Film-Making Essentials for that Cinematic Filmlook

CG Director Author Alex  by Alex  ⋮ 
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I am a Director at an Animation Studio and have been working in the Computer Graphics Industry for many years now and have collected some Tipps and Tricks or Essentials that might make your Computer Generated Imagery look more professional.

These “Filmmaking Essentials” as i call them, can of course be applied to many different areas, but are written from a 3D Animation Directors point of view.

These Tips might help you create a more professional looking Film, Animation, Rendering or any kind of Computer Graphic, might help you get closer to that Cinematic “Filmlook” that everyone is looking for.

I don’t claim that applying these Techniques to your project will instantly make them look professional, but they might just inspire you.

Here goes:

Always break your work down into managable chunks
Always use references


Color Palettes (e.g.
Use non-perfect white-balance


Bevel all edges, to get specular highlights, bevel is scale, bevel is material dependent


Provide at a MINIMUM color, bump, and specular for every surface
UV unwrap everything
Dirt is pretty, dirt is detail, dirt is scale
Lower texture filtering (no EWA but BOX)
Linear Workflow convert images textures to correct gamma before 3D Software import


Shadow needs color when not using GI
Physically correct Iinvers-quad fall-off
Atmospheric Perspective (When Light bounces off Dust-Particles in the Air)
Rim lights
Use Image based Lighting (HDRI)


Rule of thirds (or 8:5 or golden rule) always place important elements in intersecting lines
180 Degree Rule – Except when new line of action is established
Read the 5 C’s of Cinematography


Out of focus shots
Real-Live dolly, crane, steadycam mimicking
Add oh so slight camera shake to your cams
Find interesting perspectives, that we dont see everyday


Use Multipass Rendering and know when to stop working in 3D and switch to Post
Use Cinemascope 2,35:1 format for that Cinematic look
Render as EXR in 32Bit (Use 16Bit Compression if you dont want gigantic files)
Depth of field refraction, when a close Object in front of the Camera refracts light
Llens distortion when simulating Cameras, also: Fish-Eye
There is always a faster way to render your frames… Optimize!


Fade to/from black not with animating opacity but with animating the exposure
Light leaks footage on cut
Order of cuts is important, and can raise or answer questions! reorder and test!


Barrel distortion on wide angle-lenses (linsenverzerrung)
Scale-down from highres image for that super-crisp look (might be faster than rendering with high Anti Aliasing)
Use scaled-down proxies in your compositing software to work faster
Depth of Field Bokeh <– Look this up, this is a game-changer
Depth Map shouldn’t have Anti-Aliasing to work correctly
Think about how lenses and f-stop works and that Bokeh is much more intensive in dark situations and large f-stop values
Filmgrain blue channel usually has most grain, bright spots have less grain
Use animated film grain
Vignette your shots, use colored vignettes instead of just black
Gglare (bloom), Light diffusion
Light streaks when filming overexposed lights
Ddispersion, Chromatic aberration after Color Grading
Use lens flare, but dont overdo it
Non-perfect white balance
Color shift all the blacks to match the color timed plate. Remember there is no such thing as 100% black
Dirty Lens
Work in 32 bit float at all times
When doing Mblur and Dof in Comp use this order: 1.MBLUR – 2.DOF – 3.ColorCorrection


Lossless exchange between apps use openexr piz compression (for grain) or zip 16 (no grain)
Lots of Codecs criple your image, like H264, Use PRO EXR or similar high quality 10bit codecs


Alex from CGDirector - post author

Hi, I'm Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I've built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I'll do my best to help out!