Achieving a “film look” is something that most aspiring filmmakers strive to accomplish. We always want our work to appear as masterpieces, but sometimes we aren’t sure how to capture those little nuances that could help push it over the edge. The advent of dSLR video helped bring video production capabilities to the masses, but getting that classic look of film continues to be a steady pursuit of many.
But, don’t be feint of heart! With some simple tricks, from adjusting camera settings to tweaking in post-production, you can be well on your way to getting the result you want!
This tutorial that I had found a while back provided some valuable tips and insights into bringing the film look into the low-end segment of the digital age.
A Few Tips
- Make sure that you have your camera set on manual exposure control. You don’t want your camera deciding to change its mind in the middle of a scene and switch up the exposure on you.
- Be sure that your image settings are set to a neutral balance of contrast and saturation. (I actually adjust my custom settings to remove all in-camera contrast and saturation when shooting.) This will give you a better starting point for post-production and color grading than if you were having to contend with over-saturdation and funky contrast.
- Set the frame rate to 24 fps as this is the standard frame rate used in cinema.
- Make sure that your shutter speed is double the frame rate to help better control motion blur.
- Use the ISO settings to control your exposure.
- Use shallow depth of field (wide aperture) to direct the focus of the viewer for closer shots and a smaller aperture (large depth of field) for wider shots.
- If editing in a program that has the feature available, use shot stabilization to smooth our your footage.
- Use color grading to your advantage. Cool, dark color are best for conveying a moody effect, and warmer colors are best for giving the feeling of happiness or excitement.
- Use RGB curves, if your editing software allows it, to adjust the intensity of the darks and highlights within the scene. Most cinematic looks involve extra-dark darks and extra-bright highlights.
- Most cinematic products are shot in a 2.35:1 ratio, while most dSLRs (or other modern consumer cameras) shoot at 16:9. To get the full cinematic effect, place black bars along the top and bottom of your final footage (called “letter boxing”) to trick viewers into thinking you’re Robert Redford.
For Canon users who want to take things to the next level, Magic Lantern is a great option to extend you camera’s capabilities and bring more manual control to your fingertips.
As with most anything in photography, it’s six and one-half dozen of another. As Jake Coppinger tells us in the video, “The best way to learn is to experiment with the tools you have.”