Philip Bloom – Shooting a Documentary with a FUJIFILM GFX100 Medium Format Camera

Philip Bloom talks about working with the FUJIFILM GFX100 medium format camera. With this camera, he shot his documentary movie called Charmolipi on a greek island Skiathos.

Filming with FUJIFILM GFX100. Source: Philip Bloom

During this year’s Photo & Adventure trade show in Vienna, Austria, cinema5D team was in charge of the “Cine & Video stage” program at this show. We invited many interesting guests to talk about various topics. You can see the innitial post here. We decided to publish the most interesting topics again in a separate articles. You can await these to be published in the next weeks. This article is covering Philip Bloom’s presentation about shooting a documentary movie with a medium format camera – the FUJIFILM GFX100.

This content was originally streamed live from the Photo+Adventure – Film+Video Stage –  in November. We are re-publishing and highlighting some of the best content from the stage.

The Look of Medium Format

Philip first explained how he was always amazed by large sensor video shooting. He loves medium format and owns numerous analog medium format cameras. According to Philip, it is not only about the shallow depth of field. Medium format has a special look, a different aesthetics.

Charmolipi documentary movie. Image credit: Philip Bloom

In 2014, he bought his first digital medium format camera – Pentax 645Z. Later, the FUJIFILM GFX50S as it was a bit smaller. He traveled everywhere with these cameras and took many photos with them. He also, however, always had to take a second camera body for filming as the medium format cameras didn’t have good enough video features. The FUJIFILM GFX100 changed this.

According to Philip, from a documentary filmmaker point of view, a camera needs to have:

  • good lowlight performance
  • large sensor to get shallow DoF
  • dust- and rainproof body
  • slow motion capability
  • good dynamic range
  • good quality of internal video recording
  • good audio

FUJIFILM GFX100 has 4K video with uncropped sensor readout. It records internally 10-bit in H.265, which is vital for color grading. It has very good IBIS and decent lowlight image. GFX100 has a very fast sensor readout, so despite having a very large sensor, the rolling shutter effect of wobbly vertical lines is minimised. It can shoot a flat F-log image, but Eterna color profile is also very good, according to Philip. Autofocus of the GFX100 is pretty good, but there can be some issues every now and then.

FUJIFILM GFX100 camera body

Philip shot the whole documentary with two lenses only – the 45mm f/2.8 (full-frame equivalent: 35mm) and 110mm f/2 (full-frame equivalent: 85mm). He brought more lenses with him to the island, but he ended up not using them. When it comes to other equipment, he only worked with a tripod, but most of the clips are actually handheld.

Vital accessory for getting low shots was the viewfinder tilt adapter. According to Philip, that is one of the most essentiall accessories for the GFX100. Another great advantage of picking this camera was, that Philip could easily switch between photo and video mode and take very good photos. Good news is that he didn’t have any issues with the camera during the whole shoot. Only minor autofocus issues in some clips.

FUJIFILM GFX100 viewfinder tilt adapter.

Charmolipi – Documentary Shot with FUJIFILM GFX100 Medium Format Camera

The title of the almost 30 minutes long documentary is Charmolipi. It is a greek word and it means “feeling of joy and happiness at the same time”. Philip’s documentary is taking place on a very small greek island in Aegean sea called Skiathos.

Philip visited the island multiple times already. The special thing about the place, is that there is a charity who takes care of stray cats. When the charity got into financial trouble, Philip helped them and filmed couple of short documentaries in the past to raise awareness and money for the charity.

The original idea for this project was to shoot a short video (only at around 3 minutes). Only while shooting it, a story formed and this forced Philip to shoot more and make the final movie so much longer. He even stayed longer than planned to get the shots he needed.

Charmolipi documentary movie. Image credit: Philip Bloom

Philip decided to go for a video (exceptionally) without a narration. He just included captions and let the images themselves tell the story. The documentary can be watched on Philip’s Youtube and Vimeo channels. You can even download the original ProRes version (13.345 GB) of the video on Philip’s Vimeo account.

What do you think of Philip’s documentary? Have you shot video with the FUJIFILM GFX100? Let us know in the comments underneath the article.

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 Philip Bloom
Member

Thank you Cinema 5D for sharing my film and of course the talk. I will be doing a in depth review of the camera in the new year as soon as I get the time. I also will be doing a video about making this film as it was quite a challenge in many ways. It was easily one of the hardest films I have had to make and despite all my other documentaries that are connected to this story this one was way more personal and heart breaking.

The tech that I used is what will draw most people to this post and to my film, the story I hope is what I will leave people thinking about.

Merry Christmas and a happy 2020 to all.

P

Christoph
Guest
Christoph

A truely beautiful little film, as a dp myself I must say I never even focused on the technical part / looks of it, but was just always emotionally engaged by the story. I applaud your effort in helping the animals in whatever way possible. I will tell all my animal-loving friends to watch, well done.

