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Cinematic Look with the Canon SL2 (200d) – Tutorial

⭐️ Buy the SL2 (200d): Body only (UPDATED): http://geni.us/tgtcanonsl2

What’s up guys, Sagi here and welcome to another Tech Gear Talk. Today I’m going to show you how to get your Canon SL2 or 2 footage to go from meh to cinematic! We’ll cover what you need to do to get that cinematic look everyone wants for their video, using the SL2.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Tutorial

The SL2 is a great beginner camera and I’ve already done a bunch of videos about it, and here is a link to my Canon SL2 playlist, in case you’re interested in learning more about this camera.

But like I said, today we’re going to take a look at how you can get the cinematic look that everyone loves.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Framerate

Canon SL2 Cinematic Framerate

The first thing we’re going to discuss is framerate, and in general, this is very much a stylistic choice. In case you’re not familiar with what this means, framerate refers literally to how many frames the camera captures per second. So 24fps means the camera is recording 24 separate frames (think film) every second, and 60fps means it’s capturing 60 frames every second.

The most popular options are 24, 30 and 60 because the majority of people are using NTSC. With 25 and 50 options for those who are using PAL. Without going too deep into this, 60fps will provide a sharper and more crips look, sort of what you get when you’re watching the news or soap operas. Motion pictures on the other hand are shot at 24fps which provides the softer cinematic look we’re going for. The 24fps look is part of what you’re used to and what your mind equates with the “cinematic” style.

So in your SL2, make sure you’re in movie mode, then click on MENU->SHOOT1->MOVIE REC. SIZE and select FHD, or 1080P, 23.98 which is what we’ll call 24fps. If you’re using PAL, go ahead and select 25fps.

The only exception to this rule is if you want to shoot slow-motion. In that case, go ahead and select FHD 59.94 (or what we’ll call 60fps)That means that we’ll be slowing 60fps footage down to 24fps later in our editor and get slow motion by 2.5 times. That means we will stretch 1 second of recording time into 2.5 seconds of play time.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Shuterspeed

Canon SL2 Cinematic Shutterspeed

Ok, we’ve got our framerate let’s talk about shutterspeed. If you’re familiar with how to get a proper exposure for photography, you know that shutterspeed determines how long the shutter stays open for each picture. The longer it stays open, the more light hits the sensor and the brighter your image will be.

For filmmaking, this may sound confusing because you might be thinking “I’m not taking a picture I’m shooting a continuous video”. But remember that our video is actually comprised of 24 individual frames for each second of video, and the shutterspeed determines how long the shutter records for each frame.

In this video I’m not going to get into the “why” of the 180 degree rule and I’m going to keep it super simple, you’re going to always have your shutterspeed be twice, or about twice, your framerate.

So if you’re shooting at 24fps you’re going to use a shutterspeed of 1/50. If you’re shooting at 60fps for slowmotion, you’re going to use a shutterspeed of 125. These aren’t exactly twice our framerate but they are close enough.

You can find your shutterspeed down on the bottom left and you can either use the touchscreen to change it, or use the top dial next to the shutter. Unlike in photography, we don’t want to control exposure by changing the shutter speed, we’ll have to use ISO and Aperture for that.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look ISO

Canon SL2 Cinematic ISO

ISO determines how sensitive the SL2 sensor is going to be to light and this setting will depend on the lighting conditions you’re working with. In brighter environments you’re going to use lower ISO settings and in darker environment you’re going to use higher ISO. The lower the ISO, the less sensitive to light our sensor is the less noise is introduced to our video. The higher the ISO setting, the more sensitive the sensor is and the more noise we’re introducing into our footage.

We can reduce this noise in post production, but it’s always a good idea to get the best footage we can to start with, so as a general rule, work with the lowest ISO that works for your situation.

The SL2 has an ISO range between 100 – 12,800 and I almost always select my ISO manually rather than having it on AUTO. This means that since I set my shutterspeed, aperture and ISO manually, my exposure is not going to change on its own. So again, shoot at the lowest possible ISO to get the exposure you need and this will give you the cleanest image possible to start working with.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Depth of Field

Canon SL2 Cinematic Aperture/F-stop

F-stops will control the amount of light that exits the lens and hits the sensor of the SL2 by changing the size of the opening known as the Aperture. This is sometimes confusing but the thing to remember here is that a smaller number means larger opening. So when people say large aperture, they mean large opening NOT large number.

If you get confused, think of it as a fraction. Think of f/2 as 1 over 2 or ½. Think of f/8 as 1 over 8 or 1/8th. This isn’t the correct formula at all, but it will help you remember the relationship between the number value and the size of the opening.

Now, the larger the opening, the more light hits the sensor and the brighter the exposure. This also means that we can turn down our ISO on our SL2 and get a cleaner picture.

The next thing affected by the f-stop is depth of field.This could be a topic in and of itself but for the purposes of this video, we mostly relate shallow depth of field with the cinematic look. Shallow depth of field means that our subject is in focus, but things in front or behind the subject are out of focus. So the smaller the f-stop number, the shallower the depth of field. So if we look at the same scene at f/2, f/11 and f/22 we can see how much more of the scene is in focus at f/22.

Now, using a wide open f-stop like f2 is great because it lets more light in and we are able to shoot with less available light or low-light situations. However, it does present a challenge when shooting outside in bright daylight. In this situation we are faced with the fact that there is too much light when we open the lens up.

