Making Digital Video (DV) Look Good
I've been having loads of DV-discussions at the office lately. We are trying to come up with ideas how to make DV look better and how to escape the cheap or tv-newsish look. Some treatments deals with making the footage look more like film, some just make it look non DV. Here are some things we came up with:
Using a wide angle lens is a quick escape from the traditional DV-framing and makes it look more like film. However, don't use wide angle lenses for close-ups since the image distortion becomes very obvious. A face for example can get really silly.
Depth of field
When possible, use manual focus. An image with enhanced depth of field is often more interesting to look at. Play with having people or objects out of focus in the foreground or in the background.
Bad exposure is another thing that makes your footage scream DV or home movie. Be sure to set the white balance before shooting. Be careful with direct light.
Fields and Frames per second
DV NTSC is shot with 30 fps and DV PAL with 25 fps. In both formats every frame consists of two fields - film is 24 fps and has no fields (just one single image per frame). One way to get a more cinematic look is to eliminate the fields in your DV footage and set it to 24 fps. The new generation of DV cameras (such as the Panasonic AG-DVX100 and the JVC JY-HD10U) can shoot this way. Otherwise you have to make these changes while editing.
Setting the camera to a slower shutter speed could give you a more cinematic effect. For example a quick camera movement will create a smearing effect at a lower shutter speed.
Film has a very nice grain quality. The only times you get grain on DV is when you shoot in low light conditions. 3 CCD cameras handle low light conditions better than the 1 CCD (consumer) cameras. The grains you get from a DV camera are square and film grains are round. The difference is very easy to spot. If you want grain, add a film quality grain (this could be done with various filters) or just light your scene properly to eliminate the DV-grain.
This is science of its own and I'm not an expert in this field at all. A few simple tricks however: Use proper lighting, normal household lights are too weak and will give you warm light and make your footage look yellow. Bouncing the lights will give you softer shadows. You can bounce the light off a white wall or ceiling or off a white backdrop of some kind. If whatever your bouncing the light against has a color your footage will get a tint of that color. That could work as a nice effect, but often not.
Colors and contrast
DV footage tends to have very high contrast. Manipulate colors and contrast while editing in your editing software.
There are several other little tricks that can make your footage look less DV, but not necessarily like film. We came up with a style that is a combination of camera techniques and editing tricks that we like to call DEDV - Digitally Enhanced Digital Video.
Here are some other sources you may want to check out to enhance the quality of your video as well:
Shooting Better DV Footage
Shooting Better Wedding Videos
Ten Tips to Better Video
Shoot Better Video, by Gary Hendricks
How To: Simple Steps to Better Video
Santa Fe, New Mexico Video Production Services
Media Transfer Service: Film to Video/DVD
1 March, 2004