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For those of you who haven't discovered egroups this is the sort of gem you're missing. With Gary's permission, here's an answer he gave to a question on making video look like film....

FILM LIKE by D Gary Grady

"How to make pictures shot on video look more like film" is probably the single most frequently asked question of all. It's generally implicit in the question that you're NOT asking how to make a television screen look like a movie screen, but rather how to make stuff shot on video look like something that was shot on movie film and then transferred to video. In that case, video doesn't look like film for a number of reasons, of which these are key:

First, video shoots 50 or 60 pictures per second (depending on the television system in question) and film shoots only 24. This makes video motion much smoother and more like watching the real world or a stage play. Paradoxically, this just looks "wrong" to people watching a fictional film. Douglas Trumbull, who did effects on 2001 and later developed the Showscan system used in amusement parks, tried to shoot a fictional film at Showscan's 60 frames per second -- on film now -- and found that the result looked too "video-like," so he canceled the project. It's been said that "video is what the eye sees, and film is what the mind sees." In that sense, what you're after is video that looks like radio...

With a Sony camcorder (eg VX1000, VX2000 and PD150), the closest you can come to a film-like motion signature is to shoot with the shutter set at 1/25 or 1/30 of a second (which eats half your vertical resolution - see below) or shoot normally and in post-production apply an effect to simulate film motion (called "de-interlacing" or, in the case of NTSC video, the kind used in North America and Japan, simulated 3/2 pulldown). The latter is preferable but requires a lot of rendering time and (to do it well) most likely additional software for your editing system.

The second way in which video looks different from film is that video applies an artificial edge enhancement to correct a problem inherent in CRT video displays. Some cameras (including the VX2000 and PD150) let you adjust the amount of added edge enhancement via a "sharpness" adjustment. Lowering sharpness a little will soften edges and give more of a film look. You can achieve something similar by means of a Promist or similar filter.

Another way video differs from 35 mm film is a much greater depth of field. Actually, this is just because video camera CCDs are physically smaller than 35 mm film frames, close in fact to 8 mm film frames. You can zoom it some and open the lens as wide as you can to narrow depth of field a bit, but it's just hard to get dramatic selective focus with video cameras in many circumstances. My advice is to learn to love deep focus photography. Watch the restored version of "A Touch of Evil" and other films by Orson Welles to see how great deep focus can be.

Finally, video cameras respond to light differently from film cameras. A video camera has a much narrower contrast range that it can handle, and the limits of its brightness range are more sharply defined, where film grades off more gently into pure white and pure black. There are a few things you can do about this.

First, setting exposure for film typically involves adjusting exposure to match the midpoint of the film's sensitivity range to the midpoint of the brightness range of what you're shooting. With video's narrow contrast range, this can sometimes lead to bright areas that become washed-out, glaring, "electronic" white. (Edge enhancement tends to make these look even worse.) Try to avoid this if you possibly can. If your camera supports "zebras" at 100 IRE, use that feature to detect overly bright areas. A few points or arcs are OK and even desirable, just avoid areas of them.

Likewise, you usually don't want large areas of pure black with no interior detail. Use fill light or a reflector to bring up some detail in the shadow areas. White poster board is often good enough.

Conversely, video tends to get muddy-looking if you don't have enough contrast in a scene. Ideally, have something black and something white (just not too white) in every shot.

And by all means use good, film-like lighting, not just flooding everything with light but modeling things. Outside on a bright day, it's usually best to use the sun as backlight. (Watch movies and television programs with good cinematography and you'll notice this practice.) Err on the side of soft lighting from an extended source. Hard lighting from a point source, the kind that produces sharp shadows, works best as backlight on video.

All these guidelines have exceptions, of course, and in the real world there are always compromises.

The same software that tries to create film-like motion characteristics usually gives you the ability to process video in post production to simulate a more film-like response to light. I would suggest not bothering with this software until you have had more experience, though, because it is expensive and can be very hard to use, requiring scene-to-scene adjustment to get the best, most film-like results.

None of these things will make video look exactly like film, but they will at least move you a little way in that direction. And while this isn't directly relevant to your question: Leave your shutter speed at 50 or 60 (1/25 or 1/30 if you don't mind losing half your vertical resolution) and avoid closing the lens down more than about f/8 (that is, avoid f/11 and higher). To obey both these rules, you'll need to use ND filters, and if the ones built in aren't enough, you'll need to get one to screw on to the front of the lens. --


© 2001 D Gary Grady, Durham, NC, USA dgary @ mindspring.com

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Here's our complete list of articles on making video look like film including links to other sites of interest.

For the more technically minded - some more on loss of resolution ;-)
dv.com's online magazine has an article written by Adam Wilt on the loss of resolution that Gary was talking about. If you like Adam's stuff and want more info try his web site www.adamwilt.com