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"Cinematic" - what does it mean ?
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  • @goanna Yes, editing is really, really key.

    One of the GH2 users on asked for some feedback on the editing for his 8 minute short (and of course I'm sure he'd love it if anyone from here that is also on there weighed in on it).

    After he asked me to give "RAW" feedback on the editing, I wrote something that somewhat resembled a verbal EDL with commentary... about 2,000 words worth. Now, that may have been completely excessive, but I think it gives a good idea of how much there is to be done with something like that, even in an 8 minute narrative film with relatively few cuts.

  • Very funny, thepalalias and i just had a similar conversation today. Cinema has more than a 1000 faces, sometimes with incredible depth of field (orson Wells, Stanley Kubrick) sometimes with absolute Videolike non motionblur ( i think it was Syriana). I saw a great movie years ago that was filmed on a shit mobile.

    I think artistic truth and Vision, being faithful to a good concept and avoiding every kind of clichee and everything having its purpose, nothing being there just for eyecandy (Bresson calls this the postcard-motif-syndrome) are some of the aspects of great cinema...those people would have done cinematic magic on an iPhone...

  • @Mirrorkisser Very much agreed. Apropos of our discussion last night, I'm trying to remember an article my father referenced from a photographic journal years ago where several exceedingly talented photographer were given Polaroid cameras and tasked with getting artistic shots with them, before coming back with images that blew away what the amateurs attained with their SLRs.

    And then of course I think back to what an old tech friend of mine from Santa Barbara, Jamie, said about the medium format camera he got as a kid at Woodstock. When he went to college for photography later on, still using the same old camera and getting weird looks from the more affluent students sporting modern SLRs, the professor singled him out during the opening lecture as being likely to succeed - because he recognized the camera as the same one he had given Jamie when Jamie was a child and could infer that Jamie had refined has craft with that camera the whole time instead of looking to new technology to solve his photographic challenges.

  • What people associate with "cinematic" is quite different and subjective. Just have a look at Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut". You can bet most people writing on this forum, when shown an excerpt from that movie without knowing where it came from, would say it's a horrible example for a non-cinematic video.

    For some "cinematic" is even associated with nostalgic attributes like "no more than 24 frames per second", vignetting, or optical artefacts from anamorphic lenses.

    If you want to use "cinematic" only to characterize undisputed welcome attributes of a moving picture, I'd recommend to just define it as a "moving picture created in a controlled environment, following a written story, where significant effort has been invested in creating a pleasant visual experience".

  • @mpgxscvd "In my opinion if you can't shoot RAW in camera then you should get the image as close to its final state as possible in camera."

    I will agree and add that manipulations that are done in-camera with camera settings and lenses/filters manipulate the uncompressed image in higher bit depth, which gives better quality compared to similar manipulations on the heavily compressed image in post processing.

    If the image will be graded in post production it might be best to try to aim for the widest gradability using in-camera, lens and filter settings when shooting using Film mode and WB settings creatively. It is easy to load one RAW image into RAW editor and see what kind of flexibility is available in the camera before the image is compressed and fixed to certain values.

  • @thepalalias: yep, thats so true! I even sometimes catch myself thinking this or that setting, lens or camera with a better DR will do the job and give me the perfect look. But its not the technology that makes great cinema. Great technology in the hands of true artists is the peak of the mountain though.

  • @Mirrorkisser Very much agreed. To expand my father's earlier quote from last night, he said that great artists should have tools of such transparency that what we see in their work is their vision and creativity conveyed with deceptive effortlessness and grace.

    I just realized I haven't actually really addressed the original topic.

    "Cinematic" is descriptive of the relationship between what the viewer experiences when they encounter a given clip/angle/lighting approach/etc. vs what they experience when they encounter the baseline they had established from watching movies they felt positively towards in the past. The closer it gets to that experience (or what the viewer considers to be amplified version of that experience) the more cinematic it is.

    Thus it is both highly subjective and a constantly moving and evolving target. One of the keys to creating what I consider to be a cinematic experience (which by my previous definition may not translate to others) is that all aspects of the work consistently serve the intended experience, with nothing running contrary to that (and few things even being entirely neutral in regards to it).

