Cin­e­matog­ra­pher uses spe­cial tech to film Shark Week stars

DP uses spe­cial cam­eras and drones for long-run­ning Dis­cov­ery pro­gram block

Variety - - Contents - By VALENTINA VALENTINI @tiniv

Wa­ter World Andy Casagrande shoots footage for 2017’s “Re­turn to the Isle of Jaws.”

“I’M AD­DICTED TO sharks,” says cin­e­matog­ra­pher Andy B. Casagrande IV, who has been shoot­ing for Dis­cov­ery’s Shark Week for 13 years.

As ob­ses­sions go, it may be an un­usual one, but it has served Casagrande well over the past two decades as he’s worked on count­less TV and film doc­u­men­taries on the dan­ger­ous crea­tures. “I learn more each time I go un­der, and I want to in­spire oth­ers to learn, ” he says. But it’s more than just about the big fish; it’s also about cam­era tech­nol­ogy for Casagrande, who says he loves “be­ing in the field at the cut­ting edge of cinema sci­ence.”

View­ers ea­gerly await the ar­rival of each sea­son of Shark Week, cable’s long­est-run­ning reg­u­lar block of pro­gram­ming, which cel­e­brates its 30th year.

Both Casagrande and se­nior VP of pro­duc­tion and devel­op­ment Howard Swartz are ex­cited that break­throughs in cam­era tech have al­lowed pho­tog­ra­phers to ac­cess lo­ca­tions and depths that were out of reach when Shark Week first aired in 1988. “The tech­nol­ogy evo­lu­tion has al­lowed our film­mak­ers to work along­side the re­search com­mu­nity and doc­u­ment many ex­cit­ing new finds,” says Swartz. “That’s how we’re able to keep Shark Week rel­e­vant and ex­cit­ing year after year as well as to drive an im­por­tant con­ser­va­tion mes­sage.”

Casagrande — whose wife is also an un­der­wa­ter pho­tog­ra­pher and whose two young chil­dren are al­ready learn­ing about the im­por­tance of sharks and oceanic con­ser­va­tion — has a list of go-to gear for Shark Week: The RED Weapon 8K and Go­pro Hero6 are his main choices in cam­eras; both are ex­tremely portable, and the RED Weapon of­fers high res­o­lu­tion. He also uses vir­tual-re­al­ity cam­era sys­tems like the Go­pro Fu­sion, which shoots in 360 de­grees. Safety gear in­cludes tourni­quets. “If my leg gets bit­ten by a great white, I can [save] my life by act­ing quickly,” he ex­plains.

The DP also car­ries an LED flash­light and a mul­ti­tool kit. But the newest ad­di­tion to his ar­se­nal is a DJI drone. “I never go anywhere with­out it,” he says. With the drone, Casagrande is able to shoot great whites hunt­ing along South Africa’s rocky coast. “It’s so non-in­va­sive,” he says. “They have no idea we’re there. With the drone I’ve been able to get in­cred­i­ble be­hav­ioral shots of great whites stalk­ing baby seal pups as their moth­ers try to keep them safe. If I tried to film that in the wa­ter, poor vis­i­bil­ity would [be a prob­lem], plus just my pres­ence would throw them off. Drone re­con­nais­sance for wildlife has been rev­o­lu­tion­ary.”

Casagrande started us­ing drones for his work on Shark Week with the DJI Phantom 1, which de­buted in 2013. “They give me the abil­ity now to cover wildlife on air, land and sea,” he says. “In a sin­gle back­pack, I can carry a Hol­ly­wood stu­dio to film wildlife … [and give] peo­ple a deeper in­sight into the world of sharks.”

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