Director of Photography Pete Romano ASC – Part 2

In episode nine, we have part two of Brett’s interview with underwater director of photography, Pete Romano ASC. We chat about more of the films Pete’s worked on, mostly recent ones like Ad Astra, Into The Wild, and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which features a scene involving a flame throwing Leonardo DiCaprio!

Pete also gives us some great tips on how to handle a large camera housing underwater, how the transition from analog film to digital changed the way he works ,and the worst situation he’s been in which, from a guy who wrestles sharks underwater, is pretty interesting

You can listen to part 1 here.

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About Pete Romano ASC – Director of Photography

Pete Romano ASC is a former Navy Diver and member of the Pacific Fleet Underwater Combat Camera Group, stationed in San Diego and deployed out of the Philippines. In 1985, he built his first underwater housing for the Arri-35 3 film camera after recognizing the need for standardized equipment to simplify and enhance the underwater shooting process.  Soon after, camera rental houses were representing his product and Hydroflex, Inc. was born.  By 1988, Hydroflex added high power underwater lights to the inventory that were developed specifically for The Abyss. Since then Hydroflex has continued to design equipment for the evolving needs of the motion picture industry. Along the way, Hydroflex and Pete have been honored with two Motion Picture Academy Technical Achievement awards and an SOC Technical Achievement award.

As an Underwater Director of Photography, Pete has amassed numerous credits, notable among them are: The Abyss, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, Waterworld,  Pearl Harbor, Men of Honor, Tree of Life, Edge of Tomorrow, Mission Impossible: 3, 4 & 5, Ad Astra, Gemini Man and the Call of the Wild.  Pete is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Additionally, he holds awards for Excellence in Cinematography (shared) from the AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the SOC.



Podcast Transcript

Pete Romano Part 2

Brett Stanley: [00:00:01] Welcome back everyone. This week, we have part two of my interview with underwater director of photography, Pete Romano ASC.  We chat about more of the film’s Pete’s work, done, mostly recent ones like ad Astra into the wild. And once upon a time in Hollywood, which features a scene that involves a flame throwing Leonardo DiCaprio.

Pete also gives us some great tips on how to handle a large camera housing underwater, how the transition from analog film to digital change the way he works and the worst situation he’s been in which, from a guy who wrestles sharks is pretty interesting. All right let’s jump in.

Pete Romano. Welcome back to the underwater podcast.

Pete Romano: [00:00:39] Well, thank you, Brett. It’s been an interesting couple of moments going over past experiences. It’s kind of fun actually.

Brett Stanley: [00:00:46] yeah, it’s been really nice just hearing  where you came from and then all the crazy stories that lead up to.  where you are now, which is, you know, you’re still working, you’re still going strong. Like I’m looking at your IMDV and even the last year you’ve got, you know, or probably 10 productions that you’ve worked on

Pete Romano: [00:01:04] I, I still love it. I do. It’s, um, it is a lot of fun. It’s challenging. It’s really, It keeps my interest and I’m always looking at different ways to do things. So it does keep me active mentally and physically in so many ways.

Brett Stanley: [00:01:21] Yeah, do you feel like you’re getting older or do you feel still feel as young as you were when you first got into it?

Pete Romano: [00:01:26] well, part of me still feels I’m as young as I was when I started, but, um, ultimately once you get up and start moving around, you know that things are different. Uh,

Brett Stanley: [00:01:36] When you’re not doing stunts with sharks or anything

anymore, so

Pete Romano: [00:01:38] yeah, so, so the, the beauty of what we do in the water is once you jump in the water, you’re basically weightless. so I’m not putting any strain on my back.

I’m getting a workout with my legs and my upper body with the housing. So  it’s not really my fitness program, but it’s the way I work in the, kind of keeps me in tune. Um, but yes, I. No, I, I still love to do it. There’s, there’s no question about that, that the challenge of holding that frame and making that shot still, you know, it makes me rabbit, I want to do it.

but I, you know, as I go along here, and even last year, I think I might’ve mentioned this already, uh, I was really getting beat up on some show last year, and I forget which one it was. It was that momentous. But as I was swimming back to one to start again, like, Oh, you know, I am getting my ass kicked.

But this is still a lot of fun. I still enjoy it. So that’s really been it, and I love to play both parts of my life, which is the shooting aspect of it, but then also the designing and the building of equipment to be used under water. So it kind of goes hand in hand.

Brett Stanley: [00:02:42] What’s it like being the one building, the housings that your, you’re using every day.

Pete Romano: [00:02:47] No, I pretty much take all of it for granted now because it’s been going on for so long and I just thought there’s another housing. But there’s always been that, um, that interest, that desire to make. New gear, more gear than make it easier on our operators assistance cameraman. Um, and even today, even during all this craziness, and although we’re not doing any business, we are, the machine shop is up and cranking out and we’re making, uh, quite a number of our 250 millimeter domes.

We’ve got, um, we’ve designed a new housing for monitor that’ll work with all of our housings. The small HD. I think it’s the fi, the five Oh three. So I’m very excited to get that under water because it’s so bright. we’re also working on some different types of lighting, so I try to keep.

Active in, up to date on what’s going on because you certainly can get left in the dust. I, I would like to be current with what’s being used out there, top side, and try to adapt it for underwater. And you know, I listened to a lot of the gaffers, electricians, see what their feelings like. And I also listened to camera systems and camera men, uh, but also being in there myself and actually operating these pieces of equipment.

I can see what doesn’t work or it doesn’t work for me, and I can get around that. I can work it to make it easier. So it’s, I play on both sides of my brain, you know, the, um, the artistic sort of composition for underwater shooting. But then I’m off on the engineering part where one side of my life is so subjective in terms of the shooting.

But the. Designing of equipment and manufacturing equipment is such a finite moment because you got to measure things down to a thousandth of an inch. So it’s kind of funny to play on the, you know, the, the degree of accuracy at one point. And then the other point, it’s all kind of loosey goosey, just how you’re going to get there.

And it’s kind of funny.

Brett Stanley: [00:04:39] Yeah, that’s good. I mean, do you kind of covering both sides of your brain there, right? You get your artistic side and you’ve got your technical side. Um, do you find that when you’re, or when you’re using the housings and the camera’s underwater, that your, while you’re shooting something, you’re like, Oh, this needs to change.

Like, I can think of a better way to do this.

Pete Romano: [00:04:56] yes, I absolutely do. And I also take input from other camera people who are having some issues and we either talk them around doing it a different way or I’ll, I’ll make something work for them that’s a little bit better. I mean, it’s, the housings are just a tool. They’re a tool for you to move around.

And to get the shots. So, uh, I, I really want to make it as easy as possible for people to get in there and not have to worry about the gear and concentrate on their movement. And on the frame.

Brett Stanley: [00:05:24] Yeah. And so hydro flex doesn’t just do housings. You do you do lighting solutions as well? Are you doing, are you building things from scratch or are you mainly building housings for existing lighting?

