View Full Version : getting the standard "movie look"

01 January 2005, 02:49 PM

Tried posting before, seemed to have gotten hosed or something. Anywho, quick question from a super-newbie...

Let's say I have a movie shot on a prosumer video cam.

How do I process it to get your standard "movie look" - i.e., what happens to transform your straight-up soap-opera-like look into a smooth big-screen look?

Is it as easy as loading up a video editing package and hitting "Make It Look Like a Movie"?


01 January 2005, 05:46 PM
I don't think you can get that look with video, at all.

The "film look" is gotten by using actual film.

01 January 2005, 05:57 PM,GGLB:1970-01,GGLB:en&q=%22film+look%22+

01 January 2005, 10:36 AM is an interesting link that just happened to be attached to a thread I started. I don't know that I agree with any of the opinions, but it's along those lines. If you do a search for "technicolor" you may find one or two interesting threads.

Technicolor had a reputation within the industry of painting everything in the shot, if that gives you some idea of what the technicolor "look" was. They even dyed shirts gray to make teeth look lighter. What you do with the info is another thing: you don't get the diagonal framing of a Batman villain from only imitating those guys.

01 January 2005, 05:45 AM
If I start talking about the movie look I can talk for days...Well first of all you must understand what you define as the movie look..some say it's colour ,some say its the depth compression, some say its the image quality ,but what i call the film look is the fantasy look of it.Video is very realistic is soft & beautiful...It's hard to achieve film look with low end cameras, but it's not impossible.If you do your lighting up to a very high quality & film like & if you make it more film like ( I don't mean adding grain ) in the post you will have something very similar to film..Even in some films some shots are very video like coz they havent concentrated much on cimatography..If you have a good eye, getting film look isn't a impossible task..

01 January 2005, 11:47 AM
I'd like to second Ghosts' post about getting a good image.

This isn't really a DV board; you'll probably get a lot of interesting tips by looking around at places like or ( or dozens of other sites. We do cover some of that material in the course of drooling at "supermarionation" and wondering why, but the 1950's technicolor look was rooted in the Old Masters, ca 1700, and you might miss a lot of stuff since then, if you leave off there.

It can't hurt to crack an art book, but if you're getting what you want, without being intimidated by a bunch of equipment, getting it in the can, that's beautiful. Yes, I like lights on top of the actors, and hot backlight; I like a darker background, and if I had the money I'd hire a colorist and coordinate wardrobe, make-up, lighting and props, using those infernal wheel things. (As far as I can tell, they use mathematical proportions in repeating arrangements, but I just go by eye.)

The "evocative" forum looked at emotion and the subjectivist character-reflecting environments that a standard "look" might defeat. "Naturalism" -- what a misleading word.

Someday, yes, there wil be a technicolor button. It will convert your DV image to a 3D CAD animation complete with textures, and you will select looks and favorite cinematographers from menu's...

01 January 2005, 03:37 PM
The answer to your question is the type of camera you use and the settings on the camera. For instance, for a look like saving private ryan, the film was washed down... BUT , you can achieve a similar look using a high end Mini DV cam like the XL2.

What makes a film look like a film is the fact the film is being recorded at 24 frames a second, at 45.. something something apature setting. Cant remember exactly cause its morning time and i havnt had my coffee yet. Using the XL2, you can mimic this look. But what makes a film look different from other films is the style of film and lens filters applied to the shots or entire film.

01 January 2005, 12:37 PM
Try this link out.

A proprietary suite of software written by effects company 'The Orphange' that you can now buy. There's also a demo version so you can examine the results. Not only does it do some clever business with fields and sampling, but it will also simulate lab and post effects like 'bleach bypass'.

01 January 2005, 07:05 PM
As far as anyone's opinion on the film look, it is what you think looks good. The main difference is post processing. All movies go through major post production processing, such as colour timing, and now digital intermediate.

Yes film does have more resolution because it is scanned and it captures a lot more colour range because it is an uncompressed format. You are only limited by your scanner, and not the film itself.

Just for reference though, anyone who tells you, that you need to shoot on film to make it look that good, one word "Collateral". It was shot 95% on HD. Also "Once Upon a Time in Mexico" was shot entirely on HD.

To create the look you wish, you must start by shooting progressive and not interlaced. The colour information is so much better even on DV. Then you must digitally grade everything. Unless you shot, as before mentioned using lense filters. Also, when you shoot 24 fps, you can't do fast pan's or quick camera movements without it looking very amatuer. Hand held in film is a science in itself, not many can do it very well. Get a tripod, steadicam, dolly tracks, jib, anything to make your shots look professional. That is the start, the post processing is the finish. Also good audio sells as well.