    If the tone of the movie is supposed to feel natural and improvised, artificial lighting should never be too obvious. If the movie is highly dramatic, then special attention should be placed on the mise-en-scène (how things are composed within the frame). The editing should be fluid by default, or highly deliberate when it is jagged or agitated (even then having what appears to be an intentional rhythm, even if it is a very intricate one).

    If the technical aspects are aligned so as to bring you closer to the film, rather than to let your mind wander or disconnect, then the material can often be considered cinematic. When the technical aspects distract from what I am watching, then it is not cinematic.

  • Many seem to think that Canon cameras have more cinematic picture profiles built in, and I have to agree on that. But GH cameras have the desired sharpness and less moire. Using filters to manipulate the uncompressed image on the GH cameras seems to provide results that look more like the picture profile on the Canon 5D. Samples below illustrate what I mean. On the right is the ungraded version from the camera as such.

    I am not sure if it would have been possible to achieve the result on the left had the grading not started already when shooting.

    1440 x 810 - 2M
    1440 x 810 - 1M
  • Good morning ! Thank very much indeed to you all again for the very valuable inputs Maybe "filmlike" is more correct. Because I still think that the film look is the reference for movies. The GH2's shots that I have seen are very very good in terms of resolution, for instance. Filmlike ? I do not know ... it's different. Have you ever seen a filmlike video ? in which occasion ? I would like to add that I have seen highly compressed versions of movies shot on film. High definition ? not at all. Filmlike ? absolutely. Therefore it could not be a problem of resolution in the end. Thanks and regards, gino

  • @lumiere61 If you want things to look "more filmlike" then a lot of it has to do with your grading and handling (both on set and off) of sharpness and contrast.

    If you want the "film" look (which is a in of itself a bit of a generalization since there are a lot of different looks from film) in the sense of "flattering" 35mm, then you want to be careful of both excessive contrast and sharpness. I almost always shoot with sharpness at -2 on my GH2 because the camera is rather sharp by default - if you throw an electronic Panasonic lens on there, it sometimes looks more so.

    Lens choice, filters, lighting and grading - those are some of the areas that can make a huge difference.

  • Gino, you are trying to grasp one very wide and elusive subject. Previous posters have tried their best to describe it, some from technical and others from some other formal or narrative or artistic aspect. It's all true (well, most of it) in the same time.

    General audio and visual atmosphere, consisted of elements such as photography (static and temporal), music, acting, editing etc. etc. and how those elements correlate is what makes us as viewers emotionally engaged towards the 'the story', the characters and their motivations, situations and outcomes. And that is cinema. Film. Cinematic or filmlike can be the term that describes some form that is not immanently film, but that has some, or all of it's qualities. To put it this way, you might shoot your backyard and dogs and flowers with 35mm film 100kW of light with best DoP and Sound, and it probably would look cinematic. But would that be cinema? On the other hand, there are many decent films shot on much worse cameras than GH2 for example, with cheap lighting and not so amazing and expensive gear.

  • Thank you very much again.
    Interesting the point of "excessive contrast and sharpness" I saw some shots taken from "Hugo". Astonishing detail, it was possible to count the hairs ... may be too much ? I understand that a lot of different settings are available, but I cannot help thinking that the GH2 is fundamentally a photo camera and designed with photos in mind, and therefore with high resolution requirements and a high pixel count. Is this resolution really needed for a nice looking movie ? I want to be completely honest ... I read the 3D on the Blackmagic It has a 2,5K sensor, i.e. very few pixels in comparison (my opinion is that the sensor is a very crucial component in a video equipment. If the sensor is right it is a very good start, and vice versa). And still it seems pretty capable to provide good looking images. I think that the GH2 is a benchmark for the Q/P ratio in a video equipment. Nevertheless ... Kind regards, gino

  • "Cinematic" is an elusive term whose meanings slip and slide, and could point to everything and yet nothing. In today's post-structuralist, pluralistic world, "cinematic" could refer to anything from the qualities first associated with silent movies, to a short DIY clip recorded at this time with the iphone. So, given such diversity, what is "cinematic": Story? Structuralist elements like plot, cinematography, editing, use of music and sound? Today, any clip that has two black bars on top and bottom passes itself off as cinematic, but is it? :) Is a grainy picture cinematic? Must "cinematic" be of a certain aspect ratio, and even then must it always be 16:9?

