Cinematography POSTS

Making Digital Video Look Film-like

Notice that this heading says “film-like” and not “like film.” Video cannot look just like film. It’s a different medium. Video can be made softer, with adjusted gamma, grain, and color saturation, but it still will not look the same as 16 or 35mm film. I’ll preface this section by saying that if you are interested in shooting only media that looks like it was shot on film, shoot on film. If you are interested in exploring how to make video more palatable to the eye, read on.

Photo by Popturfdotcom

Making video look more film-like requires starting at the lens and the shooting aspects of the production. Using nothing but prime lenses, using dolly shots rather than lens zooms, and shooting with lighting intended for film are all part of the process. Shooting through filters, such as the Tiffen Black Mist series, helps warm the image as well. Practice shooting in a progressive scan or frame based mode rather than shooting interlaced images, and, if the camera allows, shoot at 24p or 25p (NTSC or PAL) and learn how to operate the camera properly in progressive scan mode. In progressive scan mode, the camera must be handled differently from shooting in interlaced modes.

Pans can easily become mush and blur in the hands of the inexperienced user. Handheld shots become a wash of colors in those same hands. Managing the camera correctly is half the battle in getting a good film-like appearance from the digital information.

Interlaced or Not?

One of the first exercises in the process of making video look film-like is to deinterlace. Interlacing is the process in which lines, known as fields, are drawn for every frame of video. NTSC DV and 60i HD have a frame rate of 30 or 29.97 fps. PAL DV and 50i HD has a frame rate of 25 fps. This information means that NTSC and 60i HD have 30 half-frames of lower fields/lines and 30 half-frames of upper fields/lines. PAL and 50iHD have 25 half-frames of upper fields/lines and 25 half-frames of lower fields/lines. These lines generally should be removed or blended to gain the smooth look of film.

Video shot in progressive scan mode does not have these temporally offset fields. Be certain that when editing progressive scan footage in Vegas the project properties are set for Progressive Scan. If the setting is not correct, Vegas may insert the fields in transitions or other generated media.

Removing interlacing can be done within the project itself by setting Vegas to the project settings of progressive scan versus interlaced. Several ways to accomplish a properly deinterlaced image are available. The first and fastest way is to set the project properties to Progressive Scan. To do so, open the File j Properties dialog box, and in the Video tab, select Blend Fields for Deinterlace method and None (progressive scan) for the Field Order. This method is fast and easy and ensures continuity.

Another way, or “look,” is to blend fields manually. This process creates a slightly softer image and may be preferable to your eye. When manually deinterlacing, create a new project. Set the Project Properties to Progressive Scan, and insert a new video track (Ctrl þ Shift þ Q). Place Events on the timeline. To deinterlace for a film-like appearance, duplicate the video track. Select an Event on the top track, right-click, and then select Properties j Media j Field Order j Upper Field First.

Using the Track Opacity/Level slider on track 1, set opacity to 50 percent. On track 2, be certain that Events are lower-field first. This process deinterlaces the footage by drawing all parts of the frame rather than drawing only half the frame.

Excerpt from Vegas Pro 11 Editing Workshop by Douglas Spotted Eagle © 2012. Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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