The most ridiculous thing I have ever done…the “DigitalRev Cheap Camera Challenge” with…BARBIE CAM!!

DigitaRev…they are bastards! Well, that’s not entirely fair. I knew what I was getting into when I accepted their “Pro Photographer/ Cheap Camera Challenge” spin-off “Pro Cinematographer/ Cheap Camera Challenge”. I didn’t realise just how bad the camera they would give me was…BLOODY BARBIE VIDEO GIRL!!

barbie_video_girl_out_of_box barbie_video_girl

The idea of DigitalRev’s show has been to show “it’s not the camera…” they have done loads of eps with very talented people like Vincent LaForet and Chase Jarvis. They had it easy, though! 🙂 They only had to take a few stills. I had to make a film!

I could have just done a montage-type thing, but with an image this bad, there would be no beauty here, so content had to be king. I had to create something that would sustain the viewer and, for me, something that was actually fun and entertaining. Quite how I came up with the story I am not sure. Kai told me they had set up 3 things: a traditional lion dance, a place where you eat Ox penis and a Kung Fu girl. So, with 30 minutes to the first location, I furiously scribbled away to come up with something that could tie them together and create a narrative to carry them through…



Watch the making of first if you can!!

Bad Day Barbie from Philip Bloom extras on Vimeo.

Aural Method: The Moonlit Towers Reached Aboce in Blue the Hours Beseeched our Love
Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes: Shoe Fits

I must add that is a bit NSFW  in places!

Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 01.06.44 Screen Shot 2013-12-21 at 01.06.52

As you can see, it was rather weird…but I simply had to embrace the madness of it all! I decided to make the most of the the fact I was using Barbie to film with. I wanted to capture the feel of a real Hong Kong 70’s b movie with this…that actually is really not easy either!

The low light of the camera was beyond terrible. You can’t really tell with the BTS as they were using 5DmkIIIs which could see about 6 stops more light than I could AT LEAST!

With an image size of 320p and 15fps, I knew it wasn’t going to be a good image…I didn’t realise it was going to be this bad!!

When I got to the edit I was so downhearted. How could I make this image look halfway decent? With a bit of experimentation, I put the .AVI file (yes .avi) onto a 720p 25p timeline and upscaled it by god it looked AWFUL!! Premiere CC just sort of accepted the odd framerate no problem and with this Super 8mm like frame rate I had to see if my go to plugin FILMCONVERT with a Super 8mm film stock could reduce the awfulness…and guess what? It did as you can see below!

barbie upscaled no filmconvert
Out of the camera upscaled
Sequence 03.Still001
Upscaled and with filmconvert using a super 8mm stock.



Thankfully the planning paid off, despite it being just 30 minutes made up on the spot, with a few tweaks made through the day. What made the piece work for me mostly though was the sound. Not the sound from the camera. That was AWFUL. Although I did use it on one sequence when the tequila shots are placed on the table. The rest was foley. All done in post. Mostly actually from the ever wonderful

With the sound effects and the music from my usual source The Music Bed it just sort of came together, I think. I bought the track “Ninja” from Pond5 as I needed a track for the kung fu sequence on top of that…I feel I really struck gold with the two Music Bed tracks. Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes: Shoe Fits track just worked great for the upbeat first half of the film and felt quite South East Asian, plus the brilliant Aural Method’s “The Moonlit Towers Reached Aboce in Blue the Hours Beseeched our Love” was perfect for the dark second half, especially mixed in with the actually quite sinister Lion Dance music which I randomly found on the net (they were miming as you will remember in the BTS video!)

Well there you go…I hope you enjoyed the show and my mad little short, and if you want to watch the short on its own you can below….but if you haven’t watched the DigitalRev show first please do. It works so much better if you have!

Can I go back to my proper cameras now please?!

Thanks so much to Kai, Richard, Lok, Hilary and Fiona…plus of course Barbie. You are a star and any time you need me give someone else a call. 🙂



  1. ok that ending was a bit dark. I also can’t believe I actually watched the whole thing 🙂

    not your best piece Philip, but no one else could have done any better with that thing, and it’s refreshing to see something very different from your usual work!

  2. I really was expecting a pile of carp (anagram), however the final film was actually quite fun.
    the journey to the end seemed interesting in quite a trying way, and one can only applaude the skill and expertise behind getting something that bad to deliver anything watchable.
    strangely inspiring!
    thank you for posting.

  3. Barbie Cam. Two words and you already know it’s going to be Comedy Gold. And after I stopped laughing so hard I cried I actually watched the video. What a creative talent. No one else would have done as well with so limited a time to prepare. But somehow I think we would have noticed if you had snuck in the A7R.

    Well done.

  4. Crazy thing is, such is the pull of DigitalRev this could be one of your most popular YouTube videos.

    With 134k views so far in 2 days, it’s already sailed past the 122k Dublin’s people !

  5. As always, I couldn’t make it through the whole DR episode.
    But i definitely made it through that awesome barbie camera video of yours.
    You ARE a great source of inspiration. No not just your work. You as a whole.
    More people should love you 🙂

  6. The biggest take-away from this is “do the job with professionalism – respect the brief, please the client, entertain/inform the viewers” – yeah, even if that means using a doll. Second take-away is ‘know the limits of your medium – by all means stretch them but don’t snap them’.

    I think that, to Kai’s chagrin, you’ve set the bar very high for his Video challenge.

    It’s the revenge of reality TV – when those in front of the camera get to upstage the organisers.

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