Pete Romano: [00:05:40] I am building housings for existing lighting products right now to redesign the wheel and try to make something myself. I, I really do not have the horsepower. Or the knowledge to go that far. So I, I, w in the, you know, the earlier part, you’d take a par 64 globe and just put it in the housing.

So there was nothing, it was just power and a light bulb and with the HMI. So it was power igniter, light bulb. So what we’re doing today is, uh, led of courses. Running down the road big time led us here and we have totally embraced the Astera tubes and the quasar tubes. Um, it seems that the hysteria seem to be a little more popular and we’ve been building housings for those tubes as fast as we can.

The, the other thing I decided to try, because you do need a DMX of bull bright source, and the one that was really. Striking up an interest for me was the, uh, airy sky panels. And I had been even approached by, uh, production months before that they wanted me to look at building a sky panel housing, and they went for the , which was that large. the one I decided on was the  and it’s about 17 wide, 14 tall and about six inches deep. So it’s a beautiful light and we’ve built boxes for those. The pro, I wouldn’t call it the problem, but the hurdle we are now in closing this light, which weighs 15 pounds out of the water, how we’re throwing it in.

The aluminum case with a very thick plexiglass front for the light to go through. what I had to do before I actually cut metal and started really thinking about the time I had to do rough calculations on size, weight, and displacement, so I could kind of figure out where we were going to be. And that’s where the

Died an awful death because it was a larger light. And to build a box, the displacement of that box would have to weigh all the walks itself because of its displacement, would have to weigh close to 130 pounds to get in the water.

Brett Stanley: [00:07:55] Well, so that’s an interesting point, right? Because I think a lot of people, when they’re looking at underwater stuff, thank you. Just put it in a box and it just goes under, but you’ve actually got to make that thing

be neutrally, negatively buoyant. 

Pete Romano: [00:08:05] you know, I try to work it out slightly negative, and especially on the , I have two handles in the back, and if you take the our yolk off of that house and grab those two handles, that whole fixture is now about half a kilo negative and it’s balanced perfectly because I had an ad led.

Bars all through it. Actually, two, four, eight bars. All four sides have a little bit of lead, but that you could spin that on itself. It’s so balanced. But again, it’s not 130 pounds, but it truly is 65 pounds before it goes in the water. Uh, but in the water, it’s a gym. You can swim it, you can flip it, you can throw it.

It’s, um, so. When I designed things, even housings, even for the monitor housing, I try to look at the rough displacement. I look at all the weight of all the, all the components. I even go through a solid works, uh, density measurements. So I know what the aluminum weighs, what the, the like could be the monitor, what that weighs all the connectors and fixtures and pieces, and then you figure out what it displaces and, and sort of do a ratio between the weights and try to make it come out to where it’s just about slightly negative.

Brett Stanley: [00:09:24] Yeah. I remember the first time I ever used your, the Mark five for the pill. On a, on a shoot, and I remember thinking that, how is this possible that there’s a housing that one person can’t really lift by themselves, but once it’s in the water, this thing is like feather light touch.

Pete Romano: [00:09:39] Yes, and as far as my operating in swimming, the camera, There are smaller housing scarcity. Um, but I don’t know that that’s an advantage once you’re in the water. Out of the water. Yes, they’ve got an advantage with the smaller, but even some of these smaller prosumer housings, you try to hold those steady while you’re shooting and they’re kind of rough.

You’re, it’s hard to hold it steady. Uh, because I was doing stuff for the parks service, Ellen the Arizona, and I had an  housing, not a cam housing, and it was tough to, to do a real hard swim and really keep that. Where you wanted it and not be flopping around. So the remote Aqua camp, the pill, it’s about 28 inches long and ultimately weighs about 80 pounds out of the water.

When you get it in the water. Before I take it in the water, I have my assistant put it either in a tub or the wa a water we’ve got here for the prep, or we’ll do it on location right at the pool or tank, wherever we’re working, and we will both, I’ll be in the water, my assistant will be out of the water and we will start moving LEDs around.

Taking away LEDs, putting little ankle weights on. It might not be the prettiest picture in the world cause it might be an ankle weight hanging off the left side and or whatever. But the key to my success is getting that housing perfectly weighted, perfectly trimmed, so I could basically let it go and it’s going to sync perfectly horizontal, no tilt, no yall, and it’s going to just slowly sink down in a horizontal mode.

That is by far one of the most important things to do when you’re doing a critical shot, at least as far as I’m concerned. Um, because the housing is weighted properly and balanced properly, I can grab that housing with a very light touch, basically three fingers on a handle. That’s

Brett Stanley: [00:11:29] Yeah, yeah,

Pete Romano: [00:11:30] And it’s a light touch.

I don’t grip, I don’t go really grip it. And. Then you know, I’ve worked it out, and I’m sure most people can do this, who are swimming cameras. You isolate your lower from your upper body so your legs can kick like the, like nothing but your arms and your hands are solid and

Brett Stanley: [00:11:49] you becoming your own sort of steady cam, right? Like you’re so isolated.

Pete Romano: [00:11:53] it is a steady cam I guess moment and it would be a three D steady cam. Because not only do I weight the camera perfectly, I weight myself perfectly depending on what’s going on. Sometimes I do want to be heavy, but if I’m swimming a camera and are trying to follow some talent, then you know they’re holding their breath and they’re going to be everywhere. They’re going to go up, they’re going to go down, they’re going to go sideways.

So you have to be prepared to make that work for them. I, if I’m doing a shot like that, we’ll trim myself to where if I take a full breath, I’ll slightly rise by dump all of my air. I’m going to sync, so it allows me to go up and down. I can go sideways by kicking my fins out to the left. and it’s all really, it’s a ballet between your body and your positioning and posture and the housing and getting that little rectangle to be right on the Mark for what you’re looking for.

Brett Stanley: [00:12:43]  before we spoke, I had posted on Facebook, you know, that I’m speaking to you and it, did anyone have any questions that they particularly wanted me to ask? And, uh, one of the responses was about your  team that’s helping you do these shots and  do your job, what are they doing to  make your job easier?

Are there  tasks that they’re performing that just make your job so much easier.

Pete Romano: [00:13:05] Well, that’s an absolute truth. If this is a team effort, it goes from above to all the crew in and below. I mean, we’re basically relying on them. I have, I take small crews. Typically we become part of a bigger first unit, and if that’s the case, I’ll take one grip and one or maybe one electrician. If we’re doing a bunch of lighting, and then I draw from.

First unit. Now I do that for a number of reasons. One, because I don’t want a whole bunch of people in the water that makes me even crazier than other stuff. Um, and the other part of it is I want to involve the other units so that they are part of the process and we get helped and they don’t feel like they’re outside.

So again, we’re putting on the diplomatic hat again. Uh, yes, I need my two guys, but. Let’s use your guys for top side support. And if we need any more than that, we’ll throw them in the water. So, and, and, you know, I, my grip, he knows what’s going on with me. He knows as soon as we cut, I’m going to throw the camera over my head behind me and not even look and he’s going to grab it.

