally agree. And that’s my kind of, my joy of, of underwater is kind of rolling with the punches, you know, like I like that. Um, you know, seeing what’s being thrown at you and then trying to make the best of. That’s what that’s kind of my little drug being under the water creating. So it’s interesting to hear you say that as well.

And because you do do like you, you you’ve done, you know, filming people and narrative and documentary stuff, as well as the wildlife stuff. Right, 

[00:18:48] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. I somehow find myself pointing my lens at people underwater or more than animals. Realistically, there was a whole series of, uh, of. Documentaries we made at red called the red collective. Um, you know, we did one on Paul Nicklin. We did one on Andy Casagrande, um, and Shannon and Russ, the wilds, we call them, um, and it’s following them, doing their thing.

And again, going back to that, fly on the wall type of thing, trying to. Change how they would work and capture their work at the same time and try to capture the energy of their work. And that’s a, that’s a blast to me. And then one of the more recent things I did, which was actually about a year ago now at this point, um, being out on ocean X on their maiden voyage, a lot of what I was shooting was following the science and following the teams of scientists and documenting their efforts out there. 

[00:19:47] Brett Stanley: Yeah. 

[00:19:47] Sean Ruggeri: And that was a blast because they’re making discoveries every day 

[00:19:51] Brett Stanley: Oh, yeah, 

[00:19:53] Sean Ruggeri: underwater I’m seeing that happen and it’s actually processing. They’re extremely excited right now. That must be something totally new to this person.

They’ve, you know, they’ve been looking at all these types of corals and I’m seeing similar responses. All of a sudden this scientist is extremely excited. We just discovered something I can tell. Then all of a sudden, you know, your energy starts flowing and then your work starts changing to make sure you’re documenting that right.

And showing the intensity of the moment.

[00:20:22] Brett Stanley: Yeah. So, I mean, that’s, that was one thing I really wanted to talk to you about. And I’m actually going to, my notes here is underlined, but it’s, you know, the submersibles submit the submersibles, you know, with the ocean acts and stuff. Um, cause you did on your Facebook, you posted some sort of, um, some images from that trip I think was out in, was it out in the. 

[00:20:41] Sean Ruggeri: It wasn’t the red seat. Yeah, it was in the waters of Saudi Arabia on the red sea. So, you know, most, most folks see a lot of. Red see footage from the Egyptian side of the waters. And this expedition was, was solely in Saudi waters. Um, and one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life, because realistically, we were seeing things underwater that we knew.

Nobody’s been there before 

[00:21:06] Brett Stanley: Oh, well, 

[00:21:07] Sean Ruggeri: and for better for worse. Cause you know, you’re also seeing, you know, tons of fish, net, debris, and trash and things like that. You know, it’s not, as, it’s not as bad as some of the places I’ve been in the world, but you see the human impact and you know, a lot of folks haven’t actually seen that because they’ve been on the surface and that area.

Nobody’s been underwater there, no fish traps left behind and things like that, but it was, it was very exploratory. It was, it was very groundbreaking, exploratory. And working the submersibles was phenomenal. Um, Ivan Agatston was one of the main, uh, side DPS and he did a lot of the sub work, but I also got to do quite a bit of work in the submarines where, you know, you’re operating two cameras at a time with your joysticks and your two iPads with, uh, Mikhail’s full control up controlling both cameras, switching back and forth from the macro lens to the wide lens and capturing stuff that.

nobody’s ever seen, you know, we’re when we’re on scuba and we’re at whatever it is, you know, 20 feet to a hundred feet and we’re, we’re covering that side of things. We know we’re seeing things, no one has before, but it’s a definite when we were down in the submarines and we got some pretty phenomenal discoveries and some pretty phenomenal animal behavior, and it’s just absolutely surreal being in.

In a submarine operation like that. And with the, you know, top crew in the world that you could ask for taking you down, keeping you safe, running everything properly. It’s, it’s really amazing. I mean, ocean X is absolutely on the forefront.

[00:22:44] Brett Stanley: What sort of depths where you were working in, in the, in the submarines? 

[00:22:48] Sean Ruggeri: That’s an, that’s an interesting one because not as deep as they would usually go. And it’s, it’s for a pretty interesting reason because in the red sea and especially that part of the red sea. typically we all know as divers as you go deeper and deeper and you hit Thermo clients and the water starts getting colder and colder, not so much in that part of the world, the water actually stays extremely warm.

So you’re basically sitting in this giant acrylic bubble, right? Those of us that have acrylic domes on the front of our underwater housing, similar to that. But you have humans inside of it. Right? 

[00:23:21] Brett Stanley: Yeah. 

[00:23:22] Sean Ruggeri: So those acrylic bubbles are. Right into a certain depth, but also that’s based off of the fact that the water’s getting colder and colder as you go to these deeper depths.

