Making great looking videos has never been easier than it is today. But whether you're a seasoned videographer or just filming family trips, there's always room to improve your techniques and try out new ideas.
In this article, we've collected a bit of advice and tutorials from professional cinematographers on how to give your videos a "cinematic" look. So here we go…
Adjust the Frame Rate
Choosing the right frame rate (FPS) can make a huge difference in how the resulting picture looks.
Keep in mind that 24 frames per second is a standard used in television and cinema, meaning our eyes are accustomed to this format.
Shooting specifically at 24 fps, rather than 30 fps is a little trick that may deliver a cinematic look to your videos.
Traditional 24 frames per second, the same as in movies, looks great and natural in most of the generic scenes.
120 FPS and 60 FPS are good for dynamic and action-reach scenes where you can add a slow-motion effect when editing the video.
If your video contains multiple scenes shot at different times / locations, it may have inconsistent color tones. This is mainly due to differences in lighting and the environment in which you shoot.
Take for example the most extreme conditions when some of your shots are taken underwater, resulting in a bluish or greenish picture.
Applying color filters on your camera and / or color grading functions provided by video editing software of your choice may help resolve the issue.
But that's just one part. Moving forward, you can emphasize a specific color, such as dark blue to make the video more dramatic, or add warm tones for a dreamier mood, for example.
The easiest and fastest way to do this is to use LUTs (look-up tables). It's color presets similar to Instagram filters, but for video. Most professional and consumer video editing software provide color presets. Here is how it works in Adobe Premiere Pro:
Applying a few simple camera movements when shooting video can also add to the desired cinematic effect.
The correct camera movement depends on the object and the action you are trying to capture, but there are some great techniques you can use in most of the videos:
Slide your camera from behind an obstacle and then focus on your object. It may be a door, a tree, a wall, or even your hand that will come to reveal your object. This is ideal for presenting your object or as a method of transitioning between scenes.
The Napkin Slide
This is a great idea when shooting small objects like food plate indoors.
If you don’t have a camera slider, you can grab some cloth, a napkin, or a towel and then put your camera on top of it on a table. Now place the object in front of the camera and then pull the fabric slowly and accurately to let your camera slide along while shooting the object.
This gives that same sort of sliding effect that can be achieved with expensive camera slider rails, but without having to actually invest in it.
The Free Fall
Hold the camera still, focus on the object, and let your body sort of fall onto the object, holding back at the very last second. When using this technique, shoot at 60 fps or faster so that you can then slow down your footage, which will give you 2-3 seconds of pleasantly subtle movement in or out of your object.
See the video below where Kellan Reck explains these techniques in detail:
With your average camera or smartphone now being able to capture high frame rate videos, slow-motion has never been smoother and more impressive.
Consider starting recording at 60 FPS. The higher you can set this value without compromising resolution, the better the end product will look as more information will get caught within the same time frame.
High FPS can add magic to your videos by expanding or extending the perception of the action in the scene and the emotions associated with it.
Also, here are a few great tricks you can consider when creating cinematic slow-motion shots:
Hold your camera steady, focus on the object, then spread your legs apart. Now, lean from one foot to the other and turn around the object slightly while keeping it in the center of the frame. Remember, this technique is good when shooting at high FPS, and your movements should be as fluid as possible, so you can then make a nice slow-motion scene from your footage.
Wrap the camera strap around your neck and hold the camera at arm's length to stabilize the picture. Now focus high above your object and then slowly tilt the camera from up to down to kind of reveal your object. This technique works best with a wide-angle lens and, again, in slow motion.
The Long Move
The long move is perfect when you want to capture multiple parts of some object, or multiple objects during a single camera move.
Start by focusing on the first point, and then quickly move and focus the camera on the next point, and then on the next, next, etc. It is not necessary to make linear and smooth movements between the points. Just make sure you move the camera quickly. You can even deliberately make a twisting or zig-zag movement as you move between points.
Now use a video editing software that has a speed ramp function (like Adobe Premiere Pro). Apply the speed up effect every time the camera moves between points.
As a result, you get isolated slow-motion points (objects) and nice-looking transitions between them.
Watch the video below for more details on how to implement these techniques:
Adding this effect will give your videos a fantastic and immersive feel.
You can make a hyperlapce scene by taking multiple photos of the same object from slightly different angles, and then stitching the photos into a video scene.
The best way to do so is to use a tripod and move it along with the camera making small even steps and taking a new shot of the object each step.
Whip pan is a camera panning movement fast enough to result in a blurry image.
Take a quick shot of the object for a few seconds, then quickly pan towards the side where the next scene should appear.
The two scenes can now be stitched together with a blurry motion transition effect.
This technique comes from some of the most iconic movie moments of all time.
The vertigo effect is an optical illusion that can be achieved by zooming a camera lens to adjust the angle of view while the camera moves toward or away from the object in such a way as to keep the object the same size in the frame throughout.
This way, a dramatic effect is added to your scenes taking advantage of the surrounding physical space.
Get Help from Professional Cinematographers
The techniques described in this article will help you give your videos a cinematic look.
But if you don't have the time or experience to do this stuff yourself, you might consider outsourcing some or all of the production work to experienced cinematographers, or even hiring an entire crew.
With the help of talented professionals, you can take a fresh look at your video content, as well as bring ideas to life that you could not have realized on your own.