Philip Bloom http://philipbloom.net Filmmaker, DP, Director Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:11:32 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Custom made 3DLuts ‘Deluts’ by James Miller NOW AVAILABLE! http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/22/luts/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/22/luts/#comments Sun, 22 Mar 2015 16:32:46 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33617 UPDATE:

3D Luts in .cube and .3dl – For use in most applications that support 3dluts.  FCPX will need a LUT loader or LUT utility. Adobe Premiere will need Lumetri that is built into current CC Premiere then controlled with an adjustment layer etc. In Photoshop CC you can load LUTs through adjustments / Colour Lookup panel. Resolve can also used the LUT’s marked for FCPX.

16 Grid LUT’s are the quickest to work with, of course 32 Grid LUT’s will cover more colour data but the difference is very small to notice. I recommend the 16 Grids though for most jobs.

Remember to control the LUTs with simple RGB curves and opacity. Make sure the RGB curves are behind the LUT in the order of plugins or adjustment layers or a node behind the LUT in Resolve. I will be publishing a more helpful guide very soon.

Please note although these luts are designed from LOG source material, you can successfully overgrazed existing footage using curves behind the LUT. Almost a reverse S-Curve does really help, but mostly exposure and balance.

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I have been using James’s LUTs for about a year now. We had planned to sell them for ages but like all things we keep getting distracting with other stuff. Finally it’s happened though. James has set up the store and made the first set available. Loads more to come! If you check of my edits on my Vimeo page from around the last year they all use these with modification off course for which I generally use the wonderful FILM CONVERT…over to James!

Guest Post by James Miller.

After many months (years really) I’ve got together a handful of my favourite LUTs that I create on my film projects. It’s been a lot of hard work and over the coming weeks as I find time I will keep adding them to the site. http://www.deluts.com

 

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I’m finishing off another set as I type. As a promotion I’ve bundled together sets 1, 2 & 3. Then next set will be an optional individual purchase.

I use Premiere mostly for editing and then best way to use the luts here is to use the inbuilt ‘Lumetri’ effect. With this you can select one of my Luts. It’s much easier to add effects as an adjustment layer.

To control the selected Lut its best to add a RGB curve behind the Lut. If you add the RGB curve after adding the Lut you limit the amount you control it.

RGB Curves

RGB Curves

This makes so much difference in the end result. Luts are based on a certain exposure and to balance that, basic RGB curves are needed. The same goes if your using the Luts in Resolve. You need the Curve adjustment on a node behind the Lut. Don’t forget you can also control the opacity here.

To control even more then use the fantastic Film Convert Plug-in. You can then mix film stocks and add grain.

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Here are a couple of pages from the website (work in progress) so you can see the results. http://www.deluts.com

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Daniel Peters has done a nice little video to show how to add the Luts and has a few examples on his website. http://danieljohnpeters.com/2015/03/21/deluts-by-james-miller/

Look out for more Luts to come.

Note: These Luts are a starting point, not a quick fix to a cinematic grade. There is so much more to grading of course, but these Luts can really help you achieve a beautiful look.

These Luts are based on footage being Log or very flat. But by using RGB curves and opacity you can use as an over grade for standard shooting profiles.

Luts suppled in .cube & .3dl formats. They are also in 16 & 32 pint grid resolution. I suggest using the 16 grid versions as they are much much faster to use. And if you are uing them in the Atomos Shogun these are your best choice.

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The most important documentary I have ever made…and it’s about my Dad http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/19/dad/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/19/dad/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 18:58:05 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33532 PB_deluts_ban3

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You can see the documentary about my dad near the bottom of this very in-depth blog post!

I love my dad, and of course my mum, I see them as often as I can. Even if I am only home between jobs for a few days I squeeze in lunch or something. They mean the world to me.

My dad, Arnold Bloom, or Arnie as he prefers to be called is 69 years old and a retired pharmacist. He has been immensely supportive through my life and my career both financially when I needed it, emotional and moral support.

He puts up with me wanting to take photographs of him all the time and occasionally even film him….actually he has appeared in quite a few things. Mostly smoking cigars which he likes to do as he calls it “his only vice he has left”. In fact if you go to B&H in New York to the ProVideo section he is often on a bank of screens there puffing away in a low light comparison test I did a few years back.

I have made documentaries on so many people for my work and a hell of a lot for myself via my “mini documentaries”. These are what I call my personal projects, things I make to keep me happy creatively as often with paid work it is either a bit dull or perhaps doesn’t end up as you would like it to. So for the past 8 years I have made a hell of a lot “personal films” and many of those are mini documentaries. At the end of the post I will embed a few of my favourite ones as well as dad’s appearances on camera for me. Below though is a super short one of him for a taster!

Romeo No.3 from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

THE IDEA

We never know how long we have in life, I have lost close friends whose lives have been cut short far too early but some members of my family have lived to an incredibly old age. Now, all my grandparents have gone. I remember thinking back in 2001 how lucky I was to have them all alive. Within a year I had lost both my grandfathers to cancer. One to prostate and one to lung cancer. My grandmothers died a few years ago too.

One thing I wish I had done was do a film on each of them. When my grandfathers died I was not making anything for myself at all, I was staff a jobbing news cameraman at Sky but I was freelance when my grandmothers died and I regret never interviewing them for a documentary.

After all I have made docos about total strangers who mean very little to me compared to my family. All I have left to remember the people I loved who have gone are a few photos and if I am lucky a bit of video. I did in fact make something about my mum’s dad Daniel 3 years ago for Movember because he died of prostate cancer. It was done through the memories of my mum and with photographs, although I would like to revisit that and make it better….longer, more in-depth and remove the stuff with me in it. Just the voices of my mum and her brother.

In my opinion, making a film about a loved one whilst you can must rank as one of the most important things one can do as a filmmaker. Sadly I still don’t have children, maybe one day, but at least my sister does and although they know him very well, inevitably one day he will be just a memory/ photos on Facebook (or whatever is around then) to them. I want them to be able to watch this long after he is gone and remember who their “papie” was and then be able to show their own children.

It would be amazing to hear my great grandparents words telling me their stories as I never knew them. Hopefully this and the one I will do for mum will rectify that for future generations.  After all documentaries are exactly what the words implies. To document something, and this film is to have a historical record of my father for future generations to see and of course for me to remember him after he has gone to the great golf course in the sky.

Ever since I did the video with my mum about her dad I realised I really should make docos about my parents whilst I can. After all I have the skills and the gear, I may not really have the time truthfully but when do you ever?

This is of course not a new idea and there are even businesses in the US that specialise in making “life stories” yet it’s still something so many of us just don’t even think about until it’s too late!

I was supposed to be editing my Sony FS7 review this week…sorry for those who are waiting…this took precedent! As does my much delayed Wonder List blog posts…they are all coming! Never enough time!

Dad and Mum celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary

Dad and Mum celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary

CONVINCING HIM TO DO IT

My parents aren’t old but they aren’t young. Mum is 71 and Dad is 70 this year. I have no idea how long I have with them, I hope many years but we never know. My problem is I am a lifelong procrastinator….why do today what you can put off till tomorrow? We all know where that ends up, nothing ever gets done!

I wanted to do dad first as I already had something of mum  (although I am going to do a film just about her soon) plus my dad’s health has worried me for quite a while now. Interviewing him was always at the back of my mind but he never seemed well enough, never enough energy, sleeping most of the time. Thankfully in the past few weeks he had some good news plus he found some terrific inner strength to beat something else, meaning he has gotten a lot a better.  I realised it was time to revisit the idea.

He had known I had wanted to do this for some time but about a week ago I texted him and said that when I come down to visit at the weekend I would like to do an interview for the documentary about him.