    What i find sad and ironic is that film has come to the end of its life, but digital is trying its best to simulate its properties. We have software that adds grain to digital files, trying to create a certain texture, but what's the point of it all? Reminds me of what an old pro used to say, "if you have $10, 000, just make a $10,000 film. Don't pretend otherwise."

  • Cinematic as a term is similar to "Broadcast". It doesn't mean much and is subject to various subjective definitions as this thread shows. For me, cinematic means a product showing a general high level of detail and expertise with regards to what happens on the set. Not so much post, there's no standard how to grade a film to make it look cinematic. There are infinite filmlooks and they all work in the right situation. I don't think it's resolution, DR, or the latest Jannard Positronic 40k sensor, a lot of content is viewed on low rez monitors or rundown movie houses with worn out prints and 40 year old projectors. Yet all the aforementioned can look 100% cinematic and beyond to meta cinema. For me it's lighting and set design and camerawork. A real DP can find those ideal lighting ratios, manipulate light and shadow, compose and frame the essential elements -- that to me is what makes the difference.

  • @lumiere61 No, there is not an inherent disadvantage in having a higher resolution sensor - the thing that makes the difference is how it handles that resolution (and in the case of the GH2, how it handles the drop in resolution from the sensor to the output). A smaller pixel pitch can mean more ISO noise, but that is not what you are talking about.

    The R3D Epic shoots 5K horizontally (roughly the same starting resolution as the GH2 stills in 16:9 which is 4976 pixels in JPEG output) and is one of the preferred cameras for digital cinema. Hugo (which you described as maybe too detailed) was shot with a 2.5K Arri Alexa which has a soft filter built in - it looked detailed because they wanted it to, not as a byproduct of the camera. So it's not a question of the starting resolution being a problem. I mean, some other cameras handle the down-conversion poorly, and that is a problem for them but that's not he issue with any of the 3 mentioned so far. Hugo looked sharp because they wanted

    Digital theaters (excluding IMAX, etc.) are generally based on 2K and 4K. Film is sometimes scanned at 2K and sometimes at 4K. RED movies are generally shot at 4K and above, and sometimes (like The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo - US Version) they are screened in 4K. So yes, the resolution does sometimes get used.

    The GH2 has a tendency towards producing images that are both sharp and contrasty - to make it look more like film you can do some of the things I mentioned earlier. But you were on to something earlier when you said it was not the resolution that was the issue. The look you are going for is largely (but not completely) independent of the resolution.

  • Thank you ! I think I understand and that is time to read carefully the GH2 topics. Anything equally worthy in the same price range ? kind regards, gino

  • Hmm, 'cinematic' huh? How about when all the technical and creative aspects of motion picture storytelling combine to temporarily induce the audience to willingly suspend their disbelief and be engrossed by the experience (good or bad :p)

  • @last_SHIFT You've got my vote. Same idea I was trying to convey a few posts earlier, but yours is a bit more concise. :)

    @lumiere61 In the same price range for shooting movies? You can look at dedicated video cameras with smaller sensors - they are typically limited as to how shallow their depth of field can typically only use their included lenses. But they are often easier to deal with in terms of zooming and focus, stabilization and sound. The Canon and Nikon DSLRs are not really video optimized in the same way - I would be hard pressed to suggest them over the GH2 unless you had a large collection of electronic lenses for those mounts OR you wanted a larger sensor...

    But honestly, for the highest quality video under $2,000 it is currently the GH2, with the BMDCC becoming an option at around $2,995 (and some other good options showing up above that). By switching to the BMDCC you gain a lot of dynamic range and options at the grading stage - but you also will likely have to spend more on storage, etc.

    So if you are looking under $2,000... I would really say that the competition is minimal (since almost every competitor has at least one major issue that the GH2 does not, sometimes several). The competitors would be the Olympus OM-D E-M5 just about any Canon APS-C body (60D and T4i among others) the new Nikons... I mean there are a lot of competitors and most of them have at least one really good thing (for instance some people prefer the color of one or another). And the Canons have the Picture Profile Editor (that gives you more control over the cameras curves and color etc.) but for me that's not enough to offset the advantages of the GH2 and if I need more than it offers, I typically use something that shoots RAW. The GH2 really performs like a much more expensive camera on the video side - as long as you know its limitations.

