How to make Digital images look like Film.

It seems as though when ever a new camera is announced, the first question out of peoples mouths is first, “how much is it”. Second, it’s “how filmic is the image?”. People throw around terms like Filmic, Organic, Video-ish, Digital looking. But there are so many factors that affect the final outcome of an image from a Digital camera. As a whole, digital cameras will be far sharper and higher resolution than film will ever be. And there in-lies the first issue.

If your going for a filmic look, then you need to avoid having the sharpest image possible. If you watch a video and see that the footage is ultra sharp (almost overly sharp), chances are it was not shot on film. Film inherently has more of a softer image to it. So in your digital camera, you need to first turn the in-camera sharping setting to zero. If you need to sharpen the footage at all, you will do it in post production.

Next, you will need to look at the lenses that you’re using. Modern glass is sharp and crisp, and can resolve very high resolution images very well. This doesn’t help if your going for the filmic look. In fact, Cinematographers will purposely use older lens sets on the new digital film cameras, because the older lenses are not as sharp and has a different look to them that will help to make the digital image a little more like film. I find that this makes a big difference.

Next, shoot as flat as possible. And by that I mean, if you camera has custom color or picture profiles, shoot in the one that looks as desaturated as possible. The image will look grayish in camera, but this will allow the camera to max out what the sensor is capable of capturing, give you more info to play with in post. In higher end cameras, this is called shooting on a Log profile, most manufactures have their own flavor of Log, (Sony has S-Log, Canon has C-Log, Panasonic has V-Log, etc) But they are all designed to do the same thing, give you the most dynamic range the sensor can capture. Film is very good when it comes to handling light and color where as digital hasn’t quite caught up to yet.


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