Um, they know how to position the ladders for me. They know how to tend the cable. So having people who have worked with me, it makes my job so much easier. That’s amazing. Uh, and you know, we’ve got a good crew. If I travel out of LA, then I would just take my first AC. I would have to pick up grip and electric, on, uh, locals on location, however that works.

Unless it was something that was really a high degree of complexity that I would need somebody who really knew what was going on. But I, I like to involve other. Crew from other parts of our country so that they get a feel for it. So the next time it happens, they have an understanding of what it’s going on.

Brett Stanley: [00:14:50] What’s your pre production  like if you’re starting on a new job or you’ve, you’ve got the production used, you’ve got your contract. What’s the preproduction like for a feature film.

Pete Romano: [00:15:00] Well, that’s a sliding pendulum also, or swinging pendulum sometimes. Absolutely nothing. I show up here as the pool. Okay, this guy’s doing that and we do it. Um, on the really big shows, then you’re involved with preproduction, um, who’s doing what? How are they laying out the shot? And, and I, at this point now, if I hear about a shot or I see a board or I think about it, I can actually execute that in my mind and say, well, I can almost do that.

But I can do this better or something like that. So I can see when I’m being thrown. Yeah. Uh, uh, horrible shot that I can’t execute and I try to work around it.

You know, it’s a, when they try to use dummies instead of real people, you’re in trouble. When they haven’t tested the props before and everything’s floating, you’re in trouble. Um. When they try to use real foliage and sets, you’re in trouble because all that organic matter is going to really hurt you.

We’ve had people bring in real kelp and put it in swimming pools and it basically dissolves. It makes a mess. So. I try to get ahead of it. And you know, as a cameraman, underwater cameraman who’s going out for this, and for some reason I’ve been lax, my last two shows. Yeah. I would say anybody who was doing this sort of stuff, when you check in with production, find out the pool where it is, who’s taking care of it.

What they plan on the temperature being, how, what’s the depth you have to put in blacks? how high are they heating it? What kind of filtration do they have? And it’s because if any of that’s all messed up, whatever you do, even if it’s your best work, it’s still gonna look like crap. Um, so I think getting ahead of the water.

Situation and, and everybody, and I mean everybody underestimates the clarity of water and how to get there always religiously for the last, what I’ve been shooting 45 years underwater never changed. And it’s just the way it goes. So you have to be a little proactive. Basketball. What kind of filtration they’ve got?

Is it a, is it sand and gravel? Is it a diatomaceous earth or is it a cartridge? Sand and gravel is great if you’re getting big chunks out of the pool or whatever body of water, but it doesn’t filter out the fine microns, which you need taken out for you to see through the water clearly. So that’s very important.

Have they vacuumed the bottom of the pool before you start shooting? Can you get somebody in the water with a vacuum hose hooked up to the infiltration to do that? If they don’t, If you can get that done, that helps you so much. Because if the bottom of the pool is dirty and I been set up on pools that were filthy, if you don’t clean them and you start moving around and your talent starts moving around in your crew, all that stuff becomes suspended matter and it’s not going to go away until you filter the whole pool.

We’ll let it settle again so. You try to put the stack that in your favor. So is this, there’s nothing more defeating than to try to do a great shot with a great cast and crew big movie. Okay. And have horrible water to shoot it. The production managers aren’t going to want to spend, but the filtration.

But when they bring in these pool people and putting that in quotes, um, whatever they tell you for filtration, I’d say double it and you might get through it.

Brett Stanley: [00:18:26] Right. So to go to the other end of the extreme entirely. What is   the most murkiest water you’ve been in? I’m assuming that some films want to be in really crap water. Is there something memorable that you can think of that’s,

Pete Romano: [00:18:39] Yes, I can. I can absolutely remember it. Yeah. It’s called Lake 10 killer and it was in Mmm. Oklahoma and it was a Osage County, August, Osage County, Meryl Streep, that sort of thing.

Lake Tenkiller. If you could see a foot, a foot and a half, you’d be lucky. I’m not kidding now. I had to shoot somebody. . It was like a canoe going over the camera.

Now it sounds like the easiest shot known to man, but it wasn’t that day. And. I remember, we knew we couldn’t see. So where the boat ramp was, we had a truck and then we had these pontoon boats, these aluminum pontoon boats, and we had them anchor and we ran a line from the shore. Yes. To the pontoon boat.

Yeah. And the canoe was supposed to follow that line and I was going to be halfway in and get it. Never saw it. Many takes, never saw it.

Brett Stanley: [00:19:41] I didn’t, you just never saw it come up.

Come

Pete Romano: [00:19:43] Never saw it come, no, it never worked.

And now I can’t tell you how many trailers are up there and all the producers and the actors in it.

Oh my God. And they’re there for me and I can’t get the shot. I tried, I tried, I tried, couldn’t get it. So then. The guy who ran the dye facility said, Oh, I got up, I got a pool at my house. We winterized it, but maybe we can go look up there. So we all jump in the trucks. This is after like two hours going bust on the Lake.

We get up to his house. He pulls back the tarp. Yeah, the pools. Or literally lime green with the mold in and and Moss. And I looked at it. I’m not getting in that water. That’s not going to happen. I said, we can’t. Okay, so we go back to the Lake. Okay. No, I’m, I’m just, my wheels are turning. I’m on the spot. I got to make it happen for these people.

Well, I’m the underwater expert and I can’t get a damn canoe going through my frame. I couldn’t do it so. Here’s what I did. This was this. This is the silliness of what I did. I took two pontoon boats. It put them 90 degrees to each other at the tip of the stern. So I had this, uh, this triangle. So from the stern of one boat and the bow with the other boat, I completed the triangle with a line.

Okay. Now. From the middle of that triangle, the apex. I dropped a line straight down with idol of 10 or 15 pounds on it. That was my perch. I could then look up and with the canoe positioned between the two pontoon boats, I could see the pontoon boat.

Brett Stanley: [00:21:36] so you lifted yourself up closer to it. Is that what you’re

Pete Romano: [00:21:39] I, I moved up closer to it and the guy was rowing . The camera was moving, not the boat.

Brett Stanley: [00:21:48] Oh, yeah. Right?

Pete Romano: [00:21:51] That’s the only way I got that shot. I became a hero. Thankfully, I just couldn’t figure out how the hell am I going to get this stupid shot, which is the simplest. It’s like shooting ducks in a barrel, except when you can’t see.

Brett Stanley: [00:22:05] And so do, do you kind of thrive on those kinds of scenarios or are they just annoying to you?

Pete Romano: [00:22:10] Um, I thrive on them, but that was a little too close

Brett Stanley: [00:22:14] Yeah. Right. Have you, have you come past that? Have you ever gone to a set or location and gone, this is not going to work? There’s just no way.

Pete Romano: [00:22:24] You know, I, I’m sure I have, I don’t have any in the memory banks that are at the front. Mmm.  I know there’ve been a couple of crashes and burns.

Well, yeah, they try to push everybody into these ponds, and you know, ponds and lakes are great. Um, but once you touch the bottom, it’s silt up in your face. So it really. That doesn’t save you anything out there, and I’ll try to avoid any of that stuff. Um, if you’re going to shoot the Lake, go into deep water and stay away from the bottom.