This could have gone two ways:

“God no, I don’t want that” or “OK”

He said “OK” :)

Dad at my house being suspiciously eyed up by Noodle!

Dad at my house being suspiciously eyed up by Noodle!

So with my truck full of gear I drove to Maidstone in Kent where I grew up and they still live and turned their house into my house…CAMERA GEAR EVERYWHERE!!

Dad asked me what I wanted to talk about, I just said his life. I think he was getting a bit nervous but I really don’t like to talk too much with an interviewee before hand about what I will actually ask as I don’t think it helps them. When people start preparing answers it rarely comes across well, a bit stilted and unnatural. I knew what I wanted to hear from dad and I simply said that we are just going to have a conversation about his life.

I will talk more about how I approached the content and structure of this film after this section about some info about the essential technical side…

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THE CAMERAS & THE SHOOTING STYLE

To make it easier this would need to be on two cameras for editing purposes. Yes, I could shoot 4K and edit on an HD timeline and use the lovely crop ability but I wanted to make this a documentary that would last, quality wise, and actually film it and edit it in 4K. Therefore barring any 8K camera suddenly coming into my possession two cameras it would be! Although the edit I have put up is only HD for now. Once I am satisfied and made my tweaks then I will put the 4K up…It’s a big old file so I don’t want to keep uploading it!

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Camera A was my super beast the Sony F55 recording internally at full 4K in XACV S-Log 2. I used the GL Optics rehoused Sigma 18-35mm cine lens for the wider shot and the Sigma 35mm ART F1.4 to get nicer bokeh on the tighter main shot.

This was the main shot, centrally framed and dad looking into camera. For many,  looking into camera isn’t the easiest of things to do but I love it as a way for the subject to address the audience intimately.

For many docos with direct to camera eye line I have gotten around around this by using  the “Eye Direct” system. This is a great way of getting them to look at camera but also for you to see them and them to see you. It’s not cheap but worth it if you do this sort of thing a lot. I was actually going to use it for this but I forgot it! I brought so much stuff down yet I managed to leave behind a couple of key bits (tip: always make a list of gear for a shoot then check them off as you pack them, which is what I normally do!) which were the Eye Direct and an XLR cable!

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The original master shot

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The “second” master shot

I asked Dad if he was OK looking at the camera and not me and he said yes, he has been filmed by me a few times as I said and he is very relaxed and easy on camera despite the only time he ever gets filmed is by me!

If I found he couldn’t hold the eye line I would have got him to look off camera towards me instead.

THE KESSLER SECOND SHOOTER FOR THE UNMANNED MOVING B-CAMERA

For the second angle I went off about 30 degrees or so from the main camera axis and used what is quite simply a incredible piece of gear. It can be used for so many more things than what I used it for here, timelapse, stop motion, VFX but I am using it in it’s purest form and a the main reason why it’s called what it is…the Kessler “Second Shooter” (SS)

This is a motion control system, much simpler than their top end “Cinedrive” but way better than the old Oracle system which did a good job but you couldn’t do what I did here and certainly nowhere near as easily and most defiantly not without an operator!

The second camera I used is my beloved A7s and Atomos Shogun (in S-Log 2 mode to match the F55) so I could also shoot 4K…now I could have used my FS7 but the set up I was using would be easier with a smaller camera as it would need more support for the heavier camera.

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The B-Camera on the second shooter on looping move. A7s and Atomos Shogun

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What I wanted from the B- Camera was a moving dolly/ slider shot offset to the side but keeping my dad’s head in frame which normally would require an operator to use a manual pan/tilt head on the slider or use a  Kessler Parallax. The Kessler Parallax slider add-on would give better results than manual operation of a head on the slider by far but the second shooter system gives pin point precision and most importantly nobody has to stand there moving it! You set it up and then let it go!

Having the angle/ frame drastically differently means you can cut between the eye line of the main camera and the off camera one without it being jarring.

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I used my Kessler Crane “Philip Bloom Signature Edition” Pocket Dolly Traveller (easily the best length for these, standard is too long and requires too much support) and attached it to my Really Right Stuff tripod base with a flat head adaptor. The Dolly then has a solid non flexing base.

Then I removed the drag control and put the SS slider motor on the appropriate motor plate (different sliders have different plates). I also used the small gear rather than the standard gear. This makes the operation near silent at the speed I was running it at. I literally couldn’t hear it unless I put my ear right to it. Naturally if it was noisy it wouldn’t be of any use in a situation like this!

The new battery pack magnetically sitting between the control box and the motor

The new battery pack magnetically sitting between the control box and the motor

The small gear which is for fast movement or quiet slow operation

The small gear which is for fast movement or quiet slow operation

The Second Shooter Pan & Tilt Head that has a Kessler Kwik Release plate under it which clips onto the Pocket Dolly caddy

The Second Shooter Pan & Tilt Head that has a Kessler Kwik Release plate under it which clips onto the Pocket Dolly caddy

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The loop scrub set to 1m 19s (no reason for that exact time) with a speed ramp of 19s at either end

The loop scrub set to 1m 19s (no reason for that exact time) with a speed ramp of 19s at either end

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Once everything was plugged in and the camera set up (I used the Sigma 50mm ART F1.4 on the Sony A7s with the Metabones adaptor) I got Dad to sit in position. Using the SS controller I set it to loop mode and chose the 2 key frame program mode.

I went to one end of the slider and angled the head using the direction keys on the control box to where dad’s head should be in frame then saved that key frame. Next I went to the other end of the slider and angled the head again to where it should be in frame. You then tell it how long you want it to take to go from point 1 to 2, also how long the speed ramp should be as you don’t want when it repeats the move for it to jerk back in one direction.

I found around 1 minutes 20 seconds for the 2 foot slider with a 30-40% speed ramp to be about perfect. Nice speed of movement, not too fast, not too slow and a nice long pause at either end as I didn’t want the slider to change direction within a shot.

Of course if there was a long answer and the slider changed directions during it then it would be very subtle anyway but most likely I would cover one of the directions with the master wide shot.

Tutorial | Kessler: Second Shooter Motion Control System from Gabriel Mays on Vimeo.

LIGHTING

I lit dad with a Cineo Lighting Tru Color LS Remote Phosphor LED light as the main key. These lights are stunning. Amazing quality of light, bright if needed but dimmable. You change the colour temperature via the phosphors you put in front of the LED. The main ones I have are 3200K, 4200k and 5600k. I used 5600K throughout. There was some additional fill coming from the windows near where the light was from and some light coming in behind dad from another window.

We didn’t get the whole interview done in the morning so we had to break for lunch and as it was UK mother’s day on Sunday we went out to eat. After all I was making a documentary about dad on mother’s day! She was totally fine about it though!

 

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The LS ballast. I also have a Maverick which has the much smaller ballast fixed onto the back of the light where you can also power it via a v-lock

 

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Mum sat in with strict instructions to be quiet! I think you can hear her once in the end film! That’s the TruColor LS in front of her

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By the time we got back of course the light was drastically different in the room, way darker. So I made some adjustments to the key light brightness, added some practical decoration light at the back of the room and tightened the shot so I could put a kicker on top of the book case. Again I used a Cineo Lighting Tru Color, this time their little Matchstix on a gorillapod sitting on top of the furniture. Lovely lights indeed!

They have a Matchbox light coming out next which is a Litepanel mini sized light but with the truly special light and colour you get from these!

It was a pain having such different light for the shots but expected given we broke for almost 3 hours! So, a fair bit of work in the grade helps (huge thanks to James Miller for his LUTS) and it’s not bad. Although I am absolutely going to go back to it and make it perfect. I rarely let these things go so easily! :)

I did some additional work with Colorista II and Film Convert as always! Discount codes for both in the below banners.