So it can withstand a little bit more, but if the water staying that warm, that actually plays into the integrity of the dome as well. So their math ends up being recalculated to where we can’t go that deep.

[00:23:46] Brett Stanley: Oh, cause of the cause of the, the warmth of the water changes, how strong that diamond can be. 

[00:23:51] Sean Ruggeri: Exactly. Yeah, exactly. And how much you can withstand, you know, how much pressure it can withstand plus the temperature of the water. And so it basically limits the depths to a lot, lot. Lower depths then they would usually come. But I mean, you’re still talking seven, 900 meters, you know, it’s, you’re, you’re down there, 

[00:24:10] Brett Stanley: that’s 

[00:24:10] Sean Ruggeri: you’re watching it.

You’re watching all the light disappear. And then you reintroducing light by the onboard lights on the subs. 

[00:24:16] Brett Stanley: Yeah, you’re still a long way from home. 

[00:24:18] Sean Ruggeri: Very true. Yeah. It’s and I got to say, it’s a very surreal thing too, especially for anybody’s first time in these submarines, when you go through the safety briefing and they have to tell you, and I love them to death, they always start, they always start off with I’m feeling fine today.

You’re not going to have to do this, but I’m going to have to teach you how to take over just in case something happens to me and 

how to, how to, get this submarine to the surface. It’s all part of the process is all part of the, you know, the safety briefing, but it’s, it’s very interesting. And I guess I, you should probably pay attention to the details there on how to get that submarine in the surface.

[00:24:53] Brett Stanley: that’s right. It’s like getting on a, like a private jet and then the captain coming out and going look, I’m feeling okay, but just in case you have to do it, this is how you fly. 

[00:25:02] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. And then it’s shortly followed by. We expect that we’ll all be able to hold our bladder, but just in case, this is what you do. If not. 

[00:25:10] Brett Stanley: Oh, 

[00:25:12] Sean Ruggeri: So 

there’s that safety briefing as well.

[00:25:15] Brett Stanley: taking a pee at like, you know, 7,010 for 700 meters below. 

[00:25:19] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. It’s a, it’s an interesting thing. Um, when you know, you’re going that afternoon or that morning, you know, you maybe don’t eat a big breakfast. You maybe don’t have that second cup of.

[00:25:30] Brett Stanley: Because how long is the trip? How long, how long does it take you to get down and get back up again? 

[00:25:34] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah, all depends on what we’re doing. And it could be anywhere from three hours, six hours to a, you know, beyond that, it just really depends on, on what the run is and what the mission is at that time. Typically, we would be doing a couple of times a day, so, you know, somebody would go down in the morning and then they’d switch out scientists and possibly camera folk.

Uh, you know, the, the media team would switch out. But sometime it would be an all day run where, you know, you’re 8, 8, 10 hours or something. And yeah, it was, I mean, it was incredible to be in the greatest research vessel. I can imagine the facilities. Mindblowing or whether it came to the dive operations, uh, it, the, the submarine operations, but everything involved, all the science involved on board, it was just top notch.

Um, so to be diving three, four times a day, and then tomorrow can’t dive because I’ve got to operate camera’s on a submarine. Oh, 

[00:26:35] Brett Stanley: Yeah, 

[00:26:36] Sean Ruggeri: I guess I’ll do that to the itchy. I just an amazing, amazing.

[00:26:41] Brett Stanley: that’s incredible. There was one photo that I saw on your Facebook, um, and it looked, and it took me a little bit to kind of work out what was happening, but it was of the space X, you know, submarine That that acrylic dome or bubble and. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seemed like you were filming someone inside the submarine filming whilst they were being filmed by cameras on the outside of the submarine.

[00:27:05] Sean Ruggeri: That sounds about right. 

[00:27:06] Brett Stanley: Yeah. It was like this inception kind of thing 

[00:27:09] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. And it’s, it becomes the, in that infinity shot when you just point a camera at a monitor, right? 

it’s I think that might’ve been back in the days of Alicia, where we were underneath the, underneath the boat and, uh, I just had a handheld camera in hand, possibly. I’m not sure what that one was.

[00:27:28] Brett Stanley: Yeah, I dunno. Yeah. I, I might’ve been confused with it, but it kinda, it looked, I think you had, I think there was.

a camera person inside the, the sub, but then who would probably had a handheld, but then there were, um, cameras attached to the inside of the, of the. 

[00:27:47] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. I mean, we went all out. If you’re you’re going down into uncharted territory, we absolutely had POV cameras, you know, session cupped. Um, Ivan did, uh, you know, did a lot of effort to kind of get the. POV aspects proper for, for some of these shots. And then share a lot of times we would have a handheld camera in the sub filming that one of the scientists and what their reactions were.

Cause one of the submarines is, is solely there for science. They have the articulating arms to pick up samples and put them in the baskets and stuff like that. The other sub would be geared up with the underwater housings. Granted. These housings off and put the arms on, if you had to have both subs doing science, but you want to document the science as well.