So it’s always silly. Things like that that trip you up in. The people who want the shot have no idea what you’re up against.

  Brett Stanley: [00:23:00] Um, so what is, what have you been doing lately? Are there some projects you’ve done in the last, you know, sort of 10 years that, that really have stood out to you that have been really good to work on?

Pete Romano: [00:23:10] Secret life of Walter Mitty was pretty exciting. Mmm. And it was a surreal,  and there really wasn’t much water underwater to do. And it was mostly, yeah. On the surface with a little bit of underwater. And. They were having hard, heavy seas and they just were not able to get out to do the shot. And they had a lineup of big boat helicopter than the camera book.

Brett Stanley: [00:23:37] And this was in, in

Iceland,

Pete Romano: [00:23:39] This was in Iceland? Yes, Iceland. And I forget if it was December or not. Oh God. So the shock was when the Ben Stiller character jumps out of the helicopter. To make it too. He wants to land on the boat, but he misses the boat and lands in the water in the front. Freezing cold water stunt guy jumped out of the helicopter.

I forget his name. and we got that and got a couple of good shots of that. Covered it on the boat, covered it from the water. Mmm. We had to do. One of them where Ben Stiller pops up in frame and there’s the big boat in the background, and that was the tough one to coordinate. So the camera crew was an Adey myself, Lauren Elkins, my AC.

Uh, of course Ben woods with us. I think one other guy, we went out in a so reac raft. Okay. No center console. Just. Engine on the back and it was so rough. We were taking green water over the bow, getting out. It went off about a mile. It was nasty. We were in dry suits. Mmm. And I remember taking the housing on a float to get been in the foreground.

And I swear the C’s were 10 feet. And there were times, there were times when I could see, I could see, I could see our work boat. And then there were times when I couldn’t see our, with Lauren. I couldn’t see him cause of the waves. Um, cold as heck. A stunt guy was there with a wave runner just for safety and stuff.

And we had a tie been in and, Oh my God, we got our, let’s kick, froze our ass off. But, um. It was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever been involved with. Just floating in these heavy seas, dry suit, hood, whole thing, and, and just being out of nowhere. Cause there’s no land. You can’t see anything. It was just outrageous.

Brett Stanley: [00:25:37] Yeah. I mean, you seem like a guy who’s not rattled very easily, but is that sort of situation, does that start to get a little bit of a little bit scary or are you kind of

Pete Romano: [00:25:44] No, no. I know. I felt, I mean, I had, I had a dry suit on. I could float forever, so I was okay with that because open water doesn’t scare me. Almost been hurt a couple of times. Um, and that scared me, but, uh, but for the most part has been pretty safe.

Brett Stanley: [00:26:02] So on that kind of thought, what is the worst kind of situation you’ve ever been in? What is there a situation where you were like, that’s never happening again? That was too close to the line

Pete Romano: [00:26:13] Yeah. Probably every one of them. Uh, that I’m not kidding. Um, you know, the, uh, on speed too. Yeah. We did a lot of shooting in the Caribbean. Sabre. Um, st Vincent and we just had trouble getting all of our shots, but we finally got him after going to The Bahamas, uh, come back to LA.

I think it’s early in the year, and we had to get.  closeup, we had to get a huge, huge, like 5,000 pound anchor being dragged through the sand to show that the ship had dropped its anchor and was still moving, and they brought out a barge and a tugboat. The barge had a crane. It lowered the anchor to the bottom and it was hooked up to the tug boat and the tugboat with dragon.

Brett Stanley: [00:26:58] And this is a real, real

Pete Romano: [00:26:59] Okay. There’s, this is a real Hanker. It’s bigger than I am. It’s taller than I am, and we’re doing it right out of Catalina. Not warm. I’m a warm, diverse, by the way, just in case anyone needs to know that. Um, and I remember we got a couple of shots and so now we’re lining up again and I went down by myself.

I’m near the anchor, just sort of looking at the angle. And we’re in shallow water, unfortunately, and it’s, and rather quickly where we are, and here comes the tug boat in reverse. Nobody’s with me and it’s coming right at me. This is no kidding. And it’s starting to overtake me and I can’t get out of the way.

Yeah. I literally, yeah. No kidding. Unfortunately, the fellow who was there to witness this has passed a chip Mathison, but I ended up on the rudder with the screws still trying to suck me in.

No kidding. Wow. And believe it or not, I didn’t let go of the housing go for that.

Brett Stanley: [00:27:57] Oh, that’s good.

Pete Romano: [00:27:59] I didn’t have any presence of mind to the whole lawn, but I just, it was crazy.

So I’m, I’m hanging on and I’m just praying and, um. All of a sudden I felt it backed down. He just took it out. He put it in neutral outfit. I just sort of release myself from the rudder and all of a sudden, bang, throw it right back in reverse again. Mmm. So I pound into the rudder again, still holding on for dear life.

Chip came down and saw what was going on, basically attached to the rudder being sucked in and he went to the surface and they shut it down. But, um, that’s insane. Yes, I needed to sit down and really think about life after that. It was amazing. Amazing. So I could have been the Cuisinart boy, um, at that point.

But it just crazy. So it’s just, yeah. You know, it’s not that it’s dangerous. It’s probably safer than driving around, but, but things can happen under water that can happen anywhere. And, uh, that was one of the few that that really got me thinking, no, life is too short for this.

Brett Stanley: [00:29:04] So you actually brought up a film that I, I’d actually kind of left off my list, but mission impossible. Um, and I can’t remember which one it is, but it’s the one where, um, Tom cruise has to go into the

Pete Romano: [00:29:17] Oh, that’s fine. That’s right. Hmm. Mission impossible. Five. Absolutely.

Brett Stanley: [00:29:22] How was that? Cause I remember watching that and thinking, yeah, this is Tom cruise.

Cause I know he likes to do all his own stunts. How was that working with him?

Pete Romano: [00:29:31] Tom is so, so directed, so, um, focused. Okay. He has to do his own stunts. I think in order for him to do his performance and how he operates, he is really together and he is a Kandoo guy. I’ve seen him do his stunts, you know, over the years from three, four. And five. Mmm. I worked on all of those with him and he did everything himself.

He did take free diving lessons from a Canadian fellow whose name eludes me, so I do apologize to him. Mmm. But Tom did it. He was doing all of his breathing exercises. He even took this fellow with him on his Christmas holiday when we shut down the show and. Tom still continue to breath hold and free dive.

So he, he did it. He’s a can do guy.

Brett Stanley: [00:30:25] Yeah.

And was that, Cause I remember seeing in that film that set, and I think it’s like a computer, server and they keep it under water to kind of keep everything cool. I think that’s the, that’s the, the storyline. How was that set? Was that, was that mostly practical or was there a lot of, a lot of green screen in that.

Pete Romano: [00:30:42] There was a lot of green screen. The practical portion was only a small segment, probably 15 degrees of that circle, if that. And uh, so that’s where we did all of Tom’s interaction on that. Um, and other parts we filmed, uh, him going around. It was all, it all sort of played together. Um, with this. Whole track situation that we were moving around and the camera was, was sort of locked onto a trolley that would move around at times.

