Cinematographer & Underwater Camera Operator Ian Takahashi
Ian S. Takahashi is an Underwater Cinematographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He joined the ranks for the Society of Camera Operators (SOC), is a member of the International Cinematographer’s Guild (IA600), and represented by WPA. Most recently working for Directors James Gunn & Ron Howard.
In episode five host Brett Stanley speaks with Ian about working with Beyonce and Harry Styles on their underwater music videos, filming scenes for shows like Scandal and Pretty Little Liars, how the Covid-19 virus has affected the film industry, his work on the upcoming Suicide Squad film, dealing with celebrities & actors underwater, and how to start working as an underwater camera operator.
Discuss the episode in our facebook group.
Follow Ian’s work here: Website, Instagram, and IMDB
About Ian Takahashi
Underwater Director of Photography
- The Suicide Squad (Dir James Gunn)
- Hillbilly Elegy (Dir Ron Howard)
- True Detective
Brett Stanley: [00:00:00] Welcome back everyone hope you’re staying safe and sane out there. In this episode of the underwater podcast, I’m talking to underwater cinematography and camera operator, Ian Takahashi. Who’s known for his work on the TV. Show’s pretty little liars masters of sex and scandal as well as the upcoming suicide squad movie and the fourth season of stranger things.
We chat about how the industry is doing during the lockdowns, his career from a purely land-based operator into the underwater world and some of the projects he’s worked on including one of my favorites and you’ll see which one that is. It gets a little technical in the interview, talking about gear in terminology, but don’t let that put you off. There’s some really great info in here and we have a couple of laughs as well.
Well, all right, let’s dive in.
and welcome to the podcast.
Ian Takahashi: [00:00:48] Hey, Brett, how are you there?
Brett Stanley: [00:00:49] I’m good, man. Where are you at the moment? Are you holed up in this whole crazy covert 19 malarkey?
Ian Takahashi: [00:00:55] Uh, yes, but I am in Manila, the Philippines. Um, yeah, we kind of have a place here. My wife’s Filipino. Uh, her family’s here. Um, and I’ve been working at a time and there’s decided to take off, but I didn’t have a job starting. Like, the next job I wanted to take was like April or may. So we said, you know, I flew back to Manila and we were hanging out here, and then they shut the city down, or like, Oh, well, I guess I’m here now.
Brett Stanley: [00:01:22] Oh, so you got out before it all kicked off?
Ian Takahashi: [00:01:25] Oh, well, yeah. I got out of the States. I landed in Manila, and then, uh, we were here hanging out, like playing golf and doing things. And then, uh, we were up in our condo here and then they, they said, uh, there’s 50 cases. The whole city is locked down, like, go to the grocery store, you know, save some toilet paper for other people.
Um, and so we did, like, I, I technically, I could have gotten out. Um, we could all jumped on a flight and gone back to the States, but, uh, the, you know, we figured the risk of going to the airport with like thousands of people and getting on a crammed flight. And, and then we saw photos of like, people heading back from Europe and everywhere and, you know, crammed in like, you know, five hours in, you know, no space really.
We’ll stay here. That’s fine.
Brett Stanley: [00:02:07] Yeah. I think that that’s the thing, like with people who have been, you’ve got to weigh up a decision like you’re going to be stuck somewhere in a house or an apartment. Where’s the best place to do it? You
Ian Takahashi: [00:02:17] yeah. Well, my, my good friend John, uh, is, he’s from New York. Uh, his family is from Italy and they’re, they’re there and he was shooting in Mumbai, India. Um. And so he got four hours notice from their government that everything was locked down. And then he got like a message from the embassy and they’re like, in four hours the country will be sealed off.
He’s like, what?
Brett Stanley: [00:02:38] my God.
Ian Takahashi: [00:02:39] he’s like, do I run to the airport with like a million people to try to fly? But where to New York city, I want to know or go to my family in Italy. He was like, no, he’s so, he’s in Mumbai still hanging out. We have
Brett Stanley: [00:02:50] still staying there.
Ian Takahashi: [00:02:51] Yeah. We have another friend who’s, uh, who lives there and we like after school, like moved back to him by.
Um, and then, uh, so, but out of the friend John, he’s, he’s still there hanging out. He’s in a hotel, he seems in good spirits
and his family is good and safe, um, in Italy, the, and that’s all good. But yeah, he just waited and was like, ah, why, why run to the air for the million people? Like, I don’t have a flight.
It’s just, yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:03:12] Yeah. And I do wonder how many people have gotten into that situation, especially with with productions in the film industry where, you know, you’re, you might be living somewhere for three months anyway,
how many people have been stuck abroad right now?
Ian Takahashi: [00:03:25] Yeah. I know you hear about all the, like the sweeper flights, um, like getting people off of violins, like people in like Madagascar and Panama and Nicaragua, you know, trying to get home and I think it was like Panama, they had a flight, like a U S had a flight heading in and then had to turn it around cause like it didn’t look good to land in pan land, like a military plane into Panama.
Or with one of those countries and like, they had to work it out with the government. And I think that everyone is slowly being repatriated if they wanted to. Like that’d be okay. Hang on your hotel. Um, although we do have local friends, you know, my wife’s friends that are here, um, some of them were like at their beach houses when, when the capital shutdown or like, Oh, I guess I’m staying here.
So they’re just at their beach house, like scuba diving every day, you know, barbecue and on the beach with, yeah. They’re there. The bunch of friends are like, well, I guess we’re all a sheltering in place here. So
You FaceTime them and they’re just partying on the beach.
Brett Stanley: [00:04:21] Right? I feel like that’s kind of the thing. It’s like, you know, if it’s going to be the end of the world, you kind of want to be with a whole bunch of other people, really.
Ian Takahashi: [00:04:27] Yeah. Yeah. Especially like if you would just spent a week, like in close quarters with them, you know, they’re like, well, I guess it’s better just to stay together then to split up. And you know, if one of us had it, we already infected each other. So if we all go home, then we just, you know, spread it around.
And if none of us had it, then we were better off just hanging out together.
Brett Stanley: [00:04:49] Yeah, exactly.
Ian Takahashi: [00:04:50] I dunno. I’m not a doctor. Let’s start off by saying, I am not a doctor.
Brett Stanley: [00:04:56] Well, put the disclaimer in the, in the show notes for that one.
Ian Takahashi: [00:04:58] is not a doctor. This is very true.
Brett Stanley: [00:05:01] Yeah. I was speaking to a photographer last week and he’s in The Bahamas, and him and I think six other friends are on two sailboats.
Ian Takahashi: [00:05:10] Oh,
Brett Stanley: [00:05:11] Quarantining themselves out in The Bahamas somewhere
Ian Takahashi: [00:05:14] awesome. It wasn’t marcus was it.
Brett Stanley: [00:05:16] no, it was, uh, Andre Musgrave.
Ian Takahashi: [00:05:18] okay. Yeah, yeah,
Brett Stanley: [00:05:19] yeah, so it was lots of free diving with those guys and lots of, uh, lots of spear fishing. I think.
Ian Takahashi: [00:05:24] I’m sure they’re having a blast. I’m sure there’s hardship being on a boat for so long, et cetera, but I mean, there are worse places to be.
Brett Stanley: [00:05:30] Yeah, totally. so how, how do, how you think the industry is handling this? I mean, lots of shows have shut down. A lot of shows have have even canceled.
how do you see it from your point of view.
Ian Takahashi: [00:05:40] well. I wouldn’t have to say the, I think the safest way for everyone to come back is just to shoot everything underwater. I mean, socially distance. I’m not close to anyone when I’m underwater. I don’t think the virus survives and chlorinated tank water. Um, but, you know, we just put up a green screen behind them.
