Digital Bolex D16 has “Filmic Mojo,” says director of hot new Peter Pan Bakery doc

by steven schwartz8 Comments

“I've been accused of being poetic about the Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera's image,” said Peter Haas.

He and Keif Roberts produced and directed “Peter Pan Bakery,” the hot new documentary chronicling the charm of a family-owned donut shop in the fast-changing Brooklyn, NY neighborhood of Greenpoint.

Peter went on, “When I looked at the dailies, I was blown away by the warm, nostalgic, look from the Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera combined with a set of vintage, C-mount lenses.”

“Too many people focus on the number of megapixels rather than how the image makes an audience feel. It's kind of a Spock vs. Kirk kind of thing.”

Peter went on, “The Digital Bolex D16 Cinema Camera helped us tell our story in a way that's hard to put into words, but the closest I can come is that the camera's image puts the audience into the story by its “filmic mojo.”

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Digital Bolex D16

And, if you like their documentary, let them know by putting something into their Vimeo Tip Jar.

“PETER PAN BAKERY” Peeks Behind the Scenes At Iconic Brooklyn Pastry Shop

From: Peter Pan Bakery Press Release:

The new short film “PETER PAN BAKERY” (dir. Keif Roberts & Peter J. Haas) examines locals who work and dine at the family-owned Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop, a long-standing establishment withstanding waves of change that are engulfing the Brooklyn neighborhood of Greenpoint.

Pete Wells, New York Times restaurant critic, has called the shop a mainstay of New York pastry tradition:

“The fillings don’t go much beyond strawberry jam, and if they happen to be local, it’s strictly a coincidence. But when you… pine for something ‘old-time, from when a donut cost a dime,’ this is the place for you.”

The Polish-dominated neighborhood around Peter Pan is one of the latest hot points of gentrification. Many life-long residents are finding themselves forced to leave their neighborhood as rents skyrocket.

“Greenpoint was resistant to development, but now that’s changing. [Peter Pan] is an anchor to what Greenpoint has been over the years.” – Sven, 20-year Greenpoint resident, interviewed in the film.

For over sixty years, through waves of immigration and gentrification alike, the counters at Peter Pan has remained a consistent space for for coffee, donuts, and conversation.

“What’s beautiful about this place is that it’s half the people who grew up here their whole life and then you have the younger people coming into the neighborhood.” – Bob, 76, a Peter Pan regular who has earned the nickname “The Ambassador” for his ability to make connections.

“Peter Pan Bakery” explores the personalities inhabiting the counter space where old and new clientele mingle, painting an intimate portrait of the bakery as an unwavering neighborhood institution. The documentary is also one of the first films to be totally shot on the Digital Bolex D16, a reimagining of a classic camera for the 21st century.

Watch “Peter Pan Bakery” Online At:

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


  1. Very nice color, organic look, decent storytelling. The filmmakers could make much better use of natural light, and take the time to remove the green cast of florescent lighting with post production tools. My issue with the digital bolex camera work here is that while is has a great grip, using it with classic lenses means a very jittery, jiggly picture that is not nostaligic but distracting. The orginal 16mm movies were also in 1.37:1 aspect ratio which means that if you have actually watched 16mm films, this wider screen ratio for Peter Pan Bakery detracts from that nostalgic feel. My recommendation is if they are going to shoot without a tripod for interviews, the filmmakers mount the camera on a semi-stable support like a fluid head monopod or one of those steadi-sticks that hooks on your belt. The subtle 3-axis wobble makes these interviews uncomfortable to watch for no reason; in other words, in this day and age there is no reason for unmotivated camera movement. If you do jittery hand held it should be to deliberately make the audience uncomfortable or convey an emotion, not just because your camera has a handle underneath it and you’re holding it by the handle. That’s fine for B-roll but not for documentary interviews unless there is no other option. I realize they are in a crowded bakery but with a steadi-stick those interviews could have had a “living camera” look and still minimize distracting camera work. A cheap battery powered LED light for a bit of fill would have been nice also, since many of these interviews were back lit by the big window. I know this all sounds very negative, but it’s honestly not meant that way. My main idea is that the Digital Bolex is not a video camera, and with all the little cheap tools and accessories the DSLR revolution has spawned, there’s no reason to operate it as if it were a handi-cam, even if you want to keep the production low key and organic. Keep making films, and try to use more natural light with bounce cards and cheap diffusion. You can do amazing things with a shower curtain, a piece of white foam core, and a $30 LED light.

    1. I sort of agree and disagree about the handheld. Handheld isn’t necessarily unmotivated movement, it;s a style now. And handheld talking head scenes? Welcome to a lot of documentary and reality tv show work.

    2. I agree completely with you.
      After the buildup I thought, oh yeah lets see this camera being put through its paces, and by the 3rd shot I realized these guys had no idea what they were doing.
      A great idea for a doc, spoiled by some basic errors. Here’s my tip – watc some docs, buy a few lights. Try to avoid blowing out every window.
      And as for the Bolex, looks like I’ll have to wait for Bloom’s effort to see if its actually any good.
      And I’m not a Bloom fan either! 🙂

  2. It looks like any other digital acquisition to me. In fact, it looks to me like a lot of stuff I see kids making DSLRs. All the current tropes of shallow depth of field, handheld-cam, ‘filmic’ grade and wide screen don’t in any way change that. Film doesn’t need any of these affectations as the very medium supplies the magic. I shot film for many years and have also used most of the current digital ” film” cameras and it ain’t the same. This is why so many features are still shot on film – because there really is no substitute ( in fact, believe all of the ‘best film’ nominations for this year’s Academy Awards were wholly or partially shot on film ). You can still make nice pictures with digital but I’d love it if one of my clients let me load up one of my old Bolexes with some of the 7218 out of my freezer and go for it – if there were only somewhere nearby to process it.

    1. Those affectations existed in film long before DSLRs and will continue long after. The reason why people loved using DSLRs is because they could get a more filmic shallow dof. I do think film looks better, but at the same time you’re doing a “those darn kids with their new things, we never did that stuff back in the day, we didn’t need it!” Except you did do those things.

      Of the best pictures, I think Her and Nebraska were shot digitally, and a good chunk of Wolf of Wall Street. Pretty sure Philomena was for most of it. Dallas Buyers Club was shot on the Red. So that’s half the Best Picture nominees unless I’m incorrect.

  3. Hey folks,

    We’ve been experiencing some great success with the documentary, and there’s some exciting news coming up soon! So thank you everyone (especially the folks at Planet 5D!) for all the support.

    If you’re looking for more background on the conditions that we were shooting under you can read about it here:

    Couldn’t have gotten this far without you all!


  4. the look of this camera is soo organic and film like there is no other camera look that can touch it,i mean this video lpook like amazed,even raw video doesnt look as organic and 16mmish.i would love to shoot a project with this camera.nothing can compare.if you want a true film look,,use this camera,simple as that.i read all the comments that try to pick apart the camera,get a life,the ideaz came out for this camera when the panasonic dvx100 was all the rage for 24p.

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