What Do You Mean By Cinematic?

  • By DH Productions
  • 14 Dec, 2017




adjective: cinematic

  • relating to motion pictures.
  • "cinematic output"
    • having qualities characteristic of motion pictures.

In a constantly changing and evolving landscape of videographers, photographers, vloggers, cinematographers, directors of photography a lot of people claim to create images that are “cinematic.” But, what does that actually mean ? What are the qualities and characteristics of motion-pictures that help transform a shot of video into something more – something cinematic?

I want to preface this by saying that this is one person's opinion. There's no discernible, easy answer to this question, but are those not the questions most worth discussing? This isn't intended to degrade anyone or to even promote ourselves as producers of the cinematic; I just find it to be a fascinating topic worth exploring.

From my “studies” of Youtube (read: I click on a lot of videos), I see a lot of people claiming that their visuals are cinematic. One common thread between them is that the videos they create often have sweeping camera movements and a limited depth of field. Depth of field refers to the amount of the image that is in focus. A limited depth of field means that the subject(s) is isolated in the shot from the background, which blurs out behind them. This tends to create more of an emotional connection between the viewer and the subject because, as a viewer, you do not exist in the same environment as the subject you are seeing. That separation between the subject and their environment helps draw your attention to them as the emotional focus of the scene. For me, it's the difference between sitting across the table from someone and sitting right next to them during a conversation. It feels more intimate to see something up close and isolated from its environment. You see more of the intricacies and idiosyncrasies that make us humans, creatures of emotion. In saying all of this, I don't disagree that a limited depth of field can sometimes feel more cinematic, but there are plenty of examples of deep focus (or shots in which almost everything on the screen is in focus) that are certainly cinematic. Stanley Kubrick, John Ford, and Orson Welles are just a few examples of directors who created powerful visuals that exist almost as video-paintings, so it can't be as simple as just a “depth of field thing.”

An example of shallow focus from "Magnolia."
An example of deep focus from "2001: A Space Odyssey."

So, what about those sweeping camera movements? As a person who was inspired to go to film school by the movies of Paul Thomas Anderson ( Boogie Nights, Magnolia), Martin Scorsese ( Raging Bull, Taxi Driver ), and Terry Gilliam ( Brazil, 12 Monkeys ), I am inspired by a constantly moving camera. It seems to feel more “big budget” in that the filmmakers have the tools to create such visuals. But there's also something about it that helps replicate the human experience. The camera is designed to mimic the human eye, and our daily experience is one of constant movement. Even now while sitting, typing this post, my eyes dart from my coffee cup to my office door and back again. There aren't edits in between – it is one continuous motion. Sweeping camera movements, especially when paired with shots that perhaps play out a bit longer help to create a synthetic recreation of the human experience. There's also something to be said for just creating powerful visuals.

Also worth considering is “movie magic.” Shots that take us to places, perspectives, and vantage points we have never seen in order to examine a subject in a way that might feel strange or even impossible on a day to day basis often feel more “cinematic.” These new perspectives offer insight and accent to the subject being filmed. Classic angle choices for the shot (make a subject feel powerful by putting the camera low in front of them and shooting up or make a subject feel weak or submissive by putting the camera higher than their eye-line and shooting down) help offer a way to convey an idea in this visual medium. New perspectives are only becoming more and more popular with the influx of drones onto the market.

"The Searchers"

At the end of the day, for me at least, it comes down to craft. A cinematic image is one that is carefully crafted to evoke a particular feeling or response. There's a distinct difference between pointing a camera toward the action and hitting record and carefully crafting a scene, using the many tools at your disposal to create an emotional, intellectual, or actionable response from the viewer. Video, film, and cinema always have the potential to be arguably the most powerful art form because they are a synthesis of other art forms. We blend music with sculpted light with photography with acting with human emotion with edit-based juxtapositions to, on a good day and with a little luck, produce something meaningful and memorable.

At DH Productions, we strive for cinematic imagery. We look to create visual moments that evoke emotion and create active engagement from the viewer. While the official distinction between cinema and video may be a little vague and open to interpretation, cinematic imagery has the power to move, to prompt introspection, to promote empathy, to motivate, to call for action, and to empower the viewer. As visual storytellers, that's a responsibility and a gift.

Andrew Fiscus

Cinematographer/Editor, DH Productions

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By DH Productions 14 Dec, 2017




adjective: cinematic

  • relating to motion pictures.
  • "cinematic output"
    • having qualities characteristic of motion pictures.
By DH Productions 11 Dec, 2017

Where did you grow up? – I grew up on a farm in Miamisburg, Ohio where we raised apples and other produce. I started working at our family’s farm market at the age of eight.