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The Sony A7s/ Atomos Shogun recording the second angle on the Kessler Second Shooter

To get 4K on the A7s, as I mentioned, I used the Atomos Shogun. Although I had BETA firmware for the LUT display I was getting a weird effect on my dad’s skin….like airbrushing but it was phasing in and out. I didn’t notice this till well after I had shot it. Apparently it’s because I triggered the shogun directly and not via the camera record button. This is weird but it seems to be the case as I tested it out again to see. VERY ANNOYING! Dad likes the soft skin look mind…shane it drifts in and out which is very frustrating making it very hard to fix. SO BE WARNED! Always trigger the Shogun with the A7s. You can see what I mean below:

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Normal skin

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Softened skin

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A nice unobtrusive set up!

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The excellent screen (indoors where it’s not reflective) Atomos Shogun screen

RECORDING THE AUDIO

Audio was originally going to be my Sanken Cos 11 wired lav mic. I don’t like using wireless mics unless I will see a cable. Why risk interference or break up? Therefore for this it would be silly to use wireless BUT I forgot my XLR and the Sanken’s cable wouldn’t stretch. Luckily I had my Sony Wireless UWP Mic with a RODE lav mic on it instead of the standard Sony one which sounds much better.

I hate seeing microphones in my work, it’s a piece of gear. Hide it. I use Rycote Undercovers. Fabulous things. These are utterly essential. We used them for every interview on The Wonder List.

Audio was plugged straight into the F55 XLR port and the A7s scratch/ sync sound was simply the internal mic there, good enough to sync the manual claps in post. I tried plural eyes and it was just giving me grief…make sure to get a nice solid clap as it can help you manually sync and also help Pluraleyes a bit too.

I used the Senal headphones which I have just picked up. Never forget to monitor audio when recording it. Levels ARE NOT ENOUGH! You need to hear if there is any clothes rustling, any interference and much more. I cannot stress this enough. I hate using buds, they stop people talking to you, I like to wear proper headphones when doing stuff like this and half one side half off. Normally when shooting on location I use smaller headphones than these, just not buds!

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I monitored audio through these excellent Senal headphone s

I monitored audio through these excellent Senal headphones

THE INTERVIEW

So away from the technical stuff then what did I ask? What did I want from this film? How long should it be? All important stuff.

I wasn’t quite sure when I started this what it would end up being. I just wanted to get the interview in the can. We probably spent about 3 hours or so filming the interview. I didn’t want my voice heard, this was my dad’s film after all and I just wanted to hear his words so that meant he had to convey what the question was in his answers often…it took a tiny bit of coaching but he got the knack of it pretty quickly.

He was very serious most of the time, I wanted to try to get more of his humour across but I think that when he started remembering emotional stuff that made it much harder for him to switch to the light-hearted dad I know. I was surprised just how much some of his recollections made him emotional. Although I have seen my dad tear up a couple of times in my life it’s been rare. This I found hard whilst doing the interview. I didn’t want my dad to cry but I didn’t want to interrupt him.

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My mum!

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My dad!

Some of the questions are asked were simple background questions. Where his family are from, where he was born…that sort of stuff. There was quite a lot of this in the first part of the interview, he basically went through large chunks of his life briefly and without any real detail for me to connect to. He needed a bit of time to get used to be interviewed and we had time.

MOULDING THE FILM AND CHOOSING WHAT TO INCLUDE

I barely scratched the surface really, 3 hours to cover a life is not a lot of time. That’s why I decided to make two films. One was about the man, the other one which would be much longer, would be the man & his life. Lots of anecdotes of growing up, his friends, his family, of course stuff about me and my sister, my mum, his work etc…You have to draw a line and say THIS is what this film is about otherwise you would end up with a rambling mess. I did included a couple of anecdotes and stories about specific incidents but for most part they belong in the other edit. It was important to have some in here though.

This being about “the man” I wanted to know what made him tick, so stuff about his relationship with his parents was essential and his relationship with mum and how they met. I put in very little about my sister and I; although we are a massive part of his life I knew that if I went down that road it would become a pretty long section and overshadow other stuff which I didn’t delve into so deeply. There is enough in there as a “taster” for sure…he at least acknowledges us!

The really tough bit comes in the last act. The problems he has had and his battle to beat them and to address his own mortality and what has his life actually meant…has it had any impact on the world in any way? Will he be remembered. None of these are easy questions and certainly if you decided to make something similar leave the tough ones till near the end as they won’t be easy to answer.

I made the decision, despite having a fair bit of video of dad and of course the ability to shoot more stuff, to use just stills to illustrate his story. It’s keeps it clean and simple this way. I will use video and old super 8mm home movies I am getting transferred for the long version of this…for this one, I love just the stills.

If you can do try to make documentaries of your family…don’t leave it too late. You never know how long they have. A friend of mine lost her dad just a couple of days ago really suddenly. It happens. Don’t say “I will wait until I am older”…do it now! Not because I want to panic you into thinking they might drop dead but it doesn’t have to be made at the end of their lives. You can film them many times over the years which would make a lovely record of their life.

Will this 22 minute film of my dad be of any interest to people who have never met him or heard of him? I don’t know. If you watch it all the way through and enjoyed it or at least learnt something about him from it then my job as a filmmaker has been a success. I wanted this edit to be watchable by strangers.

For me personally? This was a wonderful experience. I learnt stuff about my dad, some details about his background and growing up, but mostly I learnt more about who my dad is. I feel very much more connected to him today than I did a week ago and we are pretty close already.

My mum summed it up the best on Sunday when she said after the interview “I love him even more now”.
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My Dad, Arnie Bloom from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Romeo No.3 from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

The parents at 240 from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Scarlet-X review test footage from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Arnie vs the Cohiba: Low light comparison between the FS100, F3, AF101 and Canon 5DmkII from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Video review of the Sony A7S from Philip Bloom Reviews & Tutorials on Vimeo.

A man called Jack from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

An Amish Man from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Portrait of a Percussionist from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Portrait of a projectionist from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

If not now when: The documentary from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Bangin’ n Clangin': The Redneck Hippie from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Booths & Bodies: The life and work of Anthony Vizzari from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Great Wooden Boats: RED EPIC from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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Huge devastation in Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam hits. Please help them if you can http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/14/vanuatudevastation/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/14/vanuatudevastation/#comments Sat, 14 Mar 2015 02:36:00 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33505 _81641987_026312141

The Wonder List team with men from Rah Island dressed up to perform the snake dance

The Wonder List team with men from Rah Island dressed up to perform the snake dance

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The island nation of Vanuatu is a very special place and one that became special to myself and the rest of “The Wonder List” team when we filmed there in November for our premiere episode of the new series.

It’s been almost two weeks since that episode went out and for most people it was the first time they had heard of the country and seen how magical it is.  Vanuatu is full of some of the most wonderful people I have ever met. Now it is in the news for the wrong reason as I am sure many of you know.

Cyclone Pam hit yesterday with winds up to 200mph causing massive devastation and an unknown death toll which is feared to be in the dozens._81636005_new-cyclone-map

This is a very poor nation with little infrastructure in most of the islands, most don’t even have proper roads let alone hospitals. The cyclone has reported flattened whole villages. There are confirmed deaths in the capital of Port Villa but there is no word from the other islands which is not surprising given the strength of this storm and the very poor communications on the islands. Very few people have phones so it’s going to be days before we find out the true devastation this cyclone has done to Vanuatu.

They need our help for the immediate relief and most likely for long term aid, as it’s going to take a long time for these people to recover from this. If you can spare anything to help please consider donating to one of the many organisations who have mounted campaigns for help. You can see a list of them and updates on the situation there on the CNN Impact Your World page.