Brett Stanley: [00:31:14] how is it when you’re doing a shot like that? So say if you’ve doing against green screen and you’ve got, you know, like you say, like 15 degrees of, uh, of an entire circle that’s real and practical, what are you taking into consideration when you’re shooting.

Heavy visual effects stuff underwater.

Pete Romano: [00:31:29] Well, certainly you have to be, you know, stay on your green, keep your actor in front of it. And it’s just so happened that. We were using the Alexa 65 a camera. Yeah. And the newest digital camera, it was so new at that time. We were the first ones to ever use it in production, and they had allowed me to throw it in the water.

Go figure. Um, so visual effects played a big part in this, and that’s why they went for the Alexa 65 just for the information data that they could no accumulate. And, um. We just had to be mindful of the frame. The lenses were amazing so we could get close focus. We were sharp. We were looking at using the large, uh, two 50 millimeter dome.

So optically we were spot on and it was just a beautiful camera to work with and we were able to, uh, God, I forget the name of the visual effects house, a Brit company. It’ll come to me later.

Brett Stanley: [00:32:26] with that sort of thing on a big production like that where you’re doing the visual effects, are you involved in the setting up and the lighting of that stuff, or is it pretty much done by another crew that specializes in that sort of thing?

Pete Romano: [00:32:37] It becomes a collaboration. You know, I have, you know, my wants, but again, the diplomacy madness. Um, It. It really, you have to work it out with your, the main unit cameraman. you need his input. You need to support. And you know, because he does what he does, he has such more experience and shooting above and getting a feel for that, that it’s not that I would defer, but I certainly do.

Listen.

Brett Stanley: [00:33:06] Right?   So I kind of follow a, like a few people in the industry on Instagram. And I’ve seen recently, I think it was from one of the, one of the stunt people on, uh, the call of the wild shoot. And I think there’s a scene in that where someone gets. Uh, falls through the ice and there was some really cool BTS of, of you guys shooting that scene.

What was that like working with the stunt people and the water coordinators and, and being in that sort of set, I’m assuming it was not realized.

Pete Romano: [00:33:34] Uh, no, it was, uh, of course it was not realized. It was made by the production design and it was all these vacuform pieces of roughed up, a clear Plex that they milked out and put it on a frame. So it worked out really well. Uh, the stunt people that we work with in it. Hopefully every time I get involved with these, I, I, hopefully I’m thinking who’s going to be stuck because if it’s somebody I’ve worked with, they know the drill, they know how I work.

I know they’re safe. I know how they operate. It really, really makes it, um. And an easy day, and you kind of have fun. You understand the limitations you’ve got, you work around them, you miss it up, you do it again. Um, so it, it’s a great comradery. And I, I’m always looking for along the crew to see who’s going to be there for safety and stunts.

And I, I do have my favorites and they, you know, they’re ex lifeguards, um, water savvy people. Good free divers there. I mean, they’ve got all the tricks and they know what’s going on under water and they know how to handle the talent, which is really crucial. And to make that all, I guess, seamless. Um, so it is a close relationship between stunts and camera really is.

Brett Stanley: [00:34:49] . Um, and when you’re working with the stunts, are you, interacting with them before you go under and shoot a scene? Are you doing any sort of, um, coordinating with them, or is it, do you basically just have separate jobs? You go down and do it?

Pete Romano: [00:35:00] well, we, we do have to coordinate. We talk about the shock. Uh, we talk about how they’re entering or if they’re going to take the hook out and take a breath and then do their action. I would. Let them know what I’m planning on doing and where my crew is going to be. So it becomes a little ballet down there.

I, you know, I have a severe comfort level with a lot of these stunt players who have been working with us over the years, very water savvy. And I will. A lot of times recommend these people to production because I know they’re gonna, they’re gonna knock it out.

They’re going to do great. We don’t have to worry about them not breathing or breathing or blowing the shot or panicking. Um, and sometimes I get overridden. They want to use this guy. Um, and so, okay, I have to go along with that and it’s on them and I’ll do whatever I can. And the reason I even bring this up is because of, um.

That movie ad Astra

Brett Stanley: [00:35:54] Yeah.

Pete Romano: [00:35:55] and I had recommended, you know, I think it was Chris Jeffrey’s or, um, Michael Brady to be the person in the space, that jumps in the water.

Brett Stanley: [00:36:05] And so this is the scene in ad Astro where he’s swimming sort of through a tunnel, isn’t it? Underneath one of the rockets before it takes

Pete Romano: [00:36:11] Yes, that is absolutely correct. And we were shooting night for night up at Pulser Rossa, which is a, an open industrial tank that I think was made 20 some years ago. And I’ve never liked that place. But after this ad asterix experience, I came away with a better feeling for,

Brett Stanley: [00:36:29] Oh, nice.

Pete Romano: [00:36:30] Yeah, it’s, uh, it was a miserable location, but with, um, Hoytema and James Gray, the director Hoyt being the cameraman, um, in a miserable place, it was a great and fun shoot.

Uh, and the stunt guy who was not one of my recommends and was not water savvy was not our experience. At least I didn’t think he was much. His name was Travis. And. Can’t remember his last name. God, I’m telling you. Uh, well, Travis is in the full suit and he’s got the helmet. Now, the thing about that is they take them and put them under water with the face mask up and he’s on a hooker rig, no mask.

He’s got a hookah coming in. They get him in location. Everyone gives the, okay, we’re all set. They’re upset. They’re all set upstairs. I’m set on the camera. Travis loses his ear, they close the mask, and he is now holding his breath. During those shots, there’s

Brett Stanley: [00:37:25] So wait. So that mask is fulfilled up with water and he’s holding his breath behind a piece of glass.

Pete Romano: [00:37:31] Correct. Absolutely. Now, I, I didn’t think he was going to do well because that’s something that, you know, let’s not for the faint of heart by any means.

And, um, Travis knocked it out of the park. He was amazing. Now what I found out later, he’s one of those guys that has ice running through his veins. He is very quiet guy, really quiet and can-do guy, and he just got in there and he did it take after take after take. So my, my hat goes off to that gentlemen.

And funny as it may seem two months later or so, I think I was doing, uh, I was doing called the wild. And we were, we had the stunt girl who is, uh, being pulled underwater in full wardrobe, holding her breath, um, coincidence. Amazing. Hannah, who was the stunt girl? Hannah and Travis are husband. Wife.

Brett Stanley: [00:38:24] Oh no, no.

Pete Romano: [00:38:25] Yeah. So that was very, very cool.

And I found out a little bit more about them. And now I understand why Travis and Hannah can do so well in the water. These guys are world ranked. Extremely professional skydivers

Brett Stanley: [00:38:38] Oh right.

Pete Romano: [00:38:39] so they’re jumping out a really good plane, so you gotta have something going on with that. So, um, they just, they can do it.

And they’re both great people. So, um, it’s a great relationship they’ve got. And, uh, it’s amazing how they make that work. It’s, it’s beautiful.

