Examples of different "looks and feels" styles of video and how to produce them?
November 14, 2010 3:33 AM   Subscribe

Examples of different "looks and feels" / styles of video and how to produce them?

I'm interested in the technical terminology, examples of and instructions on how to produce different "looks and feels" of video.

For example:

* The "big screen blockbuster" look (e.g Iron Man)
* TV soap opera look (e.g. don't know any names actually..)
* TV comedy/drama show look (e.g. 30 Rock, House, Stargate)
* TV news look (CNN/Fox etc.)
* A "documentary version" of a TV show - (e.g. an episode of CSI shown through the eyes of a documentary crew.)
* Any other distinctive video look/feel

Does that make any sense?

I expect it's a combination of lighting, lenses, filming equipment and post-processing but I'd like to see some kind of breakdown of how all these elements combine to produce particular visual 'styles' (if that's the right word..)
posted by tkbarbarian to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure this is strictly what you're after, but have a look at Camera Tricks on tvtropes.org. It might help you define some styles, if not replicate them.
posted by Ahab at 3:44 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Color Correction would be a good start, here's a video/tutorial on how to get that 'blockbuster' look (hint, teal green and flesh tones)

(sorry about the long intro, skip to about 3 minutes in to get to the good stuff).
posted by empath at 6:20 AM on November 14, 2010

Best answer: There are a few basic elements that you can discern with a bit of practice:

1. Video vs. Film: Movies, High End TV shows (30 Rock, House) are shot on Film and generally at a frame rate of 24 frames per second. Other shows that you mentioned (News, Soap Opera) are generally shot on video and at 30 frames per second. This distinction is becoming more and more blurred as a media with the development of better digital capture formats - the RED digital camera, the Canon 5D Mark ii - which allow a better approximation of film (shallow depth of field, 24 fps). For me, it is more a third look instead of a replacement of film. Last year's season finale of House was shot entirely on 5Ds instead of film, which is a kind of a ridiculous technical feat they pursued because they wanted a particular look and the ability to get into very tight spaces without a bulky camera setup.

2. Focus, Depth of Field: Some things will have a sharp focus (News), others will have a softer focus (Dramas). This is generally an element of video vs film, but it can be achieved in either. Shallow depth of field is also a quality of film (person in focus, foreground and background blurred), but can be achieved also in video with the right equipment (Canon 5D, RED, HD camera with 35mm film lens adapter).

3. Lighting: This is the most difficult to discern from watching a program. Well lit dramas provide "dramatic" looks in a generally natural way. Pay attention to shadows, soft lights, highlights from the back.

4. Lenses: This applies more to film and dramas, but different lenses will help you get a wide shot, or compress the shot with framing and a longer lens.

5. Color correction: This is a big step toward getting these particular looks. A program I use called Magic Bullet Quick Looks even has a series of pre-made looks that are loosely named after the tv shows and movies they emulate. Color correction is an art on its own, and probably the toughest of this list to dive into.

Let me go through the list:

Blockbuster look - Film, 24 fps, shallow depth of field, high end lighting for each shot, high-contrast color correction.
TV Soap Opera look - Video, 30 fps, often over-the-top lighting, soft focus filters.
High-End TV Show - Film (or Digital Equivalent), 24 fps, shallow depth of field, lighting to appear natural and dramatic, color correction to match mood and feel - warm vs cool colors.
TV News - Video, 30 fps, direct lighting in studio, sharp focus, bright colors
Documentary look (as defined above) - Video, 30 fps, natural light or direct lighting, not much color correction. Now for real documentaries, you are generally looking at video at 24 fps and more of a film look.

Let me know if you have any questions of specific ideas, I'll help out as best I can. You will develop an eye for watching a scene and pulling apart these elements, even if you don't know exactly how to achieve it. Apologies if this is over or under your head depending on your level of experience in video.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:18 AM on November 14, 2010 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Ahab, posting that link to Camera Tricks on tvtropes is just plain mean. Now I feel compelled to shoot sample shots with every single one (like 22 Frames that always work did with Wally Wood's 22 panels that always work). tkbarbarian -- if you're interested in how aperture and focal length affects depth of field and the feel of the shot, I made a short demo film, Apertures, for a director who had never shot on 35mm before.

In addition to the elements mentioned by shinynewnick, the camera motion also affects the look and feel. My mental list: Zooming? News or Documentary. Handheld and whip pans? Indie film. Slow pan and rack focus? Serious film. Dolly, crane or helicopter shots? Blockbuster.

Although much of the equipment that used to require the budget of a block buster is reasonably priced these days so the gap between indie and studio films is not as wide as it used to be. The Canon 5D/7D/550D are great Super-35 sized sensors with a range of lenses for ultra-shallow depth of field, and inexpensive support gear like the Glidetrack and Kessler Pocket Jib make it possible to get more of the feel of a big budget movie without anywhere near the cost. Full size helicopters have become even more expensive to operate, but perhaps in a few years flying UAV cameras will start to show up in indie films...
posted by autopilot at 9:05 AM on November 14, 2010

Response by poster: empath, shinywnick and autopilot - thank you for 3 great answers and lots of things to follow up on!

In the past, I've done some broadcast video work (TV documentary) which was as you describe, 30fps and natural lighting. Not much post-production beyond editing and titling.

More recently, I've been putting together thoughts on video projects I'd like to do for some work I'm currently involved in (international development with a focus on making aid more effective and transparent, often with sensible applications of technology) and was curious as to how these kinds of looks and feels are developed in videos.

The projects are intended to be relatively "lo-fi" but with good production values and a compatible visual style - hence the question.

Thanks again.
posted by tkbarbarian at 9:39 AM on November 14, 2010

Strongly recommend checking out Stu Maschwitz and his work -- I've commented on it previously here: http://www.metafilter.com/95512/Movie-Trends#3271673

He makes a product called "magic bullet looks" which is a post-processing application to achieve certain photographic "looks and feels" in post in an automated way. He also founded The Orphanage and writes a damn interesting blog on this topic.
posted by fake at 11:21 AM on November 14, 2010

Don't forget multi-camera vs. single-camera setup. The lighting for a multi-camera show has to allow several different camera angles to be shot simultaneously, which means there's less flexibility -- everything is just blown out and bright and mostly free of shadows. Compare things like Friends, Seinfeld, or Two and Half Men that just shout 'filmed on a bright studio set' with 30 Rock, Scrubs, or Modern Family. This also affects how the camera interacts with the actors -- you can have a camera follow Liz Lemon as she walks down the hall and talks with Jack, but if this were a multi-camera show those would all have to be shot as Liz coming to talk to Jack in his office, or the elevator, or some other fixed location.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:06 PM on November 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

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