How Do I Get Cinematic Looking Footage?

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By Caleb Rexius

“Cinematic” is a pretty broad term that us filmmakers love to throw around.

But in short, I would say that cinematic footage has the following characteristics:

Framerate:

It’s viewed at 23.976 frames per second (aka 24p).

Lighting:

Generally, cinematic footage is well-lit, and properly exposed.

Aspect Ratio:

Sometimes “cinematic” means a wide pixel aspect ratio, so instead of 16×9 (like what you’d see fill your TV screen), a more cinematic aspect ratio might be 2.4:1, which would leave black horizontal bars on the top and bottom of a typical screen. 

Many filmmakers like this look, as it provides some cinematic framing to your shots, as well as more width to capture a wider scene.

Movement:

Camera movement is a big determinant of that coveted “cinematic” look, but it can be extremely varied. Sometimes a super smooth, floating camera look is desired, while other times, a more handheld or wild camera movement is desired.

As long as composition is solid, a variety of camera movements can look cinematic.

Styling and Subjects:

Another “cinematic” factor is what you are actually filming. Talent, wardrobe, props, scenery and setting all play into achieving a cinematic look.

Hopefully, this helps get you in the direction of cinematic footage!

Caleb is the Founder and Lead Cinematographer at Filmpac.

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