Below are some videos/ clips from the show and some photos I took whilst there to remind you what a magical place it is. I just hope all of these wonderful people are safe and whatever help they need the can get as quickly as possible.

Tanna Island where the Yakel Village is based it apparently the worst hit of all the island. This is terrible news and we wait to hear more and especially about these beautiful people below.

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The Wonder List: Yakel Village, Vanuatu from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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The Wonder List: Behind The Shot first 6 BTS episodes http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/13/behindtheshot1/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/13/behindtheshot1/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 02:34:32 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33390 gratical_affiliate_728_3a

These aren’t the BTS videos put a playlist of additional clips for the show

The Wonder List is a new original documentary series for CNN that airs from March the 1st at 10pm EST in the US. It’s also available on CNN on demand. Other platforms and especially international I don’t know yet, but as soon as I do…

It’s a series about going to special places around the world that are on the brink of change, for whatever reason. We travelled to 5 continents and 8 countries for the 8 episodes over a period of around 6 months. It was truly epic.

I also chose (rather insanely!) to really put a huge amount of production value into shooting the series, despite shooting this more or less as a one-man-band (apart from the B camera and occasional C camera operated by the two producers.) We are talking Sony F55/ FS7 including lots of super slow motion, Sony A7s with Movi was also used a huge amount and, when permitted, I used a “drone” as they are now pretty much officially called, for better or worse. I used a Phantom 2 with GoPro first then switched to the DJI Inspire 1.

 

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BEHIND THE SHOT EPISODE 1

VANUATU: DRONE VS VOLCANO

As part of the additional online content for the show, I have made a series of videos with CNN called “Behind The Shot”. The premise is simple: I take a key shot from each episode and explain the background and thinking behind it. The first episode is about a specific shot I did with the Inspire One that is the debut episode filmed in Vanuatu, which is in the South Pacific.

The Wonder List: Vanuatu "Band Photo"

The Wonder List: Vanuatu “Band Photo”

The Inspire 1 at the time hadn’t been announced. I was use an early pre-production one. It worked pretty well, but the gimbal tilt wasn’t working so I could only point straight, and there was no ability to tweak the picture profiles. Other than that it was an absolute joy. So stable in the air and could take wind that would have blown my Phantom 2 away! I loved the way it sat in the very windy sky angled at 45 degrees (the gimbal of course keeping the camera level) as it was effectively accelerating hard into the wind to keep it in the GPS position!

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Here are some frame grabs taken with the Inspire 1 in Vanuatu

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It’s the below frame in particular that is the subject of the first episode of “Behind The Shot.”

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Click the image below to be taken to see the the first episode of “Behind The Shot”

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BEHIND THE SHOT EPISODE 2

INDIA: WAITING FOR THE MONKEYS

Episode 2 is about the time we were out on safari in India looking for the very rare tigers to film and how I divided, foolishly, to film monkeys flying through the trees at 180fps! They made me wait! Click below to see that one! This is very different from the first episode of Behind The Shot! That was about an epic shot…this is about when things don’t go to plan! :)

 

The Wonder List: India "Band Photo"

The Wonder List: India
“Band Photo”

 

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Producer Julian Quinones who put together these videos. Famed for being asked in India “HOW are you so good looking?” :)

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Super slow motion is of course wonderful, but my god, it eats up data. With no cache recording in either the F55 or FS7 (unlike the internal slow motion of the FS700) it’s all continuous. This is good and bad. Good because you are unlikely to miss a moment, bad because you eat up SO MUCH DATA!! Let this be a cautionary tale for you! ;)

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BEHIND THE SHOT EPISODE 3

THE DEAD SEA: THE BAT CAVE

In the third (and final for now, we are hoping to shoot 5 more next week) episode the focus shifts onto using the Movi M5 stabiliser with the A7s and how, after one particular experience in the Dead Sea episode, I know this combo was going to be essential for the look and feel for our show. It was damn hard work and bloody exhausting after a while but totally worth it.

 

The exceptional Sony F55 with VOCAS gear on it. Superb add ons to make the camera more user friendly handheld

Filming with the F55 at the Dead Sea

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Setting up the Movi M5 with the A7s at the Dead Sea

In later episodes I took this up a level. A three hour walk/ climb through a sea water mangrove swamp in the Galapagos and in Florida, again surrounded by salt water, I went Kayaking with it on my lap for a few hours. Dicing with gear death maybe…but the results speak for themselves when you see the episodes!


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BEHIND THE SHOT EPISODE 4

THE GALAPAGOS: Mangrove swamp

 

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BEHIND THE SHOT EPISODE 5

IKARA: Keeping up with the some of the oldest people on earth

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BEHIND THE SHOT EPISODE 6

VENICE: Filming the floods

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I hope you enjoyed those! If you want more, then don’t miss the series Sunday’s at 10pm (Eastern)  only on CNN and CNN Go and  on demand. International broadcasters to be announced.

Oh…in the meantime here are the trailers and two personal edits!

The Wonder List: Fernandina Island, The Galapagos in 4K from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

The Wonder List: Yakel Village, Vanuatu from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

 

CNN’s “The Wonder List” Trailer from Philip Bloom on Vimeo

“The Wonder List” New Year Teaser from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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My film “Koh Yao Noi” wins best travel/ landscape film at the 1st NYC Drone Film Festival. See all winners here! http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/08/nycdroneff/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/08/nycdroneff/#comments Sun, 08 Mar 2015 12:02:16 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33472 PB_BH_Banner_04

This is an incredible honour to win this award. I have only been flying a year, and this film was shot in May last year whilst in holiday in Thailand.

It was made with a Phantom 2 and GoPro 3+ You can read all about how I shot it and how I created the look in post in my blog post here.

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TRAVEL/ LANDSCAPE

Koh Yao Noi from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Since then, I haven’t actually flown that much. I have used drones on “The Wonder List” where I have been legally allowed to. The most I used them was in the premiere episode from last Sunday in Vanuatu using the Inspire 1.

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I wasn’t able to be at the awards last night despite just being in New York for the launch of “The Wonder List”, I had to get home earlier this week as I am currently about to jump on a plane to Hamburg for a gig there. Really wish I could have made it, especially to see all the incredible films that were shown, not just the ones that won!

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I am trying to get a list of all the winners, but here are the ones I know of. As soon as I know the rest (and am back online in Germany after my flight) I will add!

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 AUDIENCE AWARD

Trailer Mexico City International Airport from above – NYCDFF from Postandfly on Vimeo.

 ARCHITECTURE

The Fallout from AeroCine on Vimeo.

 X-FACTOR

DRONIE

Floating from Florian Fischer on Vimeo.

BEST NARRATIVE/ BEST FILM

 

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The epic “My Rode Reel” film competition returns for 2015 and it’s bigger and better than ever! http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/05/myrodereel/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/05/myrodereel/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 22:19:28 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33464 600x315_second_shooter

My RØDE Reel 2015 with over $200,000 in Prizes from RØDE Microphones on Vimeo.

Last year’s “My Rode Reel” was an exceptional film competition. I was lucky enough to be on the judging panel, and the quality was just exceptional.

This was last year’s “Judges Prize” winner and my favourite…

The quality of the entries were so impressive last year, and I am expecting even better quality this year with people seeing the high standard of stuff that was in competition last year.

What makes this competition different is the need to have two videos. The actual film and a behind-the-scenes showing how you made it. This makes it both incredibly creative and also educational for people watching the entries.

I am judging again this year alongside Ryan Connolly, Vincent LaForet and Rodney Charters.

