One of the most asked questions by beginners is: how to shoot cinematic video with a DSLR or a mirrorless camera. Well, we decided to create the ultimate guide to send you on the right track.
In this article, we will separate all steps into 3 sections, the settings, the post-production tricks and the techniques. Without further adieu, let’s get started!
1. Shoot in 24p
One of the settings that will make your video get the film look is the frame rate. The film (or motion picture) standard is a frame rate of 23.976 frames/s or 24p. Our eye has been seeing it our entire life and what is 24p automatically look “Cinematic” when we see footage at that frame rate. Most DSLR and mirrorless cameras offer the choice between multiple frame rate. It is changing but there are some cameras that are set up by default to something like 30p or 29.97 frames/s which are the framerates that make your camera look like a home video. You just need to change it to 24p (25p if you are in a PAL region), and you are good to go.
2. Set your Shutter Speed to 1/50th
Back in the film days, the cameras were exposed at a shutter angle of 180°, and this created a specific motion blur. Motion blur again has been ingrained in us since the beginning of films. The right shutter speed to get cinematic footage is 1/50th of a second. Some cameras may have 1/48th of a second as this is the exact equivalent of a 180° shutter angle, which is even better if you do, but if you don’t 1/50th is the closest setting and will bring you the same results.
3. Film in Flat or LOG Color Profile
The use of a flat color profile or log profile can help you achieve the film look. These color profiles can be loaded on your camera (CineStyle, Flaat, and Cineflat) or are already in your camera (c-log, d-log, s-log and more!). By using a flat color profile, you will get the most of your camera by preserving details in the shadows and highlights. The use of a flat or log color profile will require color correction in post (It’s OK we have a LUT below for you!)
4. Use the Highest Codec Available
While we are in the settings, it may sound obvious for some but the use of the best codec and bitrate possible should be selected. This will help you capture as much detail as possible and help you in your post-production workflow, what you don’t want is to use a codec that is meant for size saving and have your image fall apart in post. Some cameras have highly compressed codecs selected by default, you should make sure you are getting the most of what your camera is capable of.
5. Use a Shallow Depth of Field
This point is a hybrid between settings and techniques, using a shallow depth of field will help you achieve cinematic shots. A shallow depth of field is what is called “that beautiful blurry background effect”. To achieve this you need to set your aperture, or f-number, to a low number. If you only have a kit lens available to you it may be harder to achieve but one neat trick to get this look is to step back and zoom-in with the lens, this will create the same effect.
1. Color Grade your Footage
Color correction and color grading play a big part of making your footage look more cinematic. With colors you can express moods and emotions, and, it gives your footage a stylistic touch. Studying a color pallet to fit the mood of your scene is part of the personalization you can do, I personally use Adobe Color CC to inspire me. Also, there are popular looks that are used in Hollywood blockbusters, and, will give you the film look, like Teal and Orange, which is available as a LUT in our Toolkit. You just need to load it with your favorite editing program. If you are not sure how to work with LUTs, we have an article for you here.
2. Add crop lines or use an Anamorphic timeline
Adding crop lines is one of the most popular tricks in the history of frugal filmmaking. These are overlays that you place on top of your footage in the timeline and make your video look like it has a wider aspect ratio. Alternatively, you could change your timeline specs to achieve a similar effect but for some reason, the crop lines always make the footage look more cinematic than a different aspect ratio timeline. Rest assured, our FREE Cinematic Toolkit includes all the crops lines you’ll ever need.
3. Know Editing Basics
Learning and practicing the basic editing technique is really important, either you want to edit to the beat or use fancy transitions, knowing when to use them and when not to will go a long way. This is even more true for dialogue when learning the J-cut or L-cut would be your best asset to make sure your dialogue flows better. There are plenty of resources out there to get you started.
4. Add Grain
Adding grain to emulate the film look is another trick that will make your footage stand out. Depending on the look you are going for, you may need finer or coarser grain. With most grain, you just import it on your timeline, extend or copy to the desired length, set the blend mode to overlay and you will be set. There are tons of options out there, Adobe Premiere even has it as an effect, but if you are using another software we have grain in our Toolkit here.
5. Adding Suitable Music
Adding music is another artistic choice that will make your footage feel more cinematic. Choosing the right music that fits your piece is something that will help transmit the tone of the scene. There are many good free resources like the Youtube Audio Library, or there are some really good inexpensive composers out there like Contimusic.
Techniques / Skills
1. Use Prime Lenses
Using prime lenses (fast ones) will open you to new possibilities. Fast prime lenses have low f-number and will help you achieve the shallow depth of field that we are after. Prime lenses generally have less barrel distortion and vignetting than zoom lenses which will help you get a cleaner image. The use of zoom is less desired to get cinematic footage, and, is a more advanced technique that should be used on specific occasions.
Framing and composition are really important to make your video cinematic. Knowing the basics like the rule of thirds and the 180-degree rule will make a long way to get the film look. Everything in your shot should be looked after, not only the subject, so look at your foreground, background and subject to see that your shot is properly composed. A lot of this comes as a second nature with practice.
A lot of people will say that this is the most important part of making your footage look cinematic, and they are right! Lighting is prevalent in making sure everything looks right, sometimes a simple 5-in-1 reflector is the only thing required to change flat lighting to something great. Nevertheless, understanding a simple 3-point lighting setup and light diffusion techniques are the bare minimum to achieve the film look.
4. Camera Movement
Learning the moves like Pan and Tilt is important, as well as executing them smoothly is as equally important. Every camera movement should have an intention and/or motive behind them, and, should be executed as smoothly as possible. This is why it is important to get a good fluid head tripod like the Manfrotto MVH500AH to be able to execute those movements. Once you master these, you can incorporate dolly, jib, gimbal and aerial shots.
5. Shoot Anamorphic (or fake it, again!)
Anamorphic lenses will get you the cinematic look right away with their light streaks, ellipse bokeh, and wide aspect ratio, but those lenses are expensive. If you can’t get one, other alternatives are available, like using old projectors lens. Alternatively, you can somewhat fake it with a Vid-Atlantic Cinemorph filter or go the home-made route with a piece of fishing wire taped in front of your lens. You won’t get the lens distortion from them but it will add a little creative touch to the footage.
We hope you liked and learned with this article and video, if you have any comments or questions feel free to reach out, and, follow us on social media.