A widescreen aspect? A certain kind of lighting? Maybe shallow depth of field? What do you think makes for a cinematic look? In this piece from CookeOpticsTV, a few professional cinematographers were asked this very question, and while their answers are not the same, they all provide some thoughtful perspective on the topic, and perhaps agree that it's not just one thing that makes for a cinematic look.
A few of the responses I felt that I most identified with included Philippe Ros, AFC, saying that it comes from a structure, including all of the parameters, starting with the lens. When I started to think about how story played into the look, John-Mark Selva, AFC, made a profound remark by noting that while the story is important, what also matters is how that story is told. The look of the image would seem to play a significant part in how an audience interprets a story, and he goes on to say:
...what makes it cinematic is when the choices you make, click together with the story.
Another short but poignant statement for what makes a cinematic image came from Michael Snyman, where he said that it’s when a shot is "thought through". Think about that one for a moment. Not just placing a camera on a tripod at eye level and following action in natural light, filming with a wide angle lens, but considering all aspects of what's included in the frame. That could include from what perspective the viewer will see the image, where elements fall in the composition, how camera movement (or absence of it) adds to the mood or direction, the quality of light, color elements, performance, and even costume and set design.
So what do you think? I've seen a lot of videos on YouTube and other blogs talking about crafting a cinematic image through color tone and lighting alone, but I feel there's more to it than that. Share your thoughts below, and see if you can sum up what makes for a cinematic image.