The production quality of a video can make or break the retention of your audience. Even if the writing and content are unique and engaging, you will quickly lose the “professional” feeling of your video if you don’t have the proper equipment and editing for your final cut.
Below are three tips to increase the cinematic look of your footage, from the filming stages all the way through to the final editing steps.
Your Camera And Lenses
The progression in modern consumer grade DSLR cameras has been immense over the past 15 years. Resolutions and sensor sensitivities have become exponentially more impressive, giving you access to high quality raw footage with relatively inexpensive camera models. The Canon DSLR line has proven to be the king of quality at an affordable price, so investing in one of their consumer or “prosumer” models will surely increase the overall cinematic feel of your footage.
Additionally, the lenses you choose for your camera will also play an important aspect in creating the “cinematic” look. While most base DSLR packages will come with a stock zoom lens, usually ranging from 35 mm to 200 mm, investing in higher quality lenses will further enhance your footage. While there is a long list of varying lenses, ensuring it has the proper mount (or at least an adapter) to fit the body of your camera will be an important detail to keep in mind.
Knowing the proper settings for your camera will also improve the quality of your raw footage. No matter how advanced your camera, lenses, or editing skills are, if you don’t know how to correctly set your camera up for success, the footage will always end up lackluster. Here are a few quick tips for your settings:
- Keep your ISO as low as possible, without sacrificing the brightness of your footage. A higher ISO will result in increased film grain.
- For most applications, a framerate of 24 FPS (or 23.97) will result in the most natural “cinema” look
- Always keep your shutter speed at twice the number of your framerate. For example, 24 FPS will result in a shutter speed of 1/48 (most cameras will allow for 1/50)
- Wider lenses are great for establishing shots, while longer lenses will flourish in close up shots.
The above is a short list of key things to keep in mind before recording your footage, but truly mastering how to get the best quality raw footage from your camera will come with trial and error as well as research.
Lighting and Audio
Often neglected by amateur filmmakers, lighting and audio comprise of two main departments found on a film set. While it may go unnoticed by the average viewer, when these aspects are subpar, the overall quality will be ineffably worse. When it comes to audio, it is a fairly straight forward process depending on your budget and manpower:
- Shotgun Mic: Attached to the top of your camera, it will have directional audio based on what you are filming. The least inexpensive option, these are great additions for first time filmmakers.
- Lavalier Mic: Commonly referred to as lapel microphones, these will be discreetly attached to your subjects for their speaking lines. While some are wired, wireless lavalier mics will allow for great audio while also letting your subjects move freely throughout the scene.
- Boom Mic: A hand operated microphone, these will provide the best audio while also remaining out of frame. Requiring a boom operator, these will be the highest end option.
Properly lighting your scene will also immensely improve the overall footage quality, allowing the sensitivity of your camera to pick up every detail within the frame. Fill lights, key lights, accents, gels, filters, and a number of other accessories can aid in this process of properly lighting while also creating contrast.
Once you have captured your raw footage, the final steps of cutting together your footage is when your film finally begins to take its final shape. Using programs such as Adobe Premiere Pro, you have the option to tune your audio and footage, creating a cohesive timeline of clips and scenes. The normal steps for a film editor to follow in order are as follows:
- Importing your raw footage and audio (possibly converting to an easier to edit file format)
- Syncing audio with your clips
- Choosing the best takes (where necessary)
- Piecing together your scenes
- Trimming clips and overlapping dialogue for a natural feel
- Adding in sound effects, music, room tone, or removing errors
- Color grading (adjusting light and color levels within your raw footage)
- Add transitions, blur effects, vignettes, or other stylized editing tricks
- Exporting to the appropriate resolution and file type
While the above tips barely scratch the surface of film production, they will point you in the right direction to further enhance your video projects for a more cinematic look.