'Movie Look'?

Discussion in 'Fan Films, Fan Audio & SciFi 3D' started by FilipeJMonteiro, May 28, 2011.

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  1. FilipeJMonteiro Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2010
    star 1
    This is something that has always interested me. Why do movies like movies?

    I see people everywhere, myself included, trying to capture that 'movie look'. Now, I don't think there's an explicit definition of what that is. To some extent it's something very subjective and the main aspects that build that look may vary from person to person. I do think, however, that it's universally recognizable when it's there.

    In terms of amateur filmmaking, some claim that shooting at 24fps does the job, but does it really? There's gotta be more to it. What is it that amateur films lack in their look? How can they achieve it? What's their 'problem'? Is it the excessive color grading, in some cases? The lack of fine grain?


    I'd love to hear your opinions on the subject.
    Thanks for reading.
  2. R2-DK Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2011
    star 2
    A lot of it has to do with the framing of subjects in shots. As for color grading, I'd say an amateur look comes more from doing the grading wrong than having too much of it (or too little). 24p is definitely a critical factor in achieving a professional look, but the hand-held nature of many amateur films kinda destroys it. It's best to either shoot with the camera still (such as on a tripod), or move it carefully and smoothly.

    If you look through the grand scope of cinema history, many (if not most) of the greatest, most iconic and remembered shots are lock-offs. Panning and rotating the camera is useful, as it allows the filmmaker to visually tell their story in ways they can't otherwise. But keeping the camera still gives you the opportunity to frame your shot in the same way you'd frame a photograph, only with movement. It's a lot easier to do that right than to get all the dynamics, logistics, timing, etc. right enough to make a moving shot look professional.

    While basically every film needs some shots where the camera's turning and/or moving... for the majority of your shots, use a tripod when in doubt.
  3. ElectroFilms Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2007
    star 3
    Lighting, contrast, dynamic range, etc. The list goes on. Lighting is one of the biggest that I see though.
  4. Teague Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2006
    star 4
    Quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio quality audio.
  5. ObiJuan2080 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 31, 2004
    star 4
    Gotta go with Teague.

    Too many times have I seen a fan films/amateur filmmaking where ADR is needed for an outside shot and the audio sounds like it was recorded in a garage. All echo-y and junk.
  6. Psilaef_Zeias Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2006
    star 1
    Some people just don't know what "look" means.:oops:
  7. Teague Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 9, 2006
    star 4
    Some people don't know to think about anything but the "look." ;)
  8. R2-DK Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2011
    star 2
    Yes, but this topic is about the "look".
  9. ElectroFilms Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2007
    star 3
    I think this can be expanded to mean what makes a movie cinematic. And sound of course is a key part of that.
    If you want just how it looks? Lighting, resolution, dynamic range, color space, stabilization, contrast, frame rate, shutter speed, color correction, blah, blah. Thread closed. That's film.

    I have to completely Agree that audio is such a HUGE part that you really can't leave it out.
  10. Darth_Abdax Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 12, 2005
    star 3
    One that I notice gets overlooked a lot in the low budget realm is blocking. Not ignoring it, but bad blocking. People standing and talking. People sitting and talking. People standing in the same place fighting.

    I guess unmotivated camerawork falls into that as well. For example, I worked with a director recreating the final scene of the Godfather, and we ended up doing about 25 shots. Later that night, I decided to watch the same scene as done by FFC, and behold, 9 shots total. A lot of beginning directors try to add their trademarks and their style to a scene, but it feels self indulgent and forced, rather than supporting the story. The other benefit of fewer setups is more time to get a performance out of your actors and get the shot perfect. When we shot the scene, we had a day to get 30 shots. 10 hours / 30 shots is 20 minutes per setup. 10 hours / 9 shots is over an hour a shot. Which shots are more valuable to the editor?

    What large budget films have is time. They pay truckloads of money to make a shooting schedule thats 60 days+. You probably don't have as much time as they do, but take some steps to increase the amount of time you can spend on your shots.

    Also, same thing with sound. Take time to make sure your production tracks sound good.

    End rant.
  11. Psilaef_Zeias Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Dec 17, 2006
    star 1
    In that case, view obstructions and a sticky floor.[face_thinking]
  12. Keimar_Venoso Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2003
    star 1
    I can't believe no one has mentioned depth of field. Shallow depth of field is a HUGE factor in producing that 'film look' that everyone so desperately seeks. This is one of the largest differences between film and video. With the amount of DSLR's available today at reasonable prices, this is no longer a stumbling block. Back when I was trying to make a fan film, it was almost impossible to fake shallow depth of field in most circumstances.

    I'll agree that quality audio is very important to creating a quality film.
  13. CloneUncleOwen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2009
    star 4
    All of the above are valid points. Without the knowledge of basic production mechanics, a movie
    will never have any kind of 'look' other than poor and unbalanced.


  14. ElectroFilms Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2007
    star 3
    I really have to disagree to a point. So many people make WAY to big of a deal out of this. The majority of the people trying to get insanely shallow DOF don't even know how to use it correctly. Depth of field is just a tool to focus your audience's attention on a certain part of the frame. If you understand HOW to use it ^^^^ Knowledge^^^^ and don't over kill, it's perfectly acceptable. Today, every other independent filmer thinks they can have 98% of the frame out of focus at F1.2 and now it must look like film. You don't see that in the "film look". You DO see profession DPs who can keep an image in focus. Not this "searching for focus like I'm a dirty AF lens that can't make up my mind" crap.
    So many people over-hype this tool, go to extreme lengths and spent tons of money, not to make their movies look even a bit more interesting.

