How to get cinematic video from a point-and-shoot camera

The first step, unfortunately, is that you have to have Sony's remarkable but rather expensive RX100, whose larger sensor makes much of the difference. Fortunately, the rest is all menu settings to get a flat image profile and 25fps. Guides from Run, Gun and Shoot and from EOSHD have the technical goods, but you'll need to cough up your own mise en scène.


  1. Question: How do you get cinematic video from a point-and-shoot camera?

    Answer: You buy a very good (and expensive) point and shoot that can take cinema quality video.

    1. Amazon’s price is $648. That’s not “very expensive” for what you’re getting. It shouldn’t really be compared to other point and shoot cameras; it’s in a class that has very few other members.

    1. Correction: You can assemble individual shots to assemble a 4K _time-lapse_ video. That’s a very specialized thing, and not smooth at all. Still cool, though. I’m hoping the rumored Sony i1 (“Honami”) will have the great camera (in an Android phone) that many of us are hoping for.

    2. Very pretty and well done.  But not sharp enough (and much too noisy) to be what I would call “cinematic” standards.

    3. Actually, the newest line of GoPro cameras (I’d link to it at Amazon with BoingBoing’s referral code, but nah), the GoPro3, can shoot 4K. Amazing piece of gear.

  2. So the answer to “How to get cinematic video from a point-and-shoot camera” appears to be “buy an expensive camera by clicking on our Amazon affiliate ad”.

    Stay classy, Boing Boing.

      1. As I understand it, blogs have  legal requirement to disclose ads. I can’t see that disclosure anywhere.

        Legal issues aside, it just seems a little underhand to sneak in advertorial content in this way, especially when it’s riding on the back of articles others have written. In other words, it’s the kind of thing big corporations do and you guys are usually quite vocal against.

        I’m a big BB fan and get that you need to have ads to pay the bills, but please find a better way of doing it.

        1. Here are our policies, linked to from the “policies” link on the front door and most other pages on the site. They include disclosure of the facts that we carry advertising and post Amazon links.

          We’ve been using Amazon links for at least a decade. They’re only linked when appropriate, such as when we’re writing about a particular product that’s available there (as in this case).

          Your stuff there about “big companies” which we’ve been “quite vocal” about for this is rather vague, isn’t it? We’ve never criticized anyone simply for using referral links, and in fact have long advocated for them as a better way to make money.

      2. I”m kind of curious why BB staff can get away with abusing commenters, but it doesn’t work the other way around. Unless I’m misreading the intent of your post, Mr. RB.

        1. Among other reasons, because contributors have more value than non-contributors who just show up to whine about what they don’t like.

          1. I’d argue that Rob’s article had no value in and of itself other than to get comments about the subject flowing. I’ve found that in many cases, not just at BoingBoing, reader comments end up contributing more than the original article. Whether this article was meant to be self-serving or not, that’s the appearance it gives.

            Are BoingBoing contributors professional journalists? If so, lashing out in the face of a minor criticism is counter to any sense of professionalism that Rob is trying to cultivate. In fact, it reduces credibility in the eyes of his readers. (Lashing out at minor criticism is one of the things that sets Fox News apart from the rest, and we know how credible they are.)

            This isn’t an after school fight behind the bleachers, and the rhetoric shouldn’t sink to that level. The adult, professional thing for Rob to do would have been to ignore the comment that got him riled up. That, or at least counter with something biting and witty. Take lessons from Winston Churchill.

          2. The bottom line is that we can write what we like because it’s our website. You have no entitlements here. It’s really that simple! 
            And come, you didn’t even realize that Dom and I were both quoting a certain movie to comic effect, not out of spite. I’d hazard a guess at why you’re obsessed with social perceptions, but it wouldn’t be polite of me to elaborate. 

    1. How do you get cinematic video from a point-and-shoot?

      Hey, that’s pretty easy: You don’t.

    1. Or just use your video camera to take stills when needed, even while you’re filming.  Mine’s a Panasonic HDC-TM900.

      Bonus: The current/new model, the XC0920, has built-in WiFi – and will shoot 20Mp still.  So when the cops are wailing on you for filming them, you can laugh, ‘cuz it’s all being broadcast on Ustream.

      1.  No such thing as a “XC0920”, I’m guessing you mean the
        HC-X920.  “Only” 12MP, but that’s still very nice for a camcorder. It’s just hard to justify $1000 for a camcorder when you can get a DSLR for less.

    1. Although with the Arri Alexa, according to Roger Deakins, digital has surpassed film. I know that’s an inexact statement, but that’s pretty much top of the line gear.

    1. Meh.  There are enough frame rate specs now that it’s not even funny.  24 for film, 29.97 for NTSC telecined, 25 for pal, 60i for HDTV or 30p (in NTSC of course). 

      Outside of some hard format players like DVD or maybe Blu-ray, computers and most stand alone video players aren’t going to care as long as it is a constant frame rate.

    2. Surely you can just run 25 fps footage frame for frame at 24 fps without transcoding. Would 4% slower be noticeable? I’m sure that that sort of thing happens with NTSC movies in PAL regions anyway, at least on VHS/broadcast.

