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-   -   Why does a handy cam not look like film? (https://www.dvinfo.net/forum/techniques-independent-production/28-why-does-handy-cam-not-look-like-film.html)

Mark_Wylie September 6th, 2001 05:23 PM

Why does a handy cam not look like film?
Hi all!

I have been doing some home film stuff with some friends, and we have a cheap Sony non digital cam. When we take video with it it looks ok, but it makes everything look bright and all.

Why does it not look like a movie?

Why do movies have a look that even TV does not have? I mean if you look at lets say Ally MacBeal it does not look like the Matrix. It looks like it has "less" quality.

So is it just me or is it a combo of, 16:9, 24fps, and special lenses on the cams?

Please help explain this to me as it has been confusing me for some time.


Chris Hurd September 7th, 2001 09:08 AM

Hi Mark,

Generally speaking, it's all in the lighting. If you light your shots the way Hollywood movies are lit, it goes a long way to making video look like film.

Film is a chemical process and video is an electronic one... they're two completely different mediums. Perhaps they shouldn't look alike. I've always believed that if you have an interesting story to tell, that's the main thing. The format in which you tell the story -- be it video or film -- is nowhere near as important as the message you want to deliver. Hope this helps,

Mark_Wylie September 7th, 2001 02:07 PM

Hi there!

Yeah I sort of wonderd if it was to do with the lighting. I mean there are soaps here in NZ that are lit like a stage (tons of floods) and it looks not in any way shape or form like a film.

I personally prefer the look of film if its to do with a serious or possibly funny story. Things like documentories (sp?) look better in simply high quality video.

I guess I should learn how to set up lighting for film.

Thanks for the help!


The Mindbrother September 22nd, 2001 11:42 AM

If you watch the movie Hannibal on dvd, there is a scene in it that has been filmed with a consumer DV camcorder. It's the flasback scene where Hannibal Lecter is fooling around with the guy on drugs that is cutting into his own face with glass. Director Ridleyy Scott explains about this scene on the commentary track on the dvd.

The light and colour of this scene looks really like movie and not as video. They must have processed the DV picture in some way, but the original take has been filmed with a standard DV camcorder.

Robert J. Wolff September 22nd, 2001 06:37 PM

Good Evening, folks.

Your query was well answered back in the '60's, by the test done for the ASC, and, SMPTE.

Using the same studio setup, film camera's shot a set up; and, then, they replaced those camera's, with video equipment.

The results were quite "illuminating". The so called "look" of film, was very close when the video tape was transfered to film.

At that time, the two biggest differences were contrast, and grain: eg.; resolution, in video language.

Once lighting was adjusted for this, the results were extremely close.

These days, quality video equipment has the edge in both areas.

Most times its the one directional lighting that gives the edge to film. Give it a try. I think you will be most interested in the results that you get. George Lucas is.


Stephen van Vuuren October 5th, 2001 04:33 PM

A combination of lighting, deinterlacing, camera moves, lens choices, soundtrack help take the illusion.

The trickiest situation I find is full-wide, constasty scene (full daylight exterior esp) - these give video the most trouble.

Conversely, low contrast telephoto shot can look stunning - especially with diffused overcast light.

Chris Hurd October 5th, 2001 05:10 PM

If I recall correctly, one of Stephen's favorite movies is "Fight Club." There's a shot in the behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD which shows some alernate camera angles and on-set video. Check this out if you get the chance... these shots don't look anything *like* the final product! You'll see Ed Norton and Brad Pitt doing their lines, but without the color timing, musical score, the foley sounds, and most importantly, without the light set up for anything other than the "A" camera angle, these alernate shots look very much out-of-place.

Most DVD extra features will have some kind of behind-the-scenes or alternate takes which clearly show the difference between casual video on the set which is shot off to the side, and the primary film camera's well-lit point of view.

Stephen van Vuuren October 6th, 2001 09:14 AM

Fight Club is a fave from recent flicks - but there's a lot of Kubrick, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky, Wenders, Kieslowski and more on my all-time fav lists - ask me again in 10 years ;)

But to Chris's point, post-processing to me is a sorely neglected area for digital folks. If your bread & butter is really fast turnaround stuff, maybe so, but for everything else I recommend learning how to process footage (color correction, color effects) to enhance the story you are trying to tell.

I just finished a 30-minute short film that was shot 16:9 interlaced on a XL-1 and ended up 1:85 30 FPS progressive via lots of AE stuff. When I projected it at the premiere via a nice 3000 lumens video projecter (rear projection), it looked stunning, much better in fact than on my Sony 32" XBR.

Out of the 200 there, most people thought it was shot on film or could not tell.

Mark_Wylie October 6th, 2001 01:13 PM

Hi all!