But yeah, it was very, it was very common for us to be filming in the media sub with both water housings, shooting, macro and wide. And then, then the other submarine we’d usually have one of the filmmakers with a handheld camera documenting, documenting what the scientists were going through and their reactions and their discoveries on the fly on those played into.

The short films that ocean X is releasing about the scientists that were on board.

[00:29:05] Brett Stanley: Right. Yeah. And that must’ve been incredible. W what’s the communication like, like with those submarines, are you, are you, are you tethered like, or is it just purely on its own?

[00:29:15] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. Not tethered perfect communications to the surface, to each other. They’ve got it all figured out. It’s it’s, it’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty amazing. I was lucky enough to visit. The manufacturer and submarines, uh, some years ago, probably this five, six years ago. And they’re out of Florida and to see where they actually assemble these and where they train folks.

Um, it is, it is a really incredible leap of technology that they’ve, they’ve gone to at this point.

[00:29:46] Brett Stanley: It’s I mean, and this is a nice little segue for me, but it is, It is like building.

[00:29:51] Sean Ruggeri: It really is, and it doesn’t feel. Much different than I would think it would feel to be an outer space and to be discovering new things on new planets. But I think we’ve got one up on Bezos. Folks because we get a stay down there longer. It’s something that’s a lot more easily repeatable. Um, I don’t know.

I appreciate making discoveries on our own planet more than others. Let’s concentrate on what’s going on 

here and put our efforts into that first. And for.

[00:30:25] Brett Stanley: But it’s also like, so much harder to do that, right. Like, you know, is easy compared to, to go into the depths. 

[00:30:32] Sean Ruggeri: it seems like it might be at this point, you can’t just launch something up there and then it just got to come down. 

I don’t 

know. I don’t know. Who’s got more logistics involved, but I feel like it’s a lot more fun being, being under the sea.

[00:30:45] Brett Stanley: Yeah, totally. Well, there’s a lot more life down there. 

[00:30:48] Sean Ruggeri: Absolutely. That’s what we know that at least, and you know, so much life we don’t know about too. And it was, it was very real that on a lot of the dives, we were making discoveries and that’s a, that’s a really incredible feeling, 

you’re, you know, you’re, you’re not just in somewhere that nobody’s ever seen before, but all of a sudden, you know, Me either a, uh, an animal behavior discovery or a discovery of a new animal or a new coral, you know, they were discovering all kinds of new species of coral and things like that.

And then when it comes to the ROV work, uh, you know, that was also something else I would do on certain days where I might be out diving to three dives in the morning, come back and then operating the ROV. And they’re set up for the ROV is just incredible. It’s it’s like, it’s like nowhere else. Um, there’s so many details I wouldn’t get into cause it would get so long-winded but the way they have this thing set up, it’s it’s just absolutely top-notch.

And to be able to bring that thing to depths that the manned submersibles cannot go to 

[00:31:48] Brett Stanley: Yeah. 

[00:31:49] Sean Ruggeri: really cool. And I mean, there’s, there’s certain stuff they have not released yet that I can’t talk about. I’m sure my visa. Uh, self-destruct 

[00:31:59] Brett Stanley: Yep. 

[00:32:01] Sean Ruggeri: um, but there is some really, really cool stuff that happened out there.

[00:32:05] Brett Stanley: That’s incredible. Do you know when that sort of stuff is going to be released? Like when they’re going to kind of make that stuff public? 

[00:32:12] Sean Ruggeri: I don’t, because certain things have been trickling out as stories about the scientists. Um, and then I’m sure they’re going to do with some of the bigger discoveries. I wouldn’t doubt. They’ll probably do more concentrated programming on what happened there, but.

[00:32:26] Brett Stanley: that’s amazing. But speaking of the space stuff, cause you’ve done, uh, you’ve worked on documentaries in terms of, of the space stuff and working with NASA as well. 

[00:32:36] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah, it’s amazing how, you know, this underwater world is kinda, it translates to space to so many times over. Yeah. Um, the first time I worked with NASA in any capacity, uh, it was at the neutral buoyancy lab and that was for a documentary called a year in space. It was documenting Scot. Who was about to go up to the ISS and spend a year.

And nobody had done that length of a trip. And I had the pleasure of filming the underwater scenes with Marco grub, um, Jonathan Wood, the producer, um, and you are in the biggest swimming pool in the world. And. You’re filming astronauts, basically running through the process of what they’re going to do when they get up to the ISS, you know, they’re, they’re training for what operations they have to do with this, switching out this battery or whatnot.

And they have a full mock-up of the international space station underwater, and you’re watching them go through their whole process and documenting that. And it was, it was, yeah, it was absolutely amazing.