Brett Stanley: [00:38:55] Yeah. And does that mean that then now you’ve got someone else in your little Rolodex of, underwater stunt guys?

Pete Romano: [00:39:01] Oh God. I go anywhere with both of them there. They’re great. And I’ve worked with Hannah a couple of times after I had her since call of the wild. Uh, not Travis

Brett Stanley: [00:39:09] Yeah. Um, and so when she’s on in called the wild, cause I haven’t seen the movie, but I did see the clip and I think it’s when she falls through the ice and then the dog kind of jumps in and saves her. How did you do that? Did you actually have a dog or did you ever stand in?

Pete Romano: [00:39:26] Oh boy. Well,  it was, uh, you know, was a CGI dog. And I think that that’s really tough to replicate, at least today.

Brett Stanley: [00:39:33] Right?

Pete Romano: [00:39:34] Um, so we did most of the stuff with just Hannah being pulled through the frame, and there was one piece where.

Hannah somehow ends up holding onto the dog’s neck and being pulled up. But we couldn’t really bring a dog down there, of course. So we had one of the stunt people make like they were the dog, and of course then they replaced the whole thing with the dog. Um, but there was towards our last day. The afternoon, they brought two or three dogs over to my tank area and they threw them in the water so we could do reference footage of the, of the dogs swimming. And of course I was in my cups there because of my three dogs and I wished they were there. That would have been a lot of fun.

Brett Stanley: [00:40:19] Oh, that’s right. Cause you’ve got the three big Labradors at the, at the shop there.

Pete Romano: [00:40:23] Oh yeah. Yes. Three don’t do three dogs. Two’s enough.

Brett Stanley: [00:40:28] I feel like last year when I was coming in, there was like more and more dogs. Every time I came in.

Pete Romano: [00:40:32] Well, our neighbors have dogs. We sometimes have six dogs on the court going, going crazy.

Brett Stanley: [00:40:39] So to take us from something as lovely as dogs under underwater, through to the other end of the spectrum, which is people basically getting mutilated, um, once upon a time in Hollywood. How was that?

Pete Romano: [00:40:51] Well. I mean, how could I say no to working with Quentin Tarantino? And you know, I’ve worked with Bob Richardson. ASC is cameraman. I think Bob’s done all of his stuff for quite a while. it’s somewhat of a take no prisoners atmosphere. You really gotta be again on the top of your game. But I, I’d go anywhere for Bob and I certainly still to this day, I, I.

Dearly wanted to work with Quentin and I’d go anywhere with him. Uh, so it, it was fun with a lot of, um, a lot of big personalities and egos. Certainly Leo was there with the flame thrower and the whole thing. interesting set. Um, Quintin drives a set a whole different way. There are no electronic or eraser board.

Slates only chalk slate. That’s

Brett Stanley: [00:41:38] Okay. Yeah.

Pete Romano: [00:41:39] You won’t allow it. And of course, he shoots film, uh, which is great. Um, he has a way about him. He’s very well liked by the crew, and he embraces the crew, but you know, they all sort of have to do the tap dance to make it all work for him. Um, and he’s, he’s quite a character.

I mean, he’s walking around with an English driving cap on backwards, got his high top white shoes on, and he was walking around the sec with this huge. Sherlock Holmes, Kevin dish pipe.

Brett Stanley: [00:42:08] Oh, really?

Pete Romano: [00:42:10] So, um, it’s, it’s a unique experience to be on that set even more unique. And we were up in the Hollywood Hills just outside of, uh, where universal has some big parking structures and we had to go across the main street and way up the Hill.

And we’re looking at coyotes as we’re going up to this location. And it’s way up the top of the Hill that I called a sack in a house that hasn’t been touched since the seventies, which was perfect for the movie. Uh, and that stunt girl who was being burned in the pool, did so many takes take after take after taking, I wasn’t part of a lot of it.

I was out in the culdesac waiting to get up and you could, you could hear her that night throughout the whole Canyon screaming at the top of her lungs, literally.

Brett Stanley: [00:42:54] yeah. And it’s nighttime, right? Like it’s a night for night.

Pete Romano: [00:42:58] All the neighbors know what’s going on. It’s just, it was crazy. And it started out, they dropped in the radio and they dropped in some things I had to catch in the water.

Um, and then they had me trying to get the girl when the flame thrower came out over over the water. I’ve never seen more blood or had more blood. In the water with me is for a shot,

Brett Stanley: [00:43:19] Fake blood though,

Pete Romano: [00:43:20] fake all fake blood. And it took them 15 minutes to dress that girl up with all of her Nomex and all of the, the safety gel.

And then on top of that, on the outer is all the, the cement glue that, uh, that they want to burn. And there was Leo up there with the flames throw. It was absolutely insane. I mean, where else would that happen? But on a, on a Quentin Tarantino movie,

Brett Stanley: [00:43:44] Yeah. In the Hollywood Hills.

Pete Romano: [00:43:46] so my, you know, my exposure or my, my participation was minor, but it was a major out of the park hit for me to be there and go through that.

Brett Stanley: [00:43:56] So, so for that shot, you’re basically under the water, entirely getting that shot of the flames coming over the top of her.

Pete Romano: [00:44:03] yes. Um, I’m looking at, uh, at our stunt girl seeing her legs and that can see out of the water a little bit. Yeah. And there comes the flame thrower coming in, then she’s lit up. It’s just, it’s just crazy.

Brett Stanley: [00:44:16] Yeah. That’s insane. And especially cause you know, terantin has only got, what, two more films before he reckons he’s going to retire. So

Pete Romano: [00:44:23] Oh yeah. Famous, famous last words. I think he’s got the bug. You know, it’d be hard for him to just sit on his laurels, I would think. Um, although maybe with all this Corona stuff, maybe it is time to kick back and say, Hey, I don’t need to do this. Let me, let me reflect on my life and see what I really want to do.

So yeah, it’s very funny.

Brett Stanley: [00:44:41] Yeah. Um, and so you’ve got a couple of films that just haven’t even come out yet. I think you’ve got a quiet place, Pat, too. And sweet girl. Can you talk about those?

Pete Romano: [00:44:53] well, the quiet place too was sort of a last minute thing, and I’m trying to think. I, I was in. New Jersey going through a vision research, high-speed camera course for industrial purposes, which is a whole other deal that I’m dealing with. And I think it was a Wednesday, I got the call from production, Hey, we’d like you to get up here on Friday.

We got some shooting to do. And I go, well, I’m in New Jersey. I don’t have any of my gear. So he goes, well, let’s see if we can work it out. So literally, I went right from New Jersey to Pittsburgh. And Lauren Elkins, my AC, met me there. My gear met me there and we had to put together a little piece of a set.

And, uh, Scott Ferar, who was the second unit DP, flash director of Scott Ferrara is a, is a very old friend. We used to work at Ireland together, um, back in the early, early eighties. And. Oh, he was running, he was running her and he was doing great. And it was all like, I guess this monster who was choking off this guy who jumped in the water and then something else attacks him.