At the post house I am doing work experiance at, they have some of their ads done in "film" style. They are lit like a film and have similar shadow and colour effects, but as far as I know its all shot on DigitalBETA. But it looks like film other than the widescreen format.


Adrian Douglas October 11th, 2001 03:23 AM

Chris has covered the biggest difference between film and video in a nice simple way to understand. To take it further, you have to look into the colour properties of the mediums.

As Chris said it is a chemical process compared to an electronic one. A CCD deals with available light in a different way that film does. A CCD is far more sensitive to light than film, that iin turn means you need more light to correctly expose film than you do for video. If your video camera has a gain control, turn it down to -3db and this will bring your video camera closer to the film colour spectrum or dynamic range, it still won't be the same but it may help reduce the high contrast effect that is characteristic of video cameras.

As for Ally, vs the Matrix, they are both shot on film, but when filming TV shows there is not the time available for fancy lighting, and it is usually shot in a studio. The Matrix is probably not such a good example of the difference because of the digital post production used, a better eg. is probably something like Braveheart.

Mark_Wylie October 11th, 2001 12:51 PM

Hi there!

A correction to my post above, on the "film" like TV ads they do use 35mm film cameras, not digitalBETA.


Jennifer Marine October 19th, 2001 09:22 PM

This is fascinating, and is actually inspiring me to investigate lighting *anything*, which I do not do now. I guess I have stubbornly, and somewhat out of convenience for a beginner, just thought that the Dogme approach was good enough for me. Course, sometimes stuff looks great, and other times, well... I cringe. It'd be nice to understand more about what effect I'm deliberately, but unknowingly, creating.

Question to Stephenvv---I could follow most of what you were saying, except the "1:85" before 30 FPS. What does the 1:85 stand for?

This is a great forum!

Stephen van Vuuren October 19th, 2001 10:06 PM

1.85 refers to the aspect ratio (e.g. 4:3 for normal TV, 16:9 for widescreen DV and HD and 1:1.85 for standard 35mm). There are many other aspect ratios as well.

I composed my short for 1:1.85, so shot it 16:9 in camera, the applied the TGA mask to make 1:1.85

johnchao64 January 8th, 2002 07:16 PM

another way to get dv a bit closer to film is through final cut pro plug-ins. these plug-ins are basically just filters that tweak your video to look more like film. the main filters that i have used are called "Eureka!" There are plug-ins that and grain etc.

an article on the plugins can be found at http://maccentral.macworld.com/news/0112/13.eureka.php

plugins found at http://www.digitalfilmtree.com/eureka.html

Joe Redifer January 10th, 2002 06:50 PM

Why doesn't video look like film? Well let's see....

-NTSC video maxes out around 720 or maybe 800 lines of resolution at its very best. 35mm motion picture film has the equivalant of more than 4,000 lines of resolution. That's why when the actors are shot on film and then computer rendered animation is thrown in, the computer stuff looks blurry (ie Perfect Storm). Nowadays most effects studios render at 2k resolution since it is faster and cheaper. CG done at 4k resolution looks MUCH better onscreen. The new Star Wars movie (Episode 2) was shot 100% on digital video at about 2k resolution. So don't expect super sharp pictures when you see it in the theater.

-NTSC runs at 60 fields per second. Film runs at 24 frames per second. This alone makes a gigantic difference in how the motion picture is perceived. If you were to watch film at 24 fps and then watch another film projected at 60 fps you would notice that the 60fps looks smoother and more like a TV soap opera (which is why I hate anything that fast... just looks so cheesy and makes it look more like video). Because of this difference, watching film creates what is called an "Alpha state" in your brain whereas video creates a "beta state". I may have those two mixed up since it's been awhile since I've heard this discussion, but it basically means that both are perceived differently and accounts for the zombie-like state of mind we get in when we watch television.

-Video is limited in its exposure. That is why if you have a bright scene some overexposed parts of the video image will be completely washed out and have absolutely no detail. This is not the case with film. It has a much higher threshold.

-Then there is all that about how electronic cameras work differently than film cameras in the way that they move and capture the image, etc. If all you did was change the lighting so it was the same as on a film set and then balanced your video camera to that lighting, it would still look very much like video, guaranteed. If you had an XL1 and were shooting in the 30fps "Frame Mode" it would then look a bit more like film. But if you were to project it on a movie theater screen you'd be like "Ug!", especially if you just watched a real film before that!

Some video filters add flicker and scratches over the image to make it look more like film. This is horrible! It creates the impression that if you use film, it is going to get scratched and dirty. Any theater that is worth a damn would never scratch a print nor would it ever be dirty, not even when the reel change splice passes through the projector. Film can last a really long time if handled correctly. Check out the forum at http://www.film-tech.com (Film Handler's Forum) to see how "film done right" beats video every single time.

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