I think what he's trying to arrive at is lifted blacks=more dynamic range. More DR is by virtue and property of film. But to suggest that's how one should grade, is like saying you should never expose your negatives too long in the dark room. High contrast has always been a sought after look in most film exactly because that is the artistry behind not just showing what the camera captured, rather crafting the image. High dynamic range wasn't a "thing" as you don't worry about this with film. Yet in digital, we are so unbelieveably obsessed with this that we are willing to throw $50k + just for a single camera body to achieve it. I think DR is only one factor, and one of the smaller factors in achieving a film look.
First, it has to be said and then repeated over and over. Story is king. There's no getting around this. No story, no film that anyone would want to sit through regardless of image quality. If your audience can't connect with your story, they will disregard it succinctly.
Crafting your scenes is another crucial factor. This means, framing, lighting, costume, set design/location. In Hollywood, these things are crafted with great effort, care and expense. So here it's not about how your camera is capturing it, it's what. Subject matter is very important. Aim any camera on the planet at boring, uninspired imagery, and that's what you're going to get. Effort in=quality out.
Stabilization/movement. Look back throughout the hay day of cinema, do you see a lot of shaky handheld footage? I'll answer that for you, no. No you don't.
It has become a relatively recent trend, an overused aesthetic since consumer video cameras came into existence, as this look has become synonymous with reality-tv, documentary and mockumentary. It's old enough to be used as nostalgia. Plugins are even developed to emulate it. What was sparingly used in the past to give a scene a little tension is now a whole genre of filmmaking in itself. If you're going for a more traditional film look you have to study the times and techniques of the look you want to recreate. Seems logical.
Can settings. Motion blur. You want the filmic look? Set your frame rate to 24/25fps at 1/48 or 1/50th. (This is not as dogmatic as you might think) Ultimately, film is chemical, emulsive, organic, and imperfect. It's not critically sharp. In general our eyes like the right amount motion blur in movement. Ever notice the difference between an animated object in After Effects with and without motion blur applied. It's pretty big.
Sharpness. I shoot on the NX1, which is an extremely sharp image, probably one of the sharpest in the industry. It resolves such incredible detail that it can be jarring and offputting. That being said, I have to set my internal sharpening to off (-10) and add a small amount of Gaussian blur to my footage in post to get it looking more filmic, and match better with other cams. The result is more emulsive, more imperfection.
You don't want your sharpness to visually compete with your motion blur. And you only want sharpness in areas you want your audience to pay attention to. Rims of eyes, etc. Again, craft your image.
Sound. This is 50% of your film. If this sucks, your audience will be taken out of the experience and feel disconnected. Good sound places you in the present moment and into your emotional mind. Bad sound throws you out of it and puts you into your technical mind. Good sound is sound your audience isn't aware of. This also goes for choosing the right music and foley.
Focal length. I know popular convention is "nifty fifty" but if you look closely at a lot of cinema you're going to see the use of 28mm a lot. A lot. It's just below our natural perception of the world, (50mm) so it stands out, but not so much to have the edge distortion of wider focal lengths. Also, shallow depth of field is way overused in video filmmaking. Somewhere along this digital journey we got it in our heads that shallow DOF=cinematic. Try a shallow DOF on a subject at 30fps or 60fps. It will still look like broadcast video. (Unless you conform to 24fps) Great examples of this can be seen on SNL between their live audience skits vs. their film spoofs.
Lastly, but certainly not least important, you have to have skilled actors. Nothing will take your brain out of a film than unintentional overacting. I do corporate work with mostly non actors, meaning clients. I can't tell you the amount of cringe I deal with in the editor's seat. I've got all my other factors on point. As soon as a non actor talks as if they're reciting a school play or breaks the third wall, the video is as good as toast.
Good editing. This is self explanatory.
There's no magic bullet. Even 8K RED footage will look like broadcast video with the wrong settings. Its a bunch of factors, some to do with the cam settings, some with the lens choice, stable movement, and a bunch of factors that have zero to do with the camera. It's a culmination of factors meeting together to create a whole piece we've come to associate in our brains as "film".
Get these factors on point and the grade won't even matter, high contrast, low contrast, it won't matter.
Also, for those of you using the Frame.io panel in Premire CC 2017, don't upgrade to 2018 just yet if you're working on something crucial that requires the plugin, it's not working in 2018. Frame.io is aware of the issue and working actively for a fix. Just a head's up.
Nice. I was just complaining to myself the other day about this very issue. Thanks for sharing.
Nope. The footage, the camera and drone are all amazing in itself, but you put a good story together, like this film did, grade it as such, the V.O., the climatic music, an attractive woman riding a dirt bike, the cool vantage points, the cine bars, and your average audience is not going to care, or even notice.
There's no reason this couldn't have been shot even on the Mavic Pro and been just as compelling.
Be kind to your bank account.
This is an exceptional article, besides the fact that many of us in the industry knew this already, but it's nice to hear an established DP reiterate the point. The human eye, or more so the brain is built the way it is built. Without talking about cyborg technology (which is more real than most in the public know about) there's no biological upgrade that's going to take place in any of our lifetimes. What this means is that resolution past a certain threshold (ultraHD in this example) is considered "diminishing return". There is no perceptible advantage to going past a certain resolution as it will not be processed by the limitations of our biology. Just as we will never be able to perceive IR rays with the naked eye.
I think this is important to keep in mind when these camera manufactures use 6K and above as a marketing selling point. If people stop buying into gimmicks, it will force camera manufactures to focus elsewhere, like improving on other features like workable AF for example. It will also drive the market to lower, more reasonable pricing. Suddenly, Arri, RED, etc., will have to compete more in the prosumer 4k market, which I personally feel is a more innovative space.
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