 Philip Bloom
Member

Replied to wrong comment. Couldn’t work out how to delete. Oh well :)

 Philip Bloom
Member

I am grateful for Cinema 5D for sharing my film off the back of my talk. I didn’t ask them to but they did anyway.

Of course this article is about the gear primarily as that is what cinema 5d is about. Personally, I never wanted any of my film’s focus to be about the gear but when you are asked to talk about your experience of filming with the camera at a trade show then of course you will mostly focus on that even though you know, as a filmmaker, it’s the least important aspect. I literally could have filmed this on anything. I had the opportunity to use the camera and I jumped at the chance as I have wanted to shoot medium format video ever since I got my Pentax 645z in 2014. This is the first medium format camera with video good enough that I felt I could practically use.

My Sony A7III would probably have been easier and less hassle. My first film about the Skiathos cats was with the Canon C200. The following 3 were with the A7III but mostly the Sony NX80 (I think that’s the model) 1” camcorder. I choose the right tool for the job. You can see them on my YouTube channel here, if anyone wants to know more that is. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLosidvCjJdTuoDucT12kdwyQdzuiRFMp0

This film was not planned, it just sort of happened and evolved as I gave up more and more of my holiday to do it. Even extending my stay because of Rocky.

I thoroughly enjoyed using the camera and the stills are crazy good. There aren’t many cameras out there (none?) that shoot high quality stills and video WITH 10 bit internal recording, IBIS, full frame sensor (or bigger as with this) and very good autofocus. All of them key to me for having a walk around all in one camera as this was shot about 75% handheld. I have cameras which shoot better video (the FX9 and Kinefinity Mavo LF) but neither shoot stills and both are way bigger and not walk around cameras.

So all in all I am happy to have used this camera. I think the results are beautiful.

As to the film itself of course it won’t appeal to everyone. Not the story (yes it has a story, watch it fully and tell me then that there is no story) or the style in which I made it, which is very unconventional. No film is for everyone of course and after 30 years or professional filming I know this very well.

Some here feel the need to dump negativity in comments, well of course that is expected. We live in a world where sharing negative opinions about everything for everyone to
see has become the norm sadly. It’s the reason why I have to keep taking social media breaks as it depresses me no end.

These days everyone is an expert. I have personally never felt the urge to write negativity about anyone’s work, no matter what platform. If something is factually wrong then maybe I will chime in but who am I to tell someone their film is “not a documentary” or “doesn’t have a story” or “it’s dull”
or “the music is too generic”?

Do I watch things I don’t like? All the time. I just move on. If I liked in then I will say so and congratulate them. It’s important to encourage people. I don’t feel the filmmaker benefits at all from me sharing negative opinions. If they do ask for constructive criticism then sure, but I will do it without insults or being patronising.

I have spent too much time trying to explain and defend my film here. It’s made me very sad. It’s a film that was made to do good and something positive in our world. It does mean a hell if a lot to me as it I put so much of me into it. To the point where I am laid bare so to speak.

If people want to continue to feel superior in the comments and tell me (easily the most bizarre comments) that it’s a “promotional film”, for what I don’t know….who or what am i promoting? The camera? How? Because of this article or the talk? That means every time I have talked about using a camera then I am promoting it. Interesting. Perhaps it’s the charity people feel I am promoting? Well for sure they feature and damn right I will encourage people to help. Is it promoting the island of Skiathos? Well it does show its beauty but it also shows the problems that people on holiday just don’t see. So I am at a loss. If this is an advert then it’s the weirdest advert I have seen.

I set out to make a film to encourage empathy to animals and to perhaps even show that we must never lose our humanity. I made a film telling the story of two stray cats. “Why bother?” “Who cares?” “There’s more important topics to do films on” those are opinions and if you think there are more important topics to focus on then i absolutely encourage you to go and make those films. I wanted to tell the story of two “inconsequential animals” who through them we can hopefully be kinder, more empathic and perhaps even remind
ourselves how important maintaining our humanity is. I know for a fact that just in Greece it has been picked up and started a discussion about their attitude and treatment to strays cats and that alone means I have at least achieved something If I can make just one person see these animals differently and be kind the next time then my job is done. These two stray cats represent so much in their own way and I am so glad that I made this film. I will treasure it for ever.

These comments have made me sad and I really don’t feel there is any benefit in continuing to reply. It doesn’t benefit me for sure and if people want to be keyboard warriors then so be it. Instead I will give some cuddles to the two strays I rescued from Skiathos who are now safe, healthy and very much loved. They matter way more to me than petty bickering with people who really should ask themselves a really important question….”why am I writing this”

Thank you and I wish you a truly wonderful 2020. May it bring you much success and more importantly, happiness. Our world is becoming more angry and intolerant and it is a huge worry. Everyone of us can do our little bit to try and change that with kindness and positivity.

