My wife and I go to a lot of movies so I consider myself an expert in film. :)

These techniques I am about to explain to you are based on my observations on how my videos require more work to match that of what I see on the big screen in the move theater.

  1. Set your camera to 24fps. To be honest this is probably provides the smallest benefit of all the items I am going to tell you about. Most people can not tell the difference from 24 to 30 fps, this happens more on a sub-conscience level. The main reason I shoot at 24fps is not the look, it is because it creates smaller file sizes for me to edit with.
  2. Shoot with a shadow depth of field (large sensor) This can be done with DSLR with large sensors like the 5D T2i and the 60D. This I think is the item that provides the most benefit of all the items I have. Not every shoot has to be this way, but just watch and film or good TV show and you will see super shallow depth of field used over and over.
  3. aspect ratio, this is the second most important. Normal people notice this right away when their TV is letter boxed once the movie starts. This is a dead giveaway that this is a film.
  4. Shoot in 720p or higher, to match film you are going to need all the resolution you can get. However many will not notice that much difference between 720 and 1080.
  5. Use a tripod, a monopod, use a rig on your shoulder,  most important keep it steady unless shakiness adds to your story.
  6. Use a slider or a dolly at least a few times to reveal something
  7. use a gib, most films use an establishing opening shot and most on done on some sort of gib where the camera glides up from street level into the trees.
  8. Shoot flat and then Color your video in post. The in camera settings while very good can be a bit over saturated or have too much contrast. There are many tutorials on how to color your video to look more like a block buster.
  9. Don’t zoom while filming, instead shoot far away then close up with a cut between shots. Zooms are super fun on a camcorder but I would bet that most film crews just own prime lens and don’t use any zooms unless it is a very special shot.
  10. This last one has nothing to do with video, but if you audio sounds like crap because the mic is mounted on the camera, or you are missing background music that completes the scene or missing foley noises of an important event, even if you did everything else right on this list the audio which 50% of your video will not look like film.
  11. Tell a good story.


  • Hi Dave, interesting information.

    Can you do a tutorial on how to color your video to look more like a block buster?

    What settings do you use in yr camera to get it more flat?

  • Dave
    You went right to the point, that is the difference between video and movies.
    Great . Now the main tool as camera man is the camera , as you said DSLR are
    the best option for many reasons. But you will never see in a movie , a decent movie
    problems like the Banding in the shadows IT SHOWS UP in the new Panasonic GH2
    or our old Canon friend Mr Moire. I really hope this big Asiatic Monsters give us the chance
    to make a movie with a DSLR because is not that I don’t have $ 100.000 for the Alexa or
    $ 30.000 PLUS lenses minimum $ 25.000 for the RED . But with this fast technology changes my
    $ 100.000 investment will obsolete in 2 years.
    Have you seen the Panasonic , af100 ? what do you think, Should I wait for Canon
    Canon to let us see the light , Soon .

  • Dave Thank you very instructive tutorial.
    Most of the movies no are in 3D Do you know anything about getting the
    3D look in software, like for example in Sony Vegas 10, from a 2d footage ?

  • I’m sorry Felipe, but you’re wrong. MANY movies today use DSLRs to acquire footage. In order to get more realistic footage during the wedding scene in “Up in the Air”, the director gave 10 camera operators DSLRs, and put them in Tuxes or dresses (depending on gender) so that when you see them in a scene shooting video it just looks like they’re taking pictures with a DSLR. But the video being shot was actually used in the movie, projected on screens and looked really good.

    Both Spielberg and Lucas are using DSLRs in their current products (read Blooms blog). Not to mention the (now) hundreds of TV shows being shot on DSLRs today. Not in the future, but today.

  • The difference between 24p and 30p and the film look is also do to the amount of motion blur shoot the exact same scene with both and you’ll see a difference in motion blur. And “subconciously” you’ll think one was shot on film and the other video. At least, that’s what the 24p purists like to say. I’ve only seen what they’re talking about in a few tests on Vimeo, over all I don’t think it’s that much of a difference.

  • Avoiding, subjects with the mentioned problems, DSLR works, but you have to compose and produce
    thinking in the problems you are going to have in capture, To me would be much better to have an idea
    and just to develop it like thinking that you have a camera without capture problems, that you can show what you want to show, and is no only capture then comes editing spendig many more days correcting problems.
    I UNDERSTAND IS GREAT to have the opportunity to have shadow depth of field, and low light performance
    from a DSLR, BUT at least I can’t keep thinking all the time in the perfect scene to avoid capture problems.
    I guess all we want a dependable camera, BUT WORST is that I love the video DSLR produces, and I just need Camera manufacturers to produce a camera without this basic problems, I BET at that wedding no body was using a dress with strips, or a skirt or shirt with stripes, NOT TO MENTION bricks in the scene
    How about some fantastic electric water. GOOD NEWS the Canon EIS System is gonna make it
    at least I pray for that.
    And Dave Navarro I think 24 p is blurry when there is action I like 30 p , 60 p , 120 p, hard drive space
    is not like 100 years ago when more film were more expenses, I think that has to do more with the romance from a past that is gone than with image quality.

