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-   -   The Basics of Film Look (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/techniques-independent-production/18799-basics-film-look.html)

Frank Kotora December 25th, 2003 12:47 AM

The Basics of Film Look
Completely new to all of this...so I ask of you, please be patient with my lack of knowledge in the art that is filmmaking. Seeing as how I just recently bought myself a DCR-VX2100, I am not all too familiar with the in depth terms and concepts behind the filmmaking process, please bear with me. Now, I'm not a complete idiot so I'm hoping to catch on quick, but I'll need some help.

With my fancy new camera, I intend to make my own films, whether they be short or feature length. Naturally, I want them to look professional...I want them to look damn good. I know this is a ridiculously vague question, but how should I start to go about getting these professional results in the video that I shoot?

As of right now, I have only my camera and its accessories, that's it. Soon I will purchase editing software and a firewire card so that I will be able work on my projects on my computer. I run into another problem here, seeing as how I'm not quite sure which editing program to get. Which one do you guys recommend? I don't have the money to go all out and get one of these $1000+ programs...I just need one that will get the job done, and also maybe allow me to add some of these cool "film looks" to my work. Which one will best suit my needs, granted that I learn to shoot good-looking footage in the first place? This brings me to my next question.

I realize editing programs can only go so far. I'm going to have to shoot awesome looking video even before I get to the editing process if I'm going to want to get the results that I desire. So what else do you recommend? I'm looking for any and all suggestions here. Your help would be greatly appreciated. What am I gonna need? A tripod? A badass tripod? Another microphone? What kind? A shotgun mic? Lenses? Filters? Lighting kits? Expensive lighting kits? Cheap but sufficient lighting alternatives? I built myself a cheap little stabilizer, but what about a dolly? Should I just try to find an old wheelchair somewhere? What about camera specific techiques? Exposure? Shutter speeds? What's this AE thing I hear about? I hear I should learn to use manual setting instead of auto, is this true?

I know I'm getting sort of into it with all this, but to be honest it's what I'm looking for. I really have a strong desire to learn all I can about this, so lay it on me. Like I said, anything and everything you can. I want to get a great jumpstart into it all, and I'm hoping you guys are willing to help.

Louis Feng December 25th, 2003 01:16 AM

It sounds like you have a long road ahead of you. AE is short for After Effects, an Adobe compositing/effect software, very popular. Personally, I think a good editing softare is very important, because it's your first step in creating your master piece. You need to use the editing software to capture, cut, etc. to get your video in shape. Basically it's a tool you will always use. Compositing software are useful only when you need them. Most editing software can do simple compositing as well.

I would recommend Avid Xpress Pro for editing. If you use a Mac, your other option would be Final Cut Pro. I like XPro because it's very efficient in editing, great to orgnize all the source materials and it's surprisingly stable. Plus, you'll learn something that you can use in the long run, since all major studios use Avid products, and they work very much the same. Mind you that XPro is not the easiest to learn and I didn't like it at first because of that. Although it costs a little more than others I think it's a good investment.

You can get a demo version of Adobe Premiere Pro, Sony Vegas, etc. to try them out before you decide. XPro doesn't have a demo version, they have a free version, but can't compare to XPro in terms of features. Have fun.

Boyd Ostroff December 25th, 2003 08:05 AM

First, relax and have some fun with the new camera! Yes, you absolutely do need to learn how to use the manual controls but that really isn't very hard. Just leave the shutter set to 1/60 and learn how to adjust the exposure (iris) manually (hint: learn about the zebra patterns - do a search here).

Then, before you start spending money like mad, I think you need to understand what sort of "look" you're going for. The expression "Film Look" is generally overused and products that promise to create it are sometimes questionable. To really understand what you want it might make sense for you to just watch a lot of movies and especially study the ones that you like.

You should also start reading everything you can get your hands on. Personally, I found Scott Billup's book "Digital Moviemaking" very helpful - see his website for some interesting information.

And there's lots of good information on the internet (along with plenty of bad stuff as well), but you've already found what is arguably the best forum here at DVinfo.net!

Corey Smith December 25th, 2003 08:23 AM

Welcome to the Complicated World of Filmmaking Frank!
You've got a lot to learn, but that's not a bad thing. The more you learn the more you'll want to make a movie.....or sometimes not make one. Just stick with it, no matter how hard it may seem.

I'd recommend Adobe Premiere 6.5 or Pro. Not sure how much cost difference there is. Look on Ebay....best price available. Just make sure you buy from someone with a good feedback percentage.


Expensive lights will give better results, but you can get away with using cheap lights. Look on Ebay and you can get a Smith Victor 3 Light set pretty cheap. Or, for an even cheaper price get 2 or 3 work lights on stands. Once you get the lights you will want to get some "Diffusion Gels". This will take away the harsh look of the light and make it more soft. They come in colors too, but you'll mostly need the clear ones. After that, you might want to look up info about lighting (I hear they have a DVD on Ebay about lighting for video).