[00:33:40] Brett Stanley: That must be because I’ve seen some footage of that sort of stuff and, and, you know, In documentaries and also in, I think it was like, um, again, back 

[00:33:49] Sean Ruggeri: Yes. Yeah, it wasn’t Armageddon. It was in space Cowboys. They kind of, they have those posters up on the wall. Um, I’m going to have to remember to shout back out to my boys at the ambulance and see if we can get a poster up of a year in space. Cause it was, 

it was, uh, it was, a big documentary and ended up winning an Emmy.

No proud, proud of that, but it was, um, it was really cool being there. And I remember seeing it in Armageddon and a couple, couple of different things. Um, and just went back there actually a couple of years back with my friends, from gates, with John, the owner and, uh, Pete light tower. And we. Taught a STO, a gates STO, which stands for setup test operate.

And that’s kind of the, the workshops we teach about gates products. And we did one for their staff there, which already has gates housings on hand, but they wanted to up their knowledge and also kind of get some more folks involved from the department and teach them how to operate those cameras. So, yeah, just went back a second time a couple of years ago and it is.

It is the coolest, most surreal place ever. You know, you feel like you’re in space, you really do.

[00:34:56] Brett Stanley: That was, my question was like, while you’re down there filming, do.

you kind of get a bit confused sometimes and then you go, oh, hang on. I’m actually just underwater. 

[00:35:04] Sean Ruggeri: You know, I, I, I try to detach as much as I canceling and get the job done properly, but you know, there’s moments where. It hits you how cool it is, how surreal it is. Uh, when we were filming for a year in space, there was this moment where, you know, they’ve got the underwater PAs going. So they’re, they’re announcing we’re about to run the drill for this emergency situation.

And I don’t really understand exactly what they’re saying, but I know it’s a kind of. Uh, oh moment. This is what if this happens, we have a red alert. You’ve got to fix this fast or else all hell breaks loose. So we’re going to start this drill 3, 2, 1. And as I start the drill, they start playing Bob Marley.

Don’t worry. Be happy over the PA underwater. It’s just the weirdest, surreal moment looking around at each other. And you’re watching these astronauts basically save everybody’s life on the fake ISS and yeah. 

[00:36:01] Brett Stanley: That’s 

[00:36:02] Sean Ruggeri: Here’s your, then you can’t, you can’t deny that.

[00:36:04] Brett Stanley: Yeah, totally. That’s incredible. W uh, when would the suits that.

the national to wearing. They, they, um, like closed circuit or do they have bubbles coming out of them or. 

[00:36:16] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. Those are closed circuit. Yeah. It’s the same type of suit that they’d be wearing up in space. And you know, there’s a whole team of suits. That basically not only help them get in and out of the suits, but of course they’re the ones that are, they’re tweaking it and making sure it’s all gonna work right.

For them when they get up there. But yeah, that’s all closed circuit. And an interesting thing is in one of the big efforts they have, right. When they get them. Is trimming the suit out, you know, for all of us underwater photographers, we know about trimming our housings, right. Making it perfectly balanced.

They got to trim the suit out too. So they’re, they’re putting led down in the back, left calf, counteracting that with some over here, some over there and getting the astronauts perfectly trim. And then once they’re in, in the water, They need help to move. Unlike when they’re in space, where they have surface tension and they can actually push off something and, and really keep moving since they have the friction of the water underwater, they need help kind of getting pushed around and stuff.

So I’m sure that’s not their most fun part because they probably feel a little less astronauts.

[00:37:18] Brett Stanley: A little, Yeah, Like they need, need assistance.

and, and in terms of that, like, so with those suits, do they then have buoyancy control as well? Or is that what you mean in terms of being moved around?

[00:37:29] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah, that’s out of their hands. So basically all the buoyancy control is, is whatever their assistants are doing to trim their suits out. Um, and you know, I get the feeling, they have calculations where they get them very close before they even get in the water. And then it was pretty much just more about balancing a bit.

[00:37:48] Brett Stanley: Yeah. And then they just climbing around on the, on the ISS, I guess. 

[00:37:52] Sean Ruggeri: Exactly. Just going hand over hand or hand. And it’s a surreal moment too. And watching them train and the MBL is when they detach their lanyard, uh, you know, they detach their carabiner to move over to a different part of this fake international space station. And then watching them clip the Caribbean or back here.

It’s not a big deal cause we’re in a 40 foot deep pool and you have all this assistant staff around you. But if you think about it enough, that’s something that we’re going to have to do in space and you don’t clip that. Right. And all of a sudden you lose track. You’re drifting off into space. 

[00:38:26] Brett Stanley: Oh, 

[00:38:26] Sean Ruggeri: You might have a problem.

[00:38:27] Brett Stanley: yeah. And that’s when all the space horror movies stuff kind of comes back to me where it’s. 

