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Old November 1st, 2013, 01:41 PM   #1
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What is 'A Film Like Look'?

I have been a videographer for 30 years and before that using cine film, but I just do not understand what 'A Film Look' actually is.

I get the using of gliders, sliders, steady cam, shallow dof, cranes etc, but that is using cinema production techniques. As we all use video, I just do not understand what people mean when they say that a camera gives a more film like look. Using my 3 chip video cameras and filming at 50p(Pal), I get sharp clear pictures, vibrant colours and can use high speed shooting for slow motion. I can also get a reasonably shallow depth of field on some shots with care, if I choose. I can add effects in editing to change or remove colours, and just about anything else I fancy.

I read on this forum about people wanting 24p, and can see that that gives a low frame rate equivalent to film, but why reduce the quality of what I am producing? Could I please be enlightened on what makes footage from a camera more film like than other cameras and why that it considered desirable.

Roger
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Old November 1st, 2013, 02:07 PM   #2
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

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Originally Posted by Roger Gunkel View Post
I read on this forum about people wanting 24p, and can see that that gives a low frame rate equivalent to film, but why reduce the quality of what I am producing? Could I please be enlightened on what makes footage from a camera more film like than other cameras and why that it considered desirable.

Roger
Hi Roger,

24p doesn't necessarily lower the quality of what someone produces, it creates a different cadence for the way movement looks in the video (something closer to what you would see if you are watching film). People are after types skin tones that are hard to replicate or change on an 8 bit camera if it's not spot on to begin with.

Film also has grain as part of it, so it's not super clean, but it looks nicer than noise on a digital camera (which is why people will clean up there image with a noise reducer and then add a film grain).

I'm sure there is more, but typically that's a bit of what people are looking to reproduce.

As for the why, it's all subjective. Nuances that I may find exhilarating you may find unnecessary and reduces the quality. In regards to a wedding, you will attract brides that are attracted to your style (hopefully or price I suppose).
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Old November 1st, 2013, 02:39 PM   #3
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

I think of film a bit like a big fat tube amp that rolls off the highs in a pleasing way. Video highlights blown out are really unpleasant to me. In general, limited dynamic range and infinite focus is what I think of when I think of the "video look". And 60fps...
I think "shallow depth of field" can be more filmic, and now actually having the choice to use it with video (hopefully tastefully) is pretty great.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 02:44 PM   #4
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

Actually, it is the control over depth of focus, to be able to choose creatively what is in the field of focus is great. Especially without having to go all telephoto.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 02:54 PM   #5
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

Daniel summed it pretty well.

I once worked with a photographer, and he mailed me a disc of the wedding photos. I loved the photos, there was something about the look of them that moved me.

I was inspired so much by those photos I went out and purchased my first still camera and lens for $2000.

When I could not get the results he did, I called him and asked him what lens he used. He laughed good naturedly and told me it was not the lens that gave the look, but that fact that he shot on film.

Same is true for movies, there is something about the look of film that I love. The most film-like video I've seen is produced by Pacific Pictures. If you have not seen their wedding films on Vimeo, Roger, do check them out.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 05:59 PM   #6
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

It's a combination of things...

And my question would be "which film" - the extras on "The Aviator" went into all the different "period" films they tried to replicate.... each "film" had it's own unique "look"!


It's partly cadence/frame rate... though I'm not convinced of shooting 24p (too much stutter!), I do render out to it, seems to be OK...

It's definitely the way images are composed/framed (directors take time to set shots up "just so" and get the luxury of multiple takes, most of the time we shoot "one shot, on the fly", as best we can)...

How Depth of Focus is used creatively (meaning sometimes shallow is "right", sometimes it's NOT) is another "piece"....

