CHRIS BRYAN SURE KNOWS HIS WAY AROUND A CAMERA, AND NOT JUST ANY CAMERA, THE PHANTOM 4K FLEX CAMERA WHICH CAN CAPTURE UP TO 1000 FRAMES PER SECOND, PRODUCING THE HIGHEST RESOLUTION IMAGINABLE, MEANING YOU GET TO SIT BACK AND WATCH EVERY DROPLET OF WATER THROWN FROM A JOHN JOHN GOUGE IN ALL ITS HD GLORY. WE SPOKE TO MR. BRYAN ABOUT HIS LATEST REEL, WHO’S PUSHING THE ENVELOPE IN THE WATER AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO WATCH MARK MATHEWS PLAY RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH A SHIPSTERNS BEAST.
The opening sequence of Mark Mathews falling from the sky out Shipsterns is beyond ridiculous. What was going through your mind watching that unfold?
Yeah that wave of Marks was pretty wild. Originally I was heading over to Shipsterns to shoot with Kelly Slater on that swell, Kelly was suppose to be flying in from Bells Beach but at the last minute he pulled out because the contest director told him that it was a high possibility that the contest would run the same day. The contest didn’t run and Kelly ended up twisting his ankle free surfing 2 foot Bells. Was such a bummer, but that is sometimes the reality of being on tour. It would have been amazing to see Kelly out there that day. Anyway, Mark Matthews and Richie Vas were flying down there for the swell and since Kelly didn’t make it I ended up working with Mark and Rich for their film ‘Fighting Fear.’
I remember looking through the eye piece and getting goose bumps when he let go of the rope. Then when he hit that step at the end was one of those kind of moments where I was honestly holding my breath for him and just waiting for him to come up, hoping he was going to be OK. Sure enough he popped up completely amped and got straight back out there. It was like it didn’t bother him. I guess he was just completely riding on the adrenaline. Mark and Rich always put on an amazing show in waves of consequence so it was such great feeling just to be there and capture that moment of Mark.
“YOU CAN IMAGINE HOW SCARY IT IS WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF OUT OF POSITION TRYING TO SCRATCH TO GET UNDER A BIG SET”
You put yourself in some pretty extreme situations and I’m assuming the Phantom Cam weighs the size of a small elephant, have you ever thought you may have to sacrifice the camera at any point to save your own skin? Any close calls?
The Phantom camera is an absolute beast of a thing, so obviously you can imagine how scary it is when you find yourself out of position trying to scratch to get under a big set, and with the camera in the housing it becomes pretty buoyant, you have to dive down really early when you are caught inside. Ive had a couple of hectic situations where I’ve had to let go of the camera while I was getting worked, but the housing floats so it always seems to handle.
To be honest, I don’t really have any crazy stories to tell. I’ve had a couple of pretty frightening close calls but I’ve been pretty fortunate where I’ve never had anything more that a couple of scratches and bruises. Touch wood haha.
Being in the game as a cinematographer the past 15 years you would have seen some drastic developments in equipment?
Yeah the changes in film technology over the past 15 years have been pretty amazing. Shooting film all those years ago was great and something I really enjoyed but these days I see the whole film thing as a bit of a hipster/novelty kind of thing. I mean I can appreciate going back to film to shoot really moody portraits and scenes to give a different feel. But I think using 16 or 35mm film to shoot action is a bit of a wank. Its kind of like “Yeah I’m an artist, I shoot film.”
Tell us about the Phantom 4K flex?
The quality of the Phantom 4K is pretty amazing but, like all cameras I believe its more about the subject and the positions the operator can put the camera in, that’s a lot more relevant than what kind of camera the operator is using. You can shoot amazing pictures with a Canon 5D MKII if you know what your doing.
In your eyes which surfers are really pushing the envelop in the water at the moment? Favourite surfers to work with?
I think its amazing how Kelly Slater continues to keep raising the bar and I think he will continue to keep leading the charge for another five years. I also think Taj Burrow is another guy like Kelly where they are just both so competitive, age doesn’t seem to slow them down at all. With a healthy mind and body its amazing what people can achieve.
Then obviously guys like John John Florence, Kolohe Andino, Julian Wilson, Clay Marzo, Matt Meola, Dion Agius and Craig Anderson are all pushing the level of what can be done above the lip. Oh yeah, and of course Dane Reynolds, but I don’t get to see all that much of him these days. And then you have guys like Albee Layer and Shane Dorian who are pushing the big wave thing. Of course Albee is right up there with these air guys too, but its amazing to see someone who is so tech with both airs and big waves. To me they are almost completely different sports. And then there are guys that are complete freaks in the barrel like Jamie O’brien, Bruce Irons and Mikala Jones and again Kelly, Shane and JJF.
If I had to name my favourite guys to work with id have to say:
John John Florence
What’s next for you?
I know what I’d love to do next but in reality I’m guessing it would probably never happen. I’d really love to do my own surf film featuring all the above guys I mentioned in their dream wave locations. When these elite guys are on trips with the other top guys you really get to see them take it to another level.