You know, we just put in 18 hundreds, Paris or whatever production wants. Um, that’s my solution. Everything shoots under water and, you know, call it a day. Uh, I mean, otherwise, I don’t know. I mean, there’s so many things about like, you know, it’s, it’s all temporary, like pre vaccine, you know, pre actual herd immunity.
I mean, there’s so many things being discussed, like, you know, right now, like, we don’t really have like. Any, any real sick pay to really talk about it. I think it’s like, Oh, it’s like two days. And sometimes it’s at production. Discretions you know? So if you, if, if there is enough quick testing where you, you know, you test it on the way to work, you know, or like when you got in line, you know, you went, got to the stage and everyone had to take a test.
Like what if you were positive? Then it’s like you, but then what? Like how many people around you are now like quarantined and like kicked off and then like, are you just unemployed. You know, they’re like, do you go on to production sick leave? Like, is there, you know, how long has that go? Like for two weeks?
And then if you get, you know, if you’re in line and the guy behind you cops on you and you get sick and you can’t work, and then you go into the ICU, like, are you now on disability? Like how long, you know, there’s all those things that need to be worked out. Um, you know, on top of just. You know, how do you shoot with, you know, on a stage with a ton of people?
Is everyone wearing like gloves and masks and then, you know, how do you keep your talent safe? You know, cause they can’t wear masks. yeah, I don’t, I don’t know. I mean, uh, you know, again, I’m not a doctor. I just, I hope that things can like slowly start coming back. Of course. I know so many people are out of work.
And need to work. you know, I hope that it does. I mean, one thing I’ve been, you know, it’s kind of off topic, but one thing I’ve been pushing, you know, and like, keeps like sending emails and like writing up pitches and submitting it to our own union is just about, you know, providing financial education for our union. Um, you know, there’s some really brilliant people there who are doing really well, um, not only in career wise, but like living below their means and buying apartment buildings and investing it well and doing that. And there’s plenty of people who are really living paycheck to paycheck, which is really rough.
And you’re like, but it’s been two weeks. Like, you know, I know, I know some of these people and they’re, you know, they’re paid well. And, but it’s just this, you know, spending habits and everything else. I mean, there’s a whole other conversation, student, dad’s blah, blah, blah. But, um, you know, that would just be a side, like once everyone’s back to work, I think it’s a matter of just saying, Hey, look what happened.
You know, this is the fallout. Like, what can we do to make it better? You know, get people into a stronger position, you know, for the future.
Brett Stanley: [00:08:27] I think there’s there’s been a very sudden sharp wake up call for a lot of people, not in just in this industry, but people in general about planning for the future and for stuff that you don’t even know that’s going to happen. You know? I mean, if you’ve been quarantined for two or three weeks and your having trouble paying rent or paying your mortgage, then you’ve got to look at your own finances a little bit and work out how did that go so wrong?
Ian Takahashi: [00:08:50] yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. we’ll preface it with, you know, everyone’s in their own situation. You know, maybe you can’t live in LA and put away like six months worth of emergency funds right away. Maybe you’re really new to the industry. I mean, who knows? There’s so many situations and everything needs to be taken care of.
But I think a basic, a basic education and what, you know, what can be done and what you can do to start taking care of your own future over time can be helpful into the future.
Brett Stanley: [00:09:17] yeah. So well, let’s get off that depressing topic and
Ian Takahashi: [00:09:21] Something wet and fun.
Brett Stanley: [00:09:23] exactly. Do you want to talk me through how did you get into underwater? Were you, were you a dry side cinematographer before and then , you know, excuse the pun, but fell into it, or was it something that you’d always plan, plan to do.
Ian Takahashi: [00:09:36] well, I wa I was in, uh, I was in school, like learning, like cinematography, like irregular above dry. Cinematography and I met, uh, an underwater DP operator, Mike Thomas. Um, he came up here as a guest speaker and he showed us his work, which included, you know, like thin red line cast away, the Truman show, you know, like he was John toll, like he shot a lot of second unit for John’s bowl, was his operator from a bunch of big movies.
really, really great guy. And, um. Yeah. I just didn’t even know that that was a thing like that that was a job, you know?
Brett Stanley: [00:10:11] You did know that underwater cinematography was a
Ian Takahashi: [00:10:13] know, I had no idea. I mean, I was in, I was in college and like, you know, I’d seen movies, I knew the cameras were under water, but I didn’t know that, that was like a dude who did that.
And that was like his career of like, Oh, I’m the guy who shoots underwater. Um, I didn’t really look into it, but, uh, when I met Mike, I, it was like a, you know. Like eyeopening. I was like, Oh my God, that, that seems amazing. And it fits with everything. Like I love swimming, but I hated swimming fast, or like competing, but really doing anything.
I just like being underwater and like looking at things. Um, you know, swimming around, like I was always like poking greats in the bottom of the pool, or like snorkeling and like grabbing rocks and stuff.
Brett Stanley: [00:10:53] Did. Were you a scuba diver as well?
Ian Takahashi: [00:10:54] Uh, not at that point. I just freediving whenever I got to the ocean.
Um, so when I met Mike, I talked to him and, uh, he, uh, very, very gracefully allowed me to have his email address. Um, and then we started pursuing it from there. I think I had like a year left in school. Um, so I kept in touch with Mike, uh, emailing him, asking him questions, and he was nice enough to like to reply when he could.
Um, I went out with a bunch of friends who I still work with today. We all went out and got, you know, got certified in Monterey, California, uh, seven millimeters, you know, one foot visibility, cold water. Um, we got certified there. And then like, when I kind of like, my final project at school was half underwater.
Um, I knew that if I moved, um, and when I got out into the real world, I really needed to have something to show if I wanted to keep shooting underwater because it was so, you know, it’s so expensive to do underwater shoots that, um, it would be harder to get someone to take a chance on me no matter how low budget, if I had nothing.
You know, to show, um, so, you know, we got together and had this idea and like the director and myself and producer and kind of the editor kind of chipped in some money and we all kind of shot this standard water. And you know, my, uh, my wife from today, we were dating at the time, we, we drove to LA from San Francisco.
We drove to LA, went to Hydra flags, like picked out, you know, picked up the housing and lights and stuff and drove it all the way back to San Francisco. We shot the whole weekend. Um, that final, my final project. Um, and then I think on that Sunday we shot, my wife was in the water with the camera, like shooting some synchronized swimmer for something she wanted to do.
Uh, and then that Monday we drove all the way back down to LA just to drop off everything.
Brett Stanley: [00:12:35] Oh, right. So it was like a collaborative thing where you’re just chipped in to kind of shoot the things that you wanted to shoot for your reels,
Ian Takahashi: [00:12:41] Uh, yeah. Basically, like, mine was like, I think it was like, quote my quote, like thesis film. It was like a little commercial. I’m like fake commercial. And. Um, my wife had to do another project that she was, she was studying cinematography as well. Um, and we’re like, all we have is housing. And like, uh, our friend Phil Bowen, who was a teacher, um, I mean, he’d also, he was a camera assistant from like Pearl Harbor and star Wars and all this.
Um, but he had a hip replaced. And while that was healing, it was teaching. And you know, he was a big water polo player and in friends who were synchronized swimmers. And so he got this thing together. We got into this big pool, synchronized swimmers and my wife got a swim around and shoot all this great footage, you know, all on 35 millimeter with one of these housings.
