Wednesday, 19 August 2015

How to get the wedding film look with DSLR


When I began filming I desperately wanted to achieve that ‘film look’ that everyone asked about in the video world. I remember reading many articles on trying to emulate the look the film producers achieve when watching your favourite movies, and trying to steer as far away from that home video look as much as possible. It seemed that unless you owned a RED camera then achieving this look was difficult. Most of what I found didn’t work the way I wanted and so I had to piece together the parts that I thought were useful with the parts I discovered to make the look I wanted, and it took a while.

Although you might see the film look you like in a movie it’s also important to find out what actually works for a wedding. For example, there’s little point opting for the Matrix film look unless you want the bride to have a bleach bypass look with a green tint. Whereas there may be some fundamentals that are the same to begin with when developing your film look the point I’m making is just because it looks good doesn’t make it right for your video.

1. Camera settings

The first and most important thing to master is what camera settings you need to shoot for this look. We use DSLRs at the moment and so my settings will be geared towards these, however whatever camera you choose for your wedding shoot some principles are the same. The idea is to shoot flat with little definition. Films are shot like this and produce a flat look. This is what moves it away from the video look.

Picture Setting:
DSLRs come with different picture settings as a basis for what you might want to shoot, from landscape to portrait, and the camera will adjust colour, contrast, sharpness accordingly. Don’t use these.
I was introduced to a picture setting you can download called ‘Cinestyle’, and it was the best thing I have done. This is free and installs on most DLSRs easily.
So why Cinestyle?
This setting has been developed so it is flat which is perfect for the film look. In other words, there is no additional light and shade added to give extra definition. When you see the Cinestyle setting it won’t be flattering in it’s colour because it’s not meant to, and here’s the benefit….
When you use any of the other picture settings and frame anything that has dark shadows you will see that most of the detail in the shadows gets lost as the darkness loses this information. Although this might not immediately ne noticeable or might not instantly look bad, if you film and record this you can never get this information back as it has been written in the file as a dark area and no other information in this area has been written. So that’s it. If you now film and record the same area with Cinestyle flat look all the information is still there in these dark areas. So now if you use your colour curves in post production to bring up the dark and light areas to now add the definition you will see that the dark areas, and are as dark as another setting except the difference is you have retained much more information in the Cinetsyle setting giving more detail. The same applies for the light areas, you have much more control on the information retained which might otherwise of blown out. The colour curves will automatically bring out the colour more as you adjust it as well, and you a free to add colour when you want in post to exactly how you want.

Cinestyle picture setting comes with pre-determined sharpness, contrast & colour settings which are all taken down, here’s why, and why these can destroy the film look.

Remember we are not taking photographic still images but moving images, so take your sharpness right down. You might think that the whole point to HD is the crispness of what the cameras can produce, yes, but not by using the built in sharpness. . When taking a photo it’s all about the sharpness of the image, but if a moving image is that sharp it will appear adopts that glassy video image that moves away from filmic to video. Sometimes a moving image can appear too real, as though in your front room, to enjoy.

The basic rule here is ‘contrast is your enemy’. Get rid of it in your camera settings. Take it down to 0. This again will give your picture an over bold look which is adds to that glassy video look. If any shots require a little more contrast this can be added in post with more control over it, but don’t get it written in to the file which can’t be taken away.
I remember first trying to get the film look and reducing contrast in post over the top of film which had contrast already recorded, it doesn’t work.

Not quite as an issue as sharpness and contrast, but again it’s important not to have too much written in that can’t be manipulated later in post. Cinestyle already has this reduced by default but they even suggest taking it down further to give more scope in post.

2. Post Production

So now that the footage has been shot flat we can now look at grading the footage to get the film look. This is what I have found works for me as a standard template for a wedding film look. Although some shots may require an adjustment on this depending on their own characteristics.
I use Sony Vegas Pro 13, but the settings can be found on all similar editing platforms.

Colour Curves:
I don’t have an exact template for this as I find that each shot require slightly different adjustments depending on how much light etc. The S-curve is what you are aiming for. As soon as you begin to raise the high curve and lower the bottom curve you will see how the light and shade is brought out and the image starts to have more depth and life with more detailed information retained.

Red Giant Magic Bullet Looks:
Use No.85 as a basic preset template. This works for me for nicely for weddings. If you need to adjust the preset high curve on this look if your whites look a little blown you can. You can also achieve this look by suing tints, colour corrections and making it yourself, but the whole point of this software is that is has provided something that fits for you so use it!
When you first apply this you may be horrified at how dark and over saturated it may be, you might even think it’s contrast is way too high.…calm down and bear with it, we haven’t finished but it’s important to have this. This look provides the dark and light we will need, with an added tint that works well for the film look.

Colour correction:
You might not need this for all shots, but I find with indoor shots you might.
You can either mess around with adjusting the colour on the No 85, Magic Bullet look to reduce a bit of yellow tint, or what I find easier is the simple Vegas Pro colour corrector.
You might say why choose the Magic Bullet look if you need to correct it afterwards? It’s the way the curve and tint has been put together in Magic Bullet that works, we can adjust what we need after.

This is what will top it off. Apply -200 contrast on top. Now you will see how the dark areas have been lifted more to see the information again, and the light areas have calmed down. Films have low contrast to give this look. If you took away Magic Bullet and the -200 contrast, the information will be similar but you will notice the difference in the light and shade tint that Magic Bullet added to give the film look. But we need the -200 contrast over the top of it.

Broadcast Colour:
Finally, Sony Vegas Pro has a broadcast colour function, if your editing platform has this or similar use it. This has been designed for broadcast requirements to stop white and black being too light and dark beyond the requirement for broadcast quality. Whilst editing you should see on your scopes if these are too high or low, but applying this can just makes any little bright window, or dark shadow taken care of. I use the ‘conservative’ setting to make sure.
I have found that since using Cinestyle setting that I rarely have this anymore. Some adjust this broadcast setting to give an even flatter image on light and shade for the filmic look, which I used to do, but be careful with this as this can appear a bit over the top, again Cinestyle took care of most of this.

So I hope this has helped. I hope to get images on here to give examples of my points at some point. This is my basic template for a film look for weddings. You might want to experiment with looks for other kinds of film styles, but as long as you have the initial settings first you should be ok to experiment.

If you want to find out more about our filming at Trapdoor Films then please visit Trapdoor Films


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