That was a little off topic, but it still should help you out.

01 January 2005, 10:27 PM
Thank you very much for this thread. I tremble with the thought of my own ignorance though. I am an animator looking to produce a film/video? (therein lies the rub) I something with 50% live action and 50% animation going on. No question about producing it on film. Can't afford it. I now have a camera man with a JVC 500 mini dv camera....3 1/2 chips. But I am wondering about the new 24 fps cameras. (Right now the Canon XL2) The end result of this project is unknown. It could end up on broadcast television or film festivals or who knows.

I want what looks the best. So one big question is what composites the best, 24 frame, 30 frame progressive, or 29.9 whateve.....especially since I would say that 85% of the film will have CG background mixed in with live action and CG characters.

Thanks for any thoughts!!!

Bev Standish
Wolfsong Studios

01 January 2005, 01:56 PM
I want what looks the best. So one big question is what composites the best, 24 frame, 30 frame progressive, or 29.9 whateve.....especially since I would say that 85% of the film will have CG background mixed in with live action and CG characters.

that's a nice question. i worked for one year and half in CG lighting/rendering&compositing and never wondered this. teoretically the lower the frame-rate the lower the time for render. if teoretically speaking only about compositing, doesn't matter.

the problem you should ask yourself is for what media it will be distributed mainly, because the conversion from diffrent formats with different frame-rates is a little bit of a problem.

01 January 2005, 06:50 AM
nice thread, ...Im actually going after the same goal........Film Look..

Last week I got a job for making a little presentation for a profesional baseball team here in mexico.

let me show you my first one using and a canon Xl1 at 30 fps progresive, and using after effects for the color correction.

wmv video (

01 January 2005, 11:05 PM
Different ways of getting a "filmlook" from video:

Panasonic DVX100A 24P camera
Magic Bullet
Twixtor Plug-in
Good lighting
use a TRIPOD (it helps in professionalism if nothing else)
Blur the image slightly (if image quality isn't an issue)
Adjusting saturation and levels
Applying film grain in After Effects or Premiere (use this one sparingly)
DV filmmaker plug-in


02 February 2005, 01:50 AM
What you have to understand is all the things that go into the "film look" that make it look different from video.

Number one, frame rate. More importantly, the effect that frame rate has on shutter speed. In a film camera the shutter is a blade that flashes in front of the film as each frame is exposed. When it goes in front of the frame, the camera advances the reel to the next frame. The shutter moves away, light comes in and exposes the film, and the shutter closes again. This is repeated 24 times per second in a standard film camera.

The amount of time the shutter spends open defines how much of a slice of that second gets imprinted on the film. The longer it's open, the more motion occurs within that frame and the more the image "smears" around the moving elements. This is what creates motion blur.

Because of persistence of vision, human sight views the world with motion blur. Though 24 frames per second (fps, or 24p when we're talking digital) was decided upon for economic more than aesthetic reasons, it turns out that a shutter that is open for half the length of a frame, or 1/48th of a second, introduces just enough motion smearing into the frame to be pleasing to the eye and look, essentially, like what the eye sees naturally. Persistence of vision blends them together and creates the illusion of smooth and continuous motion.

Now, when we come to video, we're dealing with something closer to 30 frames per second -- and split between two fields to boot. So we're talking about a shutter speed of 1/60. This allows significantly less motion blur to be introduced into the image. Instead of blurring, fast-moving objects remain more defined and crisp -- which isn't how the world looks to the eye. This is one reason for the "video look". So the first thing to do when you want a "film look" is to find a way to shoot your stuff at as close to 1/48 shutter speed as possible.

Secondly, lighting. Film has the ability to retain information in very dark and very bright areas. Video, especially digital video, has a much smaller range of numbers in which it can store information. It's important to expose the footage well so that it is not too bright or too dark. The information will be clipped to black or white and you cannot get that image information back. Try to light the images well, this will take you further than any plug-in you can purchase.

Third, depth of field. I won't do too deep into it right now, but when I say "field" I mean an area of distance from the camera in which objects can be defined to be in focus. Film has a much smaller depth of field than video. So say, for instance, you have an object 10 feet from the camera. In this hypothetical situation, there is another object 20 feet from the camera. With film, object #2 is at such distance that it is outside the depth of field. Object #1 will be in focus, object #2 will not. This is desirable and pleaseing, again, because it imitates human sight -- when you focus on an object with your eyes, objects further away from it become further defocused.

With video, the depth of field is very deep, which means object 1 and 2 will both be in focus. This is another giveaway that we are looking at video. At this time there's not too many options as to fighting depth of field. There's a few devices out there (like the mini35 adapter) that can do it on the prosumer cameras, but they're expensive. One trick I know is to have the camera far back from your subject and then zoom in, which compresses the depth of field. This limits your shot options and camera moves significantly, however. On the other hand, a few well-chosen shots in this manner will elevate the entire production to a more cinematic level.

