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Behind the Scenes with Ryan Struck

by Michael Cassara on June 03, 2019

Tell us a little about the concept of this piece… What was the look you were going for?

Ryan Babenzien CEO of the GREATS brand was approached by Timex to design a new watch. Ryan drew on his experience growing up on the waters of Long Island to create the Baymen. It’s accented with nods to his own passion for the water as well as his love for time pieces. Ryan and I chatted about the story and look he was after, he referenced the 60’s and 70’s surf glow of slide film. This was such an exciting concept to me, as I’ve shot quite a bit of slide film myself, and am such a fan of this aesthetic. I knew there was a few technical things we could do within the camera department to really make this film glow, early morning light and Tiffen Filters being key.

Were you inspired by anything in particular to create this look?

It’s interesting to think that I was directing a film about a designers inspiration, using my own visual experience and inspiration. That’s some Inception material right there, haha! I have grown up in and around the water myself from spending time at the beach as a kid, fishing my brains out, and even went to a highschool with a marine science focus. I knew what water looked like, how it behaved and how it can really influence a human being. Our best bet for documenting the most beautiful scenes were to wake up early, our call time for this one was 4:30am. Building on Babenzien’s desire to recreate the slide film look, I thumbed through my own slides to help reinvigorate my ideas of how the colors behaved. Slide film is imperfect, old film cameras sometimes leak light, and truly at the end of the day film is an unexpected process. You get what you get, and sometimes it’s the most magic you’ve ever seen with a lens. The end result is inspiring, and that’s the look we were going for.

What was this shot on?

Building on our established aesthetics for the film we opted to shoot on the Alexa Mini, Cooke Anamorphic Lenses, one specially rebuilt vintage anamorphic lens, Tiffen Filters, and a DJI Mavic Pro drone. My producer Kris Rey-Talley was kind enough to donate the Mini for the project, we rented lenses and a few other odds and ins. We tossed it all on an Easy-Rig to give it that handheld documentary feel. We shot on the boat, sand and in the water. I’ve flown and landed a drone from a boat a few other times, and I was stoked to get the Mavic in the air and have a look around. As soon as we had a clear chance, I launched and flew awhile capturing the bay, lighthouse, and even saw a few deer in the early morning fog.

How did you use Tiffen Filters to enhance your vision?

Operating through anamorphic lenses was something I’ve wanted to do for awhile, they add a certain mystique that you don’t quite get with pristine prime lenses. Scenes change, things blend, and truly I’m amazed at the world through these lenses. More than a few times I was looking through the viewfinder muttering out loud my sense of wonder. I heard a few chuckles on the boat, this only encouraged me more to keep looking for interesting scenes. For this piece we double stacked Tiffen Filters, a 1/2 Black Satin and 1/4 Pearlescent right on top of each other. This accentuated the glow we were after by softening the image and blooming highlights beautifully. It’s as close as we could get without actually shooting on film. The Alexa Mini’s sensor records so much information that I could look right at highlights with the camera and they wouldn’t quite be blown out, they would dance and fade. Coupled with our double stacked diffusion, what we captured was beautifully imperfect and totally different. Exactly what we aimed for. There’s layers to working your image in camera. Kris and I did our part, and the final piece was finished off by Color Collective in Manhattan.

Do you have any other projects coming up that you will use Tiffen Filters on?

It’s safe to say that I use Tiffen Filters for the majority of my work, be it personal or commercial. When I’m shooting on the beach I have a polarizer outfitted to cut glare, even for portraits. When filming, normally some form of diffusion is on the end of the lens also. Modern sensors are so sharp and the ability to represent real life so accurately is uncanny. This is totally important for TV commercials, and it’s nice to have that option when needed. Much of what I work on is documentary in nature and perfection isn’t what I aim for; I want the visuals to help drive the narrative not to overpower it. I have a few projects in the works this fall of which Tiffen will be onset for, you’ll have to keep up with me on Instagram to see what’s next.

Check out Ryan and and his creative team on Instagram:

Director/DP: @ryanstruck
Timex: @timex
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