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Old August 8th, 2006, 11:52 PM   #1
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You want the film look: get out more often!

How many threads are out there about the "film look" and how many of those end with the famous two words: Magic Bullet?
The answer to the first question is "too many" and to the second is "all of 'em".

What saddens me is the fact that the vast majority of these posts fail to give the most useful peace of advice. Everything seems to gravitate around some plug-in, NLE wizardry or exotic recipes for removing the "video look".
I can't reply to every one of those threads, life is too short, so I wanted to give my two cents here: turn off the computer, grad the camera , get out and shoot.

You know how they say that for guitar players the tone come from their fingers? It's not that a nice guitar doesn't help but Steve Vai will sound like Steve Vai even if you give him a mandolin!
Similarly, if you want to get the nice, lucious, Hollywood-like look you gotta practice and learn to overcome the limitations of the mand... your video camera.

Can it be achieved? Yes, to a degree. How? Not with your NLE. Not with AfterEffects or Shake. The software is not the cure.
Go to your local camera equipement store and start looking at diffusion filters. Get something that gives you a very small amount of diffusion, something that makes the difference, something that you can see with your naked eye, but that is not too obvious. Now put it in fron of your lens. Add ND filters, open that iris and shoot a few minutes of the prettiest face you can find during the "magic hour". You will be amazed how a beautiful model will add to that elusive film look.
Try different angles. Don't have a model? Shoot panoramas. Shoot close-ups with the iris way open and use selective focus. Yes, i's not a 35mm camera but you can still do it. Even at 1/3". Get that damn ND filter an use it to open the iris. You'll see the difference. Underexpose a little, try to get a more dramatic light.
Now that you have your 1/2 hour of footage go back home, acquire it and edit it into a nice sequence ith music and then, only at that point, use the Magic Bullet. Yes, the Bullet works. Yes, it improves the footage dramatically but your diffusion filter is at least as important if not more.
It's that "electric", super-defined look that gives the subtle information to our brain that we are watching a video.
It's not that 35mm film is software by nature. Not at all. It's just that Hollywood perfected the art of diffusion long time ago. And the lighting. You want to look like film, light like film. Watch "The Godfather", "Naked Lunch", "Silence of the Lambs", "The Matrix", any of those and try to figure out the light that the used. Chances are that, if you light like Gordon Willis your footage will look a lot like film.
Watch a movie that you like and try to emulate the same camera angles and lighting. Add your filters and then you'll get much closer to the result that you want, way faster and more effective than any plugin.

Good luck!
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Old August 9th, 2006, 06:37 AM   #2
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What he said! ^^^ Paolo you are the man shooting straight and hitting the target dead on again. I was going to start a thank you thread this morning, but here will do just fine. I used your T3 setting this weekend shooting an offshore power boat race just for fun and to get some sound effects. I gotta tell you the footage despite my best efforts to screw it up made some beautiful pictures. Figuring out what you have freely given would have taken me months!!!! So thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!! and you know I now have to go play with my filters and find a hot girl!!!!!!
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Old August 9th, 2006, 08:41 AM   #3
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Thank you Jerry. Glad that TrueColor works for you :)
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Old August 9th, 2006, 09:01 AM   #4
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Nice, Paolo. That's my buddy!
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Old August 9th, 2006, 09:27 AM   #5
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So, how do I get that 24p film look, again?

Just kidding. Had to have a groaner here before someone else posted it. :)

I would love to say that I can tell a scene shot from video and a scene shot on film, but most of time, I don't notice a difference.

I mean, if a scene shot on video has not been processed through 24p conversion, color correction, etc...it looks like video.

Then again, films like Starship Trooper 2, Star Wars series, and Robert Rodriguez's recent movies are shot on HD and I can't tell a difference.

Nowadays, I feel that movies and tv shows are shown in so many formats that the perception of film look is changing.

When I practice shooting with my HDV camera, I use an ultraviolet filter and ND settings. I mainly use the filter as a lens protector and use Iris and ND settings to get a decent shot. What I've noticed from working with the camera more and lighting of a set, it's more the lighting that makes the look. Without the lighting in a concert, I'd have a grainy shot that would look like video, but with the lighting done right I get (what I feel) a film look.

The use of ND is definately a must do! The skys are bluer, the colors more vibrant and not whitewashed/blown out.
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Old August 9th, 2006, 12:44 PM   #6
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Hey Paolo, What is the number one must have filter in your kit for doing what you propose above. I shoot with the HD100 also. I use my ND's and Polarizer liberally. What should I go to the store and buy today? Again thanks for all you advice.
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Old August 9th, 2006, 01:51 PM   #7
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I also want to back up what Paolo said.

My gang o' filmmakers and I started doing a lot of 'mini-tests'. Get some people together and have them (or anyone you can find) read lines of a script, just a 1 minute scene.

Then I do one take each with different settings - Paolo's T3 and all the recipes in the sticky in the HD100 forum. Afterwards, we all go out for dinner.

