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3 Secrets to Shooting Cinematic Footage

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

Today we’re going to cover techniques to transform your standard video into cinematic footage. STBY Studio is a Philadelphia-based film production studio, with years of experience producing documentaries, short form social media content, and award winning series. Our current focus has been fashion films but we’re still committed to truly cinematic, high quality content. Here’s how we do it.

Using Dynamic Gear

A lot of filmmakers on YouTube always say, “It’s not about the gear. It’s how you use the videography gear.” Although that is true, it’s not the full truth. One of the most important factors in shooting cinematic content is having gear that is primed to shoot the type of content you’re looking for, whether it’s short films, fashion photography, fashion videography, or anything you want to look glossy and professional. If you’re aiming for truly cinematic footage, you’re going to want a camera with great dynamic range.

Dynamic Range allows your camera to obtain more detail in the shadows and in the highlights at the same time. Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to film somebody outside with a consumer level camera like a Canon T5i or a Nikon D3700? You notice that you pretty much only have two choices: Either you can expose for the person and have the sky completely over exposed in the background, or you can expose for the sky but the person is too dark.

See how the image is oversaturated - it's too bright!!

This is because the camera doesn’t have enough dynamic range to expose for both the shadows and the highlights. The good news is that cinema-quality cameras are not that expensive anymore. The camera we use for most of our footage is the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6k, which comes in just under $2,000 and boasts thirteen stops of dynamic range. We highly recommend using something of similar quality to shoot truly cinematic footage.

Leveraging Depth of Field

Another easy way to make your footage look cinematic is to have a shallow depth of field, which means having a blurry background, but the focal point of your content in focus. You want a lens with a F-stop of around 1.8 to 2.8. These will give you a perfect cinematic look. Most kit lenses are in the F/4 or F/5.6 range, but you should still be able to get a nice blurry background with a kit lens by zooming in all the way, and adjusting the F-stop as low as possible.

Here's Kenny showing off his rig

So the trick here is to invest in a higher level lens that will help you get the best look. We use the Sigma 18 - 35mm art lens, and this is one of the best lenses on the market right now because it’s so versatile.

Filters- But Not The Kind You’re Thinking Of

The next secret to creating cinematic films that is not commonly talked about is using ND (Neutral Density) filters. To explain these simply, these are sunglasses for your camera. These allow you to keep your settings how they should be, without having to adjust for the light. For example, if you’re filming outside and it’s too bright and you already have your ISO at the lowest setting, use an ND filter to adjust for the amount of light entering your camera without compromising your other settings. Or if you want to shoot at F/2.8 outside to get a blurry background for an interview, you can use an ND filter to decrease the amount of light coming into your camera. This is the easiest and most affordable thing you can do to achieve a cinematic look, especially if you’re outside. We’re grabbing a Tiffen Gobe Variable ND Filter to use for our projects.


If you take these steps and make the proper investment into your craft then the quality of your videos will improve drastically, guaranteed. We hope that you found this blog post helpful. Please share this with others creatives who may be wondering how to get the cinematic film look! Be sure to check out our Instagram page to stay up to date and see the behind the scenes of how we make our films! Thank you for reading and come soon for more tips and tricks!

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