And um, you know, the director wanted to do something like this, needed like a spec commercial for her reel. So she put up some of the money. The same with the editor, like, you know, like if we’re, we’re kind of stronger together, you know, like everyone at like the keys kind of put together some money and we just went out and did it.
Brett Stanley: [00:13:37] And so how did it turn out? Is there something that stands up today, or do you kind of look
Ian Takahashi: [00:13:40] Oh, it definitely does not stand up today. Um, I mean, I’m, I’m proud of what we did for like the knowledge that we had and, you know, the skill set and experience. And I still like the shots now. Um, you know, I think if we went back to the original negative and re transferred, I’d be a lot happier. But, you know, I think we transferred it to like.
like some sort of digital tape. Um, that wasn’t very good. So like, then, you know, now, yeah, so that’s kind of degraded. There’s a couple of shots I really liked from it, but, you know, it was good enough that when I got to LA and, uh, you know, I, I, Mike, I mean internship under John toll, um, where Mike was operating.
Um, so I got to spend a few months with John’s whole and his whole team, which was incredible. And I ended up shooting another, small movie as the cinematographer, which is crazy. But that was for the comedian Bobcat. Goldthwait. Uh, so I shot that for him. And then that went off to Sundance.
And I think the same day that like, we got the word that we got into Sundance and Oh six, um, I got hired to do this like a LMU thesis film that was, I mean, it’s pretty big. They spent like at least six figures on it. Um, but then I, I shot the water work for that. So at least what I did was good enough to get, uh, get hired, you know, for another student film.
And I think that’s kind of how it went for the next decade was like, you know, I did one job that year and like two underwater jobs the next year. And it just slowly built up. And then I, you know, as my contacts grew in their careers, you know, my, our, our friend from school, Mathias, was off doing big music videos and you know, he called me to do a, like a burger King commercial with him.
So I got that. Uh, but really the change came when, um, when Mike retired, um, you know, he was operating on iron man three and that was kind of it for him. And he retired and I went down to his place and bought them coffee and, you know, he told me to bring a truck and I had a small car, but we still packed a bunch of gear into there.
Like he was, you know, he gave me some float rigs and some light meter housing,
a bunch of other cool
Brett Stanley: [00:15:33] Yeah, so he kind of passed the goat a little bit, or.
Ian Takahashi: [00:15:36] Yeah. You know, I mean, more importantly than that, like the gear is great. And that float rig that he built, he built it for, um, cast away, you know? So when he’s in the water with Tom Hanks in Castaway, he’s got this.
You know, amazing float rig. It’s got like a fuel bladder, um, with a dry hose inflator in it, so you can just fill that thing up and shoot to the surface and Akil on it. So when you’re in the waves, you start to lean to the right and the keel goes up and the weight brings you back down. I mean, it’s amazing, you know, and he built it.
Um, and that’s, you know, that’s in my storage unit to be shipped out whenever we go in the ocean. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s definitely like I have a much smaller, you know, float rig that kind of goes into my cases, um, when we’re in like small pools and some tighter spaces. But when we’re out there in the ocean and the waves, I bring his, um, cause it’s, it’s simple, but it’s a genius design and it works really well and it
makes the work better.
but you know, more than, more than the gear. Um, you know, he was, he introduced me to Pete Romano. Hydroflasks. He was like, I had met and said hi to over the years, but, um, you know, Mike got me into the room with Pete and introduced me and recommended, and, you know, I sat down and talked with Pete for a while about like my work and where I come from and showed him some stuff and, um, you know, and then like couple of weeks later, there was a job that. uh, P couldn’t do, uh, I forget why, but I got the call from him. Um, it was a TV show, a pretty little liars. Um, so then I went out and, um, did the underwater work for that and I didn’t screw it up apparently, and he got a, a decent review back from them. And, uh, you know, a little bit later I went out and did scandal and then masters of sex and the Selena Gomez video.
And that ended up winning like best pop video 2013 I think. Um, and that kinda got it kickstarted with, uh, you know, like those kind of how high profile, like at the time, like, I don’t, you know, there’s not really much bigger than like scandal was at that time. Um, unless you go to like game of Thrones, um, you know, the, that kind of scale of TV.
Um, but, you know, but at the same time, you know, I got the next season scandal came around and I was on their call sheet from the last year. I got a call to go back in and do scandal again, and the first thing I did was call Pete and I was like, Hey, like scandal, calling me again. But it’s, that’s kind of your, you know, your client, like you pass it to me, I covered you.
I don’t want to take it, you know, unless you are okay with it. And he was like, no, no, no. I love those guys. I want to go do it. I’m like, great, it’s all yours. It’s a hundred percent so then, you know, then he went back and I just, you know, it’s just short term thinking like I’m not gonna, you know. Snag one job from him, you know, how does, you know how, like, that’s just not who I am and I wouldn’t, you know, wouldn’t want to do that.
Brett Stanley: [00:18:13] Yeah. And I mean it’s good to kind of keep those relationships solid as well cause everyone’s, everyone knows everyone
Ian Takahashi: [00:18:20] yeah, yeah. And just know that, like, if, if I go in and cover you on a job, like I’m not trying to steal your client, like, I’ll do the job, I’ll do a great job and, but I know that I’m covering for you in the relationship you’ve built. Like, that’s fine. and then that’s really just kind of started.
So then it’s been just those, you know, years of just continuing to do those TV shows and the commercials, you know, I guess, like, you know, name and work gets out there more, so it kind of builds up and builds up and builds up. And,
Brett Stanley: [00:18:48] I’ve been watching your work maybe for the last two or three years, I think, since I got into the cinematography side of, of underwater and, yeah, just seeing you go from, from these different projects to, you know, kind of bigger and better things each time and more, I guess, more technical and more complicated stuff as well.
Ian Takahashi: [00:19:05] yeah. I think I remember, I think you and I had lunch one day, right? It was in like silver Lake or somewhere. Is that the time that my truck died? Like I parked it and then
Brett Stanley: [00:19:15] Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. You had to get the AAA or
Ian Takahashi: [00:19:17] Oh, yeah. Yeah. Like worst, worst, like lunch meeting ever. Like, Hey, it’s nice to meet you. My truck did. I’m going to go take
Brett Stanley: [00:19:24] that’s right. it’s not like you had a deadline or
anything, so you know, it was good. So where did you go from there? are there things that you’ve done over that time that have kind of stuck with you and have kind of shaped or informed the way you work in the future? Are there things that have made you evolve.
Ian Takahashi: [00:19:40] yes. I think that when I was starting off in my career, uh, shooting underwater, you know, it started off as just like getting the basics of like an exposure. Cause I, you know, I started shooting everything on film so I had underwater light meters and just figuring out, you know, making sure that I got decent exposures under water and like basic operating, like, yes, they’re in the frame.
Thank God. Um, and so that, and then when I was starting to do that, I was like, comfortable with that. And then it moved on to, well, I’m never gonna, you know, I’m never going to move up in my career and get to different and like bigger projects and, you know, move out of the hay.
We’ve got 50 bucks for this budget, you know, move out of that world. If I just play it safe and it’s like, Hey, there’s an exposure in there. They’re in the frame, you know? So then I just started pushing, you know, pushing the envelope all the time. I’m like, look, this is, this is a low budget staff and you know, I respect that, you know, we want to do a good job, but I’m going to take risks and I’m going to push it so that, you know, instead of it looking like the $50 budget, it looks like we had like a hundred bucks.
and not just like the money and budget, but I’m using that to kind of show what, you know, push like the production value of it. So it doesn’t look like, Oh, that was super cheap in this dude’s backyard. What can we do to make it look, you know, so much better and like more
than what it is.
