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What makes an image cinematic?


Matt Kieley
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I thought if a movie was cinematic or not depended on if they used the same gear as "you" do or not?

It seems the better the film maker, the less the need for expensive gear (I need as pricey as it gets).

Just about all cameras have some things they do well and others not so much though so there is still a place for choosing the right gear for the job from what is available to you.

I  was photographing a band last Friday night and as an afterthought recorded an original song they have and I started late, was hand held and not stabilized and out of focus for the first few seconds.      I shot in both XAVC-s and MP4 at the same time.       Looking at the results, the MP4 is terrible.     Horrid ghosting and just an ugly mess (was using auto ISO and was varying up to around ISO 51200 I think), the XAVC-s was actually ok (apart from the issues that are all from ME) and good enough to give the band at least so it just means that me plus a reasonable camera for video is ok sometimes, me plus a lesser camera (or shooting a lower quality anyway) is unwatchable.

Skill and know how matters most of the time, gear matters some of the time.      Skill AND gear together is almost always going to win

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12 minutes ago, noone said:

Skill and know how matters most of the time, gear matters some of the time.      Skill AND gear together is almost always going to win

I think in this day and age Gear matters a Hell of a lot because, just like your A7s, there is a lot of cameras that can be bought for less than 2000 bucks, that a skilled person can make a film, documentary, Band video that you can look back at 5 years from now and say damn, that is really not too bad.

This crap where you use a piece of shit camera is just that, crap. If you want to do this stuff pony up 2k for a camera rigged and just do it. There is too many great used cameras for 2k to make excuses. You are wasting your friends, paid actors time, and yours with a friggin Canon T3 in this day and age. Make a commitment to do the best you can do gear wise, give up smoking, drinking, eating out ,and buy a camera that stands the test of time. OK, off my soap box LoL.

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When I think of cinema, I think of being sucked into the story and not having my attention torn away by some flaw in the story, image or sound.

If the selected camera does not distract or detracted from the story being told, it is cinematic enough.

The said from my personal experience shooting with different types of camera I found that the BMCC with an old canon 1' c-mount TV (15-150 f1.8) lens and other c-mount primes gave me what I would consider the most cinematic image as compared to the GH1, NX1 and the A6300 with their compatible lens.

Order of importance for me is:


1. story and actors

2. lighting, composition and lens selection

3. camera and sound equipment.

4. post production

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It's a difficult term to define but I tend to think of it as a lot of things done really well, in the narrative context that we're used to it. 

It's a miracle that a good movie exists when you think about it. So many things have to fire on all cylinders to at least a competent level. 

Writing and Acting are the obvious key factors
Then directing, blocking, cinematography
Sound, production design
Editing and color grading to bring it all together. Helps to have a nice soundtrack, too.

That's a lot of stuff that has to be done well. When I look at good movies vs amateur efforts on vimeo, the big ones that stick out are always acting, sound and production design. I find there's a decent amount of stuff that looks good in terms of camera technical quality and shot choice, but usually the "world" is lacking because the above 3 are off. The latter 2 are criminally underrated in my opinion. 

I love cameras and imagery, but I'm willing to admit that I genuinely think sound is more important. Yet even on big budget stuff, people report that it's considered an afterthought sometimes. 

I love gear and tech, so I don't want to fall into one of the "Who cares what you shot on, content is king!" guys. I really do like looking at charts, comparing resolution, dynamic range etc.. I love forums like this. Gear discussions are very enjoyable. 

Filmmaking, especially at our level, seems to mostly be a problem of limited resources, so the trick is figuring out what to prioritize. Hollywood (at least some movies) can just throw money at every department, but we cannot. There's a difference between a GH4, C300, Red Epic, Alexa etc.. but sometimes, if you using a lesser camera means you get better lighting equipment, sound equipment, time/money for better locations and production design, I think that's a worthwhile trade off and the end result will be better.

