6 minute read

Californian Culture

As sunrise casts a long shadow of the American West over the Pacific, a wild few paddle out in pursuit of freedom. There, among the breakers, Gino Woulard filmed his love letter to the lifestyle – FUJIFILM X-H2S in hand

For a certain kind of individual, nature simply cannot be admired from a distance. The pull of complete unity with the forces at play overcomes any sense of complacency. Balanced atop a surfboard, floating beneath a canopy, or clinging to a sheer rock face, these daring souls exist in a world that must be experienced to be truly understood. Photographs and films offer only a taste – but how sweet it is.

“I’ve been skateboarding my whole life, but I started surfing just two years ago. It’s something I’ve fallen completely in love with,” says Gino Woulard. His short film, Poise, is a passion project, through and through.

“Overall, the film is about showcasing the Californian lifestyle. That includes a sense of balance, between your work life and whatever relief you can find. For me, and a lot of people living in California, it’s going to the beach. Whether you’re surfing, swimming, diving, or just sitting out, it’s the best reset. Our entire coastline is flooded with folks coming from all over, looking to escape the more mundane parts of life. It’s very meaningful for me, to explore that experience creatively.”

As a schooled cinematographer, and having been involved in film production since he was knee-high, it’s no surprise Gino began the project with a distinct set of intentions. Jilting industry norms, however, his approach is traditionally anti-gear orientated.

“Initially, I was very tech-headed,” he explains. “But, when I was 20, working on a commercial project, I was hit with the realization that having all the latest professional kits didn’t matter to me. The content we were creating could still be amazing. I sold all my gear and, from that point on, bought the cheapest cameras I could find. I was determined to make it work, to show people that you can do a lot with the tools at your disposal.

Man in distant waves filming surfer

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 and XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, 1/3200 sec at F5.6, ISO 800

“Coming into Poise, I had a detailed shot list, but we weren’t tied to it. When I’m directing, I like to have a solid foundation, but I also know that the most magical moments happen when you set the camera down in the wrong spot. Sometimes, the unplanned moments end up being the best sequences in the video.

“We filmed in four locations – Downtown LA, Hollywood, San Diego and Laguna Beach – which required around 500 miles of travel. It was a hectic two days, that’s for sure.”

Through physical proximity between subject and lens, Gino places the viewer in the heart of the film. We are not observers, but participants. Bathed in the warm glow of Californian sunshine, it’s an engaging experience.

“I am drawn to natural light and a wide perspective,” the filmmaker continues. “The beach scenes from Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight were also a big inspiration. It’s very intimate. You’re with the characters the whole time and you feel everything they’re feeling. In Poise, the subjects aren’t necessarily going through those same deep emotions, but there’s certainly a feeling of camaraderie, being with your friends, and sharing an experience together. I wanted to portray that through the cinematography.

“With most traditional surf films, you’re using a lens anywhere up to 400mm, from the beach. Staying close felt way more natural to me – to be with people the whole time, then to embrace it when they catch a good wave. Plus, this approach makes the filmmaking experience even more fun, and isn’t that why we all start doing this?” Gino effuses.

Filmmaker in wetsuit walking out of ocean with camera

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 and XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, 1/2500 sec at F5.6, ISO 800

To see a low swell engulf the camera is undoubtedly special. The power of the ocean, and the grace of the surfers as they deftly cut through it, is all the more apparent. Gino offers insight into the process.

“We get the fins on, and it’s California in March, meaning the water is about 50°F, so we wear full suits. The camera’s waterproof housing is super compact and easy to use. If you have one lens and you don’t need to go back to shore to swap it out, that set-up is bulletproof. It really is incredible. Within that housing, X-H2S’s autofocus is one of the biggest game changers I’ve ever experienced.

“We were able to set it up to limit focus between three and 12ft. You don’t want autofocus to pull away to the bird flying by, or the horizon in the distance. By setting an autofocus range, I know only the subjects I want will be tracked. It takes so much stress out of an already challenging task. When we were in the water, we didn’t have to think about anything except framing. The camera did everything else. FUJINON Premista Cine Zoom lenses were an option, but I wanted to stick with the FUJINON XF lenses, because of their autofocus capabilities and how much lighter they made our run-and-gun rig.”

Two filmmakers inspecting camera in waterproof housing

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 and XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/1500 sec at F4, ISO 500

Gino’s main optic of choice was the FUJINON XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR. “A 50mm equivalent has always been my favorite focal length, because it’s the widest you can go without distortion,” he explains. “Plus, the image XF33mm resolves is a perfect complement to X-H2S’s sensor.”

It seems only fitting that a sharp lens would be a fine companion for X Series’ highest-resolution video output to date, within the context of a beautifully naturalistic film. It’s one of many new specs Gino relished.

“We filmed the whole thing at 6.2K in 3:2 ratio, to utilize the entire sensor. It was incredible to see what it’s capable of firsthand, especially in a body this small,” he says. “Internal 10-bit 4:2:2 made colors look incredible, so that’s a pretty special addition. And we had a good friend of mine – a professional surf videographer – come out for some slow-motion sequences. Dropping down to 240P is beautiful, but 24P excites me the most. I love the way it looks and feels. With X-H2S’s IBIS, we created all of those scenes handheld very easily. You don’t miss the absence of a global shutter, either” Gino adds. “Every bit of motion looked smooth and natural. Overall, it’s just a beautiful image from an incredible camera.”

You’d be forgiven for believing Gino has experienced another change of heart with X-H2S, turning his back on the anti-gear approach adopted in his younger years. But it’s quite the contrary. You see, the filmmaker’s aversion is not to any technological advancement – it’s to the figurative oversalting of the creative pot. In fact, he believes the new addition embodies his methodology entirely.

“For $2499, you’re getting all the quality you’d find in a lot of high-end cinema cameras. You can ditch the $20,000 body in favor of this small mirrorless camera. I don’t have to carry ten cases full of gear. I just need to pack X-H2S,” Gino surmises.

“Thanks to the camera’s features, we didn’t have to hire a focus puller, and we didn’t have to hire a digital imaging technician to manage color. We were able to create a high-quality short film, at a fraction of the price it would usually cost. Out on location, it meant thinking more about the content, and less about the tools.”

Young filmmaker walking along ocean shore holding camera

Photo 2022 © Michael Bulbenko | FUJIFILM X-T4 and XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, 1/1150 sec at F5.6, ISO 1600

FUJIFILM X-H2S is coming soon to your nearest FUJIFILM Authorized Dealer. Learn more and read the full specifications here.


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