Rob Ruscher on Shooting Five/Five

After its release, Five/Five went a little viral; becoming a Vimeo pick of the week, and generating 2,200 likes; which is huge for a documentary project. I wanted to know more about how the film was made, and reached out to the Director of Photography, Rob Ruscher (, with some questions. He had a lot of great insight into the indie production process.

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You can watch the short here:

Or on Vimeo here:

Check out our Q&A:

Widen Media: First, tell me about the film. What is it all about?
Rob Ruscher: The film was about Brandon Todd who is one of the shortest dunkers in the world. A few of us were looking for a cool story to shoot as a passion project. No clients, no budget, just passionate filmmakers. Brandon had a lot of passion as well and you would think he wanted to do a documentary just to show off. But actually, his passion is for inspiring young athletes to push themselves and achieve their goals.

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WM: How did you get hooked up on the project? Did you have any input in how the story evolved? What made you want to work on it?
RR: Chris Jurchak was the creative director and I work with him at 522 Productions. I guess you never know why you are chosen for certain projects but I think it was due to my knowledge of the FS700, passion for cinematography and work ethic. As a cinematographer my job is to get the director’s vision into the camera and onto the monitor. My input was mostly look related. I gave my opinions of picture profiles and camera movement and always made sure Chris was good with it. Story related, I can’t (and won’t) take any credit for that. Chris and Aaron (the producer) did all of the pre-production work and had the story laid out even before talking to me. Once I heard about Brandon and saw the mood boards I was all about the project and was ready to put everything I had into it.

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WM: What was your game plan in prepping for the shoot? IE: working within budget, locking crew, choosing gear, etc.
RR: Working with no budget was actually a lot better than I thought. No one was there for money and everyone wanted to be there. That not only made the production day have a pure feel, but made locking in the crew very easy. The crew was made up of passionate people who are also very talented. I am looking forward to working with them again and hoping it is sooner than later.

Gear was definitely something I was able to take control of. With such organized pre production, I knew exactly what we needed. The FS700 was the camera due to weight, available rigs and rental price (seeing as we had NO budget). With that, most of the shots were handheld. The Tilta rig worked out great and gave me complete control as a shooter. We even busted out the DJI Phantom to get a few aerials of Brandon running. Other than that, we used a slider for the dunks and a tripod for the interview.

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WM: What was the production process like? Smooth set or lots of hiccups? Full “Hollywood” style shoot, or more run’n’gun?
RR: The actual production was extremely smooth. We did run long on the interview but caught up once we shot the dunking sequences. The interview was tricky because there was a very specific way it needed to lit. Anthony Jacoway was our lighting director and did an amazing job getting the look down. He lit the interview and the work out scenes. It was great to have a producer, director, lighting director, grip and production assistant onset. It was enough people to keep things moving and allow me to only concentrate on the cinematography, while not so many people that it slows down the shoot. With a mixture of run and gun/planned out shots, the 5 man crew was a perfect size.

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WM: What emotions did you want to portray with the visual style?
RR: Five/Five was supposed to be inspirational. A little dramatic to touch the audience but with an uplifting feel. I wanted the workout scenes to be ‘in your face’ and rough to really feel like you are in the gym with Brandon. I shot on my Sigma 30mm wide open at a f/1.4. I didn’t want it to be perfect looking because that would have taken away from the vibe at the gym. We also used a lensbaby to get a more abstract look. That’s one thing we actually got heat for. I still like the decision of using that tool but understand why some people didn’t like it. With the dunking sequence, Chris wanted it to be slow and smooth. A great contrast to the work out scenes. I shot in 120fps and 240fps to give options in post and shot it all with a slider.

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WM: If there were any major set backs, how did you overcome them?
RR: Oddly there weren’t any setbacks. Chris and Aaron really did an amazing job with preproduction. We had a crew meeting the day before and everyone was on the same page. I memorized the mood boards and studied all the video examples Chris sent me so I had no question in my mind of what I needed to do and what Chris wanted.

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WM: If you could go back and change one thing about the shoot, what would it be?
RR: If I could go back and change one thing, it would have been to do a better job of showing how short Brandon is. He looks huge in the video and we never show how short he is. I could have done a WS on a slider with him under the basket so people could have gotten a better idea of his height. It’s one of those things that you don’t really think about until you watch the final product. As a cinematographer you are always pushing yourself to tell stories better with the photography and movement of a film. Showing his height is something I could have done better and I will learn from the mistake.

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WM: How has the films viral success affected you? Where do you see it ending up?
RR: That’s a good question and makes me laugh a bit. I always wanted to be a part of a video that had that Vimeo Staff Pick badge on it. There are so many great filmmakers out there and didn’t know the likelihood of something I shot would get that much exposure. It has affected me in a few ways. I always thought I was a decent shooter but now I have confidence that I can produce great work. It has pushed me to take my craft more seriously and work on ways to perfect it. Although I work on all phases of production, this motivates me to really concentrate on the art of cinematography and produce the best possible work I can.

Our original goal was to create something cool with no restrictions and inspire athletes. We have already gotten tons of positive responses that it did just that. Chris even got a call from a jail asking for permission to show inmates to help motivate them to work harder and be better once they are released. We have gotten calls from a few places to produce similar videos for them (can’t say much about it now) but my ultimate goal is to work on sport campaigns such as Under Armour, Nike and Adidas.

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WM: Is there anything else about the shoot you want to share?
RR: I wish I started doing stuff like this sooner. This was the best way to really work on my techniques and push myself creatively. I recommend that anyone in the field looking to get better go actively look for compelling stories, find a passionate crew and shoot something great. It doesn’t have to become a success to be worth your time. Five/Five is the best looking thing I have shot and even if it didn’t get the exposure, it is still an amazing piece to add to my reel and show potential clients.

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about-robRob’s Bio:
My name is Rob Ruscher and I live in Northern Virginia. I have an extremely supportive wife and an Australian Cattle Dog. Cinematography and gear are my passion and it is what I put most of my efforts in. I work full-time for 522 Productions while also doing my own freelance work at Ruscher Visuals. A lot of the freelance work right now is weddings which I really enjoy. It is a great way to be creative with shots and makes be a better shooter and storyteller. My inspiration comes from a lot of places but mostly Eliot Rausch, Shane Hurlbut, and Wally Pfsiter.

Rob is a very talented cinematographer and he’s also pretty social. Connect with him on twitter (@RobRuscher) and give Five/Five a gander. It’s got a great story and some amazing shots. Great job Rob and team!


Rob Ruscher on Shooting Five/Five

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