[00:38:33] Sean Ruggeri: Exactly. That’s what I was thinking too. Yes.

[00:38:36] Brett Stanley: because at least with underwater, like you’re eventually going to hit something like you’re eventually going to stop, but in space, depending on what your robot is, you’re 

[00:38:44] Sean Ruggeri: going to, you’re going to stop when your life support stops and 

[00:38:46] Brett Stanley: be exactly which, you know, depending on how good your suit is, might be a really long time. 

[00:38:52] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. And these, these folks have some pretty interesting stories. You know, we’re working with an astronaut, a Russian astronaut who was famous for being. The first person to almost drown in space. 

[00:39:04] Brett Stanley: Oh, 

[00:39:04] Sean Ruggeri: They have these cooling systems in their suit and basically a malfunctioned and it started filling up with water and it basically put like a baseball, softball size ball of water over his mouth, over the communications to where he can’t even communicate anymore, that he has a problem.

And the only thing that he attributed to. Uh, his survival too, was the fact that he had facial hair. He had a goatee that basically just separated that ball of water off of his mouth enough for him to breathe a bit, to get back and grab onto the space station and start working his way in until his partner could tell he had a problem.

[00:39:43] Brett Stanley: That’s the crazy stuff. Like the things you don’t really think about is, cause I think there was something like that where someone had a, like had a T or an eyelash or something and inside their suit. Yeah, Sticking them in the eye. So they couldn’t see what they were doing. Like the idea that, that, you know, everything is foreign.

There’s no gravity things don’t work. Hey, expect them to

[00:40:05] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah, we think it’s bad enough when we get down to depth on a dive and all of a sudden you see that there’s a hair bouncing around at the dome port or something like that. Yeah. They’ve, they’ve got a little bit more involved.

[00:40:16] Brett Stanley: that’s. Right. Well, so that’s a good point. What is the weirdest or probably the worst kind of situation where you’ve had something like that. Where, you know, there’s something in the dome or the does a malfunction. 

[00:40:29] Sean Ruggeri: Um, you know, I’ve had some malfunctions, 

[00:40:33] Brett Stanley: Yeah. 

[00:40:33] Sean Ruggeri: some of them not as fun to talk about than others. Um, I would say a weird situation I have had before, and this was in Indonesia. Um, and. Add depth, everything seems right. You know, you’ve done all the checks you could possibly do before button and a backup after putting new medium battery in and you get down to depth and all of a sudden it just, something keeps moving in my LCD.

And what is that? So I think he’s any, you know, there’s plenty of things bouncing around in the ocean. So you figure it’s a small fish out in front of the dome. It’s something like that, but it’s just so consistent that it’s in my shot, no matter where I point it took me a minute or so to read. Yeah, there’s a small flyer and that, you know, on the dome bouncing in front of the, in front of the lens.

[00:41:18] Brett Stanley: God. 

[00:41:19] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. So that’s not fun. 

[00:41:20] Brett Stanley: So you had to hit hitchhiker. 

[00:41:22] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. You just try to kind of welcome it towards the back of the housing a little bit and see if you can get a couple shots without it in front of the lens.

[00:41:29] Brett Stanley: Yeah. That’s crazy. And not something I’d ever really, again, not something I’ve really thought off happening. That’s crazy. 

[00:41:36] Sean Ruggeri: I don’t even know how he snipped snuck in there. It was, it was a quick.

[00:41:40] Brett Stanley: But do you, do you now check T now do a flight check. 

[00:41:43] Sean Ruggeri: Flying check. Um, yeah, pretty much. I mean, I definitely have my checklist before jumping in and making sure everything is ready to go. And that is now in the back of the mind, I guess, you know, 

look for, you know, when you look at that dome port, definitely look for anything moving.

[00:42:02] Brett Stanley: I think that’s the thing. Like once I got into underwater, I, I think I’ve done everything wrong once, you know, you only need to do it once to realize that you never want to do it. 

[00:42:14] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. How else, how else are you going to get better? Right.

[00:42:16] Brett Stanley: Yeah, You know, I’ve, I’ve done dives where I’m at, you know, not, not at depth, but like 20, 30 feet down and realized that my, um, the auto focus button on my, on my lenses turned to manual when I can’t change it. Sorry. You know, I’ve got no way of, and now I have gears on my, on my, um, housing so I can do manual focus, but this was before then.

So I was like, oh God, like I’m, I’m out of focus for this. 

[00:42:41] Sean Ruggeri: it’s a showstopper. Yeah. 

[00:42:42] Brett Stanley: Yeah. And it’s a showstopper for you. Didn’t realize until you go back to back to the ship and then suddenly realize everything you took was out of home. 

[00:42:51] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. And been there, done that too, where. Not noticeable in the image. You didn’t see it in prep, but there might be just a tiny spot on the back of a lens or something like that. And then it’s heartbreaking, you know, especially if you got something good and you realize now, is that a fix it in post situation or?