Brett Stanley: [00:20:51] and what would you do? What were the techniques that you were using to kind of push those budgets.
Ian Takahashi: [00:20:55] Oh, I mean, like, you know, you see so much where it’s like you’re the blackout of pool and it’s just black. You know, but then when we started taking, you know, like it was supposed to be a Lake, we would take like a log and like just stick a log in to the water. You don’t have it like underexposed in the background just to give some sort of texture.
So it kind of feels like it’s in a Lake or somewhere instead of just, Hey, there’s a black background and there’s like one big backlight and then bam, Hey, look at that. Um, we were taking, you know, I was at home, my wife was not happy about it, but over the stove, like I was taking strips of Lexan and like heating it on the stove with pliers and like pulling it apart.
Because when you heat it, it kind of softens and you can pull it, and then you move it away from the heat and it’ll kind of dry. And then now you get these like slight little warped lines. You know, and I was like, then like taping that in front of the lens or, you know, just adding, you know, additives to the water, um, to give it like a little bit of Milky or look and get, like move, bring the, the shafts of light and a little bit more, you know, just, uh, just like those little techniques that really don’t cost much.
Like it’s work and it’s thinking, but it’s not really like a budgetary strain, um, on trying to get, you know. Or, you know, even things like we couldn’t afford like big, you know, big lights, you know, so put up, we put up like a mirror on a stand, and then shoot a bunch of little lights into it at different angles and it would hit the mirror and then bounce back into the water and all these different angles.
And it would look like we had like four lights up there, you know, just, or like, it would look like it was this big spread from a much larger source, you know, cause we could afford like, you know, for, you know, for LICOs we couldn’t afford one for K. you know, so those little things in the beginning of just like, this is the look I want to achieve.
How do I do that with like a rubber band and some peanut butter. and you know, sometimes, you know, most of the time it works, you know, or at least we got like most of the way there. Um, you know, and then as the progression went and I went out on like scandal and those, it kind of went back to the playing it safe.
Cause like I’m like, it’s suddenly like I’m at like this network level. There’s a lot more pressure, you know, like I’m covering for Pete Romano, you know, like, just do your job. Like, just
do it to the, uh, you know, like the, the DPS suddenly started having like, AFC at the end of their name, and you’re like, let’s listen to him do what he wants, you know, like, I’m happy to be here, you know, let me just prove that I can operate and like work at this level,
Brett Stanley: [00:23:11] But I guess you working with a bigger budget as well, so then you’ve, you don’t have to be as, as kind of shoestring, innovative as you were before.
Ian Takahashi: [00:23:18] Oh no, definitely. Cause I mean, if you needed, you know, if you needed like 18 cases, then you have them, you know, or you know, then you’re negotiating. But like, well it doesn’t need to be on a condo or like, do you need like one of the little remote head things the lights go on? Like those are the kinds of things you’re talking.
Like, is it better to have, you know, like an electrician in the basket or is it better to have, you know, the like the little remote thing that holds it. Yeah. Those were like more of the conversations I ended up having having now. Whereas before it was like, I would like an 18 K and just get laughed at.
Um, but then as a progression, like then, you know, then when I felt comfortable, like I can show up and I can do job and I can operate, everyone seems happy, you know? Then it was bringing, trying to bring a little bit more of like myself to it and trying to push it and, you know, try to make things, you know.
Try to at least like Alec, basically like value added. Like if he, if I show up to the job, like I bring this, not just pointing the camera, you know, bring extra to it. And it’s also like the politics of it. Like when I, I went on again on scandal and it was like, Oh, Darren Okada, AFC, and you know, we would discuss, he would talk to me about things and you know, when I felt it was right, I would.
Suggest things just to him as like an idea and let him decide if you, if that was a good idea or if that was just not appropriate. And you know, and he, you know, he’s the DP, you know, like he, it was up to him and I would only suggest things to him when it was appropriate and let him decide. And, you know, and then there’s sometimes, you know, there’s, there’s other DPS who you’ve worked with before who, you know, are relying on you a lot more.
They’re like, Oh no, we want you to come out here. You handle it. I’m like, okay. So then I just kind of keep them informed about what we’re doing. You know, and what I would like to do and what the results should be, and make sure everything is still cool with him. Um, but it’s just kind of playing that game, you know, that game of, you know, what the DP is looking for out of you.
Um, and then being able to, you know, when I have more freedom than really pushing it and like, really, you know, I had a conversation with, I think it was Joe, right? I was on the phone and it was for this. Ford was paying for like an installation, like the nine one, one, nine, 11 Memorial. Um, and they were all shooting something and I was like doing the underwater work and it was a very short conversation.
I was told to make it look magical and that was it, you know? So I was like, okay, and that was my direction. Okay, great. You know? So then that was just, that really was like, okay, you know, like gloves are off, like, let’s make it look amazing and magical and just go do that. Um. Which is very, you know, broad strokes, but it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t very micromanaged.
I didn’t get all these photos of like, make it look like this contrast and this color. Um, I was told not to roll it until the water was Ford blue,
Brett Stanley: [00:25:51] Oh, okay.
Ian Takahashi: [00:25:53] yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:25:55] that a paint? Pantone color?
Yeah. Right. So do you, did you enjoy that kind of problem solving? Like is that part of the joy for you? Is, is them going, we kind of want this but don’t know how to make it, but we, we
Ian Takahashi: [00:26:09] Oh no. I love it. I mean, if I can solve those problems for people, I mean, I think that’s, you know, I would say that that’s one of the reasons why I’ve had such success and progression in my career is I really enjoy. You know, those kinds of problem solving is, I mean, like, sure. Like later, you know, at the bar with my key grip, but we might be like, Whoa, that was crazy.
Like, what does that even mean? But, you know, at the time we were like, what do they mean? Like for, to blue? Like, I don’t, okay. Like, how do we, you know, how do we do that with what we have? And like fast, you know, I remember we were doing, um, the show, the last ship. Uh, Peter Weller was directing and you know, it was a complicated shot.
We had these underwater minds, and when I’m like swimming backwards through mines and cables, tracking these, uh, like, you know, Navy seals or whatever they were, um, and very specific points of like, it’s a three shot here. You track back and ends up in a single, turns into a profile track with him, arc around him to reveal the mind.
He swims up to it. You go around to the other side, land in a closeup and hold there for a dialogue. Yeah. Cause he’s like talking through his math to top side. You know, we do it. And I’ve had it coordinated with like guiding my, my electricians in the water with lights like coming up. So we land on his closeup.
He’s got like a nice eyeline and it’s pretty, you know, I’ve got safety divers in places and, um, you know, we did the first take and come up. And then, you know, just. You know, everything changes and like, do this here and do that there and change this moment. Okay, go, let’s roll it. Roll it. You’re like, Whoa, I felt like 30 seconds.
So like you have different people directions and then go do it and be right. Um, which, I mean, I let Lana trailer in a rush. I love, I love when we’re doing all the crazy, like, you know, shooting cars off into the water at me or, you know, we were doing, I mean, on this last, like the suicide squad, I guess too.
Um, I can’t say what we were doing, but like, I was in a full body harness with like giant water dumps and, you know, and just trying to, like, I look, the camera was like, harness to my harness and then I’m harnessed into a wall. So like stunt guys, you know, who they’re holding onto me, but then releasing me at given points so that I like, you know, it was just, it was awesome, but it was like four days in my body hurt at the end of every day, but it was
Brett Stanley: [00:28:19] Well that’s like turning camera operating into like an extreme sport kind of thing.
