I want to use a new camera to make something that seems much older than it is. Help.
July 29, 2008 9:04 AM   Subscribe

I want to shoot some stuff using a video camera that cost a couple hundred bucks and I want it to end up looking (as much as possible) like a B&W movie from the 1940s (like, say, Casablanca). I don't need the film to look like it's a bad quality print (with pock marks and white lines and whatnot), but I do want it to look similar in style and feel of an old film. What can I do during filming or post-production to make the footage have an older feel?

I was watching "Young Frankenstein" last night and was drawn in by how much it really looked like an old monster movie, and not just a movie in black and white from the 1970s. Would it be possible for me to do something similar with a cheap camera? What things can I do to capture an older cinematic feel?
posted by 23skidoo to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
did you see this thread? the adapter there is intended to give shots a more "filimic" look by reducing depth of field. that's not one of the things you mention, but i imagine it's quite important.
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 9:11 AM on July 29, 2008

(ah, but the adapter is more than a couple of hundred bucks, sorry. you could try making your own... i get the impression the reason it's so expensive is that they are doing something clever to remove noise from the screen (vibrating it?) - if you're not worried about "noise" you might find a static screen (white paper!) is good enough)
posted by not sure this is a good idea at 9:13 AM on July 29, 2008

Frame rate: 24fps or lower.
No interlace: You may have to throw out half the fields, do not interpolate interlaced fields.
Contrast: high con. Which means you have to have lit your shots well and accurately.
CCU: Color correction, even in B/W you may want to clamp different parts of the luma curve.
Lock down: All shots will be on a tripod, locked down. Frequent medium shots or wider will establish the scene.

It's more in the cinematic techniques than effects in post.

Have fun!
posted by lothar at 9:31 AM on July 29, 2008 [2 favorites]

Note that the film you reference, in addition to being black and white, relies heavily on hard, directional lighting.

...just something to keep in mind while you're shooting.
posted by imjustsaying at 9:36 AM on July 29, 2008

Simulating 35mm Clarity and Saturation using Adobe After Effects.

Simulating the color, lighting, and texture of film. This is a Photoshop tutorial, but the ideas should be applicable to video.

A few general pointers, the highlights are:
1. Turn off electronic enhancement
2. Expose for highlights (ie. protect your highlights)
3. Open aperture as wide as you can, use ND to open iris, recompose shots to maximize zoom/depth of field
4. White balance for neutral grays.
5. MANUAL EVERYTHING ie. manual WB, manual focus, manual exposure.

1. De-interlace (CGM plugins, Tinderbox 3, Magic Bullet, RevisionFX deinterlacer- used for non-film outs, right?)
2. Tiny amount of diffusion. (use Magic Bullet Looksuite)
3. Up or lower contrast according to tastes. (do not blow out highlights)
4. Adjust gamma for overly dark or overly bright scenes.
5. Last but not least, a good film is only as good as it's soundtrack.
And of course, the DVInfo forums have a whole section on making DV look like film. I'm sure making it look like an older black & white film has come up a few times.

Or you could drop $1000 on Nattress' Film Effects.
posted by jedicus at 9:41 AM on July 29, 2008

One quick and dirty way, is if you have Quicktime (Pro, I think) you can export as a Quicktime... File -> Export -> Quicktime -> Options -> Filters -> Special Effects -> Film Noise (and within that there is a drop down menu with hairs/dust and dirt).
posted by starman at 9:55 AM on July 29, 2008

Opps, sorry, you don't care about pock marks. Well, if you change your mind there ya go.
posted by starman at 9:59 AM on July 29, 2008

One trick I've seen used occasionally is to stretch a pair of pantyhose over the lens. It tends to soften the look of the video a bit and make it more filmic.
posted by wabbittwax at 9:59 AM on July 29, 2008

You could use onre of those old Fisher Price cassette based video cams.
posted by Gungho at 10:03 AM on July 29, 2008

Lighting is very key for that 40's era bw look. Use of shadowing, including top shadow to imply a ceiling. I'd avoid going too high-contrast, though. Many of the best old bw movies actually have an impressive use of grey tones that add depth.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:23 AM on July 29, 2008

I would avoid the Fisher Price camera. They quality of the video they produce is very different from old b/w film. This isn't to say that it doesn't do some cool things, but they cost several hundred dollars. If you're pinching pennies, you could do better.
posted by nushustu at 11:10 AM on July 29, 2008

I'll go with lighting for $500, Jack. Good makeup and costumes will also work wonders. A friend did an excellent job for a video wedding invite to make it like an old silent film. Makeup and costumes almost did the trick by themselves but for the few indoor shots they had great dramatic lighting.
posted by JJ86 at 2:05 PM on July 29, 2008



it's a step-by-step guide to rigging a slightly awkward, yet dirt cheap 'version' of a Mini35. that'll give you FAR better optics and the ability to use manual focus lenses of different types. it's really affordable with a second hand 35mm SLR and the quality difference is considerable, especially if your DV camera is a budget model.

lighting as well is paramount. you can do alot of stuff before resorting to film-effects software.
posted by tremspeed at 4:32 PM on July 29, 2008

If you are shooting in color then converting to black and white one of the best tactics I have seen to get the older tones is to increase your red values (post shooting) or use a red filter. Do this before you desaturate the film. Try this out with a photograph you have in a photo editing program comparing the one with the RED increased and with it decreased to compare the difference. It doesn't seem apparent that color value would effect it but it does giving the film a more 'dramatic' feel. Think Twilight Zone.
posted by occidental at 5:13 PM on July 29, 2008

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