[00:43:10] Brett Stanley: Yeah, 

[00:43:11] Sean Ruggeri: not even.

[00:43:12] Brett Stanley: no, that’s the thing I know. I think.

Learning how to edit and how to do post-production and stuff really makes me appreciate how, how well we have to do as crack camera operators and, and, and do our job properly so that it makes the other end easier. 

[00:43:30] Sean Ruggeri: True. 

[00:43:31] Brett Stanley: put it all to. 

[00:43:32] Sean Ruggeri: And I think everybody, whether you want to do it for yourself for a profession, regardless, you should learn editing him. I mean, not just. The software and not just learn the tools, but learn the mindset of editing because that’s only going to help you film better. You know, especially when we’re talking about emotion footage, I mean, you kind of have to put yourself in the editor’s place.

Um, you know, from a, from a director standpoint, you’re always thinking like that, but from a camera operating standpoint, sometime, sometimes folks are just worrying about getting the shot and nothing else. Where is, if you can step that up to thinking about how that shot will cut into the next. Um, and you know, not sometimes not as basic as just making sure you get the wide, get amid and get a close up.

That’s great too. But also like the motion of your shots. How is, how are you looping around from left to right behind the subject? Is that really gonna work for your next shots? Um, if you can think like that as a cinematographer, I think you have a, you have a really big leg up on.

[00:44:34] Brett Stanley: Yeah. I think one of the things that, that I got from, you know, from Pete Romanos, um, and the, and the SOC, um, you know, underwater cinematographers workshops was learning about, you know, clean ins and outs and the different types of shots that you can do that will help the edit. That’s going to help the narrative.

You know, like, I guess if you shooting, if your subject is always in frame, it’s really hard to cut from that to something. Yeah. 

[00:44:59] Sean Ruggeri: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. The clean ins and outs, I mean, at a minimum, you know, that’s, that’s something that your editors or your director will just bless you for forever and want to rehire you for it because it’s, if nothing else, you know, take that extra few seconds to, to get them a clean out and to be able to have a clean frame.

[00:45:19] Brett Stanley: And are you shooting like kind of B roll stuff at the same time? Are you, are you kind of keeping an eye out for that? 

[00:45:26] Sean Ruggeri: Sure. It depends on the project. Um, you know, it, there is a lot of projects where I’m the single shooter and I have a single purpose and I kind of know what we have to do, but at the same time sure. Constantly trying to shoot B roll. If you can, if the, if the subject matter dictates it, you know, 

if it’s more of a.

To in tank work and pool work and things like that. Of course you have a kind of a sole objective, right. But yeah, once you’re out there in the ocean, if, if I’m my objective is to film this scientist and they’re studying this piece of coral, then I have absolutely blown it. If I haven’t spent another five minutes plus, or whatever, filming this coral after they, they kick away from it and really getting the inserts that are gonna help the editors tell them.

[00:46:16] Brett Stanley: And do you have a preference for the open water as opposed to tanks? Like do, are they just different beasts and you’d like them.

both? Or do you have a preference for, for the, which place does. 

[00:46:26] Sean Ruggeri: Uh, certainly different beasts, you know, um, if I had a preference, I mean, my heart is of course in the ocean, but there is something really special about tank work and like feature film, TV work, where it’s a different energy and it’s a different adrenaline. It’s a different. Uh, just perspective on your work.

And I love that too. Um, you know, a movie that just came out about a month ago, the colony was, it was the DP is Marcus Federer, um, real brilliant stylized DP and the world he created visually is just financial. And I was lucky enough to shoot the underwater sequences for that. And the movie actually starts out with an underwater sequence was, which was really cool to me.

You know, like my work has to be immersive because that’s the immediate thing you’re going to see when you start watching this movie and luckily, you know, set up for success by that production and what they did. And it was a really interesting environment to show. You know, they shot in all kinds of locations, but the underwater sequences we shot for the beginning of that film was a wave tank basically in, uh, outside of Hamburg, Germany.

And it was built with the purpose of teaching people, how to survive a helicopter crash, 

[00:47:49] Brett Stanley: Oh, wow. 

[00:47:52] Sean Ruggeri: You know, this, these folks that are going out to the oil rigs more so in that area, I think more out to the windmills. Um, you know, they’re not into the oil rigs as much as we are here in Southern California, thankfully.

and it had wave machines on all four corners that could send two meter waves at you from four different directions at once, which we did of course. And we had simulated pouring rain. With giant wind turbines. And then you add in floating pieces of flaming debris and shoot a split shots of that and stuff.

It was, it was so fun. You know, I can’t imagine being an add on that had to be terrifying and, and all of that, but to be a shooter in that situation, a house so much fun. 

[00:48:36] Brett Stanley: Oh, it was like an extreme sport, right? 

