November 23, 2015

cinematic blog


How can we make our films look more expensive & professional?


This subject has been talked about many times here on YouTube, but I finally decided to have my own go at this topic. It’s nothing new really, just more of an emphasis on framing + lighting rather than camera settings. Didn’t even mention depth of field once (very intentionally).


The bread and butter of visuals, this is an art form that we can always learn more about. Influences from other filmmakers + photographers along with our own ideas for creating depth and emotion through space and location.

The often overlooked setting: accurate white balance which provides a neutral starting point for color grading. Traditionally in cinema, most shots in most movies have pretty neutral colours, unless night scenes / sunset / artificial light etc.

Lighting is so often mistaken for ‘good settings’ or a ‘good camera’. Lighting can make something beautiful, show us the time of day, or make something look dark and grimy. An energetic back light, or a creamy soft window light. Shaping light is what cinematography is all about.

Usually once you’ve got the shutter speed set to 1/50th (or 1/48th if possible) then it stays there for most of the time. Unless you’re going for a choppy / blurry look, most films tend to keep it around 1/48th. Unless shooting slow motion, in which case it can be easily calculated by doubling the frame rate: 24fps = 1/48th, 100fps = 1/100th. That way when it’s played back at normal speed, it will have a ‘normal’ amount of blur.

The idea is that we can hold more detail in the shadows and highlights if we lower the contrast and saturation while filming. Then when we go to add it back in post, we have more room to work in, and so a greater dynamic range. I made the switch to VisionColor a few months ago after hearing multiple people saying that 8bit H.264 footage isn’t really designed for the heavy color correction involved with adding lots of contrast to a super flat image. VisionColor‘s less flat profile should have less banding / artifacting issues.


The color grading plugin I’ve been using for over a year now (as seen below) is having a big discount (1/3 off) for Black Friday, so this is probably the best deal you’ll get on it all year:



Simon Cade

Filmmaker, and host of DSLRguide. Since I was making my first film age 11, I have always been fascinated by the way films are produced, and the effect it can have on the audience.

  • relayar

    Hi Simon,
    Although still to purchase a camera and associated gear for the purposes of narrative film-making (I write
    screenplays), over the last year or so I have stumbled upon a number of informative film-making websites in order to learn the basics. I have to say your tutorials are amongst the most enlightening. Your direct no-nonsense precision when explaining the fundamentals of this expansive, and daunting, topic is much appreciated. This week’s ‘Cinematic Film Look’ is no exception. Can’t wait for your ‘Depth of Field’ tutorial. . .(ahem).

  • Finn

    Hey man I love your videos and dedication. Just wanted to let you know ;)

  • Onemena Ofurhie

    This mind map you’ve created here is wonderful. Thanks