Watch movies and tv to see how things are usually done. Frame your shots like in the movies, not like someone shooting a home video with people right in the middle of the frame staring at the camera (that's a little obvious though, but you'd be surprised if you saw how many amateur make mistakes like these). Think about getting back issues and subscribing to "Videomaker" magazine for TONS of useful info. Rent a great movie like Terminator 2 and watch it to see how it is shot. It'll give you some ideas. Also, be sure to white balance your video each time you shoot. Simply hold a up a white piece of paper infront of the camera and go to white balance and this set it as you cover the view with the white paper. Most of the time you will want to use manual settings. This way you can get the most out of your camera. Look up info on message boards about this. Also, they have a filmmaking school DVD type thing you can buy somewhere. Check on Ebay.


You'll want a shotgun Microphone. They range in price from as low as $60 to over $500. You can get a pretty good one for $200-$250 I believe. Look into a Seisenheimer (hope I spelled that right). Me, I was using a cheap $60.00 Audio Technik shotgun microphone until my dog chewed it up. Again, look up info on this. Go to filmmaking message boards like www.indieclub.com and this place. Get some Videomaker magazines and read up. It'll help a lot.


I use a cheap $30 MX3000 from Wal-Mart. It works just fine. Of course there is better, but unless you want to spend a lot more money I say start off with something cheaper. You can also buy wheels on ebay for your tripod. If you search online you should be able to find plans showing you how to build homemade dolly and steaicam (ebay has these plans too, I believe).


You may want to get Sophocles screenwriting program (it's cheap and good). Also, look up some movie scripts and see how they're formatted.

Editing suite:

Makes sure you have a fairly fast PC. Lots of memory (minimum of 256MBs....hopefully of fast ram). Two hard drive would be best. One to hold on of your software and one to put video files on. You don't want dropped frames or anything like that. Only get fast 7200RPM hard drive (name brand, don't get a 5400RPM). Format in NTFS.

Film Look:

Always deinterlace your video in premiere. It's real easy and their software has help links that'll show you answers for virtually everything you need help for. Color correct your video in premiere. This too is simple. For a film look in premiere you will also need to play around with Brightness, Contrast & color settings. After Effects is better for this.

Also, no matter how much film looks you try to apply to video without Film's DOF (Depth of Field. Have you notice in movies when a subject in perfectly in focus while the background is not?) it will still have video characteristics. In video pretty much everything is in focus (except maybe in super closeups). It's one of the worst and obvious video give aways.

If you want to fix this you may want to look up the threads here regarding a homemade Mini35 (a cheap homemade version of an $8,000 adapter). This is the holy grail film look effect for DV filmmakers. It'll take some practice, but if anyone who even wants to consider themselves a filmmaker should jump for joy about this homemade device. It'll be more complicated obviously, because you'll have to practice more manual focusing. Read up about it.

Chris Hurd December 25th, 2003 08:54 AM

See also this thread about film look vs. professional look -- over 100 responses and a lot of good reading. Hope this helps,

Frank Kotora December 25th, 2003 10:18 AM

Excellent excellent. Thanks a lot guys. This is some good stuff.

The only thing I'm fuzzy on at this moment is deinterlacing. What is this process? What does it accomplish? And how does one go about accomplishing it?

Corey Smith December 25th, 2003 10:39 AM

Frank, here is a link about deinterlacing (this one is for PAL cameras...United States uses NTSC cameras, so the technical info is a bit different, but it's basically the same):


Jon Yurek December 25th, 2003 11:52 AM

I actually would start off on something free, like Avid FreeDV, for editing (or, and this is only for people with no moral objections, you could obtain illegal versions of proper software... especially since you'd only be trying it out to get a feel for the one you actually want to buy... there's no sense in spending $1000 if you're going to dump it in 2 weeks because it's not right for you... just remember to actually pay for the one you decide on using finally).

As for actually shooting, the approach that I'm taking is start with the camera and add something more complicated each time you start a new project. After I got comfortable with the camera, I added post-production effects, then a boom mic, then lights (in fact, we shot a feature length movie using no external lighting sources, just natural light and whatever lights were in the room if it was an indoor shot), and soon we're going to add lavalier mics and dollys. One step at a time and don't try to suck all the info in at once, you'll fry your head.

Experience (and this board) is a great teacher.

Peter A. Smith December 25th, 2003 12:51 PM

Here is another link about deinterlacing with two very good products http://www.creativecow.net/index.php?forumid=2 and http://www.dvfilm.com/maker/index.htm

hope this helps

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