    Just a personal rant, that's why I didnt bother mentioning shallow depth of field.
  15. Keimar_Venoso Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2003
    star 1
    Well, you're certainly entitled to your opinion, and I see where you're coming from. However if you want to state one of the major (and up until recently unobtainable) differences between film and video I think that depth of field must be mentioned. Obviously not all shots need to have shallow depth of field. It's not appropriate nor helpful. But, as you said, if it is used appropriately it can greatly lend to the actual telling of the story.

    On a sidenote, how many amateur filmmakers do you know that have access to f/1.2 lenses anyway? ;)
  16. Ryan_W VIP

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Aug 15, 2001
    star 4
    Being someone who has always been after the illusive "film look", as many here are/have been, I have always found it to come down to about 4 things. The first 3 are technical, the last 1 is more artistic.

    Framerate/shutter
    Oh goodness. They days of longing for someone... anyone to make a camera that could shoot in 24 frames per second... the framerate of "movies". The lengths we would go to. Dorkman bought a european XL-1 in order to shoot in 25fps and slow it down by a small percentage to achieve 24fps. Panasonic's DVX100 finally arrived, which could shoot in a progressive 24fps, and became wildly popular with the indy folks. It's even still, a great little camera. Lightweight, small and easy to use, and quite respectable in my next "film look" bullet point.

    The other important aspect that makes or breaks your "film look" is the shutter speed. In 24fps, you are imaging 24 frames every second, but you have a wide variety of lengths of time your shutter is actually open within that timespan. The "film look" is for the shutter speed to be half of that 24th of one second. 1/48 of a second, or 180 degrees. This emulates the typical way movies on film have been shot for decades. You can deviate from that, of course. For example a much faster shutter speed will allow only a small amount of time to expose the images (requiring more light) and gives you a very sharp frame, like a still image. This is the "Gladiator" or "Saving private Ryan" look. Which can be very cinematic, but I would caution against using it in a non-stylized fashion because more and more these days, a crispy non-blurred image is becoming the recognizable "cell-phone camera" look. Now, swinging the other way with shutter speed, modern digital cameras can allow you actually expose the image for more than half of the framerate. You can go from a 180 degree shutter, to a 360 degree shutter, where the image is exposing for the entire length of the 24th of a second with no gap between frames. This is physically impossible to shoot with a film camera, so it should come as no surprise that this produces a very artificial "digital" feel to it. I like the term "shuttercrime" for this. As seen in such cinematic masterpieces as "2012" and a lot of should-be-cancelled television shows, leaving a fully open shutter allows you to shoot with less light, since you are exposing for longer, which basically is just telling you that your Director of Photography is a lazy ass who would rather have their image look like amateur digital video than fire up a couple more lights.

    Dynamic range ("lattitude")
    When I was 7 years old, using my grandmother's VHS videocamera to make a Jurassic Park fan film and film comedy skits with my brother in the back yard, one of the first technical aspects of the video I was shooting that I was frustrated with was a lack of good dynamic range. The term means how much information and detail you can capture between overexposure and underexposure. For example, shooting a conversation in a diner in front of a bright window, you have to expose for either the interior or exterior, which will either give you detail outside the window and black silhouettes for the subjects, or exposed subjects in front of a nuclear bright white window that may as well be a white a sheet outside. When I had that HVS camera slung over my scrawny little boy shoulder, I became accustomed to having to softball my lighting situations by shooting outdoors on overcast days for less harsh lighting and filled shadows.The more dynamic range your camera can capture, the more you can "see", which really is a huge factor in the feel between amateur and professional. These days we get closer and closer to film's lattitude with cameras like the 5D, and in the professional market, the latest RED technology and Arri's Alexa can technically match, and now even surpass that of film.

    Depth of Field
    I feel most opinions have been touched on in this thread on this subject, but it's worth mentioning because as much as the abil
  17. Ricky_Calrissian Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 17, 2008
    star 3
    ^Seconded all of that. I've ALWAYS equated Depth of Field to "the film look". There's something about it that's so catching... If you can afford to get a decent lens on your camera, DoF will do wonders. Another thing I love is "dutch angles". Thor pretty much maxed out the amount of dutch angles possible in a film by having one almost every five minutes, so I don't know about taking to that level. But if you can pick the right spots for it, they can add some intensity to a scene that would otherwise be flat.
  18. R2-DK Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2011
    star 2
    Just step back and zoom in.
  19. Boter Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2002
    star 4
    Thanks for posting, Ryan, that was really informative :)
  20. Ryan_W VIP

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Aug 15, 2001
    star 4
    Won't help you with your wider shots though.


    Also, I don't know why I kept spelling "latitude" with two T's.
  21. -Spiff- Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 9, 2005
    star 4
    One minor tip to help with the "movie look" - don't use your zoom during shots. Preferably don't use a zoom at all unless you're going for 70's kung fu crashes, or weirdo "Vertigo" zoom/dolly shots. Pick a focal length and stick with it. If you want a close up, move the camera closer. If you want a wide shot, move the camera back.

    -Spiff
  22. DARTH_CORLEONE Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 26, 2001
    star 4
    1. Talent.

    2. Lighting.

    3. Lenses.

    4. See #1.

    ;)
  23. ElectroFilms Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2007
    star 3
    I started having a disconnect while watching Avatar in theaters because the over use of zooming.
    I liked the use in AotC on the gun ship. They used it in an effective way and didn't over ice the cake.
  24. Boter Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 8, 2002
    star 4
    Really? Because that really pulled me out; more than many movies I watch, crash zooms simply aren't in the cinematic language of Star Wars.
  25. R2-DK Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 13, 2011
    star 2
    I wasn't talking about zooming during shots. I meant zooming in to frame them, as this naturally gives DOF.
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