The Film Look

Movies have contrast. They’ve got glorious blacks and whites, not weak-ass shades of grey. Rich blacks create solidity and make colors pop off the screen, while bright whites give sparkle and direct the viewer’s interest.

Cinematic images are about drama and the most effective way to achieve striking shots is through awesome lighting. Shoot against the light wherever possible. Rembrandt lighting, which creates a triangle beneath one of the subject’s eyes, is one of my favorite techniques.

Motion pictures make use of shallow depth-of-field to isolate the subject from the background. Not only are blurred backgrounds aesthetically extremely pleasing, but along with lighting and composition, shallow depth-of-field is one of the most sure-fire methods of directing the viewer’s attention where it belongs. Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what the fuck they’re talking about.

Movies are vibrant. That means not shying away from boosting saturation in post. In real life, skin tones may very well look pale and washed out, but at the cinema, they should glow and radiate warmth. Desaturated colors put the audience to sleep. People don’t go to the movies to see a drab reproduction of their shitty depressing lives outside the theater.

Movies are sharp. Granted, your local drive-in might be projecting an image at something less than 720p resolution but that is absolutely not what the director intended, any more than god intended us to watch movies in our cars with a Slurpee, or worse yet, on a garbage 11″ MacBook Air. Get over it. Just the same, all hybrid cameras add junky artificial sharpening that kills anything resembling cinema. Dial that crap all the way down.

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