Ian Takahashi: [00:28:23] Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. And I wasn’t wearing air tanks or anything. It was just me. I had a bunch of weights on just to try to keep my feet on the ground, which was pretty unsuccessful. Um, but yeah, it was, sometimes you’re down there being tumbled and like holding your breath, trying to hold onto a camera, and then getting your feet underneath you coming up and hoping you land in that closeup that you owe.
You know, with like James Gunn and everybody, like at the monitors watching and you’re like, and then they’re like other camera operators like Chris McGuire and Tom Lapin, who are just incredible and you’re just like, Whoa, like a waving like, hi guys. I’m happy to be here. I mean, and they’re amazing and great too, but it’s just, you know, it’s just so much fun to try to do that.
And the fact that we did get it and you know, we didn’t have to do like 10 tapes, you know, we just went through and got it. Everyone’s happy. We went home. I was like, okay, that’s what we should be doing.
Brett Stanley: [00:29:15] Do you find that if you’re working with a director or a deeper, you hasn’t done a lot of underwater work, do you find that there’s like a certain amount of, um, education from your end to them to go and let them know how things are gonna go and how hard it is to get in certain shots?
Like is there like kind of feedback from your end
Ian Takahashi: [00:29:32] Um, there can be, if it’s a. If they’re receptive to it, you know, sometimes they’re much more, rarely. Sometimes they’re just like, no, no, no, go do it. You’re like, but I can’t. Okay. Like it’s just physics. Like, I can’t do that. What you want. Um, I know there was a, I won’t name names or the show, but, um, they wouldn’t return calls or emails.
And with me asking like, what we’re doing and like. What gear we’re using. Cause usually I, they let me know and then I kind of pick, you know what gear they like, Oh we gonna to shoot this format, we want these lenses and then I’ll kind of put a package together. Um, and this one was not like they picked everything and they didn’t tell me what we’re going to do.
And I got out there and they, what they wanted me to do is just not possible with the gear that we had. Like the speed that it would take. It was a bit bigger. It was a big housing on camera. And it was on the float rig and they wanted me to dunk it and go like diving down like, but it’s like we had fire in the wall, like it was 40 degrees outside and like we had propane pumping from the bottom and everything was on fire and there was a crash plane and boats swimming.
And we’re like driving around everywhere. Like I couldn’t, it was 19 feet deep. I couldn’t ladders down, you know, and , if they let me get the smaller housing, I could have. Use less air in the float and kind of held it up and then easily dumped it and God. But because of the size of it, it’s so much air.
I just no way to dump it fast enough. And it was just, then they got all mad at me and like, Oh, okay. Like, I guess be mad at me. That’s fine. Like I, I tried to get the information, I tried to do the best job I could, and if you’re just going to blame me, that’s, that’s fine. Like, do you want me to be here tomorrow?
Like I’m happy to not come back.
Brett Stanley: [00:31:12] Yeah.
And I guess he gets to a point where you have to call it, right. You have to kind of walk away cause there’s the, the
Ian Takahashi: [00:31:19] Yeah. I think there’s just a point of where I let them know, like, look, we can do this, you know, and I need this. Or like, we cannot do this with what we have. Like, if we can change this, this, then we could do it. I, you know, I hate getting there and we rarely get there. Usually it’s like, yeah, if you want that, like, but I need these things to get there.
Um. You know, and then if they’re just really, if they’re unreceptive to it and just, no, no, no, no. You should be prepared on my attorney emails when I ask you what we’re doing. Um, you know, and there’s a certain point where like, whatever, like, I can’t do anymore. Like, I’m not going to argue with them. Like, fine, you know, you can blame me.
Like, I, I’m working next week on another job, you know, like, I didn’t, I know I didn’t screw up.
Brett Stanley: [00:31:57] yeah. Yeah. Do you, do you have a, like a team of people that you work with, like with your electrician and with your grips and stuff? Is there people that you’ve got who you are your go to.
Ian Takahashi: [00:32:07] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve got a very, very short list of a friend, like the camera system side, a water tax too, like the undermine underwater, like key grip and you know, usually like when he’s available, soda pop will come out or you know, Leonard and Andy doing like the underwater electrician side, a underwater gaffer side of it.
Cause. I mean, it is a specialty and like I’ve seen too many, you know, too many dudes who are like, Oh yeah, I do underwater underwater electrician. And then you, you know, they float to the surface and then you hand them a, you know, you hand them a, like a light stand or a sandbag and it just takes them to the bottom because they haven’t like, you know, overinflated their VC or like, or they’ve done the opposite of where their Kino swimming is.
Stand at the bottom. You know, and they’re buoyant for this light stand, or like two shot bags, and then they drop them on the floor and they just shoot to the surface because, you know, they’re now overinflated. Like, they’ll just, those basic, basic things are like rampant, you know, with people that I don’t know.
So that’s why, you know, I always, I’ve, you know, I’ve found people that I’ve met who are amazing at what they do, and they have a great team and, you know, I’ll do everything I can to try to. Make sure that they’re taken care of and that they’re on a job. And, you know, especially if I’m doing something that’s got like, that I want to do, that’s lower budget.
It’s, you know, explaining like the danger sign of it. And, you know, yes we can get guys for cheaper, but do you want them, you know, like, we have a limited time, you know, you know, we’ve got limited time, we’ve got a limited budget. You know, we’ve got high hopes. Like, let’s just spend an extra 200 bucks. You know.
Per, you know, per electrician and the water. And then we have a shot at getting what we want. Um, you know, and usually they’re receptive to when you explain, you know, explain things, you know, in a way that is understood and not just, that’s their normal rates, you know, be like, I, we understand the situation, but these are the guys that we can get and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And there’s sometimes the money is just not there. And so you have to, you know, sometimes you go with guys who. You know, have maybe a little bit less experienced, you know, but are still safe and you cross your fingers. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. You know, sometimes you’ve got guys throwing spear fishing thins on when you’re in a tank and you’re like, what,
Brett Stanley: [00:34:23] Yeah.
Yeah. Cause you’re not going to be able to maneuver properly. You know, you need
Ian Takahashi: [00:34:30] And I mean that and just kicking up stilts off the bottom. I mean, there’s so many things that like little details you have to take into consideration. Um. Is that like, when I call, you know, like when I call a soda pop, like, he understands and his guys understand, you know, and they know what we’re getting into and they’re like, look, we’re gonna, we’re gonna lay these blacks down and then we’re gonna do all this.
We’re gonna cut holes and do this, and then we’re going to let it settle and then we’re going to vacuum, you know, like, okay, we’ve done that. Like, we blacked out an entire aquatic center up in Hayward, um, for the Steph Curry job. And, uh, we, you know, we made sure we had 24 hours. Before we had to shoot and we blacked it out.
We got on the water to look at it. We were doing some free lighting and you know, the notes I got back from the agency, whereas it looks murky and you know, they weren’t really excited about it. And I was like, yes, yes, yes, please. Just, I completely understand. That’s why we asked for this day. You know, when we showed up the next day, crystal clear, you know, soda had cut holes in the, uh, the 20 by 20 block.
Now we’re on the bottom and then put these like half size milk crates on top, covered it again, cover the top in black, you know? And that way when I’m looking at it with the camera, it just looks solid black. But it lets the filters still work,
So everything is still exactly. So the whole tank filters for 24 hours, you know?
So when we came back, it was already preloaded. I got in there and was happy
Brett Stanley: [00:35:53] Yeah. I think to like coming from the outside of the cinematography world and even the photography world, seeing people come in to this industry who, uh, you know, probably really good at their, their jobs on the dry side, but want to get into the underwater world. Um, and so they think it’s kind of, you know, it’s maybe a little bit harder, but it’s still the same, but they forget that you have to know how to just be underwater first.