      1. Kubrick shot at 25fps because that’s the standard in the UK. There’s a black and white photo somewhere online, I think from the set of Barry Lyndon, that shows it marked on the camera. If the 4% different was okay with Kubrick, it’s okay with me.  ; )

        1. Well, the framerates are also related to flicker and electrical noise (US vs. Europe), but again, with a low-end digital camera, I doubt any of it really matters. I do think 4% would be noticeable, but we’d have to try an experiment to see.

          1. Which frame rates, the 24 and 25 or the 23.976 and 59.94?

            24 was chosen as the minimum rate at which flicker isn’t noticable. A faster frame rate is better to avoid flicker, but at the cost of more film.

            25 fps was chosen in Europe, I believe, because the A/C electrical frequency is 50Hz.

            60 fps is the native frame rate – sort of – of US video. In reality, it’s 30 fps, but what’s really happening is that the TV is receiving half frames – odd scan lines or even scan lines, so the rate could be considered 60 half frames per second. This was all done because of bandwidth restrictions as TV was being developed. It was easier to work with the bandwidth by tranmitting at half the data rate. So 1,2,3 etc., 2,4,6 etc., 30 times per second. What you’re seeing in interlaced video is generally half of one frame interlaced with the other half of the other frame, like your fingers on both hands.

            The odd frame rates were chosen to sync up standard film frame rates with those required by the NTSC television standard. 23.976 = 24, 29.97 = 30 and 59.94 (fields per second) = 60 (fields per second).

            But that’s essentially all just dusty history, unless you’re dealing with low power analog TV tranmission. All standard TV is now digital and doesn’t need those oddball frame rates.

        2. 24fps is an international standard. One never shoots at 25fps unless making content exclusively for broadcasting (because the numbers line up so nicely, one image frame per two video fields).

          I dumpsterdove an Arriflex 16BL which is geared for 25fps – it was used for news gathering before portable video recording became practical.

          1. Nope, 24fps _is_ the film standard. I can only speculate about why he’s got a camera geared for 25fps, but my guess would be that either he’s making something for TV use, or he’s shooting something that does not need synchronized sound and he can live with the imperceptible slow-down.

          2. Here’s the best explanation I’ve been able to find about the photo of Kubrick:

            “”The Shining” was shot at 24 fps — probably they were shooting a shot of a PAL TV monitor, hence the label on the cameras “25 fps”.

            — from (


            “It all starts when Rainer Werner Fassbinder chooses to shoot Berlin Alexanderplatz , his epic masterpiece, at 25 frames per second (fps). It makes sense, since in Europe television runs at 25 fps, and the film was being shot for European television.”

            — from (

            So it seems we’re both right, sort of. ; )

  3. What do you consider “cinematic” to be? Dynamic range? Grain structure? Color gamut? Bokeh? Frame rate? Progressive vs. interlaced? Heck, what do you consider “point and shoot?”

    “The first step, unfortunately, is that you have to have Sony’s remarkable but rather expensive RX100, whose larger sensor makes much of the difference. ”

    I call bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. You didn’t do anything more than post an ad in sheep’s clothing. You didn’t enlighten anyone, and you apparently didn’t fool anyone.

    Anyway, to answer the questions posed in the first paragraph, all those factors play a part in making footage look… “Hollywood motion picture-like.” I think that’s a better term to describe what people are thinking when they throw around terms like “cinematic.” Let’s take those factors one at a time…

    1. Dynamic range – The range of brightness the sensor can handle. If you shoot in light that’s too dark and you boose the gain while shooting or you lighten it when editing, you’ll end up with electronic noise in the image, similar to excessive grain in real film. I could go over more technical details about noise and gain, but I don’t want to bore anyone more than I need to. On the other side of the scale, you can overexpose areas in your frame, too much of which will result in nothing more than white blobs where your highlights are. So, to be cinematic when it comes to dynamic range, either shoot with plenty of light or buy a camera with a wider dynamic range.

    2. Grain structure – Digital, of course, doesn’t have random grain the way film does. As mentioned previously, if you underexpose and then compensate for it, you’ll end up with noise, which will look like ugly grain. Baaad. You can add grain in post that is based on real film stocks. Overall though, I’d put grain structure low on the list of things to be concerned with when it comes to looking film-like.

    3. Color Gamut – The range of colors that can be recorded. Usually 8 bits per channel, some cameras can handle 10 bits, some 12, and I think even a few might be able to handle 16 bits per channel, although I’m not sure about that. You’ll almost certainly be displaying your work in 8 bit color. So what does a wider color gamut get you? It gives you more options when color correcting. You can’t use what’s not there, but you can throw away what you don’t need. (I’m over-simplifying a lotof this stuff.) I wouldn’t worry too much about color gamut.