[00:48:38] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. It kind of was, it was quite, it was quite the adventure, but yeah, that was, that was the last day of three. Shooting those opening sequences and a lot of it, other than that was basically shooting the simulation of this space, capsule, plunging, underwater, and then falling to the depths of the sea.

Well, our heroine rescues people in or tries to rescue people and herself and get out of this.

[00:49:01] Brett Stanley: Yeah, What sort of technical challenges do you have in a, in a situation like that, where you’ve got massive waves coming through and, um, set pieces and props kind of coming into the water.

[00:49:14] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah, technical challenge wise. I mean, yeah. I would say logistically challenged was the fact that, you know, the big pieces of flaming debris would all of a sudden up there anchor and start moving closer towards you and closer towards you and things like that, which I could tell it probably freaks out some people that were in the water there, but it was more interesting to me.

I could get more flame in the foreground. It was 

[00:49:36] Brett Stanley: Yeah, that’s right. Bring it closer. Bring it closer. 

[00:49:38] Sean Ruggeri: He had the overall though for that shoot, I would say one of the biggest technical challenges was lens choice. Um, Marcus Marcus loves to shoot anamorphic and he shoots pretty much everything on anamorphic lenses when he can, and Hawk made this. The set of vintage 70 fours that were in a 65 mil, uh, format, you know, cause it was a shot on Mostra.

So it had to be a full frame coverage lens, and it was also their vintage version of these lenses. And there was one set of them in the world. That was it. So literally them handing me this lens that I had to make fit into my housing. Um, big props to gates again for being. Adaptive and, and so flexible with the way they design their products.

Because for me to even fit this lens in, let alone optimize it and make it work properly. It was quite the feat. I mean, it was, you know, I had clearance of a millimeter on lens gears and things like that, but it was also just a giant honker glass. So I had a foam ring. I wrapped around the front of the port extender to try to help the front float a bit that still wasn’t enough.

So put two float arms. Pointed out towards the front of the housing, we just kind of ended up calling it the insect or the bug because it had two antennas, basically, you know, the little lights on the float arms just for straight buoyancy and got it about as close as I can to being really neutral and properly trimmed.

And it was very close. But of course, once you start adding stuff like that, that starts to take away from your kind of hydrodynamic aspect, all your, um, you know, it’s a little harder to push something through the water and, and really do dynamic shots.

[00:51:22] Brett Stanley: Yeah. So how did you find that it did it, did it, you then have to adjust the shots you were going for, or you just had to push. 

[00:51:30] Sean Ruggeri: I would say I probably just pushed harder, but 

[00:51:32] Brett Stanley: Yeah. 

[00:51:33] Sean Ruggeri: I’m sure subconsciously I was making all kinds of adjustments, but try not to concentrate on that and just get the job 

[00:51:39] Brett Stanley: Yeah, yeah, totally. 

[00:51:40] Sean Ruggeri: But, but very interesting lenses issue with, you know, like shooting anamorphic underwater in general and making sure you can actually get a proper close focus to get through the, uh, you know, the virtual image on the, on the dome port and, you know, diopters all day with anamorphics, but you can, you can make it work.

It’s just always an interesting challenge. And luckily I had a production. I was not going to rush. They were not going to do anything hastily. It was plenty of time for me to prep, you know, filled up a pool in the back of the studio in Berlin, where we were prepping and where they were currently shooting, just so I can kind of test diopters.

Um, so yeah, set up for success and that’s, that’s a huge thing, you know, you can, you can certainly get hired by some jobs that just don’t get that underwater work is a different animal, you know? You can’t rush things, you know, whatever you’re used to, it’s probably going to take a lot longer than that.

And really, you got to give your team plenty of time to prep and plenty of heads up on what you’re actually expecting and what you’re planning on doing. Whereas some folks just think we’ll just show up and we’re going to shoot this thing.

[00:52:56] Brett Stanley: Yeah. So, so with this production, was there someone on, on the production already here who knew how underwater worked like did Marcus kind of have a good experience and know that it was going to take a lot longer? 

[00:53:07] Sean Ruggeri: I feel like Marcus probably knows everything about cinematography in the world, but he would never, he would never shove it in your face or anything like that, but he’s a brilliant cinematographer. So he ha he totally has his head wrapped around it. He knows, but very importantly, um, they. Didn’t scamp.

They, they made it a focus. Um, you know, and possibly some of that is because it was the opening sequence of the movie, but they hired a full underwater team. So they had a full local team of utility divers. Uh, you know, I had folks on the surface that were a dry tech plus just kind of organizing things. I had underwater assistance.

And then of course, You had the safety divers that were more concentrated on the talent and taking care of them and brilliant safety divers, they were keeping the talent real calm and comfortable with the situations they were going to be in because there were some pretty gnarly situations, to be honest, you know, you’re in enclosed environments, um, had this simulate them being strapped into these, you know, these chairs in the space capsule and things like that.

