How to achieve a Film Look – DSLR film making

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A great first DSLR:
The new model of the only camera I own:
A really wonderful 35mm f1.4 lens (much cheaper than a Canon):
The tripod I use (after my last one broke while travelling):

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Beginning to shoot film on your DSLR? This tutorial goes over some practical tips on creating a cinematic look with your DSLR footage. In this video I cover the basic camera settings to achieve a popular style and some effective editing techniques to begin with. Have a read of the comments – some much more qualified people have shared their useful tips!

Something I did not mention is that you can use a neutral-density filter to reduce amount of light entering the camera. This will allow you to shoot with a wide aperture in bright daylight while keeping the exposure correct.

While I mentioned you could overlay an image with black bars to make a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, some filmmakers in the comments suggested it’s better to make the project itself the correct ratio so that films display better on ultra-widescreen displays (they are 100% right). You can change this in the composition settings or in the export settings in premiere – for 1080p footage the resolution will then be 1920×810 pixels (rather than 1920×1080). If you still want to use the template to letterbox the video you can download the template here:

As this film is aimed for absolute beginners – I highly recommend Fenchel & Janisch’s more advanced (and more qualified) tutorial:

In the film I am using Adobe Premiere.

I’m currently a third year Computer Science student at UNSW Sydney though I also have a love for filmmaking, electronics and graphic/UX/industrial design.
Feel free to comment or email me with any questions or thoughts!

CONTACT: [email protected]

