Movie cameras

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Andres Munoz, Sep 22, 2004.

  1. Andres Munoz

    Andres Munoz Cinematographer

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    I wasn't sure where to post this question but since it has to do with movies, I'm dropping it here in the Movies Forum.

    I'm not too keen on the technology used to make a movie but I'm assuming that the camera or type of lens is what makes a movie look different than a home video.

    The reason I ask is because I was playing around with my camcorder at home and when playing back the video I wished I could make it look less like a home video.

    Is there a cheap way to achieve this using a normal consumer camcorder?
     
  2. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    Erm... the short of it is...

    No.

    Film has a fundamentally different response curve to light and exposure that video has a devil of a time coping with. For one thing, video can only cope with about a quarter the dynamic range as film. So color, grayscale tracking, and gamma are all way off from video.

    That's before you add into the account that video is, for most consumer hardware, 30 intrlaced frames, while film is 24 progressive frames, which yields a very different 'look', too.

    Leo
     
  3. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Leo is exactly correct. In addition…

    Don’t forget that you are comparing consumer equipment to professional equipment. Some of the newer, professional HD cameras do quite well in coming close to film in terms of exposure and color—to the point that you can choose which film stock to emulate. Panasonic has been very big on pushing 24fps in their models—this is being taken up with other professional video cameras.

    But even these high end, professional video cameras won’t have the grain that is a characteristic of film. You may or may not like grain, but it is a part of film and not of video.

    Most consumer video cameras have non-interchangeable lenses—and they are usually not very good (in professional terms). The better consumer video cameras and all professional models have lenses that are equal in quality to professional 35mm cameras.

    BTW, the professional HD video cameras actually cost more to rent than 35mm cameras commonly used in the industry. That is a professional Sony or Panasonic HD camera costs more per day to rent than an Ariflex.

    Quality still costs money.
     
  4. Andres Munoz

    Andres Munoz Cinematographer

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    Thanks guys for the prompt responses.

    I know that without the "right" equipment (read: professional and expensive), there's no way a home video can look like a film.

    I guess what I really would like to know is if there is a way to shoot video with a normal consumer camcorder and give it a different "look", so that when you play it back, it doesn't look like a home video.
     
  5. Steve Felix

    Steve Felix Supporting Actor

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    Two things can get you much closer (for free):

    1. If the camera has manual shutter control, change it from 1/60 to 1/30. This will blur motion to give it a more filmic look (although it takes a minute to get used to). Depending on the camera this can cost some resolution, but I think it's worth it.

    2. Light properly. I'm a believer that the "film look" is primarily the "pro look," meaning that if you do a nice key, fill, kicker light setup, it will have more impact than just shelling out for some magic frame rate. Google "three point lighting" if you want more info on that.

    If you want to spend some money there are many pieces of software that plug into the various editing applications that apply a film look. They vary greatly in quality, though, and I don't think the results are worth the cost.

    Edit: Two other things.

    3. Reduce depth of field (get the background out of focus) by lengthening the lens (zooming in) and getting close to the subject. Also, if you have manual iris (aperture) control, open it up as much as possible. Inexpensive filters can be bought (ND filters) that will cut down on light so you can open the aperture more if necessary.

    4. Don't zoom when you can move. They have totally different optical effects and you won't see much zooming in a major motion picture. (Unless it's Robert Altman.)
     
  6. Chris Harvey

    Chris Harvey Second Unit

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    Adding to the lighting concept: bear in mind that video doesn't have the attitude of film in terms of luminence -- film can deliver detail in shadows while still retaining detail in highlights whereas video of the same scene would either be blown-out or lack shadow detail or both.

    So if you can stay away from outdoor, sunlight shooting (or make sure you rent a silk or two to get some fill into your shadows) and also art-direct your surroundings a bit (staying away from blacks and whites and really bright colors like red, in locations, props, and costumes) that will also help.

    Once you've shot your stuff, playing a bit with the color curves of the video (after digitizing) can help a bit too.

    As the others have said, you're not gonna be able to really emulate 35mm film (or even HD or 16mm) with a prosumer video camera, but if you follow the above advice you can at least do a decent approximation.

    Also, one of the single biggest things you can do to avoid looking like home video is buy or borrow a tripod with a fluid head and carefully framing your shots, avoiding the handy/shaky-cam "trombone" zooming stuff that screams "amateur".
     
  7. Andres Munoz

    Andres Munoz Cinematographer

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    Great advice. Thanks a lot guys.
     
  8. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Keep in mind too that video and film also have different looks in different playback environments, in this case I assume your home TV. Since that is 30/60 frames per second (60 if progressive) video lines up nicely and doesn't have the pulldown cadence and resulting effects that film will. That also adds to how the two look different, generally helping HD stuff look "better" on an HDTV when the source is an HD video camera than say an HD transfer from film, at least in that "it looks so real" manner.


    And of course you have results counter to that if you are shooting video to print to film vs film running at 24 fps.


    The hints regarding how you shoot are also very nice, especially the lighting. There is so much to the lighting and in my opinion the two biggest areas that indicate amateur work are lighting and sound. Those aspects make decently scripted/acted stories seem very cheap and silly if they aren't done well.
     
  9. Andres Munoz

    Andres Munoz Cinematographer

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    Very true Seth. Thanks.
     

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