Like, if you don’t know how to be an underwater person, it’s kind of hard to do all the stuff you’re saying. Like, you know, dropping, um, light stands down there or pushing a camera through the water if
Ian Takahashi: [00:36:27] Yeah. Oh, yeah. Um, I mean, I’ll give you an example. It’s from, I won’t tell you which movie, but, uh, it was. It will be pretty high profile. Um, I had to swim in a circle around this, you know, a list actress, um, holding a full body shot and a, you know, the way that we, everything is positioned. Like now, there’s a ton of just like these, like 16 foot flags and all kinds of stuff that had to be there that were now, you know, so close to my camera.
So I’m. You know, I’m changing when she’s kind of floating. She’s all harnessed in, but depending on her breath, you know, she’s kind of floating around. And so I have to figure out my buoyancy based on how much air I have in my lungs, like let it out. So sink down with her and then like take some in to float up with her.
And so I’m just on, but I don’t have my BC on. I just have like a 25 foot hook align. Swimming, pushing the camera, you know, sideways through the water. Looking at the monitor, looking at her. And I have like an inch of clearance on the back of the housing, you know, these obstacles. So, you know, pushing it, trying to swim in a straight line, in a perfect arc around her, keeping her framed, you know, using my breath to go up and down in the water to keep the same level with her, and then making sure that she’s correctly framed and not slamming the housing into stands.
And flags and lights and everything and that, you know, that was, we did, you know, we did two texts of that. Um, and they’re like, Hey, no, we’re happy. We’re moving out. And it’s like, think is doing difficult shots, not making it seem difficult. And so that the director and everyone else was like, Oh yeah, that’s great.
Moving on. Moving on. Okay, good. We got it. You know, cause, you know, I don’t, I never want them to know how hard things are for us. You know, we just want to show up, do our job. Get it done and make it look great and you know, move forward. If we can get through our day and get everything and get everyone you know, happy and you know, and great then, and we do that sooner than later, then that’s awesome.
I don’t want to do five takes to make sure it’s perfect, like I want to get it, you know, ideally take one, but yeah. When’s that going to happen? I know. Get it by. Take two. Sometimes we get to take one, but then I’m like, no, you know what? I think I can do a little better. Let’s try it again. And sometimes I’m like, no, no, no.
I’ll take two. Was far worse than take one
Brett Stanley: [00:38:41] Right. Okay. So how do you go like working with celebrities and stuff underwater as well then? So if you’ve got these alias actors who are probably, you know, if they’ve signed up for this movie or this TV show, and they’ve might’ve mentioned that there’s an underwater scene, but they’ve never really done it before, is there, what do you see from your side?
I’m assuming you’re not really interacting too much with them beforehand,
Ian Takahashi: [00:39:04] No, I have, uh, we’ve got a great team. Again, it’s such a small world. Um, there’s a couple like, Marine coordinators, like water safety, you know, guys out there, like we’ll hall and like nitris and, you know, metal Conner. Mmm, okay. You know, and uh, and Oh, in the, in Katie, and there’s some really good people, um, who.
You know, when I had my initial conversations with production is now, you know, I usually mentioned like, you know, how, how, how comfortable is talent in the water and, you know, is there a time in the schedule to get them into the water for a few hours at least, if not a day with our water team. Um, and that way, that kind of builds that rapport.
And, you know, I’ve never had an issue with talents, you know, in the water. Um. There’s one, I’m not, they’re dealing directly, you know, a lot of that is on the water safety team. You know, they’re, you know, they’re all like sag and stunts and some of them are local 80 as well, you know, so they know that world and they’re there with the talent, like health is swimming them out, making sure they’re safe, giving them their air, doing all of that.
And you know, and honestly, like, you know, someone like Beyonce was so hard working, um, and she was so, like nice and accommodating and friendly and wonderful in the water. I mean, it was my team. You know, keeping her alive. You know, in this water tank, when she would go down to the bed, you know, they would tuck her in and do everything.
And she knew the moment that the air was out of her mouth, she could just stick her hand out and it would be right. You know, in a split second, it would be right there, you know, for her, like regardless of the shot or anything. And it’s like, whatever, destroy the tape, get Beyonce her air. Like there’s no question.
Uh, so it’s always been, you know, sometimes they’re a little bit nervous about things. They, when we’re doing like some different stunts and they don’t, you know, like I’ve been in cars, you know, sinking cars with, you know, with, with actors and that, you know, cause they don’t have air and like this, you know, sometimes it’s hard to put, you know, you know, show them exactly where safety is.
But we’re always very conscious and like, no, like, you know, you know. Trees. Who’s your, you know, your safety diver. He’s here in the back seat. He’s on air, he’s got your air. Like, I’ve got safety here. This is what we’re doing, you know, very calm and controlled and, you know, so far, you know, knock on wood, of course, you know, so far everything has been good.
Um, we have had a couple of things with, you know, some doubles who, uh, have said that they can swim and you kind of question it after a minute. Um, but that’s the same as above water when they’re like, Oh yeah, I can ride a horse. You know, like, do you know what a horse is? Because
Brett Stanley: [00:41:27] Yeah.
Yeah. Right. I’m not sure what this is right now, but it’s not writing ours. have you had anyone, uh, kinda just bile on a production because they couldn’t do that shot? I mean, not on the production, but you know, to have not been able to do the shot they’d been asked to do.
Ian Takahashi: [00:41:44] Um, I wouldn’t say like bail on it overall. Like, I know we’ve had some things have been difficult. Um, and we’ve kind of modified it to make it doable cause you know, they brought up their concerns or like, I just can’t do this part here. You know, some of it’s really difficult. Like, I know that, um, you know, like a floating on your back.
You know, with your face looking up and like head up and you know, the water goes straight up your nose. And some people, you know, without training, like it’s so difficult to ask someone to be able to do that. Um, you know, those kinds of things were like, no, that is really difficult. You know, what can we do and work with a director and like, what, what can, how can we shoot this scene to.
Eliminate that section. Or like, how can we do, you know, so I know we’ve had somewhere, you know, was supposed to be like, you know, tied to a chair or something like the bottom of the pool, you know, down at like the 12 foot deep. The pressure on them, you know, the water pressure was kind of getting to them and they’re feeling really claustrophobic and they’re like tied into this chair.
And even if we have, you know, like the captain of the, like the local police department dive team is like right next to them. It’s still freaky. Um, you know, so instead of shooting it there, you know, we modified the shot and we shot it over in the forefoot deep section, you know, so they didn’t feel the water pressure and they knew they could just stand up and head above water and, okay, good.
You know, but you, it. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it was harder for me, like we, you know, we brought, uh, you know, we brought like the Dolly over and had, um, like bungees attached to that, cause I had to lift most of the cameras out of the water just to keep the dome just under water. And I mean, it became more of a thing for us, but whatever.
Like we’re there to get the shot, if that’s what you gotta do.
Brett Stanley: [00:43:17] Yeah. There was one production that I wanted to talk to you specifically about, um, which is the, Harry styles, um, music video that came out, I don’t know, like a month ago.
and it’s pretty dear to my heart because, you know, you’re sinking an entire room
into this, into this tank, which is something that I like to do myself.
Um, can you talk us through that? Like, I’d love to hear how that sort of came about and what, what was used to kind
of get that room to,
it looks like it’s filling up, but it’s actually sinking right.
