View Full Version : film look with HDV ?

02-25-2008, 12:39 PM
What are some steps I can take to get a film look with HDV (Canon XH-A1)? I have a black pro mist filter i plan to use, I have heard that is one thing to do. Another is to shoot 24p, correct? Use a low (wider open aperature) f-stop when possible? Anything else? Should I also sandwich a diffusion filter onto the black pro mist filter (I think Battlestar Galactica does that)?

02-25-2008, 12:43 PM
the best way to go about that is just shoot in 24fps and make sure it is lit very well. then add film effects in post so you can control the look of the film.

02-25-2008, 01:35 PM
Slow the shutter speed to 1/48 second, and you may need an ND2 or ND4 filter to get your aperture open further when the built in ND filter is a little too much. Set your color saturation setting to zero or a negative value (adjust to taste) to get less saturated color. Don't go overboard here, though, it's really easy to desaturate in your final color grading.

In my opinion, the XH-A1 has a really pleasing gamma curve that resembles film (at least the way I've got mine set up), and it even produces a film-grain look in the darker (noisier) regions. My clients have been really happy with the look. By the time they see it, it's usually SD, but it's the tonal range, soft shadows, and such that make it look less like video. I'm shooting for TV, so I'm using 30p @ 1/60 second shutter. Someday, I'm going to setup for 24p @ 1/48 and shoot something for my own purposes to see how much it matters.


02-25-2008, 05:34 PM
What's your distribution going to be?

Good lighting, professional camera movement, good actors, great script, makeup, hair set design...

The in camera stuff means nothing without the rest in'll still look like video.

The main thing that's noticeable is lighting and exposure, avoid having bright white in the frame that you can't balance out, the thing that stands out the most in video is that it has a limited range of light it can pick up...white is still white and black still black, but the steps between are fewer.

If you want the "film look" shoot film (sorry, I just hate the leads folks to believe they're going to get stuff that looks like lord of the rings on video...and it just won't happen). Shoot instead using all of the things that hollywood does to ensure its film is the most beautiful thing ever...control absolutely everything that happens in front of the camera and the light that captures it to the camera. The actual camera bits can be learned in an afternoon by twiddling with the knobs a bit.

slightly underexpose (one click on the exposure wheel), light the shadows to fit into that light space.

Avoid super high contrast sharp edges

Turn digital edge enhancement off (or down if off isn't an option).

Move the camera at half the speed you think you want to, panning, trucking, whatever...

After all that is done, 24p 1/48th shutter will get you the actual capture rate of film, but may not dump to DVD properly if that is your intended target, test it...if you like it, use it...try shooting 60i and 30f and converting them as well to see what works out for you the best.

Don't trust anything we say here, we're all opinionated beyond reason ;)

02-25-2008, 06:48 PM
Don't trust anything we say here, we're all opinionated beyond reason
I no longer have an opinion. The IRS confiscated it for back taxes.

I do agree with everything you said, Mr. Knightly, but I must say I am kind of partial to progressive capture. Although I lived with it for years, interlacing has a definite video look. I don't think you could tell the difference between my 30fps footage and 24fps footage if I didn't tell you which was which.

It still comes back to knowing your camera and understanding light, depth of field, filters, etc. Experience is everything. I learn something new on every shoot, and I do a lot of experimental and/or practice shots. I never assume something will work, or how it will look. I can't stress enough the importance of understanding light. Light is really what we use to make a picture; the camera is just the canvas.


02-25-2008, 09:51 PM
Blu-Ray HD. Nice tips, I am going to make a checklist and try to get as close to a film look as I can with all the suggestions you and others are giving.

What's your distribution going to be?...)

02-25-2008, 11:30 PM
I don't shoot interlaced either, but I don't because I've done it and don't like it... I'm a big proponent of trying it and determining for yourself if you like something or not...test tapes are cheap. I just keep one around labelled TEST for these kinds of questions, then I play the results back on whatever kind of output I'm testing it for.

02-26-2008, 08:54 AM
Some web articles I found on getting the film look from DV, which reiterate much of what has been said in this forum topic thread:

04-26-2008, 04:09 AM
Hire a movietube?

04-26-2008, 12:57 PM
This is a multi-stage process.

The first thing to understand is film cameras tend to use primes, rather than the standard zoom on a video unit. So one of the first things you can do to make your movie more filmic is to restrict your lens choices to three, maybe four choices. In real terms this means moving the camera to make your frame, rather than resizing the shot with the zoom.

Then do everything Knightly suggested.

Then in post your most important stage is going to be your colour correction. If you've got Final Cut Studio 2 then you've already got "Color" ... which will give you all the tools you need to grade your footage to look like all kinds of "film" looks.

If not then I'd invest in Red Giant's Looks (

This grading software not only has a whole raft of film stock presets and is one of the best tools in the business.

If money is tight then look at Colorista (

You'll have to work harder to get your grade... but this is tons better than the built in colour corrector in FCP


The cleaner your video is, the more you can do in post.

Will Vincent
04-26-2008, 05:22 PM

With the exception perhaps of frame rate and definite exception of shutter speed. Shutter speed must stay at the equivalent of what would be a 180 degree opening or narrower on a film camera -- which means if you're shooting at 24 frames per second you want to use a shutter speed no slower than 1/48th of a second (for 30fps that would translate to 1/60th a second or faster and for those bad with math faster means the number on the right is larger, not smaller... 1/100, 1/250, etc)

The reason is that it is physically not possible in a film camera to do otherwise -- because otherwise the film wouldn't have time to clear and position the next frame in the gate, and you would end up with streaks.

If you don't believe me, go watch the movie 21 while it's still in the theater and see how much the image looks like broadcast television (prime time news, etc) than film when they break that shutter speed guideline. You should be able to EASILY pick out the parts that broke the rule...
here's a hint... they did it on darker scenes to allow for a brighter exposure without adding more light. Adding more light would be better, even if it's not the "easy" solution.

04-27-2008, 06:16 AM
Thanks for the reminder about shutter speeds... I do that automatically and didn't even consider mentioning it.

The other thing I didn't mention was about going into the camera's menus and changing the set-up to remove automatic sharpening. Most video cameras throw an small amount of sharpening into the picture as a default. On some camcorders it's possible to remove that, which again takes some of the video harshness out of the image.

Has someone already mentioned using ND is a matte box to control DOF? Narrow DOF is one of the hallmark looks of film... and something that's harder to do with video, a format designed to optimse low light.

Personally, I wouldn't add Pro Mist on or any other filtering except ND to alter the DOF and a polarising filter to increase the saturation of the colours. I prefer to hand all changes to the look of the image in post production. However, my favorite DOP loves his Pro-mist and has to be beaten with old rope to film stuff raw.

05-12-2008, 11:39 PM
If you want a film look, shoot like a film. May be too many closeups with perfect rule of third. Do not lit the light too hard, low light is good. Use progressive mod rather than interlace. I shot my feature film with a panasonic DVX102B, it gives great images almost like a film.