Did you do any sports/activities growing up? – I played in every band I could find, ran distance in Track & Cross Country, plus I was always climbing trees on the farm.

Nickname? – Jessi, but my Dad called me peanut, my Grandpa called me Jess and my jazz teacher called me Hollywood.

Favorite food? – I like all kinds of food, but cheese is one of my favorites – Raspberry Bellavitino!!

Favorite genre of music or band? – There is very little music I don’t like. Some of my favorites are Jimmy Buffet, Squeeze, Jim Croce, Jason Mraz, John Denver, Maynard Ferguson and Doc Severinsen

Favorite book? – One of my favorites that I read while working on my master’s degree was “The Way We Think” by John Dewey.

By DH Productions 04 Oct, 2017

Where did you grow up? – I grew up in the northern tip of West Virginia about an hour north of Wheeling. Ohio and Pennsylvania were so close that it was like growing up in all three states.

Did you do any sports/activities growing up? – My parents were avid golfers and I played a lot as a kid, even played for the HS Golf Team. My real passion as a kid was swimming, I never wanted to come out of the pool.

Nickname? – My nickname is Rick and it is my preferred nickname for Richard. I’ve had others over the years but they luckily haven’t stuck. 😉

Favorite food? – I am not a picky eater so this is a tough one. Lately, a nice marinated flank steak cooked on a charcoal grill is about as good as it gets.

Favorite book? – I am a voracious reader. I usually have a book on tape for the car, a Kindle book at home and a backup paperback to read if my kindle is dead. My favorite books change all the time. A recent favorite was, “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson.

By DH Productions 27 Sep, 2017

Where did you grow up? - A small fishing village called Centerville, OH

Did you do any sports/activities growing up? - I played pretty much every sport, but I think soccer and basketball were by far the most, then maybe ultimate frisbee. I also fished. A lot.  And if it counts as an activity, as soon as I figured out how to use my dad's straight-to-vhs camcorder I was constantly making pointless videos.

Nickname? - Levinski.  It is a version of my family's original last name.  When people found out about it in middle school it just took off.  What I didn't know at the time was the real spelling is "Levinsky."

Favorite food? - My Grandma's gnocchi by far, but I could eat pizza every day of the week.

Favorite genre of music or band? - I listen to a whole range of stuff. A lot of blues driven rock and anything where people are legitimately playing instruments. My top 4 bands in no particular order are AC/DC, Metallica, Dave Matthews Band, and Joe Bonamassa. Try to figure that out. And while I'm editing I usually listen to film scores.

Favorite podcast? - ACES Radio. It's probably terrible to anyone who doesn't know the people making it, but I laugh hysterically for 2-3 hours every week. It's 20% Columbus Crew and US soccer, and 80% crude humor.

By DH Productions 19 Sep, 2017

Where did you grow up? - I grew up in Middletown, OH.

Did you do any sports/activities growing up? - I was on the wrestling team and did theater in high school. Also, I was certainly the worst player on my 6th grade basketball team.

Nickname? - "King Video" Everyone calls me that...

Favorite food? - Pad Thai, GOOD Pad Thai

Favorite genre of music or band? - The Mountain Goats, Against Me! I mostly listen to a mix of folk, punk, and folk punk with some movie soundtracks thrown in.

Favorite podcast? - I listen to a lot of podcasts, but Harmontown, Lore, Radiolab, and Dumb People Town are regular listens.

By DH Productions 13 Sep, 2017

Where did you grow up? - I grew up on a farm outside of Celina, Ohio. Growing up on a farm really shaped my work ethic. Nothing like taking care of cows everyday to teach you consistency and dedication!

Did you do any sports/activities growing up? - Ehhh, I used to play Volleyball and Basketball when I was younger. But I managed to consistently get hit in the head. So I took that as a clear indicator that I should not play sports.

Nickname? - Technically my name IS a nickname. My full name is Arminda, but I go by Minda for short.

Favorite food? - Basically anything with Peanut Butter in it. I eat a unhealthy amount of Peanut Butter...

Favorite genre of music or band? - Indie Rock is pretty solid in my music library. Some of my favorites are The Rocket Summer, NEEDTOBREATHE, MisterWives, and Relient K.

Favorite podcast? - I can not pick a favorite, but I can list my top 5!