Ian Takahashi: [00:43:45] Exactly. Yeah. Um, yeah, the DP for that, Scott Cunningham, um, he and I had worked together all of them on like a Missy Elliott video where I think they did green screen in Atlanta, and then Scott and I did underwater background plates. In LA, and then they were comped together and I’d helped them through some other things over time.
And, you know, not available sometimes, but just kept in touch. And, you know, he hit me up about this and he was like, this needs to be really special. Like, we love this song, like, area’s amazing. Um, you know, we need, we need to do it. And, um, so I said, yeah, of course. I mean, honestly, I didn’t know who he was, Harry styles.
So, um. I was out of the country and I was like, do I really? Am I going to fly back for this? Like I love Scott, like what’s going on? And my wife and my agent were like, are you how, where, where are you? Where are you from? Like Harry styles is massive. Like, what? What are you, what are you doing? Like, this is going to be awesome.
Like, you love Scott, like, it’s going to be great. I was like, Oh, okay, cool. Like, that’s fine. Like sometimes let’s get caught up in like the four productions. I’m prepping where something else comes up. And I’m like, is that a, I don’t know. That’s going to, that is awesome. It’s all these people that I like.
So w what am I doing? You know,
Brett Stanley: [00:44:48] Yeah.
Ian Takahashi: [00:44:50] I’m not being crazy.
Brett Stanley: [00:44:52] Yeah. You need that reality check sometimes I
Ian Takahashi: [00:44:54] yeah, definitely. Um. Yeah. So anyways, um, I started working with Scott on that. Um, and you know, it was a conversation from the beginning, especially with the producers, about how. You know how to achieve that.
And, you know, obviously we can’t pump water into a room, you know, like that’s just the, what do we rent a stage and build a set? And I’m still, I mean, that’s just, it was, no, we’re not going to do that. Um, and then we, you know, we’d done this, you know, this kind of like how it’s kind of done all the time as you build a set and we hung it from a crane and then sank it, you know, just lowered it into, you know, into the water.
Um, and sent unfortunately, tank one closed, um, in signal Hill, California. Um. Well that was ruled out. Uh, there’s another tank that we really liked shooting at up and acting at Robin’s place. Uh, the set was, uh, too large and tall, um, to do. It’s really, you know, to really to do it. Plus all the lighting we had to do.
So we ended up having to rent falls Lake at universal, which was way too big for what we needed. But, um, the water was warm. It was crystal clear. And, um, you know, we had, there was a hole, the opening section was all done on dry land. Um, during the day. So if you ever see pictures of behind the scenes, if they ever release it, there’s, you know, the set is draped in black, you know, with the whole technocrane underneath it.
It’s just big black tent with a champion crane ready to grab it. Um, and then once we finished those sequences and started the water pumping out of the piano, we did that dry, you know, down to like, you know, a couple inches. And then after that, you know, we let it become night as they hooked it up and we rotated the whole set.
And. No made it. So all we did was spin the crane one 80 an hour out over the water and, um, I was operating the camera dry, just handheld, and then got into the water with the hydro flex housing and everything. Uh, to operate that camera. Um, and I talked, you know, who we’re talking to, Scott. We were like, no, no, we should have two housings.
You know, one goes on the crane and one goes in my hands that way. There’s two lenses on it at all times. Like, you can be looking down on him, skimming through the water, like be above water and push down. And I’m like, Oh, no, no, no. That’s great. That’s great. That’s great. Um, you know, just those little things I like to throw, you know, maybe people don’t know or whatever, you know, just, you know, they’re thinking about it.
You know, 5 million other things, but just kind of bringing those things up really can help because Scott was like, Oh yeah, no, why? Yeah, that’s a great idea. Like, yeah, we should be doing that. So then we had to continue to camera’s on him. Um, and one thing that no one really thinks about until they’re there doing it, uh, is that when you’re thinking a set, you know, we have three walls up, so one wall is missing and it’s just water rushing in.
You know, you know, so trying to hold a frame in the water when, you know, it’s just a wall of water pushing you towards Harry, which is great. When you want to do like a push into a closeup, you just kind of lift your feet and go with the water. Um, but we did, we had like, creates the sandbags and things like into the, you know, anchored into the ground for me to, you know, sit on the floor with my feet against, you know, just so that I didn’t get washed away.
Um, you know, the techno cranes fine, but you know, you’re in there like, my whole team is on there, like holding on to things cause you know, you’re sinking. This is just gallons of water rushing through there. And you know, you can’t fight it on your own. You
Brett Stanley: [00:48:06] Yeah. And how many times did they sink? Was it just one sinking or
would they pull it back up again and
Ian Takahashi: [00:48:12] Oh no, we did it. We did it for like four hours, at least. Just up and down, up and down, up and down. I mean, and Harry was great, you know, he was so, you know, the one thing that he asked for was that, you know, we don’t. Raise the setup out of the water until we’re ready to shoot, which is reasonable because the water’s nice and warm and it was really cold, you know?
So we would raise the set and then everyone would be talking to him and he’s just like freezing, you know, in, you know, out of the water and wet, you know, we try to get him a dive cone and then he was like, why don’t we just leave it in the water? We can come out, you know, roll the cameras, bring the set up.
And then Duncan again, he’s like, I’m fine for a minute. Like, I’m not going to have the, you know, this conversation does not need to happen while I’m freezing, you know, very
reasonable request. Great idea. Um, and so we, you know, we, we started doing that and everything went great. He was amazing. And, you know, I think the comments I see so much online in front of their people was like, Oh, how did you get rid of the bubbles from his mouth and all that.
But, you know, honestly, there wasn’t. Really any to speak of, you know, he was singing, he got all his hair out and then he would go under water and he just kept mouthing it and he would just continue to sing underwater. And you know, it’s like a super professional. Just watching him do that and like, he’s just singing and concentrated like nothing else is going on.
And he was, I mean, he was incredible.
Brett Stanley: [00:49:31] Yeah. Cause there’s, there’s one scene I think in that one shot in that video clip where it’s from above and you kind of see him. Then that final guest gets sucked under the water and he’s ma, he’s mid song and he’s singing and his eyes are open the entire time. And I think I commented to you, I was like, that must have taken a few takes.
Ian Takahashi: [00:49:47] yeah. No, no. Straight away, you know, and like, that camera’s there. And then I’m sitting, I’m sitting there on a profile shot of him, just one. I think they cut to it right after. Um, and it’s just him saying he’s just sitting there. Looking like nothing else is going on. Um, you know, one thing we did have about lighting is we went all, mainly LEDs? Um, and then, uh, bigger sources where tungsten, um, so that we could control the exposure when we went underwater. Um, because, you know, obviously under underwater, you know, the, a lot of lights gonna reflect off. You know, that way we can control it. So when we were going under water, you could control how much light was bouncing around.
But you know, you can definitely see from the above, water has more contracts than the below water, you know, mainly just because of the way that light, you know, kind of bounces around. And there is particular matter in there regardless if you see it or not, you know, so it does kind of fill in the shadows a bit more.
Um, so we went with Scott, you know, lighting it and everyone was very conscious of, you know. Creating the contrast above, you know, above what are they liked within being able to control the amount that was, you know, underwater. so behind us on the open side was a gray, was gray cement. You know, a bunch of backlights. So that was, you know, bouncing around. So one of the first things we did was just, you know, kind of black, you know, black out the cement where we didn’t want bounce to come from, you know, just another step of, you know, especially behind that window in the back.