And how color correction/grading is done is a BIG chunk of the puzzle, IMO (meaning that the "baked in look" straight out of the camera may look very "real", but not look like "cinema", where color is an art unto itself - shifts to blue, or green, or red, or whatever are used "theatrically" to set a tone/mood. Saturated or de-saturated color is in that mix too, and "gamma"... lots of mysterious stuff! Look at "ungraded" footage from outtakes on a DVD some time - looks like poo... then watch the stages as it's massaged into a final product... even TV shows have "looks" (the Law & Order series come to mind), and the guy who "mixes the color" is a key player!

You can probably toss "lighting" in there somewhere too... a fight we always fight, because we don't have a "lighting crew"!

Cinematic sounds nifty, and all expensive, but I doubt most brides want a bloomin' "film crew" on "set"... What they want is good QUALITY that doesn't embarrass them when they put the DVD in and the grooms mom looks like a smurf (bad CC!), people's heads are chopped off (framing), and everything's out of focus (dang f/1.7!)...

In short, they expect the "product" tells a good happy "story" of the day, and looks good while doing it! Call it whatever you wish, but the "formula" is not that mysterious.
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Old November 1st, 2013, 07:02 PM   #7
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

Well Roger

What do you think?? It seems that everyone has a different opinion although some do cross over but it's interesting that different people have different ideas on what the main element is that distinguishes a "video" from a "film" apart from the real thing of course.

I wonder what brides think is a wedding film? or are they simply swept away by the fancy name and status of "My own Cinematic Wedding Film.created by the countries top Cinematographers"

I still think we have to be very careful with what the bride sees! A tasteful shallow DOF focus shift could quite easily be interpreted as "Why is my husband's face blurry?"

I would say that every person sees a wedding video or film in a different way so it's not important what we think a wedding film should contain but what the bride thinks it should look like. I cannot see a bride actually craving for an over contrasty image with frame stutter and bit's out of focus and strange colours but obviously they love the cinematic treatment.

I'm still not convinced but maybe I should be making weddings films or should I just be calling them wedding films..do brides truly appreciate all the work you put in?

Chris
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Old November 1st, 2013, 07:58 PM   #8
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

I'll check out Pacific Pictures thanks. I do wonder though whether it is just a matter of taste. I happen to like high resolution sharp in focus images and I find the constant use of shallow depth of field particularly irritating. I like to see what is going on in the whole scene and when I watch a tv programme where they are constantly using shallow dof or pulling focus, I just can't help but see it as fashionable froth.

I watched 'Country File' a few nights ago, a UK programme about the rural countryside and people living and working in it. The entire programme was a constant flow of slider shots moving from behind the nearest fence in glorious shallow closeup pulling focus to a magnificent scenic view, then an interview constantly changing focus for each of the two people talking. Then back to more slider and shallow dof shots, all the time continuously moving up, down or sideways. It was driving me insane and I had to turn it off after a while. If that is an example of film like, then it's not a route I want to go down. But maybe that is not film like, just following current style!

The idea of replacing video noise with film grain, seems to be replacing the limitations of one media with the limitations of another. Blown out highlights can be avoided surely by working within the limits of the camera that you are working with and the dynamic range available. Film and tv sets are engulfed in lighting rigs to get the levels of light required both inside and out, something that we don't need or are unable to do working with small scale event video.

Brian, your comment on the 'fat' sound of an old tube amp is an interesting one and one that I am very familiar with having been a guitarist and sound engineer for most of my teenage to old age years. I still have a '62 Strat that I gig with, but when digital amps and recording took over from tape and tubes in the music industry, I loved it? For the first time I was able to produce the exact sound of an instrument without tube distortion and tape compression. But very quickly, some sections of the industry wanted the sounds that they had grown up with and rebelled against transistor amps and digital sound recording because it lacked warmth. It lacked distortion to me! As the music industry has moved on, musicians now use software to reproduce some of the earlier digital instrument and effects sounds, as well as the earlier tape and tube distortions.

