How to Make Your Videos Look Cinematic with Sony Vegas Pro


Ever since I was little, I wondered what gave major motion pictures their cinematic feel. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but I knew there was a huge difference between what I was seeing on my camcorder’s display and what I was watching on the big screens in movie theatres. Now, years later, I’ve figured out the best way to turn any raw footage into professional, movie-quality clips. After running tests and trying out a variety of tools in Sony Vegas Pro 13, I’ve discovered it’s surprisingly easy to do away with that amateur “home video” feel of the movies you make yourself.


Set the frame rate to 24p


For those of you who don’t know, frame rate is the number of frames you see per second in your film. Having a higher frame rate (like 30p or 60p) doesn’t mean that your video looks sped up, but that it appears smoother. The lower the frame rate, the choppier the film will look. 24p is the film industry standard that has been used for decades, therefore making it the ideal frame rate to use when opening up a new project in Sony Vegas Pro. The only real downside to 24p is the fact that, if you were to slow down a clip to say, half speed, it would reduce the frame rate to 12p, which is extremely choppy (anyone who has seen the slow-motion walk from the beginning of Reservoir Dogs will know what I’m talking about).


There are a number of other ways, in addition to frame rate, by which you can give your film a more cinematic feel. I will demonstrate several techniques by editing the frame below.



Change the aspect ratio


In film, aspect ratio is the width and height of a video. All flat screen TVs have an aspect ratio of 16:9, but many films today have a shorter height than that, resulting in black bars on the top and bottom. My camera does capture in 16:9 ratio, but in order to achieve the cinematic look, I have used the “pan/crop” tool in Sony Vegas Pro to create the black bars.




Add color grading


            Color grading is the process of manipulating film so that it has an overall color scheme. Color scheme may even change from scene to scene within the same movie. If a filmmaker wants to make a video look old, yellow may be used. If a serious look is desired, blue may be used. For the purposes of this explanation, I will use a green color gradation, mirroring the look of The Matrix. It is important, however, to remember not to go overboard with the intensity of the color.



Use color curves


I use the “color curves” tool in Sony Vegas Pro for two main reasons: to darken shadows and to make colors more rich. With this technique, your film will really come to life.




Add a vignette around the edges


This step isn’t really required when aiming for the cinematic feel, but I definitely believe it makes a video look more artistic and helps to draw the viewer’s eyes to the center of the frame.



Since I’ve begun following these steps when making films, I’ve been amazed at the difference in mood they create. I hope you too will find these suggestions helpful when working on film projects. With practice, you might one day see your own movies up on the silver screen.