And you’re talking about folks that aren’t experienced with waterworks. And that’s. I mean, I can’t imagine that’s going to be extremely intimidating when now we’re going to put you strapped into this chair and plunged this thing under water, and don’t worry, you’re not actually going to be stuck, but you know, in a, from a mental perspective, it’s, it’s gotta be pretty, pretty tough for a lot of actors.

But these safety divers that we had out there were just, they were taught notch.

[00:54:35] Brett Stanley: I think that’s an interesting thing with the actors, you know, like, um, you know, I’ve spoken to quite a few people now and sort of getting their, um, perspectives on how actors deal with this kind of thing. Like some of them love it and kind of get enough of the, you know, the. The comfort zone, pushing sort of thing.

Whereas other people were like, you know, like this is scaring the crap out of me. Um, but it really must make the performance really come home when they’re, you know, feel like they might die themselves. 

[00:55:04] Sean Ruggeri: Sure you don’t have to fake that look of terror 

[00:55:07] Brett Stanley: Yeah, exactly. 

[00:55:09] Sean Ruggeri: feel like you might be drowning. Yeah. 

[00:55:10] Brett Stanley: Yeah. 

[00:55:11] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. I mean, they, they did, they did phenomenal it’s especially, you know, I, I know there was some folks that were way outside of their comfort zone and it was amazing to watch them overcome it and then not just overcome it, but bring it into their performance and embrace it and really, really make something.

[00:55:28] Brett Stanley: absolutely. Um, no, somebody just wanted to get back to, which was the anamorphic lenses. Um, can you just give us an overview for people who don’t know, um, the difference between anamorphic and surgical lenses? Like, why are they so. 

[00:55:43] Sean Ruggeri: Yeah. I mean, realistically, it comes down to a different look. Um, you know, technically you’re talking about a square frame that ends up getting restretched out in your monitor and stretched out in the projection that you’re watching, but that doesn’t. Isn’t really that important compared to just what it does to an image.

Um, you know, we always, we talk about Boca a lot, you know, where these out of focus, lights really bloom in a certain way, or, you know, the or lights flare in a very certain way. That’s, that’s definitely a very specific characteristic to a lot of anamorphics is how lights flare. And a lot of times you see those horizontals streaky flares, and it’s, it’s very stylistic, but overall too, it just has.

Different kind of softness in a good way. You know, a lot of times in photography and cinematography, we’re so scared of things being soft. You know, we need sharp focus. We need to make sure the resolution and the focus is there. And then you could soften it up later if you have to, but anamorphics bring this organic softness to things, if you will.

Um, in general, you know, in every, every different piece of glass. I can, I can’t just speak to one anamorphic lens. Um, like I can the rest, because they all just have their own characteristics are different animals. They’re they’re different paint brushes. They’re, they can be very experimental and at times you can get a lot of happy accidents out of it.

I don’t feel like somebody like Marcus goes for happy accidents. I think he knows what he’s going to get 

when he puts a certain lens. On a camera and he’s setting up his lighting and he’s setting up his scene, for me shooting underwater. They allowed me to improv a lot too, which I love, um, the director, Tim fell Bon and Marcus really said, you know, after you get done shooting, what.

Asking you to shoot for that scene. If you see something that you think is interesting, go for it. 

And they, they really let me just kind of fly with that. And it was, it was really, really a cool thing, very empowering for one personally, but also it’s, it just kind of lend itself to a different type of energy to know, to always be looking and searching for something different.

We could capture that wasn’t.

[00:58:03] Brett Stanley: Which is, I think that’s the gift that underwater gives you, is that kind of, you know, you never know what you’re going to get. Things are moving, things are changing, the lights changing, you know, he kind of. Usually surprises every now and again. 

[00:58:17] Sean Ruggeri: Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s, what’s so fun about it. Isn’t it is why I love conceptualizing things and starting with that. But it’s the most fun part of it is when all of a sudden something new just happens. A new spark of energy happens out of nowhere. It’s very.

[00:58:33] Brett Stanley: Oh yeah. And that’s kind of, you know, when you look at your monitor and you kind of scream silently to yourself, 

[00:58:39] Sean Ruggeri: Screaming bubbles. Yeah, absolutely.

[00:58:43] Brett Stanley: Sean, this has been amazing, man. Just hearing your experiences and everything I could to talk to you all day about this stuff. Um, manual depth of knowledge is just amazing. Thanks for sharing it. 

[00:58:53] Sean Ruggeri: Oh, thank you so much, Brett. Appreciate it. Yeah. Appreciate what you do. And uh, I love seeing your work. and I appreciate you appreciating mine. Thank you. 

[00:59:01] Brett Stanley: Thank you. man. We’ll speak soon. 

[00:59:03] Sean Ruggeri: All right.

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