    Other companies' "hybrid" cameras are more for stills than for video at this price level, as far as I'm concerned.

  • Thank you very much again ! Great product indeed this GH2 ... I read that in some ways it could be even better (image quality wise) than Panasonic af100 camcorder, a big achievement indeed. Kind regards, gino

  • Before here I'd always heard the word cinematic to describe the feeling of being in a movie. An example of the usage of the term,"cinematic," painter Rod Moss draws some of his inspiration from the likes of Andrei Tarkovsky among other cinematographers -as well as great masters of renaissance. Rod's painting - and even his writing - is often described as cinematic.


  • @goanna +1. Anything worth watching multiple times is "cinematic" to me.

  • Since the "Cinematic" term is so wide ranging, I personally key on films that I personally found to be most impressive and pleasing to me. You're talking about every aspect of the movie. Tho I have watched many interesting Movies that I personally didn't like the look of but other aspects of the movie were 1st rate. Writing, Acting, Set, Costume, Score...

    I also consider not just the basic image characteristics, but the camera angle, framing, etc that lends itself to telling the story or setting the mood. As a young man Hitchcock really got me going. However so many movies have inspired me. I don't believe I have the ability to create a film with a truly "Cinematic" set of values. There's just too much involved.

    However I do think I can achieve a "Filmlike" aesthetic. Looking like Film is a much more narrow and technical characteristic. I think that can be achieved with just about any of the current crop of DSLR's and editing software to varying degrees of success.

  • These lofty references to writing, acting, set, etc., etc., etc. that always seem to crop up in these discussions do not address the power of a still frame from a film that can retain much of the impact one would get from seeing the scene in motion and fully in context. I think these other issues get pulled in when the folks trying to contribute simply don't know or can't put into words what affects their perception. They mostly add noise.

    I'm not talking down at anyone, just acknowledging the difficulty even creative people have with accurate, useful articulation of complex, often emotionally-charged, intangible issues. That said, I think it's most useful here and other shooter-oriented discussions to keep to technical issues surrounding light, lens and how the interaction between these two things are captured, interpreted (technically and emotionally) and manipulated.

    edit: with this in mind, "cinematic" to me, I would reserve for imagery that immediately looks better (more pleasing, more impressive, prettier, more dynamic...more...I know, another broad term) than the same scene with the naked eye. More than merely representative. More than merely a record. Every successful example I see I see as a different flavor satisfying that expectation (16mm, S16mm, 35mm, 35mm-Ana, 65mm, DSLR, etc.) ideally, with as many differences between each interpretation as there are similarities.

    The most basic set of traits that need to be present when the picture moves, for me, are 24fps + 1/2 interval shutter speed where deviations from this are okay for slow-mo or select, action-oriented techniques that don't completely wreck the flow of the surrounding footage.

  • Look up some Tarintino interviews on youtube, he'll tell ya.

  • I hate to be anyone's pedantic Uncle Goanna here, but words matter and we have to agree on what were talking about.

    Here are some hypernymic adjectives:

    Childlike (pertaining to the behaviour of children); ecclesiastical (of the church); maritime (of the sea).

    ..and "Cinematic," (of the cinema).

    Language changes with its usage and is defined by it. We are seeing the birth on this site of a new meaning of, Cinematic.

    Until now there have only been two definitions/usages of the word:

    • Pertaining to the cinema industry. "They manufacture cinematic cranes."
    • Imagery evoking a movie-like aesthetic. "The sun rose over the cold Albuquerque morning with a cinematic foreboding."

    The new usage of motion picture looking cinematic still strikes some of us native English speakers as a tautology.

    "The film looked cinematic" is indeed meaningful when a film critic is saying it, is using imagery. We get the nuance. As in, "he is a very painterly artist."

    On the other hand, if the farrier says, "your horse looks equine", he either fancies himself as a horse poet or has been kicked in the head by one.

    Same for the absurd, "your child looks childlike," whereas "your grandmother looks childlike" is fine by everybody.

    (How's my grammar lesson going? Keeping up, lost, distracted or already thought up a reply?)

    OK so we're now all calling a video's look something "cinematic", whereas once, if you'd told Orson Welles his film looked cinematic, he'd have given you his best cinematic stare and sent for the studio nurse.

    It's interesting to see how others are coping with using the word differently.