In general, I think the issue with gear discussion is not that there isn't a difference between cameras, but that usually the difference is way exaggerated. Time, energy and stress is spent worrying over this minor 1% difference when it could be worried about other things that will have a much greater % of quality impact. If you have everything in place, there's no way someone could convince me that a BMPCC or GH4 is preventing them for making a quality movie. An Alexa will be better, sure, but not THAT much better. 

Take a GH4 or a pocket on a big budget, well designed and lit set, and I think people would be shocked at how suddenly cinematic it looks.

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Boy, I am going to piss off a Lot of people on here :grimace:, but I am afraid I have Never seen anything "cinematic" shot with a GH4, and I bet I will not with a GH5. Now a Sony F3, a BMPCC, the original Red One X, Canon C300, Sony FS700 4k, BMCC, Canon 5D mkIII with ML, but a turd to use, I am thinking cameras WE can afford used, I know there is more but you get the point. I can't even put Sony A7 series in there, Samsung NX1 either. More people pissed. These kind of cameras have a Digital look, plain and simple. I don't care what Lut you use, they still look Digital.

Sure some colorist from hell from Hollywood can blend one in with a Arri, but we don't have that skill set, and if was that great they would not buy Red Weapons, and Arri Alexa XT's. :grin:

Can the above cameras that are not "cinematic" looking shoot some killer stuff, well yes they can, but Cinematic, afraid not. :frown:

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I've always loved and believed in the idea that we can do amazing things with nothing. This is probably a little bit of a tangent, but I've been so depressed lately at how few people around you will see things the same way...

The filmmaker will say "I love filmmaking, and this film will only cost me $500 out of pocket!! I'm in heaven."

My friend is a composer and keeps posting about how terrible it is that people want him to work for free. There are also very few composition competitions that charge a fee for submissions, which is apparently completely evil... Every film festival charges a fee.

I look forward to meeting actors and collaborators at my next film festival, but I dread hearing what they cost.

Out of frustration of it all, I played two parts in my last film, and I'm slowly and painfully learning to draw and animate so that I can be all the actors in anything bigger down the road. My own time is worth nothing, or less... I do it because I want to.

I mean, I probably hate money more than the average person, but where the hell is the passion? Where's the fun?

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16 minutes ago, webrunner5 said:

Boy, I am going to piss off a Lot of people on here :grimace:, but I am afraid I have Never seen anything "cinematic" shot with a GH4, and I bet I will not with a GH5. Now a Sony F3, a BMPCC, the original Red One X, Canon C300, Sony FS700 4k, BMCC, Canon 5D mkIII with ML, but a turd to use, I am thinking cameras WE can afford used, I know there is more but you get the point. I can't even put Sony A7 series in there, Samsung NX1 either. More people pissed. These kind of cameras have a Digital look, plain and simple. I don't care what Lut you use, they still look Digital.

Sure some colorist from hell from Hollywood can blend one in with a Arri, but we don't have that skill set, and if was that great they would not buy Red Weapons, and Arri Alexa XT's. :grin:

Can the above cameras that are not "cinematic" looking shoot some killer stuff, well yes they can, but Cinematic, afraid not. :frown:

You can not lump all the A7 cameras into one.       While I don't really have an opinion on what exactly a cinematic look is, I found the original A7 was ok for my amateur use videos (much better as a daytime stills camera than as a video camera) but the A7s is so much better for video.        I sure hope the A7s is not like film either as film was crap at higher ISOs.

I am not seeing a whole lot of films being released in cinemas from cameras mostly used in these forums though.

6 minutes ago, Liam said:

 

I mean, I probably hate money more than the average person, but where the hell is the passion? Where's the fun?

Please send any that you find particularly obnoxious to me and I will dispose of it safely.

Give me a few Million and I will buy an island and a GH5 and report back in a few years!

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24 minutes ago, Liam said:

I've always loved and believed in the idea that we can do amazing things with nothing. This is probably a little bit of a tangent, but I've been so depressed lately at how few people around you will see things the same way...

I mean, I probably hate money more than the average person, but where the hell is the passion? Where's the fun?