    4. Bokeh – A Japanese term referring to image blur. Longer lenses (optically longer, like a telephoto), wider apertures, and larger secnsors are the three things that can reduce your depth of field – the range of distance in front of the camera that’s in focus. A shallow depth of field means there’s a narrower slice of space that’s in focus. Most video cameras have sensors that are much smaller than 35mm film, which is why large sensor cameras are becoming more popular – a more cinematic feel. You can kind of mimic the effects of a large sensor by opening up the lens diaphragm or using a longer lens or zoom setting. Bokeh, or depth of field (actually, bokeh is more than just DoF, it’s the quality of the blur too), is one of the the things that can be utilized to make your video more cinematic.

    5. Frame rate – How many frames per second are shot. This is different than shutter speed, which is how long the shutter is open (I’m sure most of you already know this stuff). 23.976 or 24 frames per second are what’s standard in Hollywood, and just about all cameras offer these speeds. (23.976 frames per second is an older standard from the days when film had to be shot for TV – lots of technical mumbo jumbo about that, not worth going into.) Frame rate will be a big factor in getting a film-like look. You know that “live,” “crispy” look you see in soap operas or TV newscasts? It’s like that because they’re shooting at 59.94 or 60 frames per second (59.94 is a standard for the same reason 23.976 is.) Faster frame rates give you that “you are there” non-cinematic look. There are advantages to shooting at faster frame rates though – they give you smoother motion when you’re moving the camera. So frame rate is an important aspect to consider.

    6. Progressive vs. interlaced – Interlaced video, where horizontal lines, 1,3,5 etc. are displayed followed by 2,3,6, etc. is interlaced. There are technical reasons for doing this, but interlaced video isn’t needed much these days. Progressive video displays lines 1,2,3,4,5,6, etc. This too results in a more film-like feel, so go progressive if you can.

    Notice I didn’t mention anything about resolution here, standard definition vs. high definition. Resolution won’t make a difference regarding the movie-like appearance, although it’s always nice to get as much resolution as you can afford.

    In a nutshell, bokeh, frame rate and progressive scan are the big three areas to concentrate on when you’re looking for that movie-theater look. If you can go for a camera with a wider dynamic range and color gamut, go for it, but don’t feel those are necessary.

    Oh, and if you buy an RX100, I’m sure Rob wouldn’t mind.

          1. Say it isn’t so! Actually, I’m not familiar with the camera.

            Also… I have a feeling I know why you think I blah blah blah, etc. etc. etc. I did a Google search for dave1183 and saw several entries… and they ain’t me. What are the odds of there being two of us?

            Anyway, I’m not rage-filled, I promise. Jelly-filled, yes. Rage-filled, no.

          2. @beschizza:disqus Deal! I do tend to be a bit overly sensitive. And overly caustic follows that.

  4. It may seem like a retcon by now, but the Amazon link (with reviews et al) is by far the best content, the others being long essays into samey images and setting trees,; although the impression that Sony packs the camera with 0 silicone-hafted accessories and relies on user familiarity with scars on their hands to operate the camera, windscreen, audio rigs, track cues and do horse exercises on their monopod is an unbroken certainty. It should at least come with a too-small corduroy jacket.
      What I did not see was the auto 36mm corner zoom bokeh, opportunistic ringlight, chase gang coordination (or swivel rig) and you know, pollen wiper and IR ejection specs. What, no IR imaging mode, Sony?

  5. @beschizza:disqus 

    “…bottom line…”

    I understand that and respect that it’s your prerogative. Assuming my misperception had been correct after all, it would seem that barbs pointed at readers would be counterproductive.

    However, stupid me didn’t realize you were quoting a movie (not sure which one) in jest. I apologize, I truly do and with no reservations or “buts.”  I appreciate humor and this use just didn’t get caught in my funny filter.

    I am curious about your thoughts about my… obsession. If you want to elaborate here, that’s fine with me, I’m pretty good about keeping things in the open. However, I’ve been through enough therapy (or not enough…) to  know why I’m senstitive to these kinds of things. I can elaborate, here if you want.

    1. Sometimes we *are* mean to readers and make fun of them and it’s just not a big deal, because not everything has to redline into dudgeon or resentment, y’know.  it can be fun for everyone! Or not. Maybe it’s just part of the entertainment. In any case, it usually doesn’t matter.

      I feel that the social thing there is a strategy some of us use, those of us who have been given a different set of gifts, to build bridges and connections between one another when we find it naturally hard to do so.

      The problem is that one of the most useful techniques to do this is pattern recognition — learning the things that people do, the tip-offs and subtle hints, the unwritten rules and social norms of meatspace communications.  But pattern recognition can also makes us labor under unhelpful or unwarranted assumptions (e.g. “this post has an amazon link, it must be an ad” or “this writing is unprofessional, so how can he be a professional?”) or entitlements (“they can post, we can post, so here we should be equal”) that don’t correspond to reality. (And hide from you the more salient reasons why I’m an idiot.)

      1. Sometimes we – I – get caught up in the spirit of something even though it’s not how we would normally think or act, a bit like road rage. The anonymity of the Internet removes some of those internal inhibitors.

        I’ve always hated bullies, and not only did I mistake your comments for bullying, I led myself astray and became a bit of one myself. I apologize.

        Note to self: Chill.

        Now where IS the number for my shrink…?

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