Cinematic Film Look on a DSLR

Cinematic Film Look on a DSLR


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.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. ok, so you changed the light source just after you changed the white balance setting, but you never changed the white balance after you changed the light source……. total failure in a "instruction" video. invalidates your video.

  2. he missed one thing, the camera is often slowly panning in or out. Almost un-noticeable but makes the shot more organic.

  3. Wow this is really helpful, I've tried to find somewhere that can explain how to properly use a DSLR for video and just given up. But this has made it really clear thanks 🙂

  4. pretty interesting, i don't own any cameras or have any passion for film making but this educational crash course on that "cinematic look" was masterfully done.

  5. Glad I found this – great info and delivered in well – there are so many tutorials trying to be zany which extends the content unnecessarily and you have to watch painful 'humour' in the process. I'm interested in the content you don't need to wrap it up in a sketch. This video is pitched just right for me

  6. You need to learn more about ISO !!!!! ISO stands for gain and low ISO doesn't mean clean image. your camera is actually de-escalate the analog data reaching the sensor. always put ISO on its native point. !!!!!!!!

  7. Listen man I know a few signs of insomnia/sleep deprivation and an asymmetric face is one of them. This is really obvious at around 3:57 (lower frame) and I just hope that everything’s ok and that you should probably sleep a lot more often

  8. You blew me away with this tutorial, I never thought such images were possible on any rebel series, this is amazing. I have the SL2 but whenever I shoot video in it I always left wanting more with the results.

  9. bloody utube …
    couldnt u recommend me this video day before yesterday…. i went to watch cherry blossom yesterday
    could have used these techniques …
    mannn.. u are bad hruh

  10. Very concise! The hand-drawn text bubbles at the end, all sprouting out from "Story" is fascinating. Wish I could see that all come together.

  11. This is incredible! I love how you've incorporated something that takes most film teachers hours to explain into a tiny 5 minute segment. Very well done!

  12. I think lowering the framerate and raising the shutter speed to make the clip choppier in action scenes where people get chased or something gives it a really cool look. Of course, the rest of the film has to follow a theme that fits with that though.

  13. 3:33 improve dynamic range shooting with flatter values
    And then color grade later to push contrasts and whatnot
    But can only do this if your original video isn’t blown out in the first place

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