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Underwater-cinematography expert Pete Romano, ASC on his career and the discipline's advances

By Rachael K. Bosley

Nailing the Shot: Padi Dive Life 2010

Every frame counts for one of Hollywood's top underwater cinematographers.

Underwater for the first time, Pete Romano was enthralled. Never Mind that the portals of his 56-pound brass helmet had been painted black - Romano just like being somewhere new.

By Brooke Morton

2nd Unit DPs - Pete Romano: ICG Magazine August 2010

“Permission to redeem myself” underwater Director of Photography Pete Romano said as he broke the surface of the water tank. For a moment Romano forgot that he hadn’t quite got the shot his director wanted for a crucial sequence in Inception, the scene in front of Romano was so incongruous. Used to working closely with a very dapper and elegant Nolan, it was hard to adjust to what he saw – Nolan, soaking wet – standing on top of the van in the tank, in a wet suit watching the monitor.

Apocalypto - A great escape: American Cinematographer 2007

Apocalypto, shot by Dean Semler, ASC, ACS, uses spectacular locations and digital cameras to tell an epic tale set during the decline of the Mayan civilization.

By Benjamin B

Pete Romano on Lady in the Water: ICG Magazine June 2006

Everything is Illuminated

Cinematographers explain their unique vision of lighting memorable scenes

By Pauline Rogers

Pete Romano on Lady in the Water: ICG Magazine June 2006
The Art of War: ARRI News April 2006

Apocalypto, shot by Dean Semler, ASC, ACS, uses spectacular locations and digital cameras to tell an epic tale set during the decline of the Mayan civilization.

By Benjamin B

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.jpg

Behind the scenes, the Life Aquatics teems with imagined critters and sideways "descents".

Some people in Hollywood have closets full of designer suits and $500 shoes. PADI diving society member Pete Romano has a wardrobe rack dedicated to wetsuits; his preferred pair of shoes is not couture but beach-chic flip flops. He lives the dive life completely, at work, at home, practically while sleeping.

By Pete Romano

The Water Dance: Lighting Dimensions Reprint

The Water Dance:
Lighting Dimensions 

With its high ceilings and inviting light, the Los Angeles headquarters of HydroFlex, Inc. is an unexpectedly airy environment for a company specializing in underwater film equipment. Of course, signs of the facility’s purpose are everywhere, from the camera splash bags being readied for transport to Robert Zemeckis’ Cast Away production, to the underwater-themed movie posters on the walls. A number of HydroFlex projects – True Lies, Waterworld, Titantic – are among the one-sheets, as well as things like Transatlantic Tunnel and Creature From the Black Lagoon. Company founder Pete Romano likes to collect the older posters, perhaps in a nod to what preceded him.

By John Calhoun

“It was one of the best movie experiences I’ve ever had,” says underwater specialist Pete Romano regarding the making of director Michael Bay’s version of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. “I’ve worked several times with John Schwartzman and his team ­ but, by far, this was the best. Part of the reason ­ it was like working with an extended family on a historic and patriotic project. But, most of all, it was because I was able to become deeply involved in above water as well as below water shots. And, we even created new equipment to bring Michael’s vision to the screen.”

Pearl Harbor:
ICG Magazine May 2001

Pearl Harbor: ICG Magazine May 2001
A View From Down Under: Society of Operating Cameramen Reprint

Though he chooses to remain somewhat anonymous, Pete Romano’s name and HydroFlex, Inc. are synonymous. Located near Marina del Rey, California, the HydroFlex facility is where Romano designs and manufactures state-of-the-art underwater camera housings as well as submersible lighting instruments. As a former U.S. Navy underwater cameraman, Romano has been shooting film underwater since 1973, and has been an underwater Director of Photography since 1986. Pete has a long list of credits including The Abyss, Saving Private Ryan, Alien Resurrection, Waterworld, Free Willy 1,2 and 3, True Lies, 007 Tomorrow Never Dies and most recently, Navy Diver and Pearl Harbor. In 1996 Pete received the Technical Achievement Award from the Society of Operating Cameramen for the Development of the HydroFlex (Arri) 35-3 System...

The Perfect Storm: The Hollywood Reporter June 2000
Men of Honor: American Cinematographer November 2000

Diver Down

A film about Carl Brashear’s perseverance in training to become a U.S. Navy diver just wouldn’t be complete without a dip below the water’s surface. Producer Bill Badalato and 20th Century Fox were already familiar with underwater director of photography Pete Romano’s prowess from their collaboration on Alien Resurrection in 1997, and producer Robert Teitel and director George Tillman, Jr. were deeply inspired by the cinematographer’s work on The Abyss in 1989. For the lengthy shoot on Men of Honor, they requested his services again. No work actually took place in the ocean, but the production did involve three and a half weeks of shooting in two water tanks.

Designers Meet The Challenge

Lois I. Burgner, Assistant Editor
Reprinted with permission from Lighting Design + Application/October 1989

Like the challenge presented by a dragon or a quest, a difficult lighting project can bring out the best, or the worst, in a designer or engineer. Intelligence, ingenuity, and daring are the prescription for the designer who saves the day. An adventurer who braves adversity can come away with a different perspective and, often, new resources for use in the future.

Lighting the Abyss: Lighting Design + Application Reprint October 1989
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