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How to Make Your Video Look like Film

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/8/2010

Do you want your next digital video to look like film? With today’s advanced video technology, it’s not that difficult to attain the coveted film look with an appropriate video camera and a few minor tweaks.

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    Did you just step out of the cinema wishing you could make your video look like the film you had just watched? Film has a softer and warmer look while video has a high-contrast and sharper Iook and that doesn’t suggest subtlety.

    If you’ve shot your video and would like to give it a film look, you can use good video editing software to do it.

    If you’ve yet to shoot your video, you can use the suggestions below to achieve the film look, provided you own a video camera that allows you to shoot in 24p.

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    Avoid the Usual White Balance

    You may not have the liberty to do your white balancing in the usual way if you’re going to attain the film look. Instead of using a white card, you may want to use a very light blue card to do your 'white balancing’ so that you could attain a warm tone for your movie.

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    Camera Movement

    Video cameras are light and easy to move about. When you move your camera too much, the resulting video destroys the illusion of film look you’re trying to achieve. Although you may be handling the lightest of video cameras, you would have to imagine that you’re actually operating a 35mm film camera like Panavision.

    The camera movement has to be slow and executed in such a way as if it’s there to pick up important details in a scene. If you can’t move your video camera like a heavy film camera, you could add something to your camera to make it heavier for you to get the hang of handling a heavy camera. To get an idea of how a film camera works, study movies, especially of the studio era, to get a feel of the whole thing. Also to achieve the film look you would want to use more dolly or trucking shots as they do in movies.

    Whenever, you see good camera movement in a movie, ask yourself how you could reproduce it with your video camera.

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    Lighting

    Lighting plays an important part in creating the illusion of film. One of the methods to achieve the film look is through the use of three-point lighting. In this lighting setup, there’s the key light which helps the viewer focus on a subject to the exclusion of other details in the frame, With the fill light, you can get rid of shadows and help reveal the shape of the subject you’re shooting. The backlight helps to separate the subject from the background especially if it’s a distracting one, lending depth to the composition.

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    Aspect Ratio

    If you are shooting with a video camera that allows for 24p, the widescreen format will be available to you. In other words you could shoot in the16 x 9 aspect ratio. This will increase the chances of your video having the film look. With HDTV becoming a common feature in households, it pays to shoot in widescreen format so that your viewers could enjoy your videos without the black bars around them.

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    35mm Adapter

    A major drawback of video cameras is the large depth of field which brings everything into focus. You’re at a major disadvantage when trying to isolate a particular detail in a frame from other details.

    Using a 35mm lens would allow you to overcome the problem and gives you the advantage of a film camera. With this lens you have more control over the depth of field and you’ll come away with subtler shot compositions.