×

How a Shark Week Cinematographer Captures the Predators

“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 majestic 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.”

More Artisans

  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    How 'Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood' Turned the Clock Back for Its Shoot

    Crossing the street took months for the crew that turned back the clock 50 years on Hollywood Boulevard for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood.” Production designer Barbara Ling created false fronts for buildings that were constructed off-site and installed by crane just ahead of the shoot. Set decorator Nancy Haigh described [...]

  • Just Roll With It Disney Channel

    Disney Channel's Scripted-Improv Comedy Crew Shares How They 'Just Roll With It'

    The title of the new Disney Channel series “Just Roll With It” appears to be as much a directive for its cast and crew as it is a description of the multi-camera hybrid sitcom, which is part scripted and part improv. The plot revolves around the blended Bennett-Blatt family — strict mom Rachel (Suzi Barrett), [...]

  • "SpongeBob's Big Birthday Blowout" cast

    'SpongeBob' Voice Cast on Acting Together in Live-Action for 20th Anniversary Special

    On a brisk morning in February, the members of the voice cast of Nickelodeon’s flagship animated series “SpongeBob SquarePants” gathered to work on a new episode, like they’ve done most weeks over the past 20 years. But instead of being in a recording booth, this time they’ve assembled at a diner in Castaic, Calif., shooting [...]

  • Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor

    Motion Picture Editors Guild to Honor Veteran Executive Martin Cohen

    The Motion Picture Editors Guild will honor veteran post-production executive and producer Martin Cohen with its Fellowship and Service Award. Cohen worked at Amblin, DreamWorks and Paramount. He was a co-producer on “The Hunger Games” and supervised the restoration Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather” trilogy and “Jaws.” The award recognizes an individual who embodies the values set [...]

  • Game of Thrones Iceland TV Incentives

    Iceland Offers Productions Majestic Landscapes, Stunning Architecture and a 25% Rebate

    Few places on Earth contain the natural majesty of Iceland. The Nordic island, nestled between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, holds some of the most breathtaking natural wonders on the planet: the fiery pyrotechnics of live volcanoes, steam curling up from natural hot springs, vertiginous drops from oceanside cliffs and waterfalls cascading into [...]

  • Schitt's Creek Wigs

    'Schitt's Creek': Inside Moira Rose's Iconic Wig Collection

    Moira Rose, the family matriarch of cult classic “Schitt’s Creek,” is known for several things: her pronunciation of the word “bebe,” her love for her TV family (and sometimes Alexis) and her countless vibrant wigs. Played by the always delightful Catherine O’Hara, each episode (and wig) is a joy to witness on screen. “I think [...]

  • Kira Kelly Cinematographer Queen Sugar

    'Queen Sugar' DP on How Ava DuVernay Encourages Creativity on the OWN Series

    Cinematographer Kira Kelly, who earned an Emmy nomination for her work on Ava DuVernay’s “13th,” feels that her time spent on nonfiction projects over the past two decades has improved her ability to cope with the demands of shooting narrative fare.  The scaled-down resources — often just Kelly and maybe a focus puller or a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content