That Look of Film
Analog videotape was introduced and used professionally from the early 1950s onward in television as a cost-saving alternative to shooting on film. Sadly, the process was still so expensive that early videotape was used over and over again, and many hallmarks from the birth of television were simply erased or taped over.
With the developments made by Sony Corporation in the 1960s, shooting on video became standard for certain types of programming including sports, news, and situation comedies shot on sets.
Video production is an entirely different recording medium than film. Film is a chemical process with an electronic component. Video recording was originally done using analog signals. This process was replaced in the early 1990s by digital recording in which images are captured and stored in a binary format (zeros and ones), typically at a rate of 30 frames per second.
The film process, described earlier, involves shooting a set number (usually 24) of individual frames per second (fps) with a camera and then running them back through a projector at the same rate.
Film has a look and a feeling, a grainy texture that video historically lacked. Standard-definition video had a slick, glossy look, but high-definition (HD) video is capable of reproducing the textural look of film. This has made HD the standard for broadcast production.
However, as we have already acknowledged, nothing stays the same for very long in the world of media creation. Video game producers and visionary film directors James Cameron (Avatar) and Peter Jackson (The Hobbit) have begun filming in a high frame rate (HFR) format running at 48 fps, which creates an almost startlingly lifelike image.
You can change several settings on your HD video camera to create a more filmic look, including the following:
- Set your shutter speed at twice the speed of the frame rate: 1/48th of a second (or whatever is closest, 1/50 on most DSLRs)
- Turn off the edge enhancement
- Shoot with a shallow depth of field by choosing a fast lens (f2.8 or lower) and adjusting your f-stop appropriately (wide aperture/low number)
- Set your frame rate to traditional film rate of 24fps (a.k.a. 24p, 23.976, or 23.98)