Fourth. Cinematography. Frame your shots well and it will look more professional. Anyone can point a camera at something and turn it on. Try to make something visually stimulating, and which directs our attention where you want it to be.

Also, when working with camera motion, try to give the camera a sense of weight. Film cameras are heavier than video cameras and introduce that into the motion. Even "handheld" shots on film look more artistic, because the inertia of the camera results in more of a weaving than a jostling motion. Video cameras being light, you can whip them around and high speed and bounce them around like crazy. Be conscious of that and try to make it feel more hefty.

Finally, we get to post-production tools. These are GIGO tools (garbage in, garbage out), so if you don't shoot a good image to start with, "film look" isn't going to help much.

Generically speaking, some very simple procedures, go into your curves adjuster and turn your linear image response curve into an S curve. This crunches the blacks and boosts the whites, mimicking film's response curve. Additionally, boost the saturation of the image just slightly, as video tends to have a washed-out look compared to film. Lastly, use your levels tool to push the low end of the image closer to black; nice film stock has rich blacks, whereas video tends to have a dark grey.

Basically you're pushing the image, which lives in the middle of your color space, to the low and high ends, giving the image more range and tonality, again mimicking both film, and human sight. Tools like Magic Bullet's Look Suite will do a more advanced and comprehensive job, but it's still basically the same stuff.

M. Scott

02 February 2005, 06:18 AM
With all the post-processing available these days, I'm a little stunned there isn't something for emulating lower depth of field in Adobe Premiere, at least, for interpolating a z-depth buffer using object edges. It might not be absolutely correct, but it could probably be pretty useful.

I guess one solution would be to use a camera that can take film lenses, and use the conventional solution of ND (neutral density) filters to keep the lens around f4.

One other solution would probably be to shoot using a camera obscura of some kind, beit an SLR or view camera, shooting the image formed at the film plane surface with a macro setting or lens, and making the most of the optics.

I've also heard of putting thick screen in front of the lens, which tends to force the "circle of confusion" to be larger. This would work with wide lenses, but not extremely wide lenses. There may also be a vignetting issue that would have to be addressed with a filter of some kind.

02 February 2005, 07:21 AM
Because of persistence of vision, human sight views the world with motion blur. A minor point, but "persistence of vision" actually has nothing to do with motion blur or how/why we see motion in sequential image media (like film and TV). I'm not sure how the persistence of vision myth got started, but it's completely untrue (though it's still often taught that way). The reality is that no one knows exactly why we see film as motion instead of individual pictures.


02 February 2005, 03:59 PM
A minor point, but "persistence of vision" actually has nothing to do with motion blur or how/why we see motion in sequential image media (like film and TV). I'm not sure how the persistence of vision myth got started, but it's completely untrue (though it's still often taught that way). The reality is that no one knows exactly why we see film as motion instead of individual pictures.


Are you saying that persistence of vision itself is a myth? Do you have a source for this?

Persistence of vision is something I personally have experienced empirically. Go into a dark room with a cellular phone that has a light-up display. Preferably one that lights up in a single color, as multiple colors make this phenomenon more difficult to see. A backlit watch will do the same thing, I imagine.

Move the light in a circular pattern. You'll see streaks of light as it imprints on your retina and fades, and you will ALSO see an after-image of the square of light itself following the movement pattern, essentially seeing "again" the image a split-second later. That is the very definition of the persistence of vision. Even disregarding that, just close your eyes and notice how you continue to "see" what was in front of you for just a split second.

If you're not saying POV is a myth, just its involvement with motion pictures, then I don't understand your argument at all. If POV exists then it makes perfect sense that it creates the illusion of motion from a rapid succession of imagery, and it seems arbitrary to disregard POV as the reason when no better reason is postulated.

At any rate, the RGB color scale isn't accurate either, but it's still close enough to be worth understanding and implementing.

I'm really curious as to what you mean by POV being a myth, though.

M. Scott

02 February 2005, 10:50 PM
Dorkman pointed out most of the important things to make video have a "film look"

Remember when you watch a DVD, your viewing experience of what you determine "the film look" depends so much on your TV, DVD player, and the DVD you are watching.

