Cinematography & Cameras

How to get a cinematic look on a DSLR

How to get a cinematic look on a DSLR

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Looking to give your footage a high-budget cinematic look? If you’re wondering How to get a cinematic look on a DSLR, this great video will give you tips on how to achieve it:

HEIGHT – If you want to make your video look cinematic, you have to consider your DSLR’s position. The height of the video camera should be at eye-level.

WHITE BALANCE – In order for the video to look great, you should also consider adjusting the light according to the surrounding.

LIGHTING – In order to give the video a cinematic look by making the background darker hence, making the foreground stand-out. You can usually make this by preparing a DIY bed sheet which will be used to bounce the light and only giving soft shadows to the background.

SHUTTER SPEED – This is commonly used when taking a moving scene. Shutter speed is adjusted according to how much you’d like your video to be clearer during fast paced scenes. You have to keep in mind that the lower the number of the Shutter Speed, the brighter the image will be.

ISO – This is the last resort to make the shots brighter. Using a high ISO on a bright image can result in digital noise causing an over-exposed video which isn’t cinematic.

DYNAMIC RANGE – In order to fix some over-exposed shots, adjusting the dynamic range can greatly help. You can improve your camera’s dynamic range by shooting flat, reducing the contrast and saturation while recording, so you will have the best foundation for color grading afterwards.
All these tips can be applied in almost all types of digital cameras (you just need to find the right button). Moreover, focusing on the lighting and composition will definitely make a big difference. Always keep in mind that filmmaking is not just about creating cinematic images, there are lots of sides of filmmaking and they all deserve equal attention to achieve a great movie.

Video by DSLRguide

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I purposefully set up this shot to look the opposite of cinematic. So let’s go through
some simple steps to see how close we can get to the film look.
If we want our shots to look like movies, then first we should think about composition:
the way we position the camera. It’s a huge topic, but here are some common
techniques from films that we can start with. In an average scene the camera is at the same
height as what’s being filmed, so let’s bring it down to eye level.
Since our character is facing to the right, we’ll move the camera until there is space
on the right hand side, which usually looks more natural.
Now probably over 90% of shots in films have the camera dead level – so let’s adjust
it until our horizons are flat. Now, most tripods have a levelling bubble so we can
be precise. So here’s what we started with, and here’s
after we followed some basic framing guides.
Next up is white balance – calibrating the camera to the colour of our environment.
Right now everything looks blue so let’s change the white balance to a daylight setting
since we’ve got natural light coming in through the windows.
I’m shooting on the Canon T3i by the way, but what we do in this video is applicable
to pretty much all digital cameras. So, here’s before we changed the white balance,
and here’s after.
This next one is huge if you’re going for a cinematic look: lighting.
Now, typical ‘cinematic’ lighting is quite soft, so i’m setting up a bed sheet clipped
to some light stands. That gives us a large surface area to bounce
the light from. I’ll also close the curtains so that any changes in the light outdoors
don’t affect our scene. We can point any lights into our bed sheet,
and what bounces back will be nice, soft light. Lastly I’ll block the direct light from
reaching our character, so it’s only the reflected light that affects our scene.
Here’s what the natural light looked like, with a strongly defined nose shadow and a
really bright background, whereas our DIY bed sheet bounce gives us much softer shadows.
We also have a much darker background, which is pretty common in movies to make the foreground
stand out.
So, we’ve put some thought into composition & lighting, which I think are the core parts
of the film look, now we can go into the details. Shutter speed controls how much motion blur
there is, as demonstrated by this shot with a fast shutter speed of 1/250th, which gives
us a choppy look without any blur, as seen when we pause this shot.
If we change the shutter speed to 1/50th which is the traditional cinematic standard, then
we can see how blurry fast moving things become, just like how we see things in the real world,
and in most films. So as we change the shutter speed to 1/50th,
it reveals a side effect: the lower the number, the brighter the image will be.
So now we have a really bright image but we can fix that easily by lowering the ISO, which
you can think of as a last resort for making the image brighter.
that’s the great thing about using lights, it means we don’t have to use a high ISO,
which results in digital noise that isn’t very cinematic. So there we go.
Now, in these behind the scenes shots you may have noticed that we really can’t see
what’s outside, it’s just completely over exposed – that’s because all cameras struggle
to show something really bright at the same time as something really dark.
The way a camera deals with these high contrast situations is called it’s dynamic range,
and it’s an important part of the film look. We can improve our camera’s dynamic range
by shooting flat, reducing the contrast and saturation while recording, so we have the
best foundation for color grading afterwards. I’ve been using the ‘VisionColor’ profile
for the last few months and I’ve been pretty impressed with it, after hearing more and
more that those super flat profiles like Cinestyle might not really suit cameras like this that
have relatively low bit rates & color depth.
So since we shot with VisionColor profile, we’ll definitely do some color grading,
I’ve done a whole video about this, which you can find at the first link in the description,
to see how I usually do it. But for now, here’s what it looks like before
colour grading, and after colour grading.
I think it’s important to mention that most of this stuff can be done on all digital cameras,
you just need to find the right buttons for your specific camera, and you’re done. But
I think lighting and composition make the biggest difference, so we should focus our
efforts there rather than on just the camera settings.
And let’s not forget that creating cinematic images isn’t what filmmaking is all about.
There are lots of different sides of filmmaking and they all deserve equal attention.
My name’s Simon Cade, this has been DSLRguide and I’ll see you next week.