I wonder if future generations of video producers will be seeking that elusive low light video noise effect and light streaks from earlier CCDs. Will future movies contain reproductions of that 'MPEG compression look'? I wonder whether we will be seeing 8k video cameras chosen for that 'DVD look' that retro filmakers may be seeking!

From the comments here, it seems that some are in agreement over the 'film look' while others have a slightly different interpretation. Perhaps that's it, as Jeff said, something moves you but it's a varying idea depending on what you see and what you want to see. The differences between cinematic and film like seem to be somewhat elusive and overlapping as I suppose is the definition of what looks like video.

I have no preference for any particular 'look' but I do know what I don't like as I am sure we all do in different ways.

Roger

Last edited by Roger Gunkel; November 1st, 2013 at 08:00 PM. Reason: Spilling Mistooks
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Old November 1st, 2013, 08:19 PM   #9
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

It's a while since I posted my last post and there are a few new ones that I hadn't read, but I think that Dave has some very good point, particularly when he mentions some of the film out takes. There are a large number of variables with the look of a film and I really think that the media itself is probably far less important than the on set and post production work.

I think that perhaps the whole perception of what looks like film and what looks like video is a bit skewed. Given a video camera or DSLR capable of producing high resolution footage under a reasonable range of lighting conditions, I don't see any reason why a film like video can't be produced given the time and the tools. While people are looking for a camera capable of producing film like output, are they losing site of the sort of conditions they are filming under? There is an enormous amount of equipment, sound recording, lighting etc in addition to the cameras and big crew that go into making a movie. Every scene and shot is carefully choreographed and shot and reshot many times. Film rushes are then worked on by the editors, colour specialists, foley people etc until they finally end up after hundreds or thousands of man hours with a finished film production. Bearing in mind that many documentary style weddings are as long as a feature film, can we really expect to emulate that film look by buying the right camera?

Roger
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Old November 1st, 2013, 08:36 PM   #10
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

Hi Roger

I very much doubt whether the camera makes any difference UNLESS you set it up to be different. I shot on 3 chip CCD's and CMOS cameras for years and now I'm using Sony EA-50's which have the DSLR sensor from their still camera and apart from a bit of DOF control especially with fast lenses I can honestly say that my videos don't look really any different from the ones I shot on my 3 chippers!!

It seems that it's (as Dave says) more to do with colour manipulation and image in post rather than being able to shoot on a small sensor or big sensor camera.

The only thing I have noticed with some cinematic clips done by others is that contrast seems to be pushed quite hard but like you I like to have sharp, bright footage that I know the bride will like.

Are you thinking about changing your style to try and achieve the more filmic look?? Just interested!

Chris
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Old November 2nd, 2013, 12:17 AM   #11
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

Just as a thousand monkeys with typewriters will not produce Shakespeare (a theory turned fact, now proven by the internet), a thousand amateurs with "the right" cameras will not produce an Oscar winning movie...

Far too much "credit" is placed upon "THE CAMERA", as though it's some "Holy Grail" that will impart magical mystical powers and talent upon its bearer....

There are LOTS of image acquisition devices, with all kinds of "qualities", or "weaknesses". NONE of them will produce a "film" if you set them on the front porch and turn them on... takes more than that!

I will propose that having "the right" equipment that works for YOU, that inspires you, that makes you see YOUR vision when you switch it on, that makes YOU want to go out and shoot... yeah, that's important, even if it's not everything! I've got cameras that make ME want to hit "record", and others that I've tried that left me flat, cameras I tried because they are "cool hip and popular" and work super well for others!



I think sometimes (and I'll use an analogy that should sink in for Roger, as another "guitar guy"), there is a perception that having the exact piece or pieces of equipment, as say Eddie Van Halen, will let you play like he does/did). I've had clients ask me to build or adjust a guitar and or amp "rig" so they sound "like" so and so (IOW a certain "guitar like" sound)... I have to explain that you'd still need "their" fingers, technique, etc. etc... you CAN replicate pieces and parts of a "look" or a "sound", but sometimes there's still a certain talent or "magic", or mojo, or whatever you want to call it that comes from a person, a group of people... the right equipment, the right people, the right "moment"... "chemistry" if you will.