  1. Outside/In
  2. Criminal
  3. 99% Invisible
  4. MFM
  5. Exploring My Strange Bible

(FYI, this list could easily be expanded. I listen to A LOT of podcasts)

By DH Productions 24 Aug, 2017
I often find that one of the more common questions I get asked is, "What is the best camera?". I've always been a firm believer that when it comes to cameras, you need to select the right tool for the job. While some cameras have distinct advantages, and those advantages often grow exponentially as the price tag increases, there is something to be said for picking the camera that is going to work best for the specific project you are shooting.

Some factors to consider:

What's the light like? If I'm shooting something for a commercial, I like to polish and shape the light to get that image to pop off the screen. In this situation, I often prefer a more production-ready camera like our RED Epic or our Canon C100. However, if I'm shooting in more of a documentary format, sometimes that option isn't available. Cinematography is the art of painting with light (and sometimes framing it with movement) to create an immersive, visual world. But what if you're struggling to get the right amount of light? Nobody likes digital artifacting and unwanted "noisy" footage. In that situation, I would look to a camera like the Sony A7S Mk II, which is one of the best, affordable low-light cameras on the market.
By DH Productions 18 Aug, 2017

I believe Michael Scott said it best when he stated “When I discovered YouTube, I didn't work for 5 days.” Now, obviously this is exaggerated for humor, but the sentiment is pretty on point. It is astounding how much time we (and by we, I especially mean I) spend looking at videos online. It has come to the point where YouTube is actually the first place I go when I want to learn a new skill. YouTube helped me fix my dryer when it stopped working. My dad didn't teach me how to tie a tie, but YouTube sure did! Get this—almost 5 Billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day. That's Billion with a ‘B’ people. Plus, in an average month 8 out of every 10 people (18-49 years old) have watched at least 1 YouTube video. It adds up to over 30 million visitors per day. AND THAT IS JUST YOUTUBE! Those numbers don't include all of the other online video platforms like Vimeo, Twitter, Facebook, and embedded video.

With all of that being said, it amazes me how few of our clients come to us wanting to make video specifically for online distribution. Oh, but you better believe they start thinking about it real quick. TV or live distribution is still the #1 tool many clients think of when putting their advertising out into the world. And don't get me wrong, it can still be a great way to reach your audience, especially if you are targeting a demographic that will already be in that location. For instance, making sure your commercial airs during the college football games on Saturday. However, in 2017 a study by YouTube found that 6 out of 10 people prefer online video platforms to live TV. And that number is growing every single year.

So let's look at some of the real perks of online video:

  1. There is no time limit A :15 commercial can fly by on TV without you really being able to get your company’s message across. Sure you can bump the airtime up to a :30 or a :60, but then your price goes up as well. And anybody who has ever advertised on television knows that it can get pricey real quick (especially in the most desired time slots). Now you can upload multiple versions of your video, including one that may be 2, 3, 4, etc. minutes long to really show off your business.  Think of every advertisement like a movie trailer for your company.  The better the trailer, the more likely customers will flock to your business.
  2. DVR With viewer's ability to skip the breaks in their favorite shows, your command of their eyeballs has really gone down. Think about it...you spend all of that money for airtime and they don't even see it. Let YouTube do the work for you. The more views your video has, the more likely your video could go viral and gain an even larger audience.  And with pre-roll, even if someone decides to skip your video, you are guaranteed to have their focus for at least 5 seconds.  Plenty of time to hook them with a well made video.
  3. Price Like I've said a few times already, airtime can be expensive. Barring any sponsored posts or boosts, online video is F-R-E-E! Wouldn't you rather spend your money making the best looking and most memorable video you can versus a low budget video that your customers see maybe once? And if you want to spend a little extra money on platforms like Facebook you can put your video in front of the exact demographic you’re looking for by boosting a post.

By DH Productions 13 Jan, 2017

At the end of every year we like to step back and take some time to think about how we can better serve the video needs of our corporate and commercial clients. It's no secret that the number of video production providers in Dayton Ohio has grown, which is why it's ever more important to step outside of our bubble to ask ourselves “Why us?” While we have the prestige of award winning videos, and having been in business for over 10 years, complacency is the enemy. As part of our efforts, we're once again investing deeply into the latest video gear that is going to take our work to new heights. While we've already been on the cutting edge for years with our Red Epic Cinema 5k camera and tools like the DJI Ronin 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer, this year we're penetrating the stratosphere. Firstly, we've armed ourselves with a set of Xeen Prime lenses. Seriously, ask us to let you hold one and you'll get the hype. In addition, we are now rocking a wireless monitoring system, wireless focus system, and a number of other gizmos that we are geeking out about. 

- Jordan, Cinematographer + Editor

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