There are more categories/ genres which are also more refined than last year. This is defiantly going to a big help, and I am certain a couple of those categories are going to have a lot of entries! :)

Although making a great film is a prize in itself, having the chance of winning amazing prizes helps a lot, and this year the prizes are bigger and better! Just LOOK at them!!

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This is how long you have left to enter. Don’t wait until the last-minute! Entries close on the 1st June at Midday Sydney time  

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From the official press release:

Monday March 2nd 2015, Sydney Australia – Pro-audio brand RØDE Microphones is excited to announce that the ‘My RØDE Reel’ international short film competition – first launched in 2014 to huge international acclaim – will return in 2015, with an increased total prize pool of more than $200,000 in prizes.

My RØDE Reel’s inaugural competition saw RØDE receive a staggering 1,120 entries from 76 countries worldwide, with nine category winners sharing a total prize pool of over $70,000, making it the largest short film competition of its kind.

Entrants to ‘My RØDE Reel’ are required to create a short film of three minutes or less, as well as a behind-the-scenes reel that features a RØDE product being used during the production of the film. RØDE has provided an entry pack that steps through the process, as well as templates for scripting, storyboarding and more, available now by registering at www.myrodereel.com.

There are three main awards and prize packs of filmmaking gear available to win — a Judges’ Film award for the best short film in competition, a Judges’ BTS award for the best behind-the-scenes reel, and a publicly voted People’s Choice award for the most popular short film.  Each of these award winners will be presented with an enviable production filmmaking kit valued at more than $40,000.

Additional technical and genre awards and prize packs are available for Best Sound Design, Best Soundtrack and more, and for the first time in 2015 RØDE has announced a Young Filmmaker award, to acknowledge and encourage entrants under the age of 18.

Joining an incredible list of sponsors and bringing the 2015 total prize pool to more than $200,000 are Atomos and Freefly Systems, supplying their Shogun 4K RAW Recorder and MOVI M5 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer respectively to multiple prize packs.  They join an already illustrious list of sponsors including BlackMagic, Carl Zeiss lenses, Miller tripods, RedRock Micro rigs, SmallHD and Teradek monitoring equipment, Kessler sliders and jibs, ThinkTank Photo bags, Event studio monitors, G-Technology storage solutions, software from Adobe and RedGiant, licensing credit from The Music Bed and Film Supply, and of course plenty of RØDE microphones. A full list of the prize packs is available at www.myrodereel.com.

Once again, RØDE has brought together a respected judging panel for ‘My RØDE Reel’ that includes inspirational pioneer filmmakers Philip Bloom, Ryan Connolly, Vincent LaForet and Rodney Charters.

“Last year’s My RØDE Reel was really one of the best film competitions I have ever judged.” commented Philip Bloom. “The calibre of entries from all over the world was superb. I can’t wait to see what we get this year, it’s going to be even better I am sure.”

“I’m really excited to engage with the next generation of filmmakers and to see what they come up with in the RODE Reel competition in 2015” added Vincent LaForet. “2014 was an impressive year and I can’t wait to see what they come up with this time!”

Putting its “money where its mouth is”, RØDE has put together its own short film plus a complete series of behind the scenes tutorials to highlight the production process. Hosted by filmmaker Clinton Harn and the RØDE Production team, the course guides viewers through the filmmaking process from pre-production through to shooting and on to post-production.

Entries for ‘My RØDE Reel’ are open from March 2nd and close June 1st. All entrants will receive the exclusive 2015 My RØDE Reel Directors T-shirt, and a free subscription to Hollywood DP Shane Hurlbut’s “Inner Circle” online community.

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For one week only watch the entire first episode of “The Wonder List” for free, no region restrictions! http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/02/wonderlistepiosdeone/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/02/wonderlistepiosdeone/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:47:13 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33451 600x315_second_shooter

Last night was the premiere episode of the series that has taken up most of my time for the past 7 months, “The Wonder List.”

It’s been an epic endeavor and has taken us to 5 continents and 8 countries.

The series airs a new episode at 10pm (EST) every Sunday on CNN in the USA, but it’s not on CNN International. It’s being distributed globally for broadcast on numerous TV channels worldwide. I don’t have a timetable or know who or where…just that it’s coming!

Fantastically CNN.COM have brilliantly put up a the entire first episode for anyone in the world to watch via streaming from their site! It’s for ONE WEEK ONLY then it gets pulled.

I am really happy this has happened, as so many people have asked when and where they can see it. It’s not ideal, it’s a very compressed HD stream, but it’s better than nothing! This won’t happen for future broadcasts. Just this premiere episode, so watch it while you can. As soon as I know of when and where it’s showing globally, I will share this info!gratical_affiliate_728_3a

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Filming on a Volcano in Vanuatu with the Sony FS7

Filming on a Volcano in Vanuatu with the Sony FS7

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Filming on Tanna with the Movi M5 and the Sony A7s

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Lots of gear being loaded up in the one car on one of the islands in Vanuatu!

Lots of gear being loaded up in the one car on one of the islands in Vanuatu!

So click here or on the image below to be taken to the page where you can stream this!

Below this is a little edit I did for myself of some footage shot for the first episode featuring the Yakel tribe. They feature in the episode but not in the format I have done. There is just so much wonderful footage that it’s great to be able to do little things like this! wonder list behind the shot

Also there is the 8 part “Behind The Shot” series where I take a look at a specific shot from each episode and explain some background about it. The first 3 episodes are up and the rest will follow soon!

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Next week’s “The Wonder List” is about the Galapagos so be sure to tune into that if you can!

The in-depth blog posts are still coming, just a little bit behind. Always playing catch-up! :)

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The Wonder List: Yakel Village, Vanuatu from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

 

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3 day documentary filmmaking workshop in NY with B&H and Canon! Free BVE Talks and win a MoVI M5 whilst at the show! http://philipbloom.net/2015/02/19/bcvemovinewyorkworkshop/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/02/19/bcvemovinewyorkworkshop/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 18:10:30 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33408 1_192610_BVE-2015

Two, no, three big things here about stuff coming up. The first, in chronological order are the two free talks I am giving for BVE next week.

They are on the first two days at 1345 and 1330 respectively. The first is on 4K of course. I have done talks on 4K before, but time progresses. Where are we now? Has much changed? Should you be shooting 4K?

The second is about shooting the new CNN series “The Wonder List” and how I chose to make my life hell by using said 4K, super super motion, drones and a MoVI M5!

Don’t forget to register for the show! Click here to do that!

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Shooting in Mumbai with the Sony F55

Shooting in Mumbai with the Sony F55

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On the subject of the MoVI M5, I have teamed up with makers Freefly to give away the same system I used throughout shooting The Wonder List,

Freefly MōVI M5 Essentials Bundle (M5, Pelican Case, Spektrum Controller)

 

 

Toad In The Hole Quick Release

 

 

MōVI Ring

 

Total Value: $5395 USD 

 

How can you win this? 

 

All you need to do is swing by the Freefly booth and get your badge scanned to be entered to win. Once all entries have been collected, a name will be randomly selected and the winner announced. Must be present to win! This will happen just after my second talk, so around 2:30pm or as close to that as I can get, depending on how much I get stopped trying to rush over there! :)

 

It will be great to see everyone at the BVE show. I am only there until this giveaway, then I have to race to Heathrow (yes…right the other side of London!) to catch a plane to New York to be there for shooting more “Behind the shot” episodes and for publicity, as the show premieres on Sunday the 1st March! Very exciting!

CNN’s “The Wonder List” Trailer from Philip Bloom on Vimeo

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3 day New York documentary filmmaking workshop!