That's one of those things that happens, we are (or should be) a part of it when we "run camera", when we edit, when we mix... the camera is but a tool, hopefully one that doesn't "get in the way"!


The whole "hip and popular" thing oft times becomes "overdone" (think 70s sitcom "wah-wah" guitar soundtracks!), until it's no longer "hip", and some other "new hip thing" comes along... I somehow doubt a "JJ Abrams" wedding video with lens flares and such would be a common request, yet he is currently "hip and hot"... is THAT the "cinematic/film look" we're getting requests for? Time to go buy a "lens flare" effect plug in... or maybe not...
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Old November 2nd, 2013, 06:51 AM   #12
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

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Originally Posted by Chris Harding View Post
Are you thinking about changing your style to try and achieve the more filmic look?? Just interested!

Chris
Exactly the opposite Chris, I posted the original title question as there seems to be almost an obsession with the filmic look, as if it is some sort of holy grail. I just wanted to understand what and why that is. I am very happy with what I produce and don't seek to emulate anyone or anything else. I have picked up some great ideas and tips from this forum including things that I am adding to my armoury already to add variation.

Dave, your guitar analogy is a very good one, not just with guitars but also with guitar effects processors. Just like video effects, adding an effect doesn't substitute the need for experience and ability. I see so many guitar effects that give you that Electric Mistress Jimi Hendrix sound, or the Van Halen or Slash overdrive. Unfortunately they don't also give you the talent to play the solos. Their sounds are about the subtleties of feel for the music and intonation on individual notes, then the studio processing with compression, eq, reverbs and the producer's individual style.

These things are the same as the requirements for film production, requiring the subtleties of individual directors, cameramen at the top of their game, lighting engineers, and all the extensive post production. The camera is just the image gathering tool, a necessary part, but just that- a part of the overall picture.

Roger
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Old November 2nd, 2013, 01:36 PM   #13
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

When dSLRs first took off in the video world everyone thought the film look was all about 24fps. That has its place, but Bruce Dorn - someone on the web who does actually know what he's talking about and is a Canon Explorer of Light - did these informative videos demonstrating the influence of shutter speed:

Video Shutter Speed Test at the Junior Rodeo | iDC Photo Video

Its part three in which he gives the explanations.

The "film look" seems to have broadened in its meaning since then. There is an interesting in depth discussion about it on the Vegas Pro board at the moment:

Sony Creative Software - Forums - Vegas Pro - Video Messages

Pete
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Old November 2nd, 2013, 02:40 PM   #14
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

There are lots of different definitions of the 'Film Look' but the 'Video Look' is definitely everything in focus from foreground to infinity.
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Old November 2nd, 2013, 02:56 PM   #15
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Re: What is 'A Film Like Look'?

One feature of Hollywood films that's of relevance to weddings is something that Robert Rodriguez picked up on for El Mariachi. Not so much a question of film vs video (he was shooting on film) but appearance of high production value. He noted that properly budgeted films have multiple cameras and angles, so he recreated the effect in camera by filming only short takes at a time and doing a billion setups.

In wedding video land, the guys selling the courses on how to make cinematic films and become a millionaire refer to this as "sequencing".

General point, anyway, is that "film look" has a triple meaning I think Roger is noticing: not only (1) the look of 35mm film vs what video is supposed to look like (artefacts, motion cadence, frame rate, dynamic range, maybe depth of field etc); but also (2) the feeling of high production value; and (3) the feeling that thought and planning have been put into a video, just like a film.

Ways to achieve 2 include actually spending more money on the video, with multiple operators, etc.

Ways to achieve 3 include: actually spending time planning and location scouting or literally storyboarding some of it in advance; actually thinking about things like how lighting and lens choice and composition tell story.
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