I sort of have noticed that you are hands down the "tight ass from hell" on here! :frown: I hope if you are married, at least for a few more days, you might go out to lunch, go on a vacation, hell to the Mall and buy some stuff. It really helps in the long run. :grin:  But you probably have money out the ass, and I am broke!  :grimace:

17 minutes ago, noone said:

       I sure hope the A7s is not like film either as film was crap at higher ISOs.

I am not seeing a whole lot of films being released in cinemas from cameras mostly used in these forums though.

 

Well I really can't remember Any film I have seen, that was shot on film, that I said, Wow that sucks at high ISO? But yeah I have said on here if a person had the money he, she should have a Sony A7s stuck in a bag with them at all times. :glasses:

Yes that sort of is true about the cameras  we use on here. But my Piss everyone off reply stated some cameras that now we on here Can now afford to buy that have shot fims we have seen. And that  had a cinematic look then and will now.

 

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7 minutes ago, webrunner5 said:

I sort of have noticed that you are hands down the "tight ass from hell" on here! :frown: I hope if you are married, at least for a few more days, you might go out to lunch, go on a vacation, hell to the Mall and buy some stuff. It really helps in the long run. :grin:  But you probably have money out the ass, and I am broke!  :grimace:

Ha, I have none. Not sure how to take that ;)

But you're right that if I was married it would only last a few days.

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5 minutes ago, Liam said:

Ha, I have none. Not sure how to take that ;)

But you're right that if I was married it would only last a few days.

You would really like my brother. He collects guitars, dozens and dozens of them. But he likes to show me the cheapest ass guitar every made with the cheapest ass guitar amp ever made, and the sound that comes out of them is well, it is pretty awesome!  Grungy as hell, punk rockish crap you just have to love. It sucks balls but it is great!

You need to start collecting cheap band equipment. It is meant for you!!

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I think what's really important here is that any camera even under $500 can be used to make a great film. The right person, with the right story  can make a good film. The question becomes... if you have a t2i or a gh2 that cost you $300... is it worth spending a little more to get to the next threshold? A year ago, I could barely afford the G7 I was using. With some creative purchases and lucky sales, I am now able to afford a much better camera. But if all I could afford is a t2i, I would still want to make movies. And the only thing stopping them from being good would be me. So, if all you can afford is a t2i or a gh2, then go out and make the best film you can with that camera. But I don't think it's wise to make a film with a t2i or a gh2 just because you want to make a cheap movie... especially when there are so many great options for next to nothing.

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LMAO. Fun thread!

2 minutes ago, mercer said:

I think what's really important here is that any camera even under $500 can be used to make a great film. The right person, with the right story  can make a good film. The question becomes... if you have a t2i or a gh2 that cost you $300... is it worth spending a little more to get to the next threshold? A year ago, I could barely afford the G7 I was using. With some creative purchases and lucky sales, I am now able to afford a much better camera. But if all I could afford is a t2i, I would still want to make movies. And the only thing stopping them from being good would be me. So, if all you can afford is a t2i or a gh2, then go out and make the best film you can with that camera. But I don't think it's wise to make a film with a t2i or a gh2 just because you want to make a cheap movie... especially when there are so many great options for next to nothing.

Oh I agree completely. If you don't have the money, you don't have the money. But if you have skill, or want to learn to be skilled, heck any camera gets the job done. You can bet your butt all these big movie names that make movies all started out on a 8mm cheap Sears film camera or the like. They did not buy a ArriFlex to start with! It takes time and skill to do this stuff. Very few ever go onto making a living do it.

But it is a fun as hell, albeit expensive, but what hobby isn't, rewarding as hell thing you can create. But I am just saying people are selling the hell out of cameras We can buy now for 3k or less that some of them were over 10, 15 thousand bucks or more not 5, 6 years ago that made people, a lot of people counting cast and crew, a living. It is like a miracle that we can buy that old used stuff. It is a Miracle what Blackmagic makes for us. Just go out and buy these gifts and take advantage of it. That way you can't blame the camera, it is your lack of knowledge that is to blame, learn the camera and you are golden.