Take care and love to all (I know I sound like a bloody hippy but sod it!)

Philip

 Philip Bloom
Member

I know I am too thin skinned at times but that’s part of what defines me and makes my work what it is. I don’t have any desire to “toughen up”, my connections with my emotions are not a negative for me, they are an a positive. I suppressed my emotions enough back in my news days whilst having to see unspeakable horrors. No more, I left that job and am
happy to be “‘me”. Ok. That’s deffo if 🙂

 John Smith
Member
John Smith

No worries, Mr. Bloom, you are not too thin skinned, it’s just that one wouldn’t expect to read completely unqualified comments that reek of pure stupidity and ignorance at a very fine site such as C5D where one would expect to meet qualified enthusiasts and pro-level videographers. Nowadays, idiots are everywhere.

Mike Lawson
Guest
Mike Lawson

Philip, it’s hard for me to sit and watch thirty minutes of something online. I’m constantly distracted. But here’s something positive to come from the negative comments: I read a couple of these “it’s not a documentary” comments and felt like that couldn’t be fair. I decided to dedicate 32 minutes and watch the film without distractions. And I was deeply moved by the story. I’ve never been to Greece, but I went to Croatia recently and spent time on Vis island. There were so many stray cats and I got to know some of them. Most of them were very young, I didn’t see many old ones and I got the feeling that that they didn’t last long. Whenever I saw an older one, it made me happy.

Your film made me want to be a better person. Anyone who says it’s not a documentary must not have studied documentaries. Documentaries like this should, in fact, be respected more. Because they don’t have a full crew. You did what anyone could do. Take your camera, find a story personal to you, and share it. Isn’t that why we all go to a site like this? To find that piece of gear that will allow us to just tell our story, not to have to rely on anyone else, to not wait to be funded, etc? I am more impressed by this documentary than a documentary funded by a major broadcast company with a full crew.

Thank you for sharing something so personal. I hope the comments don’t get you down. I watched the film and immediately sent it to a few friends. I hope they take the time to watch it, too.

Ben
Guest
Ben

The discussion in here really makes me sad and kind of depressed. Unfortunately that’s how it is nowadays. Freedom of speech gets mixed up with hate speech, negativity and paternalism. What gives me hope are studies showing that only a fracture of all readers/spectators take the time to comment on something on the internet, and the ones who do are mostly the ones with negative attitude.

There should be a new movement of positive people who stand up against hate speech in the internet – not by trolling the trolls, but by flooding the forums with intelligent thoughts, constructive and reasonable comments, well checked facts and positivity. Fridays for Reason? Why not.

Philip, I’ve followed your work since 2011 when I left broadcast news and started my own production company. You’ve been an inspiration for me in so many ways. I’ve made many decisions in storytelling, directing, camerawork, lighting and editing based on your inspiration. And I’ve never regretted a single one of them. Your experience in so many fields shines through every frame of your new documentary. And yes, maybe it’s not the kind of documentary some people associate with what they’ve learned. What is a documentary anyway? Who has the right to decide about it? The same people who decide what is art and what not? The same people who decide if a painting is worth 20 USD or 20 million USD? The world is full of envious frustrated people who know that they are weak and only feel power if they can criticise the ones they most possibly secretly admire.

And then there’s the people who will never understand why some people feel love to an animal. Most people feel superior to nature and animals, and I’m sure you don’t. Your film shows that you feel humility when it comes to animals. I was a cat person some years ago, and since a couple of years a dog is my best friend (even though I still love cats). Every day I learn from him, and I think the world would be a better place if we all would learn from the animals and nature that surrounds us. And if we treated them with all the respect they finally deserve.

There should be much more films like this and they should be on the front screens of Netflix & co. Philip, if you do have connections to the networks and streaming platforms, please use all of your personal engagement to let them program films and series that show how wonderful and in the same time fragile the animal world is. There is one Netflix series called “Dogs” – I want to see so much more than this. We all need more empathy for everything around us – be it humans, animals or nature.

Besides all of that: I love the colours and look of the GFX. The sunset sequences with you and the stray cat on the beach bed are stunning. I also love the small audio details. And one more thing: The scene with Rocky crying for help in the cardboard box is heartbreaking. My dog immediately woke up and went very close to my TV screen to see if someone needs help. Animals DO care for each other. We should too. Thank you for the inspiration.

Christian
Guest
Christian

I am a huge animal lover as well as a camera lover. I hate it that the cat had to be put down. Made me cry. I grew up in a family of 7 and I was teased constantly for my love of animals. I am no vegan or social justice warrior. But if people can’t see the problem that goes on with peoples attitudes towards these cats on this island, thats a shame. I’ve always rescued stray animals and will continue to do so. I have a sense of grattitude that this man helped shed light on this problem. I was moved by this documentary and I loved the visual work that came from the camera.
Ps. I hope Cerberus is still okay.

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