I know little about filmmaking. I am trying to replicate the image of a generic local news show, which it seems my Canon DSLR is unable to do, since it blurs every area that is not in focus.

Local TV news has a different "look" than a standard Hollywood film, for example. I am not able to articulate the difference clearly, but with news shows, every part of the image is crisp; there is seemingly no out-of-focus areas. I do not know the technical term for this. What is this difference that my eyes are picking up on?

What kind of video camera should I look for to achieve this "effect"? Like a general "type" of camera that shoots in this style, or specific standard camera models that news crews use (though I am guessing they are out of my budget, which is around $1000).

I assume that the camera and the camera alone creates this picture, but are there certain filmmaking techniques that I can use to do this with my current DSLR (so I don't have to buy another camera)?

  • Much of the difference stems from different lighting and the extensive post-grading that is done for movies. Also see my answer here. Then you'll want to use a narrow aperture to achieve maximum depth of field. Also, most modern news studios are virtual except for the anchor, so everything will be in focus anyway. If you want a more detailed answer, please post a screenshot so we can see what look you're trying to achieve – MoritzLost Dec 7 '15 at 12:48
  • @MoritzLost -- "Most modern news studios are virtual except for the anchor, so everything will be in focus anyway." I don't think this is true. The only virtual section of a standard local news TV show is the weather, and I am not talking about the weather broadcast. How can you say local TV news studios are virtual when there are desks, set decorations, colorful background panels, and usually a flat-screen TV behind the anchors? – Kyle Dec 8 '15 at 21:24
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    Yeah, most was probably a little disproportionate ... I guess it also depends highly on where you live. But there are studios that are mostly virtual, even the screen in the background and whatever else – MoritzLost Dec 10 '15 at 12:48

The answer is both "light: lots and lots of light" and the imaging system. But it is not f22 (which on most cameras would produce a surprisingly soft result due to diffraction limits).

The "light: lots and lots of light" is really about having not only good key and fill lights, but also lights above and behind the talent, creating a subtle rim of light around their figure. In the literature this is known as three-point lighting, but it can be implemented with many more points of light, depending on taste. It is true that studios are not shy about the absolute amount of light they use, but it is not only the absolute amount that does the magic--balancing key, fill, and rim lighting is just as important.

To get the deep depths of field, they don't stop lenses down to f22. Rather, they have a 2/3rd inch sensor (approximately 1/2 the size of a m43 sensor, which in turn is 1/2 the size of FF35). By using a sensor that's 1/4 the size of FF35, they get a depth of field that's effectively 4 f-stops deeper. So, using an 12mm f4 lens on a 2/3" sensor has the effect of stopping down a 50mm lens down to f16 on a FF35 sensor, but without the problems caused by diffraction.

Additionally, studio-grade 2/3" cameras typically use a beam-splitter and three discrete sensors (R, G, and B). Cameras that use a single monolithic CMOS sensor and Bayer patterns need a strong OLPF to deal with increased Moiré artifacts. The OLPF cuts a certain amount of the high-frequency optical response we perceive as sharpness.

Finally, typical broadcast cameras have built-in sharpening that can be tuned to really make a properly illuminated subject really pop. By combining studio lighting with a studio camera, you get a highly recognizable studio result.

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    "but without the problems caused by diffraction" – I'm not sure that that's not true. A 12 MP camera with a 2/3 sensor is diffraction-limited at f/4.3, but with a full-frame sensor it's at f/15.9. The angular resolution of the image that is projected by the lens onto the sensor is linearly proportional to the diameter of the aperture. – Moriarty Dec 8 '15 at 8:23

Mostly it's in the light: lots and lots of light. This allows the camera's iris to be as closed as possible, giving maximum depth of field. An image taken at f2 is going to have a tight focal plane, one taken at f22 will have a broad one. More sensitive cameras can get by with less light, and you can still have good, dramatic lighting effects, but the key is to get that iris dialed down.


You can achieve aspects of the news look with a cheap camera.

Small sensors will allow for a wide depth of field, where everything is in focus. Frame rate is essential, news is shot in either 60 interlaced frames or 30 progressive frames.

So avoid large sensors and 24fps, which are the features filmmakers often want.

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