A DVD is a NTSC image of compressed video at 60 fields interlaced to 30i. A film is 24p on either film or HD. When the film is transfered to a DVD there are frames added in and flagged to create the 29.97 NTSC requires. This actually changes the original film's look. So if you watch this on a typcial DVD player and your regular old TV, it looks one way. Now if you have a decent HDTV and a "real" progressive scan DVD player the viewing is so much different. By "real" progressive DVD player I mean something that cost more than 100$, usually the $500 to $1000 players have special deinterlacing chips and software in them. The Denon player I have does pixel tracking and stores frames before displayed to help remove those unoriginal frames added to the DVD using the DVD's flags. Those flags tell the player that these frames weren't part of the original image. So when viewed this way, you see the original 24p image, in a progressive mode which is a much smoother and colorful image, that doesn't have the typcial NTSC red bleeding and morie patterns associated with them.

So now you have a different "film look" See where I am going with this? There are sooooo many factors to just one part of the so called "film look" Watch it on a DLP projector and a nice screen, you are going to get even ANOTHER look of that film, from the same DVD. Watch it in HD, then that's even another version of what film looks like from a video format.

Also sound can have a HUGE factor. What is the THX tag line? The Audience is Lisitening. Lucas realized how important sound was to the overall movie experience. It's a proven fact that if the sound is good that this actually makes the image appear better. Go to local electronics store, find the best TV there and watch it with just the sound from the TV. Now go to the a TV hooked up to a decent set of speakers and amp. Now, how much better is that image now, even if the TV is smaller than the best TV there. I have seen many shorts and CG animations that just BLOW IT when it comes to audio quality. The image looses all of it when you hear something recorded like it was in a bathroom with a tin can over the mic.

Is there any MAGIC software or way to just make a video look like film. The answer is simple, NO. Atleast none that I have found. There are some ways to keep close to simulating the look of film that has been transfered to DVD.

What can you do wtih a typcial video camera to make it look more like film?

Here are my suggestions.

1. Have a good story. A good story can go a long way over how your video looks in the end..
2. Shoot like a real film, things like lighting and camera framing. Use a tripod. The illusion that this was a film before it went to DVD.
3. Process the image into a progressive, anamorhphic 16x9 image. when you play this back on a HDTV it will look like much more like a DVD.
4. Edit like a film. Use normal cuts and fades, none of those stupid wavy transistion and junk unless it's PART OF THE OVERALL LOOK of the film.
5. Use good music that fits the film edit and sound that is clean. You can break your film in half if you stick crappy rock music that doesn't fit or sound made in a noisy room.
6. Stick in on a DVD, in 24p 16x9 anmorphic. Use less compression to keep up the quality.

add what Dorkman said and you've got all you can do wtihout buying a HD camera and all the fixins to go with it.

Now if you really want a film look, besides shooting on film, there are so many crazy and creative things people do. For me I use a Sony PDX-10. It's a true 16x9 anamorphic with 3CCDs, decent lens and a shotgun mic. By true 16x9 I mean it records a true widescreen image on the whole CCD without loosing quality from cropped pixels (black bars top and bottom). You can also buy a 16x9 lens for a camera that doesn't have true 16x9. This will squeeze the image and use all the pixels on the CCD. This really helps hold the resolution and quality. I use to deinterlace my image since I shot in 60i.

Some people grind their own glass to create adapters to mount a true 35mm lens to their video camera. you can buy one, but they usually cost over a grand just for the adapter. But you can film with real Fstops and depth of field, just like a film camera. 24 Days was done this way, using Canon XL1 Pal units attached to thousand $ film lens.

I've seem some that HACK their video cameras, attaching each CCD straight into a capture board to get an UNCOMPRESSED image, further helping hold quality bypassing DV compression in camera.
take a look at this page, there is a section in there call "Towards a Film Look Using DV"

really the film look is up to you. find what you like about that image, break it down, are the blacks black, is there depth of field, is there a lot blur or not, and then work your footage down (make sure you write down the process and settings you use) till you get as close as you can to the look you want with in the means you have.

michael JR. (

02 February 2005, 11:04 PM
Thank you all for such great information. You have taught me a lot and very clearly Dorkman.


02 February 2005, 08:35 AM
A nice way to simulate depth of view is to create some layers in your captured footage.
you can do this with a tool like Discreet combustion. and then aply a motion blur or something different to your background. Of course you it takes some time to track your objects. but it is not nessencary to track down all fingers of your hand for example. Just do it roughly. specially in action scenes it looks very nice.

Stabilizing tools can make your film looks better too. One big disadvantage of cheap camera's is the lack of stabilizing. unless movies like saving private ryan it looks very cheap when your movie is shaking.

02 February 2005, 04:23 AM
Check that site out. It is the most in depth site dedicated to the panasonic DVX100 I've seen. This cam will give you the film look you desire and them some. I've owned one for a few months now and am stunned by the footage:) I've only now started getting good keys from the footage using ultimatte but if you aren't going for greenscreen then you have no worries.

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