Then I pick the best look for what I want to do, and will do more tests. But it helps me get used to getting the desired image out of the camera.
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Old August 9th, 2006, 08:55 PM   #8
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I have been wanting to achieve a 16mm 70's look with this camera. I have seen footage that seems to give it a yellowish look to it. Any suggestion Settings, filters, that might help achieve this look?
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Old August 9th, 2006, 10:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Porter
Hey Paolo, What is the number one must have filter in your kit for doing what you propose above. I shoot with the HD100 also. I use my ND's and Polarizer liberally. What should I go to the store and buy today? Again thanks for all you advice.
A diffusion filter. Check the Tiffen ones, see my post above. Adding a little bit of softness and highlight diffusion improves your look greatly.
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Old August 9th, 2006, 11:24 PM   #10
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You ask a very timely question. In fact, Paolo and I have been asked by Tiffen to give them just that so they can begin offering sets to 2nd Unit viewers. Rodney Charters, Jody Eldred and four or five other "high-rent" DPs are answering that very question right now and we'll post the answers in the next couple of days for your review together with the important question "Why" are they must-haves!
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Old August 9th, 2006, 11:34 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Bowey
I have been wanting to achieve a 16mm 70's look with this camera. I have seen footage that seems to give it a yellowish look to it. Any suggestion Settings, filters, that might help achieve this look?
Yellowish tone can be done easily by doing so grading with either Magic Bullet or Adobe AfterEffects. At the simplest you can make a gradient in Photoshop, or even a solid orange plate, and then combine it in FCP using a mix of transparency and "composite mode" (overlay, color burn etc.)
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Old August 10th, 2006, 12:47 AM   #12
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You guys are quite correct in your thoughts about getting the "best" image at source.
However, there's one extra component that will help you go the whole way - and that's camera movement.
Check out any movie and just count the number of shots where the camera is moving - either on a dolly or a jib.
It's this movement that can give a three-dimensiional look to otherwise flat images by exploiting the old parallax trick...
So, invest in a dolly and/or jib arm and you can really make you videos look like movies!

Robin
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Old August 10th, 2006, 05:10 AM   #13
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Camera movement is one thing. But if you shoot with real film, it doesn't stop looking like film just because it might be a wobbly handheld shot. The most important thing is motion cadence.

Quote:
Get something that gives you a very small amount of diffusion,
Or turn the detail off in the camera! I don't understand why people use diffusion filters for a film look. Not only do films rarely ever have that kind of look any more, but more importantly you won't get rid of electronic edge enhancement to any decent degree.

Turn the detail off or reduce it to a minimum, and save the money that you would have spent on a filter.

Aside from that, good composition in video is no different from good composition in film. The two are not mutually exclusive.
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Old August 10th, 2006, 08:06 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Simon Wyndham
Or turn the detail off in the camera! I don't understand why people use diffusion filters for a film look. Not only do films rarely ever have that kind of look any more, but more importantly you won't get rid of electronic edge enhancement to any decent degree.
Actually diffusion is used very often with film. The secret here is to soften the image a little bit, enough to create a look but not as much to be visible. There are situations where highlights and reflections interact with the filter in a way that you cannot re-create in software and a filter will cost much less, in terms of money and time, than a plugin. My suggestion to use diffusion starts with the assumption that you have *NO* edge enhancement. See the configuration for TrueColor. No edge is one thing, subtle diffusion is another. It's not just a matter of softening the image, it's the way light refracts in the filter. It's impossible to explain with words, you have to see it with your own eyes.
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Old August 10th, 2006, 08:33 AM   #15
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It's not just a matter of softening the image, it's the way light refracts in the filter. It's impossible to explain with words, you have to see it with your own eyes.
Oh I realise that. I've seen the use of softening filters a lot. But I don't think it has anything to do with filmlook. Whenever I see them used I know that it is video trying to look like film in fact!

Lets take Saving Private Ryan as an example. Harsh looking with low key contrast created by the bleech bypass. Using a soft filter isn't going to help in creating that sort of filmlook. Same for The Bourne Supremacey.

I guess what I am trying to get at is that there is no single recipe for a filmlook other than getting the motion cadence and the way that film handles different edge frequencies correctly. Anything in addition to that is merely artistic choice and nothing to do with filmlook. Diffusion filters have, after all, been used for years in video as well as film.

On top of this there is the film you are trying to emulate. 8mm S8mm 16mm, S16mm, 35mm? So depth of field isn't an indicator either because the smaller film formats such as 16mm are similar in DOF to 2/3" cameras.

I've made a number of posts on this subject, but the definitive resource, and my main inspiration always will be Alan Roberts papers on the subject. He's spent the best part of the last 20 years or more researching this very subject, and devised a number of settings to be used on various high def cameras (and some standard def). Some of which can be downloaded from the BBC website.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/whp/whp053.shtml
http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/whp/whp034.shtml
http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/whp/whp085.shtml
http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/pubs/whp/whp008.shtml
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