With our second short film One Eight Seven, we knew we had to step up the production value. The only way to do this on a low budget was to learn how to make my DSLR look like it was shot on a film camera. Although DSLR will never be film, you can come close with these tricks.
-Film at 24 Frames Per Second (or 23.976)
This will give you the motion blur you have come to know and love from film. Try it out, film something at 24fps and then 30fps and see the difference. 30fps will be a smoother, more “video” feel.
Here is the same setup with the same action, filmed at different frame rates. You can see there is slightly more motion blur on the 24 fps shot. The difference will be more noticeable with faster moving objects.
Shooting your shots “flat” (with low contrast) will help your camera retain as much color information as possible, which will give you more detail in the dark and bright areas. What this means is you can push the colors much further and achieve a better result during color grading. An extra step, but it is worth it.
On the left we have the RGB Parade of an image that was shot flat. The right shows the same shot’s RGB Parade after it has been graded. You can see how much more room we have to work with when you shoot with a flat picture profile.
-Use an ND Filter
Don’t compensate for bright light by cranking up the aperture unless a deep depth of field is what you want. Put on an ND filter and you can achieve that shallow depth of field look that is closely associated with film. I like to use a variable ND filter so I don’t have to fiddle with 5 different strengths.
We pointed out in our last post how crucial location scouting is in the process. Having a good location goes hand in hand with the next point.
-Shot Design Is Key
Shot design encompasses a lot of things. Depth, color, contrast, symmetry, placement of objects, and lighting are all things that can make a big impact on how your shot not only looks, but “feels”.
Camera movement is usually subconscious to the viewer (if done right), but it can make a great impact on how your audience feels. Things like camera height, direction, type of movement, and speed all play into the feeling of the movie. We will go deeper into this in a future post.
Lighting is arguably the most important aspect of cinematography. A movie with bad lighting almost always seems low budget, so you want to avoid that. We will go deeper into lighting in our next post, since that deserves to stand on it’s own.
Read more about production in our next post, which will be about lighting! Learn how you can use light to set a mood and invoke emotion in the viewer.
Comment below with some of your tips on stretching the value of your budget!