Monday, October 06, 2008

Cinematic style in photography

Coming across a reference to "cinematic style" in a Twitter entry, I wondered what makes a photograph cinematic.

  • Production

    • Wide aperture
    • Slow shutter (< 1/60 sec)
    • Telephoto lens from a distance on a tripod
    • Slightly underexpose
    • Dusk or dawn

  • Post-production

    • Shift white balance
    • Black bars, top and bottom
    • Reduce saturation
    • Add multicolor noise
    • Curved gamma
    • Increase contrast or make black blacker


The above summary is based on the following citations.
...lighting, the way you move the camera (don't zoom in, be steady, use tripods), film grain, the exposure of the film, and of course depth of field. your depth of field isn't that great on most mini-dv cameras... they're pretty much flat. forums.studentfilms.com

White balance to off-white colors for nice tints.

Lock the camera down on a tripod and zoom in from a distance, this gives a nice shallow depth of field with blurry backgrounds much the way a film is shot. forums.studentfilms.com

Something I've learned is to get rid of shadow grain. this means toying with the exposure.

You know when yuor filming someone under a light, but everything else is dark, and the camera tries to compensate by adding more light? turn your exposure on the camera down a tad and it will get rid of that. forums.studentfilms.com

Another thing to do that is pretty easy is to add a black matte to the top and bottom of the screen. Just two bars of black. I know it's cheesy but it works well when you have no other capabilities such as knocking down the frame rate. forums.studentfilms.com

...get a camera with manual focus, exposure, and shutter speed, and set the shutter to 1/60s or slower. Use a tripod.

Avoid shooting at mid-day. Early morning or sunset will look better. forums.studentfilms.com

...try to shoot on a long lens as much as possible (put the camera far away from actors, zoom in and film it that way) to create some more depth. Also, shoot on a low F Stop forums.studentfilms.com


"How to turn your photo into movie-like effect using Photoshop?"
This is basically what the author says:

  1. Reduce saturation
  2. Increase contrast
  3. Use lens blur to create shallow depth of field
  4. Add Noise
  5. Add black bars top and bottom for Cinemascope effect
  6. Adjust color balance


How do I make my film look digital?
Film cameras normally sample time 24 times a second at 1/48th second each.

Film also tends to record a greater contrast ratio.

...film gamma tends to be more curved (exponential) than video.

Film grain tends to look more multicolored, smaller sized (because film has a greater resolution), ...

...start with basic 3-point lighting.

Use high or low angle shots to convey a character's power in a scene (camera at eyelevel is neutral).

...keep the aperture as open as possible (lower number) and the shutter speed as long a possible (normally 1/60th sec). ... Also, try and work with the camera more zoomed in (but never digitally zoomed in!) and physically farther away from the subject. This flattens the frame and narrows the depth of field (creating a blurry background)–this look is associated with being more cinematic.

Examine something as simple as the color of the walls: In a Hollywood movie, are interior walls ever off-white? No, they are either bright white or a darker, moodier color. This is a micro budget problem because most houses have off-white walls. Off-white works in real life, but looks dirty in a movie.

Desaturate Colors
Some people think reducing the color intensity makes video look more like film.

For whatever reason, video cameras don’t record the dark areas as black as they should (a contrast problem). ... make the blacks blacker ... by reducing the lows or with a filter called “Levels” by increasing the black input.

Blur the Highlights
... The very bright areas of the frame are blurry and almost bleed into the areas directly surrounding them. ... Add a small Gaussian blur ...

Add Grain
... Generate some noise that is colored and randomly changing (under it’s settings). ... Reduce opacity and experiment with composite mode (multiply might be good for this). Keep the opacity low—a little goes a long way.

2 comments:

Lensfreak said...

This is a good article about new kind of photographic style known as "cinematic photography" that is very popular now.

Tom Nowell said...

So far, nobody has mentioned a very basic principal, namely the camera "doesn't exist" in cinematography style shots. Movie subjects never look at the camera except in documentaries.