So it was, um, it was one of those crash and bashes. That you had a lot of shots to do in one night to do it. And it was truly a take no prisoners where I was hanging on to anything that I could to start the shot and then let go. There was no time to put in scaffolding ladders or anything. Um, so it was by the seat of your pants for that, but I think we did quite well, actually.

I was lucky on the first shot where the guy. Was thrown into the water and he landed spread Eagle literally right in the middle of my frame, which is not the easiest thing to do, cause you have nothing for reference and neither does he. So it started off. First shot was great and it continued on. So it was, it was a fun experience.

It was a local crew. We had to talk them through the underwater setup. There was no lighting underwater, all lit from above, which is. Typically is my choice. It’s much more interactive. It’s alive because of the water surface, making it move around with dappling. Um, and a lot of times in underwater from my aspect of it, if the water is a little dirty and you’re lighting from underwater, you’re going to see the source.

So that’s why we didn’t use on the underwater lights there.

Brett Stanley: [00:47:06] Yeah. Um, you mentioned before that you were doing some, some industrial work as well. Is that something you can talk about.

Pete Romano: [00:47:14] can talk, I can talk a little bit about it. It’s basically a defense contractor that they’re planning on doing some underwater testing and want to record and, and multiple cameras, high-speed, probably 16,000 frames a second. So, um, I’m working out a different. Lighting, most likely there’ll be four K HMS, but I’m changing some of the equipment, like the balance and the igniter.

And, um, I’m in the process right now of developing. A housing for that vision research camera, which remember I’d mentioned when I was going to do that, others were a quiet place too. I was in New Jersey, literally going through the high speed camera course. So I’m, I’m learning as much as I can. It’s a slow moving thing when it comes to the government and months and probably a year away, but I have been introduced and met a group of very interesting people back East and.

The project sounds. I mean, for me, it’s made to order underwater lights, underwater cameras. Um, and I’m very, very happy, very proud to be part of this and looking forward to it very much.

Brett Stanley: [00:48:19] Oh, it sounds amazing. It sounds really interesting. Do you tend to get a lot of of this sort of work outside the film industry, or is it outside the entertainment industry?

Pete Romano: [00:48:28] No, I usually walk away from that sort of stuff, but this. Really got my interest because of the, I guess, the scope of what they’re trying to do and the amount of equipment that’s going to be happening. So, uh, I’m, I’m excited. I think it’s going to be great, and I look forward to moving this forward and actually looking at the testing, which unfortunately I can’t really talk about

Brett Stanley: [00:48:49] I mean, it’s, it’s an interesting. Use of your skills as well, considering you, you can do the hardware and you can do the actual filming itself. So it’s probably a nice little

Pete Romano: [00:48:59] It isn’t. I mean, it’s, it doesn’t happen often, but sometimes outside of the industry, you know, who was it in 2005, uh, through an internet hit, you know, like hydro Flix got involved with underwater stadium lighting. To uh, eliminate the deep dives when they were using sat divers and going 24, seven, they never stopped.

And I made this sort of umbrella of light that was close to 50,000 Watts and you could lower it right over the site, even at a hundred feet. You could see everything down there. And it really, it really worked out. Now that’s totally flat line. It’s beyond life support now it’s dead. And I still have a lot of gear sitting in Louisiana.

Tons for that matter. But, um, we, at one time, between Oh five and probably 2013, we had so many lighting packages working. It was amazing. And it, it was embraced. And, um, maybe it’ll come back again, but it really, really helped in terms of safety and productivity out there.

Brett Stanley: [00:50:04] That’s great that you can be involved in that side of things as well, you know, using those, those techniques and everything. That’s great.

Pete Romano: [00:50:10] Well, and it was a whole different industry when you get out into the oil patch and, um, just the different players and personalities and egos. It was quite an education. Actually. I have some very, very good friends out of Houston and in Louisiana who I still talk to today, even though I’m doing absolutely nothing in the Gulf right now.

Brett Stanley: [00:50:31] I mean, is that must be interesting for you because you come from, you know,  that Navy  background with the Navy diving. Do you think this is that the set diving could have been a career you ended up in.

Pete Romano: [00:50:42] Well, it could have, but it’s something I decided not to do way back when I did have the option, and I. I know I, I really enjoyed what I was doing as part of combat camera group and I enjoyed doing the assignments I was giving, given and locking out of subs and working with all kinds of crazy things. Um, if I were to have become a sat diver, my primary would have been set diver instead of photographer and I would have not been doing.

I would have been doing more top secret, probably dangerous stuff, stuff that you could never talk about. And some of my friends did do that. And I think there’s still still stuff they can’t talk about. Um, and at that time, and even today, I don’t know if it’s been proven that there was some question as to, being under such severe pressure and being there for such a long time.

It might have an effect on the marrow of your bones. And at that time, all sat divers. Were, they were x-rayed head to toe, and I don’t know if it was every year or every, there was some span where they were, uh, they were allowed. They have to go back and have those same x-rays taken and compare to see if it was doing anything.

Because basically you’re, it’s said experiment

Brett Stanley: [00:51:56] Yeah.

Pete Romano: [00:51:57] and there wasn’t enough studying done on sat diving to know that it really had adverse effects.

Brett Stanley: [00:52:02] which is I think is similar to, you know, when people go to space, you know, that has interesting effects on their bones and their bone marrow and stuff, but it’s probably a lot more researched than, than deep water. I guess.

Pete Romano: [00:52:14] Yes. It just because they’ve been living in space for so long and what’s happening is one of them is an overpressured and the other one is an under pressure scene, so it would affect you totally differently.

Brett Stanley: [00:52:24] Mm. So interesting thing that I read recently, and you might appreciate this because you’ve worked with Tom cruise, is him saying that, I’m not sure what the timeline was, but he would be very interested in shooting a movie in space. And I don’t know if it’s a Michelin possible, but is that something you would sign up for?

Pete Romano: [00:52:43] it would be out of my sandbox. And I don’t think I’m, I don’t think I can go to space. Just the physical, you know, sort of, uh, I guess qualifications alone. And I think where I am in my age, I don’t think they’re going to let me up there.

Brett Stanley: [00:53:01] Is that something you’d be interested in though? Like if you were a younger man or, or if you did fit the regulations

Pete Romano: [00:53:06] I’m an inner space guy, not an outer space guy.

Brett Stanley: [00:53:10] I find it very interesting cause I, I don’t mind space, but water kind of makes me claustrophobic. Whereas my wife is so totally freaked out by space. Like it is the worst place and it interests me why some people will be okay with one, but not the other.

Pete Romano: [00:53:25] It’s the ying yang for for you too.

Brett Stanley: [00:53:28] Yeah, exactly. Well, in more ways than one. Yeah. That kind of sums up our relationship really. But, um, what is it about space that that doesn’t do it for you?

Pete Romano: [00:53:37] you know,

Brett Stanley: [00:53:38] Is it that limitlessness

Pete Romano: [00:53:40] it could be, you know, I’ve never really gave it a thought. I never wanted to be an astronaut. I mean, it was great when you, you know, early on when you see John Glenn was landing on the moon and we’re doing all this stuff. So, um, that was quite an exciting time, but I’ve never had an interest to go into space.