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@webrunner5 Don, you make an excellent point. There are so many cameras that used to cost thousands of dollars and they can be had for practically pennies on the dollar, so if you can save up for it, then why not? It can only help your film.

I had a grand plan to make a movie called Point & Shoot and make it on a P&S camera. I was working on the script and buying and returning cameras and in the end, although I thought it was a cool gimmick, people don't make movies on p&s cameras for a reason... but sure a movie could even be made on a Canon G7X and if the story is good and hard work was put into it, then you could have a good movie.

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I was like him as well like I need to keep what I got. But now Im not sure... an acquaintance/friend that's a pro director here in the LA area has really started taking interest in me a bit...

He has been giving me books and a great one was Nestor Almendros Man with a Camera a great book on the philosophy of a DP.(get it if you can its pretty rare) 

He shoots with a FS7 -FS5 and has been strongly "Suggesting" I get a A7s2 Im not sure but I think he would like to invite me on set to maybe shoot some behind the scenes stuff for him

I dont think he cares personally but I get the impression his circle will think Im a buffoon showing up with my Kitted out NX-1 and 2 S Lenses and in turn look at him funny for inviting me.... or maybe he just would prefer to work with all sony

It seems silly but this town is really that petty some times...

out of curiosity I got a quote for all my NX gear from a big store in NY and they said minimum they would give me $3200 if in decent condition more if better... said if I would trade in they would sell me a used A7S2 for $2200 (said they will cut me a better deal if I trade instead of cash)

Its just if I do it ill be knocked back to the stone age lens wise and have to learn a new camera (it seems it the opposite of the NX-1 where you underexpose for best image you overexpose a bit on the sony) but at least Ill still have my My 5 FD lenses that will probably sing on the A7s2...  

But right Now on I have I have 12mm- 150mm in lenses all 2.8 or faster.

And then @webrunner5 had a great point THERE IS Some URSA MINI's Going for around $2400 on FeeBay. Geez... they may drop a 100 or so low when the PRO drops.

I just need to decide if I want to be a lone wolf or possibly break into that "scene" its just I have an INTP type personality Im not to fond of the the Machiavellian bullshit required to flourish there.

Ill probably just think about it till all the options pass lol

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17 minutes ago, Juxx989 said:

I was like him as well like I need to keep what I got. But now Im not sure... an acquaintance/friend that's a pro director here in the LA area has really started taking interest in me a bit...

He has been giving me books and a great one was Nestor Almendros Man with a Camera a great book on the philosophy of a DP.(get it if you can its pretty rare) 

He shoots with a FS7 -FS5 and has been strongly "Suggesting" I get a A7s2 Im not sure but I think he would like to invite me on set to maybe shoot some behind the scenes stuff for him

I dont think he cares personally but I get the impression his circle will think Im a buffoon showing up with my Kitted out NX-1 and 2 S Lenses and in turn look at him funny for inviting me.... or maybe he just would prefer to work with all sony

It seems silly but this town is really that petty some times...

out of curiosity I got a quote for all my NX gear from a big store in NY and they said minimum they would give me $3200 if in decent condition more if better... said if I would trade in they would sell me a used A7S2 for $2200 (said they will cut me a better deal if I trade instead of cash)

Its just if I do it ill be knocked back to the stone age lens wise and have to learn a new camera (it seems it the opposite of the NX-1 where you underexpose for best image you overexpose a bit on the sony) but at least Ill still have my My 5 FD lenses that will probably sing on the A7s2...  

But right Now on I have I have 12mm- 150mm in lenses all 2.8 or faster.

And then @webrunner5 had a great point THERE IS Some URSA MINI's Going for around $2400 on FeeBay. Geez... they may drop a 100 or so low when the PRO drops.

I just need to decide if I want to be a lone wolf or possibly break into that "scene" its just I have an INTP type personality Im not to fond of the the Machiavellian bullshit required to flourish there.

Ill probably just think about it till all the options pass lol

Wow seems like you maybe in the right place at the right time to break into the big time. Hell go for it. You will regret it if you don't. Not many get That chance. It is more luck than skill to make it, we all know that.

