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Old July 10th, 2011, 11:04 PM   #1
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The Film Look on DSLRs

I'm still getting used to my 550D, which I've mostly been using for photography. Assuming I don't want to color correct in post production, and I need to achieve the 'final look' on set, and I'm shooting for film out:
1. 24p
2. 1080p
3. Fully Manual
4. A combo of prime and zoom lens
5. Good enough set design and lighting (production values)

My question is, will I get the film look as long as I stay within the histogram limits? The objective would be not to blow out the highlights or crush the blacks.

What are the challenges using these systems to obtain the elusive film look?
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Old July 11th, 2011, 01:16 AM   #2
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Much of the modern film look is all about the grading. Many films make dark tones teal and bright tones orange. To get the film look without grading can be done, but it takes expert lighting and set/art/costume design. Then again, it depends on what film look you're going for. Do you want the extreme orange/teal of Transformers, bright primary colors as often displayed in Indian films, or the pastels of the 60s?

To get an idea of the power of grading, watch the Colorista II tutorials. Whether or not you use Colorista II, the concepts still apply.

Magic Bullet Colorista II Tutorials by Stu Maschwitz on Vimeo
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Old July 11th, 2011, 10:08 AM   #3
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sareesh Sudhakaran View Post
My question is, will I get the film look as long as I stay within the histogram limits? The objective would be not to blow out the highlights or crush the blacks.
What are the challenges using these systems to obtain the elusive film look?
which film look you want to get, Matrix film look, or Kill Bill film look, how do you define film look?
I'd say film look per se is done in the post, i can't imagine any film production bypassing this stage, as with stills where magic is done in Photoshop, with video it's done in color grading software;
filming in digital 24p maybe cool, but unless you will transferring to the film it's useless, and even worse than useless, on the web or computer screen it looks choppy, I would go with 60p, or at least 30p;
histogram is a good tool, but it's not enough if you aiming for a big screen or TV broadcast; you'll also need a waveform monitor readings to stay within limits, if not- I would be more concerned about white balance than exposure,
well, unless it is ridiculously over or under,
best.
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Old July 11th, 2011, 11:35 AM   #4
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Not sure if anyone mentioned it, but except for specialized looks, you want your shutter speed to approximate a 180 degree shutter. That means when shooting 24p, you shoot at 1/50. That will give you the right amount of motion blur. IMHO I believe it also helps reduce the rolling shutter effect. The motion blur at that shutter speed also reduces Buba's objections of choppiness.
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Old July 11th, 2011, 12:56 PM   #5
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Regarding 24p, that's critical for the film look. Faster frame rates may look less choppy, but they can turn a romantic film look into a TV soap opera look.

The key is to avoid fast pans unless you are tracking a subject. The general rule is seven seconds minimum, edge to edge. This expects a 180 degree shutter, as Chris explained.

Regarding the wide variety of film looks, this video describes it perfectly...

Regarding in-camera grading, that's Christopher Nolan's approach. With tungsten lighting on faces and daylight or fluorescent lighting and various gels on backgrounds, you can get the teal/orange look in-camera. You need to choose the right clothing, paint, and decor too. You will still want to do grading to get the scenes to cut together smoothly, but you don't have to push them as far. Of course, grading is cheaper than buying special clothing, furniture, paint, lights and gels.

And sometimes you have no choice but to grade. We shot a zombie film in the snow. Depending on the clouds, sun and reflections, the snow was recorded as a wide variety of colors. Not only did we need to correct it shot to shot, but we wanted it to have a green cast. It would have been impractical to color an acre of snow with green dye. :)

The bottom line: shoot 24p, color what you can on set, and definitely plan to do color grading in post.
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Old July 11th, 2011, 06:31 PM   #6
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

If you're in a PAL country I'd use 25p other 24p if you're film is going to be for DVD and isn't going to be film projected. I tend to allows shoot 25, and I don't think you'll be able to tell much difference between 24p and 25p in regards to the film look.
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Old July 11th, 2011, 10:32 PM   #7
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Buba Kastorski View Post
which film look you want to get, Matrix film look, or Kill Bill film look, how do you define film look?
I'd say film look per se is done in the post, i can't imagine any film production bypassing this stage, as with stills where magic is done in Photoshop, with video it's done in color grading software;
I don't want any specialized look. And I'll have to disagree with you on the film look done in post...films shot on film don't need color grading and still has the 'film look'.
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Old July 11th, 2011, 10:43 PM   #8
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Thomas View Post
If you're in a PAL country I'd use 25p other 24p if you're film is going to be for DVD and isn't going to be film projected. I tend to allows shoot 25, and I don't think you'll be able to tell much difference between 24p and 25p in regards to the film look.
I've already shot a movie in 25p and released it on DVD.
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Old July 11th, 2011, 10:44 PM   #9
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Thanks for replying, it has been helpful. A few thoughts:

Quote:
Do you want the extreme orange/teal of Transformers, bright primary colors as often displayed in Indian films, or the pastels of the 60s?
It's not about color or a specialized look. My question had more to do with dynamic range, really. To put it better: Can I simulate the dynamic range of film into video through lighting alone? Everything else is constant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
Regarding 24p, that's critical for the film look. Faster frame rates may look less choppy, but they can turn a romantic film look into a TV soap opera look.
I've actually seen footage shot on 48 and 60fps - I don't think most consumers would know the difference. But this is just my opinion.