Like we blacked that out. Um, anything to control the amount of bounce and we’ll do that a lot in pools to where, you know, if we’re blacking out, like the back wall and sides, you know, we may black off like half. Of the pool in front of us, but leave half open for that bounce to kind of come through.
just cause I think it’s pretty rare to have like a large soft controlled bounce source. Then, you know, blackout everything and then like put an led up and shine it. Like, I don’t think there should be any shadows on there, you know, re, you know, any harsh shadows under the, on their face or anything, especially under water.
Like, you know, unless we have a car or like some sort of magic submarine under there, like there’s no light sources. No. So where are these hard shadows coming from? I mean, in your, in your work, you know, you’re in those rooms, you sometimes have like TVs and lights and stuff on and there, so you can justify, a little bit more like, you know, the shadows and that kind of cool stuff.
you know, if they’re in a
yeah, you know, like we’re doing another job, where people, you know, let’s say they’re diving into the ocean or into the Lake at night. You know, you still need to see their face, but there’s no lights and the only light is like above you.
It’s like w, you know, where does that, where does that come from? How does that look like? How does it not look terrible? You know? What can you do to have light on people’s faces and make light at all? No. Was kind of. Yeah. And it’s when we’re putting in, like, you know, we’re doing like 10 by 20, you know, ultra bounces and, you know, bouncing softly, bouncing lights into there, you know, setting up like 20 by 20 book lights, just to have like a very soft source from the side, you know, so they’re not front lid, but there’s some light on their face.
And you know, sometimes you just kind of let it go dark if they’re, you know, if they’re falling backwards and it’s a silhouetted, then fine. But yeah. You know, if they’re swimming down, searching for something, you know, you gotta have, you know, you gotta be able to see them. So, yeah. Yeah. It’s like, you know, you read a script and it says, you know, Jimmy is in a pitch black room, you know, reading a book.
You’re like, what? Wait, what? What is that like? Walk me through this again. He’s in a pitch black room reading a book. How do you want to see that? Like, Oh, well, there should be lights on. Can I just scratch off the part? Which is pitch black? Yeah, no.
Brett Stanley: [00:53:23] a poetic pitch-black. Yeah. So when you’re pitching for these jobs, or if you’ve already got them and you’d say you’re the DP, um, are you getting influences from other places? Like are you getting screenshots or, you know, kind of reference material to influence the types of shots you’re going to get?
Ian Takahashi: [00:53:42] Oh yeah. Always, always. Um, I used to have binders full of images from magazines and places and I mean, now like my laptop has folders full of just images or sometimes, you know, if I’m not really, you know, inspired, I guess. Like I, I’ll just go onto Google and type in like, cool underwater and then not see anything I like.
I can go to like artsy underwater and not see anything, you know, just through all of Google until I start seeing something that I like. Um, and then kind of looking at that and thinking about like, why I like, and why I think it works, and that’s when I’m really stuck. Or like, I’m not, you know, really inspired.
And there’s plenty of artists that I like, like looking at their work and, you know, it doesn’t even have to be underwater. Like, I’ll pull from like, Irving Penn, I love as a photographer. Um, so I’ll try to go back to his work, um, or just everywhere really until I see something that I like and. Know, a lot of times if I’m, you know, if I’m the underwater DP and you know, I’m working with like a director, you know, and the, you know, the above water DP, I’ll talk to them about what their references are and, you know, cause I don’t want us our work to be like a departure from the rest of the film.
I mean, we have license to, to do that a little bit. Like when you go underwater, you know, if you want more freedom to be, you know, a little bit different visually because it is like this other world. Um, but I don’t, you know, I don’t want it to feel like, you know, now we’re in another movie, so we’ll definitely sit down and like, talk to director and DP about what they want and what they’re looking for.
And, you know, maybe much more importantly if I’m off shooting it, like on my own as a separate unit, I’ll make sure that we have that. sometimes again, it’s working with the, you know, the above water DP sometimes. You know, sometimes they want to have like complete control over the lighting and everything, which is fine, and then they’re just relying on you for like the support on how to get it done.
Like, Oh, I really love using book lights and I want a big soft source. Then you’re like, Oh, well we could do this and like, I’ve done this before and you know, my guys can get this gear and we can set it up like this. You know, and then taught working with him on that. And sometimes they’re like, I just, I like this image and I want it to look like this, and then I’ll take it and run with it from there.
You know, taking his vision and making it happen, but, you know,
Brett Stanley: [00:55:49] Yeah. and what’s coming up for you if you’ve got a, if once we get out of this whole quarantine thing, are you going back onto projects? Have you got
Ian Takahashi: [00:55:56] I mean. Theoretically, you know, I, I would, um, you know, I, I think, uh, I’m talking to a director, friends, Zach, about going and doing a movie with him. We’re not sure where, you know, , wherever opens up first, you know, they’re looking all over the world and places of state. Um, but if the U S, you know, opens up in a safe way, then, you know, I think they’re looking to shoot there.
You know, you know, Canada, they liked the idea of what Canada is doing. You know, so they’re looking, they’re also looking like in, you know, Eastern Europe and some other places. Um, otherwise, you know, I was in the middle of prepping, um, for some other, from two other jobs that were approved. Pretty high profile ones, um, that we were building like multiple sets and then, you know, building the set on a floor and then building a water tank around it.
Um, you know, pretty big like heist job. Um, that was going to be in New York and another really fun one, um, in Atlanta. Um, which would have taken me through August, may, June, July, August. Yeah. Take me through August. But, you know, fingers crossed, you know, who knows what we’ll get up to. And, you know, hopefully those scenes have not been scratched off.
you know, but otherwise, I’m literally looking forward to, you know, we wrapped the suicide squad like right before everything got crazy. You know, so hopefully they’re, you know, deep into posts by now. And, um, you know, we did, I shot second unit for Ron Howard’s new movie, um, and then two days in the water as well.
Um, but we wrapped that, I think the reshoots even wrapped before, you know, everything got crazy. So I’m really looking forward to those two films coming out at some point, you know, and at this point, like,
Brett Stanley: [00:57:29] Hmm. Yeah, that’s correct.
Ian Takahashi: [00:57:33] we will see. Oh yeah. Especially the ones that we’re about to release are now like 20 bucks to rent.
Um, you know, which
Brett Stanley: [00:57:45] a Coke and stuff, you know, it kind of
Ian Takahashi: [00:57:48] true. I can make a
hot dog at home, I guess.
Brett Stanley: [00:57:51] yeah,
exactly. No, no, it’s never the same. Hey, and thanks so much. It’s been good to have a chat with you and then kind of catch up. It’s been a couple of years, I think, since we’ve,
Ian Takahashi: [00:58:01] Yeah. Yeah. No, no, definitely. Absolutely. Anytime. I look forward to seeing more of your workup on Instagram and
Brett Stanley: [00:58:11] Yeah. I mean, I think at the moment there might be a lot of self portraits coming out
Ian Takahashi: [00:58:14] Yeah.
Brett Stanley: [00:58:15] still live, but you know.
Ian Takahashi: [00:58:16] You’re in a bathtub shooting self portraits. No, no, no. It’s your private, your, uh, your future coffee table book.
Brett Stanley: [00:58:26] Is that study, what do you call it, the platinum collection? Yeah.
Ian Takahashi: [00:58:31] Okay. Bye.
Brett Stanley: [00:58:36] Thanks for listening everyone, and as always, if you’d like the podcast, please subscribe. If you’d like to connect with us, you can hit our email@example.com or on Instagram or Facebook. Also check out our regular live streams on YouTube links will be in the show notes.
The underwater podcast is presented and produced by me brett stanley and now music is neo by old boy well that’s it for me stay creative everyone