April 4, 2017

5 Tips on How to Instantly Make Your Film Look More Cinematic

You don't need a whole lot of bells and whistles to make your film look cinematic.

This is probably one of the most asked questions in the indie/low budget film community: How do you make a film look cinematic? It's a difficult question to answer, because there are so many important elements that help make a film look that way, like lighting, camera movement, and set design, all of which take years of experience and practice. However, if you're looking for cheap and easy ways to make your work look more cinematic right now, Armando Ferreira has 5 tips that will help you do just that.

  • Add "Cine Bars": The aspect ratio of a film is more important than you might think. However, if your camera doesn't allow you to shoot with current wide screen cinema standards, 2.35:1 or 1.85:1, you'll have to add those "cine bars" in post. There are many ways to do it: crop your images like Ferreira does in the video, create adjustment layers in Premiere Pro, or just drag and drop these free aspect ratio templates onto your timeline. (Everyone say thanks to Vashi!)
  • Add fog: Whether you call it fog, haze, smoke, or atmosphere, it really helps catch light and add a cinematic look to your film. And it's not just for horror films, either. You can use fog for just about any scene that you want to look a little softer, dreamy, or moody.
  • Use LUTs: LUTs can be incredibly helpful at making your film look more cinematic. However, I wouldn't go too crazy with them—this isn't Instagram! Subtly is best in most cases, unless your project calls for a bold color grade.
  • Shoot at 24 fps: This is very basic but very crucial. Moviegoers are used to watching films at 24 fps and naturally they consider anything they watch at this frame rate as cinematic. Of course, there are going to be situations that call for something different, but in general you'll probably want to stick to 24 fps.
  • Adjust shutter speed for slow-mo: Classic rookie mistake: shooting a scene at 24 fps (because some dumb film blogger told you to) and then slowing it down in post for a not-so-epic slow-mo shot. The result: a choppy, blurry mess. When shooting slow-mo shots, shoot at higher frame rates and shutter speeds. (Pro Tip: Generally, your shutter speed should be double your frame rate.)

Again, these are just basic, easy tricks that will give your work a little bit of that iconic look of cinema. If you really want to take the look of your films to the next level, learn all you can about lighting, camera movement, sound, music, costuming, set design, and storytelling. Those are some of the most important elements of a "cinematic" film, not whether or not you've sprayed a can of Atmosphere in your scene.

What are some other quick, easy, and cheap tips for those who want to make their films look more cinematic? Let us know in the comments below!     

Your Comment

19 Comments

That was really useful.
Thank you.

April 4, 2017 at 11:53PM, Edited April 4, 11:53PM

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Sameir Ali
Director of Photography
1449

Pro Tip: Generally, your shutter speed should be HALF your frame rate.

April 5, 2017 at 6:14AM, Edited April 5, 6:14AM

0
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Nope...

April 5, 2017 at 7:05AM

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John D. Smith
Cinematographer
367

Your shutter speed should be DOUBLE your frame rate.
So 24 fps=1/48 or 1/50
If shooting sports or fast movement that needs to be slowed down, increase your shutter speed beyond 1/48.
Sometimes I increase the shutter speed if I don't have any movement in the scene (like a sit-down interview), don't have NDs, and need to cut light.

April 5, 2017 at 7:16AM, Edited April 5, 7:33AM

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Sathya Vijayendran
Writer/Director/Editor
315

You guys are are getting caught up in the unit conversion. Shutter speed is expressed in fractions of seconds while frame rate is in frames per second. They are the inverse of each other. You're both correct depending on your​ POV.

April 6, 2017 at 3:13PM

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Dave Palmer
Retired Electrical Engineer
166

That is incorrect. Your shutter speed SHOULD be DOUBLE your frame rate.

June 11, 2018 at 12:26PM

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Nick LaRovere
Director and Producer
138

No one's right.

Frame rate is a rate. There's so many frames in a second.

Shutter speed is measured in seconds (or angle on cinema cameras, but we're talking still cameras here).

For it to work, we need to get them in the same unit - seconds.

So, the shutter should be open for half the duration of each frame. At 24fps, a frames duration is 1/24 seconds. Half of 1/24 is 1/48.

December 18, 2019 at 11:44AM, Edited December 18, 11:45AM

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Tim Green
Director
16

2:35 is not more cinematic than 16:9 or 4:3 it depends what your film is about. Automatically choosing 2:35 for a narrative is lazy.

April 5, 2017 at 7:47AM

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Indie Guy
1113

Even worse is when it's painfully obvious that the 2.35:1 letterbox was tossed on almost as an afterthought during post and none of the shots are actually composed for it

April 5, 2017 at 4:15PM

18
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thanks fore sharing, was very nice and interesting
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April 5, 2017 at 11:24PM, Edited April 5, 11:24PM

17
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This actually gave me new info. Good job!

April 7, 2017 at 9:54AM

8
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The Mellow Filmmaker
Filmmaker, Editor, Videographer
176

Thanks....

April 7, 2017 at 4:07PM

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Ahmad Nasibu
Editor & Camera man
88

Whenever I shoot with 24fps and a shutter speed of 1/50; why does it look choppy to me? When I shoot at 30fps with 1/60 shutter, it looks pretty normal.

Was this always the case? Am I just used to watching YouTube videos compared to film?

September 29, 2017 at 5:36AM, Edited September 29, 5:36AM

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Philipp Yeo
Cinematographer, Editor
81

Or just shoot with an anamorphic lens adapter...

September 29, 2017 at 6:30AM

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Rick Shorrock
DP/Editor/Writer
97

How about don't use a camera that throws away more than half the color information in your scenes? 8 bit 4:2:0 and 10 bit 4:2:2, just won't cut it. Subsampled color was developed specifically for TV broadcast, not for digital cinema acquisition. If you want to be able to color grade your images to yield a cinema aesthetic, 12bit 444 or 12bit raw recording are what's required. So that still image in this article of a DSLR.... nope.

December 28, 2017 at 2:31PM

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Jamie LeJeune
Director of Photography
290

...Or, If you want that crazy motion effect that Kar-Wai Wong used in "Chucking express" You should set camera at 24fps and the shutter about 1/15. It's a nice technique when you want to accentuate a flashback or a memory of the protagonist of the film, or something else.

December 28, 2017 at 11:22PM, Edited December 28, 11:22PM

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JohnDonica
Director of photography
81

Also, you can add some film grain, I find Grainzilla grain a very good option.

July 4, 2018 at 9:02AM

1
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David Rider
Filmmaker
74

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April 5, 2019 at 3:18AM

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