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“We’ll Whack Manhattan” from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

After the great success of my 2-day filmmaking workshop at B&H last October, (above is what I shot of the attendees in action!) we are doing another one and making it better by making it longer! This time the focus is specifically on documentary filmmaking, and Canon are sponsoring this one. Each attendee will shoot and edit their own mini doc in New York. The subject? That will be up to you.

This is a FREE workshop and is limited to strictly 25 places. It’s also NOT on a first come first served basis. Much like the last one, you will need to apply for a place. Myself and B&H’s director of marketing Jesicca Bruzzi will assess on the applications.

This will be an intense 3 days and is certainly not for everyone, and is from APRIL 19th till the 21st.

Day one: You will be in the classroom working in teams with me, practicing various exercises and techniques covering moment, visual storytelling, advanced composition, audio and interview technique…all designed to enhance your documentary filmmaking skills in preparation for…

Day two: You will be challenged to find your own story and create a 2-3 minute mini documentary.  I will of course give you lots of guidance on day one, but here you will be left to your own devices! You will not see me on Day two unless you need to. This is valuable time to find and shoot your mini documentary. You will also be expected to start editing at some point that day. There will be edit time on day three, but I thoroughly recommend at least clipping everything up to make your life easier the next day.

Day three:  We will return to the class room to finish your edits and then in the afternoon, whether they are fully finished or not, we screen your work!

This is not a beginner’s class. Attendees will need to be familiar with shooting video on your chosen camera and be a proficient editor. While I will be there on day there to help you out, if you don’t know how to edit, please do not apply. This is a very important skill that you will need to attend this workshop.

You need to bring your own equipment: as in Camera, lenses, filters, audio recorder (or if you have a proper video camera record in camera), lav mic for interviews and of course a good tripod and maybe even lights!

B&H will have a series of Canon DSLRs and lenses on hand for loaners if you would like to try something new.

Does this sound like the workshop for you? If so myself, B&H, and Canon would like to invite you to apply for this workshop. Please sign up using this page, but also send the following information to Jesicab@bhphoto.com

Tell us about you and your work?

What equipment do you currently use?

What do you hope to get from this workshop?

How would you rate your shooting and editing skills?

Send us a short video of something you have shot and edited.

You will not be considered for this workshop unless you complete the entire application process and give us answer to these questions. We expect the demand to be very high for this workshop, the one in October had quite a lot of applicants! You have until March 15th to apply! So get cracking!!

Who sort of person do I want to be at the workshop? I am not looking for the best filmmakers. I am looking for people who I feel could benefit from this workshop. How I will decide this will be very much based upon the video you send us and what you say. So please, be 100% honest about everything. Don’t brag, don’t be too humble. Just straight down the line please! :)

You will also need to register on the Eventbrite website when applying

To give you an idea on what is possible in one day, I shot and cut this mini doc below using the Canon 1DX. Nothing was set up. I didn’t even start looking for a subject until 2pm that day, then came across this old movie theatre, spent a couple of hours there, and this is the end result. This is longer than I want from you so don’t worry!

 

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Shadows & Light: A unique 2-day filmmaking event in the UK in March. Great seminars and workshops! Tickets on sale now! http://philipbloom.net/2015/01/31/shadowslight/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/01/31/shadowslight/#comments Sat, 31 Jan 2015 16:14:38 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33363 gratical_affiliate_728_3a

EDIT: Don’t miss out on the film competition to win a place at the first ever “Shadows & Light”!

I am really excited to announce that booking is open for the first ever “Shadows & Light”. An 2 day even for filmmakers in Brighton on the 23rd and 24th March.

We created this event based on your feedback after I posted a few months back asking what it was you wanted to see from an event like this. Well this is the culmination of a lot of hard work, and it’s going to be totally worth it. 2 days of fantastic, inspiring talented speakers like Vincent LaForet, Nino Leitner, Haz Dullul with more to be added. Plus mini workshops covering a multitude of filmmaking topics, terrific networking, socialising from the Sunday night through to the end with my favourite test spot for new cameras, Brighton Beach, right on the corner.

Below is from when I was last there in December with James Miller testing out the Shogun and the A7s. The first shots are from my home town of Richmond. Below that is my A7s low light test film “Now I See” also shot in Brighton! Thankfully it will be much warmer at the end of March!

James Miller shooting in Brighton

James Miller shooting in Brighton

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Now I See from Philip Bloom on Vimeo. Tickets are on sale now at an early bird discount of £495 for the two days. This is until February the 21st. After that the price goes up to the full £595. There are limited spaces of course, so don’t wait too long, as we expect this to fill up quickly! We also have a fantastic location. A terrific classic cinema in the lanes of Brighton. Full details about topics, speakers and everything on the website here!

BOOK HERE!!

Screenshot 2015-01-31 16.00.10 Why do we need something like this? Here are my thoughts…

Education in filmmaking is more important than ever. Back in my day, there really were just two choices: film school, or some sort of apprenticeship in a company. Self-taught filmmakers were few and far between, due to the prohibitive cost of equipment, both cameras and editing software. Things have changed drastically, of course. With the onset of affordable but high quality cameras and editing tools, it’s a great time to be a filmmaker.

Now it’s down to the individual, their skill, their ideas, their talent. There was a time not so long ago when the people getting lots of work making corporates and working for some broadcast shows got these jobs because they had the gear. Not because of their talent.

Thankfully that has now changed! My path that started on October 9th 1989 when I was 18, was taking a job at Sky TV working in a portacabin with a degaussing machine recycling tapes. I peeled off labels, ran them through the machines and put new labels on…for six months for £145 a week.

I got my foot in the door and from there moved up a step to a newsroom runner, where I bugged everyone because I wanted to learn. Once in that position, I learnt from some incredibly talented cameramen. It was one of the best forms of education I could do to become a cameraman. It was a journey and took time, but it was totally worth it. It was the best training I could have had.

Seventeen years after starting at Sky, I left to become freelance, and in those eight years since, the learning has gone overdrive! That is key. You never stop learning. You never know it all. You make mistakes – and you learn how to improve from those. This process takes time. Your lifetime! When you realise you never stop learning is when you begin to take your work up a notch.

wonderlist blog posts

First post now up! Second coming soon!

To be a good filmmaker, you need to know how things are done. Personally, I believe you should know how everything is done. Not so you do it all, which sometimes you will of course, but to give you a better understanding of the process. A better respect for specialists and what is achievable. A full understanding of the filmmaking craft.

Through my website I have given back, and it’s become much more than a place to help me get jobs. It’s become an educational resource, and in the seven years it’s been running, I also started doing workshops and seminars. It has been my way of giving back. My way of helping people learn, like I was helped by cameramen when working for Sky. Screenshot-2014-09-18-00.19.58-670x355 That’s what brings us on to Shadows & Light.

There aren’t enough events like this outside of the U.S. and we’ve decided it’s time to correct that! Having spoken at numerous multi-speaker events over the years, I know what works and what doesn’t. The closest thing to this I have done is the excellent “Masters In Motion” in the US that I have been involved with for years…but that’s always in Austin, Texas!

We had the Converge event a few years back which was also similar, but there were only two of those. It really is the time to have a new event for filmmakers with accomplished filmmakers speaking and covering different filmmaking topics…not just fantastic seminars but 4 excellent mini workshops that all attendees get to do. I will be taking one of them.

There are still some speakers to be announced, and that will be very soon, but I promise they will be of a very high quality indeed!

EDIT: Great news Vincent LaForet will be joining us!

Nino Leitner

James Tonkin

James Tonkin

I have never been involved in organising an event before. I am always hired in. I have been co-organising this with Fraser McGruer who has a lot of experience in organising things like this. I am on board to offer my advice, leaving him to do all the work! It’s a bit like when I make films, I really hate producing but love the creative side of things! :)

Tickets are on sale now at an early bird discount of £495 for the two days. This is until February the 21st. After that the price goes up to the full £595. There are limited spaces of course, so don’t wait too long as we expect this to fill up quickly!