Quote:
Of course, grading is cheaper than buying special clothing, furniture, paint, lights and gels.
True, however the flip side is without proper production design I'll never achieve the film look anyway (failing on production values) - unless I'm shooting exteriors on ready locations and such. So I'll still have to spend for the set I'm dressing or building, so might as well get it done in the right color, tone and texture.
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Old July 11th, 2011, 10:47 PM   #10
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

I have a question: Do you guys have an example of a video shot on a DSLR that has not been graded and still has the film look (namely via dynamic range and tonal response)? With or without lights, but with talking humans in it.
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Old July 12th, 2011, 12:32 AM   #11
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Well, here's one I did for the DVchallenge (theme: Mask) on this site awhile back. Shot on a 7D with a user defined picture style based on NEUTRAL, with Contrast and Saturation reduced by a "notch" or two (I reduce those by two these days). Not one of the really "flat" or "superflat" picture styles but enough to extend the dynamic range more than the default STANDARD picture style.


And another one shot with a T2i for a contest on another site (Theme: Doomed), this one shot with NEUTRAL picture style - no adjustment to Contrast and Saturation. So interior with actor seated at table cleaning a .45 shows colors a bit too "vivid".


The "film" look for each one of us depends on some degree of subjectivity and interpretation. Many factors go into what we perceive as a "film" look and some of these factors are dependent on the story and how we tell it.

Lighting and lighting mood, composition, focus and depth of field all go into what makes a particular "film" look. And there is always the "look" of a particular film stock that may have been used. Are you trying to accurately portray a location or environment where contrast would be a big factor? Mist or misty glade.

There is no one setting, one thing, one technique that achieves the "film" look. It's kind of up to you and your sense of vision.
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Old July 12th, 2011, 12:51 AM   #12
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Yes, but the video is private and I can't show it.

I used tungsten lighting on the people in an interview situation and the background was lit with a combination of daylight through tinted windows and fluorescent light. I used a Glimmerglass #1 filter. (I wish they made a #2 in a circular design. I don't have a mattebox, and only #1, #3, and #5 are available in screw-on designs. A #2 would be perfect, IMO.) I shot it in Natural with minimum contrast and sharpness. Saturation was one click below middle.

I ended up adding some contrast and sharpness back in post, but could live with it as is. As I added contrast, I needed to reduce saturation slightly to keep the skin tones natural.

But keep in mind, that this was for a particular orange on teal look. There's no such thing as a generic film look in my opinion. Each stock and process has its own feel.

Of course, if my next scene were shot outside, I would have no choice but to grade it to match that previous scene. When you shoot large areas outdoors, there is only so much that you can control during production - especially if it's partly cloudy and conditions are changing shot to shot.

The bottom line is that DSLRs don't have the range of film. We can use Cinestyle to flatten it as much as possible, but then we risk quantizing noise. If you want film-like range, you don't want a DSLR. You want an Alexa.

The Great Camera Shootout 2011: SCCE ~ Episode One | Zacuto USA
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Old July 12th, 2011, 12:39 PM   #13
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Thanks for sharing the videos, Bruce.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Foreman View Post
There is no one setting, one thing, one technique that achieves the "film" look. It's kind of up to you and your sense of vision.
I agree with you, which is why I've boiled it down to dynamic range and tonal response, all other factors being constant.

Films shot on film have the film look, don't they? Anyway, let me put it this way: Was there a situation in which you tried your best to emulate the film look (in your own subjective opinion) and failed, even though you satisfied all the established conditions (or norms) to attain that look?

If yes, what did you attribute that failure to?
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Old July 12th, 2011, 12:47 PM   #14
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Quote:
There's no such thing as a generic film look in my opinion. Each stock and process has its own feel.
I agree 100%.

Quote:
The bottom line is that DSLRs don't have the range of film.
Don't they? DSLRs are almost universally used in the photography world (even in medium format) since they easily beat the resolution and range of slide film (and are at least equal to regular color film). The only place DSLRs fall short of is against the dynamic range of black and white film.

Stills or video - it is the same dynamic range from the DSLR sensor under controlled lighting conditions. The zacuto videos pointed this out clearly. Now, I realize that most people don't shoot under ideal lighting conditions, and those who shoot with DSLRs are making more than one compromise on their production. Yet, the potential exists, or does it?

Let me ask my question in another way: Was there a situation in which you tried your best to emulate the film look (in your own subjective opinion) and failed, even though you satisfied all the established conditions (or norms) to attain that look?

If yes, what did you attribute that failure to? Are there cases in which even if you control lighting to fit within the dynamic range of the camera, and choose your ISO wisely, you still get the video feel?
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Old July 12th, 2011, 01:09 PM   #15
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Re: The Film Look on DSLRs

Okay, the film look to me is:

1. Shot with 180 degree shutter, to get the motion blur expected of film camera.

2. Shot with similar lens capabilities to 35 mm cinema cameras. This will produce similar depth of field effects. In actuality, APC chips in the 7D, 60D, T3i, et al., are actually closer to that. However, I prefer the 5D because you can get a lot more light into the camera using normal and semi wide lenses from Nikon, and Pentax, as adapted to the camera. I also thing the 5D performs better in low light.

3. Color response close to film stocks. I don't think there are great Picture Styles out there for that purpose. So I use Cinestyle, and in Firstlight from Cineform I will pregrade all footage to a film stock looks selections available in Cineform's First light. The time it costs you is conversion to Cineform before editing. The pregrading is instantaneous, requiring to rerendering. You owe it to yourself to try it. Otherwise, you may want to shoot in Marvel or other picture styles to get as close as you want.

Here are films I have tried these different techniques over the years, most of them for DVinfo contests. The latest was shot with Technicolor Cinestyle. Point is you may think they are not filmic, while I may think I have accomplished my goal.

This one won last DVChallenge:


This one won peoples choice a Sacramento Horror Film Festival



This one was an entry in the Canon/Vimeo contest last year.



This was an entry for DVChallenge on this site:


This was winner of DVChallenge/UWOL Charity event:

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