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!