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“THE WONDER LIST” POST 1: Choosing the right cameras http://philipbloom.net/2015/01/22/wonderlistpart1/ http://philipbloom.net/2015/01/22/wonderlistpart1/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 10:13:17 +0000 http://philipbloom.net/?p=33193 wonderlist blog posts PART 1

ETHICS STATEMENT: There are lots of banners and web links to products in these posts. More than usual because I am talking about these specific products. These are products I use regularly and are linked to affiliates. Any purchases of these products through these help support this website, its reviews and posts, without costing you a penny more. For more on my ethics please read my ethics statement here. Thank you! :)

CNN’s “The Wonder List” Trailer from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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Shooting in Mumbai with the Sony F55

Shooting in Mumbai with the Sony F55

This is the first in a series of posts about the filming of CNN’s first in-house-produced documentary series, which I was hired to be the director of photography for. Other CNN shows like “Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown” are produced externally. I will be covering many aspects of production from the selection of gear, to travelling, shooting, audio and much more!

Principle photography for the 1st series of CNN’s “The Wonder List” has just wrapped. Filming in 5 continents broken up across 5 months and condensed into 8 episodes! The series is about places, people, creatures that have to be seen before they might disappear. We get to meet incredible people, see amazing landscapes and astonishing creatures, but also look at what is causing this potential threat and where anything being done to stop it.

For example, one episode is about sinking Venice, another about the threat to the wildlife of the Galapagos, another is an episode about the Greek Island of Ikaria, where there is one of the 5 biggest concentrations of people who live past 100…but that’s changing. It was a fascinating series to shoot and I hope will be the same to watch!

We used a LOT of gear, and for a crew as small as we had, it was a massive undertaking, especially given my decision to bring some high-end production devices normally used by me in high-end corporates and commercials. Very much not the norm for a documentary series like this!

This first post covers that eternally tricky question “Which camera to use” very much like a common email question I get “Which camera should I buy?”

It’s incredibly important, as a the wrong camera can handicap you and can make shooting way more challenging than it needs to be.

Filming on a Volcano in Vanuatu with the Sony FS7

Filming on a Volcano in Vanuatu with the Sony FS7

Assessing the Options

There are of course many cameras to choose from. When you’re assessing them, their pros and cons need to be taken into account. I needed super 35mm sensor, excellent image quality, internal full approved for HD broadcast recording format, great ergonomics, and excellent light sensitivity. These are amongst the key factors I considered when assessing the options. I absolutely had no need, like almost every shoot I do, for raw! Just getting that out there. There is a time and a place for it. Documentary and especially broadcast documentary is not it. High end commercials? Feature films? Sure. The massive increase in media, hard drives and post time make in totally unworkable for this kind of shoot. After all, it took until Games Of Thrones’ fourth season I believe to move from ProRes to ARRI RAW!

I learnt my craft in news using on-the-shoulder Betacam cameras. 17 years of back screwing pain in fact! It was only when I went freelance that I started experimenting with different types of video cameras, especially larger sensor ones…and thankfully lighter ones!

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There is nothing easier than shooting a documentary with one of these cameras though. The ergonomics are perfect…it goes on your shoulder! Key too is a nice B4 lens with a big range, meaning you can react fast to things happening, and you rarely need to change lenses unless you want a big wide-angle. None of this prime lens malarkey! ;)

The Key Factors

The look CNN wanted was understandably the large sensor look. This is not a problem and is of course what I shoot with 99.9% of the time. I simply don’t use 2/3″ cameras anymore. Although they’re way less convenient, I shoot my documentaries on DSLR style cameras or mostly on S35 camcorders. These days I consider Micro Four Thirds small!

What’s so good about a large sensor? Well it’s a pain when it comes to glass of course. There is no glass out there that matches the range of a good B4 lens. I need to have 3 zooms to give me a decent constant aperture range. A 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200. That still doesn’t come anywhere near close to my 22x B4 lens with 2x extender. That’s one of the sacrifices with super 35mm or full frame.  The benefits are clear though. It looks BLOODY GORGEOUS! The ability to control my depth of field is wonderful. Shallow when I want. Deep when I want a bigger depth of field. It looks cinematic, and as we shot 24p (23.98p) that is the look I wanted for the show. I wanted the series to look cinematic!

So given that a large sensor is essential, what does that leave us to choose from? Well as of July 2014, when I was choosing, there were a few options.  There are of course more now, and by the time you read this post Sony will most likely have brought out half a dozen more! Back then, it was essentially between two cameras. I don’t consider any of the Blackmagic cameras to be documentary cameras. Terrible ergonomics, awful battery life and poor light sensitivity rule them out. They have many great features, they just aren’t doco cameras for me.

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Using the F55 in Mumbai, India

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Choosing the “A” Camera 

Canon C300 w/ C100 backup (owned by me)

Sony F55 (owned by me)

That’s it!

Sure there are many other options. I am sure people will ask why not the ARRI Amira. Well I haven’t actually used one yet but, it’s a heavy camera and this being a small crew production and a very physical one too, the weight of the camera can make a big difference.

There was also the FS700 from Sony. I owned it at the time, gone now. Replaced by the FS7 which is leaps and bounds better in every way. I never liked it as a documentary camera. Great for other work, just not for documentary. Just my opinion. Poor internal codec, awful screen and ergonomics handicapped a really well-featured camera. You can work around these with a rig and a recorder, but it becomes too big for me to work in this situation. It’s a great camera once you get past these issues, but it wouldn’t work for me here.

CNN told me they use Canon C300 and C100s in-house for their non-news work. I think the C300 is one of the very best Super 35mm camcorders out there for documentary style filming. The image is superb with a lovely 12 stop dynamic range and excellent flat picture profile. The codec is only 50mb/s and 8-bit, but it’s 4:2:2 and surprisingly robust in the grade. Form factor wise, out of the box, it’s actually pretty useable. The rear EVF isn’t horrible and the main screen is excellent. Stick a Zacuto Z-Finder over that screen and it becomes way better.

I have used the camera a lot but I actually sold it last year after buying the F55. I couldn’t justify owning both even though the F55 isn’t as doco friendly as the Canon but it certainly can work in that environment. It’s heavier, uses V-Locks which means more weight (for luggage too), the way it deals with audio isn’t as simple, and it requires a rig.

Shooting with a C300

Shooting with a C300

The exceptional Sony F55 with VOCAS gear on it. Superb add ons to make the camera more user friendly handheld

The exceptional Sony F55 with VOCAS gear on it. Superb add ons to make the camera more user friendly handheld

I do personally think the Sony F55 is (still) the best camera on the market though. It has a superb image, global shutter, good low light sensitivity, works well on the shoulder, good audio handling, 14 stop dynamic range,  in camera 4K and HD as well as 2K crop mode, up to 180fps slow motion internally, slick integration with raw recorder if needed and much more.

It’s at home shooting feature films as it is shooting one-man-band. It’s not cheap though. I bought it 18 months ago under 2-year zero percent finance. So it’s still not paid off yet! When you add it all up, especially the expensive media and EVF (which I wouldn’t buy now having used the Zacuto Gratical) then this is a hell of an investment. Almost as much as I spent when I bought a RED Epic.

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My Sony F55 with the $5k OLED EVF

My Sony F55 with Vocas support gear. Not the hand grip that Sony have essentially adopted as part of the FS7. Very natural way of holding the camera.