  • Dave, I too would appreciate a video on color correction and grading from an amateur’s standpoint. I’m a Sony Vegas user and downloaded the free version of Magic Bullet Looks for Vegas but haven’t really messed with it much. I’ve read a bunch on color correction but would be interested in what you’ve learned. I’m not necessarily looking for that filmic look, but I do shoot flat and want to learn how to give my little home movies a certain look. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  • Dave forgot to mention one of the most important aspects of making your HDSLR shoot moving pictures that look like film. A real film motion picture camera usually shoots at 24fps using a 180 degree shutter, which means that the film is being exposed for 1/48th of a second each frame. So not only do you need to set your camera to 24fps, but you need to set your shutter speed to 1/48 or as close as you can get it (1/50 on most HDSLRs). This will reproduce the visual quality of a film camera’s motion blur, which is an extremely important part of the “film look”.

    To adjust exposure when working at a fixed 1/48 shutter speed, you can adjust your aperture (which affects DOF), your ISO (which affects noise), or use neutral density filters in front of the lens (if you want shallow DOF but have too much light in your scene).

  • Dave,

    I agree with most of your points. I have something to add to two of them:

    Shallow depth of field: I think this use of razor thin depth of field is overused by people trying to emulate film. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t see DPs shooting wide open, and using excessive focus pulls. This is something DSLR shooters are overusing (me included) because it’s something we haven’t been able to do before, and it looks cool. Coolness alone doesn’t tell a story.

    Zooming: Dolly in, Dolly out, or use the Dugdale method described above.

    Lastly, I especially like your observations about jib/crane and dolly shots. I just want to add that like shallow DOF and focus pulls, they must be used in moderation. It is very tempting to go nuts with these tools. Yeah, they look cool, but camera movement should be done for a reason, not just because it’s trendy or is fascinating to the person behind the camera. That all goes to Dave’s final point: Tell a good story.

  • @David I am guilty too of overusing a lot of these new tools we have. But it is fun and I am sure after a while we will all get a little more tasteful in use of all these super cool tools that don’t cost that much.

  • I agree with you Dave N. It’s all about the story. Some people commenting on this thread and other times in the past here are so stuck on the CAMERA especially the DSLR flaws. I handed in my T2i movie short for class and had some moire in it which I didn’t see when filming. Guess what? Not one person commented on the moire; they didn’t notice it because the story was strong.

  • Here’s a nice green screen trick I learned if you have After Effects…

    Shoot your green screen footage at 30p with a shutterspeed of 120 or faster depending on the amount of action. This virtually eliminates motion blur which is a major hassle when keying. Do your key and then set the project to 24p and turn on frame blending to get some motion blur back into your comp.

  • Hi Dave,

    I’ve enjoyed watching your videos from the very beginning and they have been extremely helpful. I was wondering if you or anyone else here had any input on something I’ve seen only a couple times in my own videos. Sometimes, if I’m filming in somewhat low light, I see these horizontal bars moving vertically up or down (I can’t tell) the screen. It almost appears as if the screen is flickering. It’s hard to explain. Both times I’ve seen it on mostly white-colored objects. Here is an example of it:

    You can really only see it on the worker’s shirt. This was filmed with a T2i with a 50mm prime attached at f/1.8, 1080p 24fps, ISO 200, and shutter speed 1/60. Once I raised the shutter speed to 1/30 it went away I think. Any help is appreciated!


  • @ Vincent

    not 100% sure and would appreciate a confirmation from other guys here, but it seems that it’s a problem with resonating (or perhaps non-resonating) fluorescent lights and the camera shutter.

    dave, relly interesting posts. I keep repeating myself 🙂

  • Dear Mr.Navarro,

    I just bought my first Canon Eos 550D (Europe) and I try to make a small movie
    and i have my camera on:AWB,S,18M 5184×3456,1920×1080 24fps,AF Quick
    and still my video`s are blurry (in-house & garden).
    I`m very happy with my camera , but i would like to know how i can make videos like I see on internet.
    Please help me!!!

  • Hey can you show us export settings for 1080 24p. I use Premiere CS5 and video gets jumpy after exporting.

  • Hi, I was wondering what I should set my aspect ratio to be? I don’t think you said what to set it as exactly it in the video.

  • I am usually to use zoom in and out while shooting crappy videos. Your experiences are helping me to shoot a better video. Thanks Dave.

  • Wazzup!

    I am a Pro Wedding Photographer and am beginning to implement HD Video in my work to create a Hybrid Video/Photo Slide Show. Your videos are quite informative and helpful.

    Anyway, I just wanted to pass on a tip I learned recently on how to get a smooth pan/tilt action when doing video on a tripod. It is something that you can try on your slider…a Rubber Band.

    As strange as it sounds, instead of moving the tripod with your hand on the handle, you hook a rubber band on the handle and gently pull on the rubber band stretching it in the direction you want to pan or tilt. Of course, you would need a bit of friction or weight for this to work well.

  • Heh, two years ago you asked “Hey, can anyone tell me the difference between a polarizer filter and an ND filter?”

    A polarizer filter is darker, but it selectively blocks light waves that are oriented in a particular plane. All light waves have some plane or other — coming at you they can be in any angle of rotation from 0 to 360 degrees. From most sources they are randomly oriented and so if a polarizer, say, blocks those in the 90 degree plane, the entire image would just look a little darker. However some effects like reflection and sky haze (reflection also) end up being more dominant in a particular plane of rotation. So if you twist your polarizer filter just right you can block those especially and the rest of your image remains okay.

    So in summary the polarizer darkens everything by knocking out one plane, but for those sources predominantly in the plane, it tends to knock most of it out completely. So good for eliminating reflections and reflected haze.

  • Hi
    I would like to blurr the background using my Sony HXR-MC50 P/E. The only best result is with the subject head almost full in the lense with the background blurred. I would like to have the torso and head in the front view with the backround completely blurred. Do you have any settings to suggest. Thanks N.