Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Why Do Movies Look SO Different To Video Productions

Amazingly movies these days are actually video. Gone are the days when cinema films were filmed on actual film. Cinema projectors are also video projectors. The idea of big reels of film being put on to reel to reel projectors are long gone. If film is actually video then why do films look different to video.
A shot of a film production crew on set with actors and director.There are quite a few technical reasons as well as style reasons. These differences make a such a difference to the final image that its worth looking into it to see what can be used to improve video productions used for marketing and company videos.

The first thing to look at is the camera. The ability of the camera to produce the high quality image is where a lot of the magic begins. The first and probably most important difference is what is referred to as dynamic range. This is the difference between the very black and the very white. When you have low dynamic range, when the subject of the image is at exact exposure, the bright areas in the video are over exposed and in many cases the dark or black areas are either crushed too black or are filled with video noise. Video noise is where there seems to be a type of sparkle in the black are low light areas .This twinkling is incorrect information that the camera puts out when it can't actually measure what is there. A professional cinema camera can capture a huge dynamic range allowing for areas as bright as the sky and areas as dark as a cave entrance to be exposed within the acceptable range.
View of snow covered mountain top showing wide dynamic range of a film production cameraThis is further improved by using what is referred to as a "flat" image. This is where the bright and dark areas are compressed to be well within the range of absolute white and absolute black. This is one of those great features that are now available on more reasonably priced cameras. The Panasonic GH4 and GH5 have this ability as well as the Sony 7sII. They have what is called a "log" video. Referred to by terms like V Log and similar terms. These allow the lower priced cameras to achieved similar results to cinema cameras. This can allow corporate video production companies to have the same dynamic range for their corporate clients.

The flat image not only allows for the dynamic range but also allows for the editor to have a lot of scope in the colour range. A camera manufacturer called Black Magic has a range of cameras that produce extremely flat images that can result in video with spectacular colour dynamic range which can give the editor a huge scope for creativity. Black Magic is producing cameras for cinema as well as normal commercial use. What is important to remember though is that the Black Magic cameras were designed with the editor and colourist in mind so if your editing skills are not the best then this can be a less than perfect choice of camera.

A horizontal lens flair known as a transmorhic lens flair caused by a transmorphic lens in film productionThere is one feature which was created specifically for cinema cameras and was intended as a work around for the 35MM film. It was intended to fit a "CinemaScope" or wide angle image onto an almost square piece of film. This was a practical fix which was not intended to produce any visual effects of any kind but it did. In the industry it is known as a Transmorphoc lens flare .This is a lens flair that spreads out horizontally. Its a fantastic look, especially for SCI FI Films and just about any scene with electric lights that can be made to look awesome. The name comes from the lens which was a "Transmorpohic" lens converting wide angle to 35mm.

One of the most commonly accepted differences between video productions and film productions is the resolution. Cinema cameras shoot in 4K or higher while most video cameras are HD. This has changed though with the Panasonic GH4 and GH5 which can both shoot in 4k. The cinema cameras still offer higher quality images in many cases but the 4K of the Panasonic is excellent not just for 4k but when reduced to HD is amazing. The use of DSLRs and micro 4/3 cameras has brought the photography camera into the world of video. This change has confused many clients of video production companies who have had to explain that it is in fact a video camera. Stories abound of professional video production companies and corporate videographers being laughed off set and ask to leave because they had what looked like a photo camera. The improvement in technology can be confusing to the uninformed clients.

Another difference between films and video is what is called aspect ratio. This is the shape of the picture, the ratio being the horizontal vs vertical measurement. The TV aspect ratio was 4:3 and most HD video is 16:9 while cinema is 21:9 .This is why film is so much "wider" than normal video. There are other aspect ratios being use such as the 18:9 which is a compromise between 21:9 and 16:9.
The wide screen look can be very cinematic in its look and many marketing video production companies have used it to make their video look more like movies. The problem is that it also makes the video smaller to fit on most TV or computer screens.

Wide aperture of film or video production camera produces shallow depth of field.There are also many techniques which are less technical, that make a huge difference in look. They are depth of field, extreme close ups and moving cameras. The depth of field is also known as shallow depth of field, as the depth of focus is very shallow, allowing only certain areas in the view to be in focus. The rest is out of focus to different levels. The extreme close ups are very prominent in movies but most video production companies in Johannesburg and around the world will not attempt this as the clients often don't understand and think there is something wrong with the video. Moving camera though has made a substantial leap from cinema to video by many of the pieces of equipment becoming more affordable. The equipment used for movement in cinematic cameras have been doing the most to produce cinematic looks in corporate video productions in Gauteng.

Video Production set with camera on dolly wheels. The moving camera equipment for cinema that made use of many skilled staff have scaled down to require only one operator thus making the unreachable more available to corporate videographers and video production companies who were stuck with static shots before. The best that corporate videographers could do before was to tilt the camera up and down, left and right and zoom. This was enough for most corporate video productions in the past but clients of video companies have become more demanding while wanting to pay less at the same time. This is where the small jib crane, slider, and tripod dolly wheels have made a huge impact. The results are almost indistinguishable from the film set shots.

While breakthroughs in cinematic filming have done great things for the public's entertainment, the trickle down effect has been that video production companies can reproduce lesser versions that have an enormous difference to the production value of corporate video.

Its important though to understand which aspect of cinema do not belong in corporate video. Shaky camera effects and lens flair are examples of effects being brought across the divide that should not be in most cases. These effects were intended to give a certain look to the films being made.They do very little to boost the production value of corporate video and can have a detrimental effect on the overall look because instead of it looking more cinematic it looks unprofessional. The shaky camera look in particular can make it look like the camera operator simply had a shaky camera from not having the right equipment. Event though the shake may be intentional, the viewer does not know that.
So while there may still be differences between movie techniques and video productions, some of those should stay that way while others can be used to great effect to produce fantastic results for company marketing.

You can see many of these techniques being used by a corporate video production company in Johannesburg in this video below.

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