I mean, I guess it would be interesting, but I just, boy, that’s really putting your whole life and everything in somebody else’s hands and one little oops. And it’s vapor.

Brett Stanley: [00:54:05] yeah,

Pete Romano: [00:54:06] I, you know, I feel it. Even flying, jumping out of airplanes, all that stuff, I feel much better in the water. I feel much more comfortable.

I have the confidence of my ability. Although you just never know. Sometimes things get out of hand.

Yes, I, yeah. I don’t know that I do well on that, although it would be great to sort of experiment with weightlessness. I think that’d be kind of fun.

Brett Stanley: [00:54:27] Yeah. I think, I mean, that’s the thing with the, like the astronauts that they, they, they train underwater. Right. That gives them,

Pete Romano: [00:54:33] Yes,

Brett Stanley: [00:54:34] closest I can get to them.

Pete Romano: [00:54:35] The closest they can get. And you know, the NBL lab or, or tank is probably the cleanest tank, most well-maintained tank in the world, I swear. And it is, I think it’s 200 foot long and maybe a hundred foot wide. I, I’m probably destroying that, but I remember being in one corner and you can see catty-corner all the way across that take

Brett Stanley: [00:54:57] Oh, wow. So it’s like, like glass.

Pete Romano: [00:55:00] It’s clear. It is. Yeah. It’s amazing. And doing Armageddon and there was really a great experience and having to go through their training and qualify and bark like a seal and do all kinds of silly things. Ditch and Dawn, I literally had to requalify for diving,

Brett Stanley: [00:55:16] Oh,

Pete Romano: [00:55:16] uh, to get in their tank. And every day you go in the water, you get a physical, you get checked up.

Brett Stanley: [00:55:22] Oh, wow. Okay.

Pete Romano: [00:55:23] you have a little stuffy nose or a little sick, you don’t go. And that’s for all the astronauts. That’s for any of the working divers, anybody jumping in the water. But, um, and I have some great stills from that shoot. And there were, I think we had like four or five astronauts in the water plus their tenders, plus our crew, plus people with cameras aside from us.

Um, there were a lot of people in that water. Very cool.

Brett Stanley: [00:55:46] so that was Armageddon, uh, back in the day. Was that the Bruceville as well?

Pete Romano: [00:55:51] yes. Yes. Bruce Willis. Um, um, God, uh, I could see him, I can’t remember his dank, but thank you. And, uh, and I’m trying to think of who else was there. Uh, I was Billy Bob Thornton in that, I think he was there.

Brett Stanley: [00:56:08] So were you shooting there space scenes underwater.

Pete Romano: [00:56:12] No. We were shooting their training,

Brett Stanley: [00:56:15] Oh, okay.

Pete Romano: [00:56:16] you know, it was basically for them to be able to get out there and jump on the asteroid to save the world. They had to go through a astronaut training.

Brett Stanley: [00:56:25] Right. Okay.  So probably my final question is how have things changed for you going from film to digital? Has it been a good transition? Was it a, was it a hard transition? What’s your kind of feeling about, about moving from film to digital?

Pete Romano: [00:56:43] Well, I think it was a good transition, and I also think it the beginning, it was a hard transition. I still love film. I still love to hear the camera. Chugging away under water. Um, but we don’t hear it enough. I probably do two film jobs a year. Um, so I do, you know, like for Hawaii or your new, uh, who were all filmed people.

Brett Stanley: [00:57:06] Yeah.

Pete Romano: [00:57:07] The hardest thing I found and making that transfer is, as we discussed earlier. I was a reflex. If you find her guy, and when I put that housing up to my eye, that was an extension of my body. When my head moved to housing move, or when the housing moved, my head move, depending on how you looked at it.

Um, but that’s all that existed for me was that rectangle and I was able to keep it. All of the peripheral information away from my eyes, and I couldn’t concentrate on anticipating in keeping my composition and framing. It truly was an extension of my head and my neck. Yeah. I don’t know that that’s a really good thing for you in terms of chiropractic work, but that’s kind of kind of the way it worked out.

And you know, the only time I would ever use a monitor in film land was when I was shooting sharks. Right? Because I wanted the peripheral vision. I wanted to know where the hell they were and that I could just point the camera. But for the most part, no. So now we’re in digital land.

Yeah. I’m looking at a monitor. It was really hard. Two, I guess, separate that image from all the other chunk that’s going on. For me, it was really, really tough and I was wondering, okay, is it time? Said I’d just like, you know, move on. Um, I’d like looking through the finder. Well through, uh, trials and tribulations.

Aye have mastered it to a point where I don’t think I go back to a reflect finder.

And I, I have embraced the monitor. I’ve embraced the peripheral vision. Okay. Mmm. It has freed me up so much in my ability to move the camera and myself through the shot and see what’s going on. Um, I can, and this movie I did, it’s in such tight quarters, I couldn’t get the camera in and me in, and the guy in, I literally just swung the monitor on the housing 90 degrees and I one handed that housing in through it. And I could see what was going on and I held my frame. So it, it has helped me so much now, um, that I couldn’t go back to a reflux finder and sticking my head behind it and leaving it there. I need the freedom. It, uh, it’s opened up a whole new world and I love moving that camera.  most important thing for me before I started shooting is I get that camera trend.

Perfectly. Okay. In terms of it’s balance. It’s jaw tilt. Okay. Okay. I want to just about a pound and a half or two pounds negative. It just sinks. Straight breakdown. If you can do that with any housing that you’re using, it gives you so much control over your frame, over the housing and using things like ladders and parts of the set or interiors or cars.

You can so gracefully move that camera now, and you can do it with one hand because it’s balanced. It isn’t going to try to tilt on you. Right. Tilt down, tip down. You can grace it. And if you had a tilt up a little bit, you could just give it a little crack because it’s virtually weightless. Mmm. And it, it just, for me, it, it has just.

Giving me the freedom to go crazy underwater and, and just keep moving and moving and, and try things I’ve never tried before. Um, see how close you can get to something or how close somebody can get to you. Is there traveling, being pulled on a, on a line? Um. Within safety limits, always within safety. Um, so it’s, for me now, it’s, it’s, it’s kinda like fun.

Um, I’ve got a balanced housing. My toy is ready to go, and now I gotta make it. These things happen. So it’s, it’s a blast. It’s still is a blast. And I don’t know, maybe. The latter part of last year when I was getting my butt kicked, literally, and I forget what show it was. I looked around and then I thought to myself, you know what?

This, this is still a lot of fun. Even though I’m get my ass kicked. So there you have it. I still love it.

Brett Stanley: [01:01:15] Pete, again, amazing. As usual, just just love talking to you and, and hearing your experiences of, of the old stuff and the new stuff as well. So thanks again for coming on. And I know people are gonna love hearing all this stuff.

Pete Romano: [01:01:29] My pleasure. Thank you. And stay in touch. Let me know.

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