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3 hours ago, webrunner5 said:

Boy, I am going to piss off a Lot of people on here :grimace:, but I am afraid I have Never seen anything "cinematic" shot with a GH4, and I bet I will not with a GH5. Now a Sony F3, a BMPCC, the original Red One X, Canon C300, Sony FS700 4k, BMCC, Canon 5D mkIII with ML, but a turd to use, I am thinking cameras WE can afford used, I know there is more but you get the point. I can't even put Sony A7 series in there, Samsung NX1 either. More people pissed. These kind of cameras have a Digital look, plain and simple. I don't care what Lut you use, they still look Digital.

Sure some colorist from hell from Hollywood can blend one in with a Arri, but we don't have that skill set, and if was that great they would not buy Red Weapons, and Arri Alexa XT's. :grin:

Can the above cameras that are not "cinematic" looking shoot some killer stuff, well yes they can, but Cinematic, afraid not. :frown:

So out of all the footage online you haven't seen anything cinematic shot with the GH4? Guess you haven't been on Youtube or Vimeo enough. Funny you added the FS700 in that group when people bash that camera to shit. But whatever floats your boat chief. 

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2 hours ago, Cassius McGowan said:

So out of all the footage online you haven't seen anything cinematic shot with the GH4? Guess you haven't been on Youtube or Vimeo enough. Funny you added the FS700 in that group when people bash that camera to shit. But whatever floats your boat chief. 

 I want to see the Cadence, Raw look, great Codec, along with ten other things or more that is required to get a cinematic look that I don't see from  GH4 videos. These things are baked into the better cameras. It does not take much effort at all to get it out of a Arri, Red, Panasonic Varicam, a Sony F55. That is why they cost a ton of money. They have a secret sauce of sorts. But I have to admit this James Miller guy seems to have done some good stuff with the GH5, but do we really think Panasonic is going to give us the same look as a $45,000.00 Varicam camera they make has? Do we really expect Sony to make a new Sony A7xxx that is as good as a Sony F5, F55 for 3000 bucks? Sure a few people can make it look pretty good, but not 40 grand great. Magic Lantern is done doing their thing. Canon has threatened to sue their ass. They were hurting their C700, C300 mkII turf, and Canon gimped the hell out of the 5D mkIV video wise, and it will be around for probably 3 years more. Imagine that. 

Now like I said many of the older cameras that have that ability we can now sort of afford to buy now. I am not saying you just turn them on and it works, but it sure as hell is easier than trying to get it fro a GH4. I have been in and out of this business a Long time. Peons like us have Never been able to get that look ever until the last few years.

You could not do it with film cameras unless you father was Donald Trump. Because 8mm looks like shit next to 16mm, that looks like shit next to super16, that looks like shit next to 35mm, that looks like shit next to Anamorphic wide screen, that looks like shit to 70mm wide screen. You get my point. Bigger IS better. And you could not really afford used Digital Broadcast equipment either. You might, a big might, afford a used camera but hell you could not afford the decks, switchers,hell even the tapes, monitors, on and on. That is why I got out of it for 25 years. And you can't really make a good living working for TV stations. The reason I quit being a videographer. I made fairly good money but the hours suck big time.  Most News people make damn near minimum wage. That is why you see the Weatherperson of the month on TV stations.

Now if you are making Porn Films, who gives a crap how the film looks, it is how the woman looks. We are not talking about Porn Films I hope. Even a GH4 would be overkill for that.

And  people have not really bashed the Sony FS700 output, that have bashed its form factor more than anything. And when it was new all the Sony components to make it work were crazy expensive. they still are in a sense. But you can buy the Odyssey 7Q, not that this is cheap either.

I am not telling anyone on here not to buy a GH4, GH5, Sony A7xxx. Hell they are unimaginable cameras 4, 5 years ago. Great cameras for the masses! Just don't expect them to look like a Sony F55 or a Arri Alexa on the big screen.

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