many filmmakers aspire to creating a film look with their DSLR footage also known as a cinematic look because this sort of film appears professional and is interesting to watch but what exactly is the film look a film look is broadly defined as the look and feel of the footage that you would see in a feature film as you know there are many techniques involved in creating video but there are a few which are especially important to achieve this look this look is best achieved through techniques involving both the settings of the camera capturing the video as well as editing in the post-production stage creating a film of some sort starts with the camera so makes sense that the camera settings are specially important in controlling the look of footage it is still possible to create a cinematic look in post-production with just about any footage but controlling the camera settings will give you much greater control over the final product first up make sure that the camera is operating in manual mode to allow for complete control of the settings in most Canon DSLRs the setting is called movie exposure so make sure that this is set to manual a frame rate of 24 or 25 frames per second is one of the most important aspects of shooting video that will look like film the frame rate is one factor that changes the amount of motion blur in footage and this is why it is so distinctive from other formats I can't show you what 30 frames per second or 50 frames per second looks like because this tutorial itself is being played back at 25 frames per second however it is easy to find examples if you sit for comparison of frame rates on the internet you will get a taste of what the others feel like high frame rates have an odd feel to them the technical reason for this is that the motion is smoother and there is less motion blur than traditional film also we have been conditioned to perceive 24 or 25 frames per second as film because this is the traditional frame rate shown in cinemas high frame rates look more realistic but realism is not what we're looking for in this case you can change the frame rate of Canon DSLRs under the movie recording size the shutter speed also changes the look of motion blur and so this needs to be matched with the frame rate the general rule is that for natural-looking motion set the shutter speed at double the frame rate this means that when filming at 24 or 25 frames per second choose a shutter speed of 50 this is known as the 180 degree shutter rule and it comes from the traditional shutter size of film cameras here's an example of what a higher shutter speed can look like as you can see the motion of the cars appears to stutter this is what a shutter speed of 150th of a second at 25 frames per second looks like the motion of the cars appears more natural a shallow depth of field is usually associated with the film look depth of field is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects that are in focus shallow focus means that you can get shots that look like this the subject is in focus and the background is blurred this is good for directing the attention of the viewer a deep focus works better for wild shots when you want to keep everything in focus to control the depth of field adjust the aperture the f-stop value controls the aperture a low F stock value means a wide aperture and a shallow depth of field while a higher f-stop value means a small aperture and a deeper depth of field it's reversed to what you think to control the exposure changed the ISO setting in bright daylight the picture might still be overexposed at the lowest ISO when you have the aperture wide open so you will have to reduce the aperture and sacrifice the shallow depth of field to maintain a proper exposure by default most cameras increase contrast and sharpness while filming this makes footage look good right out of the camera but if you intend to color correct footage later it reduces the flexibility that you have many cameras have a neutral picture style preset for this reason make sure that you enable this to have more flexibility in post-production remember that you can always add contrast or sharpness later whatever footage you have to work with you can always make it look better in post-production a common issue with low-budget DSLR filmmaking is making smooth camera movements a shaky effect can have its applications but in most feature films you will see that the camera movements are silky smooth the professionals use Hardware stabilizers like this but these are expensive we can achieve a similar effect with the software that we already have beginning with after effects cs5 point 5 and Premiere cs6 adobe included an effect called warp stabilizer which is super easy to use to use warp stabilizer set for it in the effects panel and drag on to your footage you'll start to analyze the motion in your footage and then try and stabilize it after it does some processing keep in mind that it could increase render times a fair amount and that it usually reduces the resolution slightly in some cases artifacts appear when the footage is too shaky sometimes lowering the smoothness in effects control panel can help but this could just mean that the clip just isn't suitable for stabilization this effect usually works great without any tweaking but you can adjust the settings for your taste the smoothness control does just what it says you controls the amount of smoothing applied along with stabilizing the footage for smooth motion warp stabilizer can also make the camera look completely still to do this change the motion result to no motion this is helpful for shots that should have been done on a tripod but weren't one of the most powerful ways to change the emotion of a shot is through color grading feature films is color grading to convey the mood of footage visually for example dark blues convey a depressed or dark tone while warm colors suggest happiness without any color grading is very hard to achieve a cinematic look here's an example of a shot with the original footage and the color graded footage side-by-side you can see there's a massive difference there are plugins that can automate color grading but by doing it manually you can have full control some useful tools built into premiere and After Effects that will effectively grade your footage are RGB curves and three-way color corrector other compositing applications have similar effects you can use RGB curves to adjust the darkness of the darks and brightness of the highlights in your footage to start using RGB curves search for it in the effects panel and then drag onto your footage it'll see these graphs on the left here basically this graph shows the highlights and the darks of your footage and by adding a point to it can change the response of these different areas of your footage a popular cinematic look is to have the darks darker and to make the highlights even brighter to do this add two points to your line by clicking on it bring the bottom point lower and bring the top point higher to increase the highlights how do you change the curve depends on the footage that you have and the effect you are looking for for example a comedy shot film will have a different look to a thriller the three-way color corrector effect can change the color tone of the darks mids and highlights of your footage choose it search for it in the effects panel and drag onto your footage let's we scroll down here we can see there are three circles for each of the parts of the image the shadows the mid-tones and the highlights a popular cinematic effect is to make the shadows our blue hue and to make the highlights a warm color so to do this you drag the circle in the shadows to a blue part of the spectrum and move the highlights circle into the orange yellow part there are an infinite number of ways to color grade footage so it's best to experiment and see what you like you will notice that most films are not framed in the same aspect ratio that most DSLR footages standard video from most consumer cameras is in the 16:9 aspect ratio also known as widescreen while most modern films are shown in the two point three five to one ratio also known as ultra wide screen there are numerous ways of achieving this from ultra wide screen effects in Premiere but the easiest way is adding black bars to the top and bottom of the picture also known as letterboxing you can achieve this by making an image mask yourself in the right aspect ratio or downloading this image also in the description after importing the image to premiere you can use it by dragging it to a video layer above your footage will then mask off the top and bottom with black bars that's all there is to it one of the drawbacks of this method is that you lose the detail at the top and bottom of your image so it's best to decide if you'll use this format before you start filming so you can keep it in mind when you frame your shots so that's the basics of achieving a film look with your footage there isn't one right way to developing this look and there are all sorts of plugins and add layers that you can apply to help the effect as always the best way to learn is experiment with the tools that you have because you don't always know what you want until you see it

24 thoughts on “How to achieve a Film Look – DSLR film making

  1. what would you suggest for a better look? lower ISO with no ND filter or higher ISO with an ND filter? i feel like i get way more contrast in the picture using the filter..and somehow the noise feels more cinematic

  2. I have no idea why I watched it (perhaps because I own dslr) since I am not planning on making movies.
    I have still enjoyed this 🙂 now even tempted to try some of tricks here. Up from me.

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