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My gorgeous F55 with Small HD DP7 Pro High Bright Monitor, GL Optics 18-35, Vocas gear and RSS FSH-350 tripod

Shooting with the FS7 in Florida

Shooting with the FS7 in Florida

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Bang-for-buck-wise then, that crown belongs to the exceptional Sony FS7 above. I will be doing a review of this soon. This camera wasn’t an option when we started shooting, as it didn’t come out until November last year. Now I think it’s the best documentary camera on the market, but more of that in a later post (and review!)

Making that decision

Truth be told, I prefer the out-of-the camera image of the C300 to that of the Sony cameras. In Cinema Lock mode it’s just lovely. 12 stops of dynamic range, a lovely log profile and wonderful detail…it’s an exceptional HD real-time camera. Now that is where the problem lies. I wanted slow motion. Proper slow motion. More than 60fps and most definitely at more than 720p. That’s the problem with the C300: that’s all it does.

Mount Yasur volcano eruption at 180fps on Sony FS7 for CNN’s “The Wonder List” from Philip Bloom extras on Vimeo.

Super slow motion is one of the things that I wanted to be a signature look of the show when I spoke to CNN.

The job came about after I got an email from the presenter of the show, Bill Weir, asking if I would be interesting in shooting the series. He pitched it to me, it sounded very interesting, and coincidentally I was going to be where the show was being produced, NY, in about a week or so.

I met with him and Amy Entails, Senior Vice President, Talent and Content Development for CNN Worldwide. We chatted about what I had done and most importantly how I envisaged the series looking. I had a few ideas that excited them. I agreed to come on board, and not long after I put together this little video below based upon previously shot work to help us decide on the look of the show.

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Potential techniques/ gear to use for “The Wonder List” from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

That brings us back to the C300 and the desire to use super slow motion. They wanted it, I wanted it, and the C100 doesn’t do it. That meant it had to be the F55. Why the F55 and not the F5? It’s the camera I own that’s why. Simple reason.

We did have the 4K discussion. I wanted to shoot the series in 4K as the place and stories we were going to were so special that I wanted to shoot in the best possible format. Of course CNN isn’t a 4K channel…what is? This would be shot 4K for “future proofing” reasons for the most part.

There was a problem or two though. The increase in cost was obviously a factor, with more money needed for post and storage. A big issue for me would be time needed to offload the material. Knowing how long offload takes as it is, shooting in 4K would add a lot more time to the day (I will be covering this aspect of production in a future post.)

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B Cameras

The other big issue was with the b-cameras. Most likely the Sony A7s was going to be used by myself for certain stuff and also one of CNN’s Canon C300 or C100s. We actually ended up with the C100, which is actually a bloody good camera. I reviewed it a while back, and with its price tag of $4000 now, it’s a bit of a bargain. It has the same gorgeous image as the C300, just with a lesser codec, screen and EVF. Add a Ninja Blade onto it, and you have a killer combo. I haven’t used the C100 II yet, its improvements are there for sure, but it’s not a world away from the Sony FS7 price, whose features eclipse the C100 II by a huge margin…still if all you want is HD then it’s a great camera.

The plan was that there would be a main second shooter in the team. That person would also be the producer for the episode. Two producers alternating episodes. Because of these cameras being used, making a 4K episode would be practically impossible. The Atomos Shogun has only been out about a month…I, like most, expected it to come out much sooner. Without it, or the recently released Convergent Design Odyssey 7q+, then 4K out of the A7s would be impossible.

So with these problems it was decided that we would shoot in HD. I actually shot quite a few times in 4K on the F55 and FS7 on the series for certain magical times that I simply couldn’t bring myself to shoot in “just” HD…it just meant they had to be transcoded for editing.

One of my big pros for shooting 4K for an HD program is the ability to crop. I knew the footage would be ingested as HD by the post production house, so that benefit would be lost. The biggest loss in doing so would be if I had shot the interviews in 4K.  I didn’t, knowing this would be a waste of data and time.

We actually had 3 cameras on most of the interviews. A wide and two dirty singles. This meant three cameras, three DIFFERENT cameras on each interview. My A7s, the C100 and the F55. Matching this is fine if you are a good colourist. If you aren’t a good colourist then best to keep all the cameras the same. What would most definitely help would be using an X-Rite passport below. Shoot this for a second or two on each camera in each lighting environment saves a huge amount of work when colour correcting. I cannot recommend them enough!

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Codecs and bit rates

Normally for HD productions you are told you cameras need to be a certain bit-rate and colour space. The minimum is generally 50mbps and 4:2:2. The Canon C300 fits this….just. The C100 does not, with its 24Mbps and 4:2:0. The A7s is in XAVC-S mode 50Mbps and 4:2:0. The F55 and FS7 in XAVC-I is 100Mbps 4:2:2 and something I feel is more important that colour space is bit depth…it’s 10 bit rather than 8 bit, which all the others are. Even when connected to an external recorder, none of the cameras other than the F55 and FS7 output 10 bit, they are uncompressed and 4:2:2 but still only 8 bit. Whilst this is not the end of the world, it’s often a big consideration when choosing which camera.

Interestingly, there were no guidelines set by CNN for the show, but that didn’t stop me wanting to shoot in a decent format. The A-camera was sorted out, as I mentioned the F55 is of a very high quality internally. To improve the B-Cameras, external recorders would need to be used. For the C100 and A7s that generally meant the Atomos Ninja Blade. An affordable monitor/ recorder combo. It can record in various forms of ProRes or avid DNxHD. I do very much recommend it. Although the A7s XAVC-s codec is actually pretty damn good. If you shoot in S-log 2 though, I would really recommend using an external recorder as it needs more treatment in post, so the better more robust codec is preferred.

For more on codecs check out David Kong’s post on my site hereScreenshot 2015-01-22 23.59.28

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My collection of GoPro 4 and 3+ on a boat out in the Galapagos

My collection of GoPro 4 and 3+ on a boat out in the Galapagos

GoPros would also be used heavily on every episode. They are great to put anywhere and of course essential for underwater filming unless you go down the whole underwater housing route for the main cameras. Also for use with the DJI Phantom, where using one was permitted. I will talk more about these and using the Inspire One later on in the series in a future blog post about the actual day-to-day shooting.

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Why the A7s?

The Sony A7s is an incredible little camera. If you follow me on my various social media platforms, you will have seen me sharing quite a lot from this camera from the shoots.

My original idea was to use this as B camera to replace the F55 when the F55 was too conspicuous or too awkward, and of course for any real low light situations. What actually transpired was that I brought the amazing Movi M5 with me to a get together for the team before we started filming,

I wasn’t planning on using it for the series, but after using it for a few pre-shoot shots, it had to come with. Throughout the shooting of the series it became absolutely essential and it features heavily. I will be covering how I used it in a separate future Wonder List blog post soon.

SUPERMOON: Low light test for CNN’s “The Wonder List” from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

Using the A7s in Mumbai after getting grief for using the F55!

Using the A7s in Mumbai after getting grief for using the F55!

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Movi M5, A7s in Venice

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Movi M5, A7s, Small HD DP7 Pro, Rode Video Mic Pro in India

 


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That’s it for post one! The second post is about which accessories I used. Which monitors, mics, after shave. All the essentials. Then the next post is about how to travel with it all. The need or not need for carnets, packing, excess baggage etc. Then we get onto the actual shooting part both the creative decisions and practical realities. Lots of posts to come! Brace yourselves!!

Until then, here is the teaser that went live on New Year’s Eve on CNN, shot with a pre-production Inspire One back in November!

“The Wonder List” premieres on Sunday March 1st at 10pm EST. I don’t know how it is being broadcast internationally yet.

“The Wonder List” New Year Teaser from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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