Getting that ‘Film’ Look

Everybody wants it, and most people are clueless as to how to achieve it.  There are a lot of misconceptions out there about what can make your video look like a Hollywood film.

Some people think that simply shooting at 24 frames per second will give them that look.  Others think some black widescreen bars will make it look more professional.  The truth is, no one thing will give you that coveted film look – you have to do several things to get that Hollywood feeling.


1. Depth of Field – This is a key element in making your video look like film.  DSLR cameras and big sensor camcorders are the easiest way to achieve this.  If you do not have a DSLR or big sensor camcorder, try putting as much distance between your subject and your background as you can, and use a long focal lens.  The goal is a shallow depth of field.  In other words, your subject should be sharp, while your background is very out of focus.


2. Color Correction / Grading – This can make or break your video.  If you have good color correction and color grading, your video will look much more polished and professional while taking a major step towards that desired film appearance.  When color grading, I crush my blacks and usually bring up my whites, giving more contrast to the shot.  I also desaturate and give the shots a SUBTLE blue or green hue, which is common in many feature films.  Mudfish No Correction Mudfish Color Grade



   before color grading               after color grading

Be careful not to make the entire scene look blue or green, as this will just look like you white balanced your camera wrong.  Push your shadows towards a cool color and your highlights towards a warm color.  This will balance out the scene and help keep a more natural skin tone in your characters.  You can also adjust the midtones towards a cooler color until you get the desired effect.  Play around with it until you get a look you enjoy!


3. Frame Rate – Most films are shot at 24 frames per second.  Most camcorders will shoot in 24p, so if you are trying to get as much of a cinematic feel as possible, go ahead and set your frame rate to 24.  30 or 60 frames will make it feel more like a TV show than a movie.


4. Widescreen Bars – This is a small touch that will definitely add a film element to your video.  Some editing software has an option to add the widescreen bars to your video, but if your software doesn’t have this option, you can always just fake it.  Try cropping all your video clips until you get the desired look.  Just make sure they are all cropped exactly the same or the bars will move around and kill your effect (and will also be very distracting). 1:85:1 is a common widescreen aspect ration, however I tend to lean more towards 2.35:1.  It is all personal preference, so go with whatever looks best to you.


5. Shooting – Pay attention to how scenes are shot in your favorite movies.  They rarely stay on one shot for more than a few seconds.  Use lots of various angles and lots of cuts between shots (use 5 shots to tell a story where you might have normally only used 1 – be creative) and use little to no zooming on camera.  This is an amateur move that will quickly show your audience you are no professional.  Again, pay attention to how the big boys shoot their scenes.  You will see an occasional dolly or trucking move, or the camera might be hand-held following the action, however all these moves are done for a reason and you still almost never see them zooming in or out.  Oh, and it should go without saying, but USE A TRIPOD!


6. Sound – Even if everything looks great, horrible audio can ruin your movie.  In the same sense, great audio can take video that just looks “pretty good” to another level.  Amazing audio, sound effects, and music, can help sell it as a much more professional product.  If you can afford it, always use a shotgun or lavalier mic.  Never use the microphone off the camera.


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