If this was photography, we could simply shorten the shutterspeed but we don’t have that option here, since if you remember, we said the shutterspeed has to stay at double our framerate. This is where something like a variable Neutral density filter helps by reducing the amount of light that passes through the lens. That means that we can have the lens wide open, get that shallow depth of field and still get a great exposure.

Here are some of my favorite Variable ND filters and remember to get one that fits the diameter of your lens.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look white Balance

Canon SL2 Cinematic White Balance

White balance refers to a setting that lets the sensor on the SL2 know what color light to expect. That might sound strange to you because our eyes and brain automatically adjust for different light colors, so we don’t actually think about it. But something like a tungsten light bulb has a much different color than daylight which in turn is different than overcast. It’s important that we match the white balance setting on the SL2 to the color of the light we have.

There are two ways to select the white balance on the SL2.

  • The first is by clicking on Q on the touch screen, then go to the second icon from the top on the right side, you’ll get the white balance menu at the bottom.
  • The second is by clicking on MENU->SHOOT3->WHITE BALANCE and then choosing one of the options.

From left to right, the first option is AWB for auto white balance, this lets the camera try to figure out on its own what the correct white balance should be.

Next we have a setting for daylight, which should be used outdoors under clear skies. Next we have a setting for shooting in the shade, the next option is for cloudy days or sunset, then incandescent or tungsten light, followed by white fluorescent light, flash photography and finally a custom white balance option which is beyond the scope of this article.

I suggest that you select the option that best fits the light you have and only use AWB as a last resort. The reason is that auto white balance may change your white balance settings while you’re shooting as different colors enter the frame. So if someone with a bright red shirt walks in, the camera may get tricked and change the white balance for the whole scene which is going to look terrible. The important part here is to capture colors as close as possible to how they appear to the naked eye.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Histogram

Canon SL2 Cinematic Histogram

Next I want to talk about the histogram feature on the SL2. This is a feature that a lot of people either forget to turn on or just don’t know how to use. To turn the histogram on, click the INFO button until you see it appear on the top-right area of the LCD.

This histogram represents the pixels exposed in your scene and this one is set to show brightness. The way to read a histogram is that the left side of the graph represents the blacks or shadows in your scene and the right side represents the white or highlights. So anything that is all the way to the left is going to be pure black, and anything that bumps against the right will be pure white.

Here is a scene that is well exposed, and you can see that we have details in the shadows and the highlights are not blown out.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Exposure

Here is the same scene underexposed, so you can see that the histogram has shifted to the left and is bumping up against the left edge.
Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Underexposed

Here is the same scene overexposed, and you can see the whole thing shifted to the right and our highlights are completely blown out.
Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Overexposed

So as a goal, we want the entire graph to be visible with the tiniest gap on either side. That means that our sensor is capturing the entire scene with nothing overexposed and nothing underexposed. Notice that I said this is the goal, it’s not always possible, but just do your best, and remember that you can not use shutterspeed to adjust your exposure, just ISO and Aperture. If need be, we go back to the Variable Neutral Density filters to control the amount of light the hits the sensor.

If you have to choose between overexposing and underexposing your scene, always set your SL2 to slightly underexpose – meaning make things look a little darker than they actually are. It’s easier to brighten up the footage in post production and bring out details out of the shadows. If a portion of your footage is completely blown out and is pure white, there is nothing you can do in post production to bring it back. And finally, having properly exposed footage, will also help us with color grading later on.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Histogram Picture Styles

Canon SL2 Cinematic Picture Style

Next I want to discuss picture styles. The Canon SL2 has 8 different picture styles designed to make adjustments to the picture profile for different types of shooting. If I’m just shooting a regular video for youtube and don’t plan on color grading it, I’m happy with the Standard picture profile. It gives me super usable footage with a nice amount of contrast and saturation right out of the camera.

It doesn’t have the best dynamic range but it gives me a much faster workflow. For photography and video, dynamic range is a measurement between the brightest and the darkest parts of your image. It can also refer to the sensor’s capabilities in terms of how much of a difference between the shadows and the highlights of your image it can capture, without the highlights being blown out or the shadows going to pure black.

So while Standard picture profile works well in some cases, when we try to get a more cinematic look, we need to do something different, we want to use a flat picture profile. If you remember the histogram, a flat picture profile is going to push you shadows and your highlights into the center of the graph. It’s easier to see why it’s called flat when editing in Premiere Pro for example where the luma waveform graph is displayed vertically and you can see that a flat image is literally represented by a flat waveform.

So essentially what we’re doing is creating an image that is very gray. We’re eliminating black and white and trying to move everything into some shade of gray. Now this is also a very ugly image, it lacks color and contrast but the important point is that the SL2 captured details in the the shadows and highlights. This gives us a lot of room to play with in post production and get that cinematic look we’re looking for.

I’ll do another tutorial about color grading so if you’re interested, make sure to hit that Subscribe button. There are many great flat picture styles when it comes to the SL2 but today I’m going to use 2 examples, the first is Technicolor Cinestyle and the second is Prolost.

I prefer Technicolor Cinestyle because it is even more flat than Prolost, but it does require a free download and installation whereas prolost can be set up if a few seconds on any Canon DSLR or mirrorless camera that offers user-defined picture profiles. Here is my tutorial about how to install Cinestyle and Prolost on Canon DSLR and Mirrorless cameras so either head over to check it out or watch it at the end of this article.

Here is a scene in Standard picture profile you can see it’s pretty sharp, contrasty and saturated but we do lose some detail in the shadows and the highlights.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Standard Profile

Here it is using Prolost, so we definitely have a softer image, less contrast and less saturation.
Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Prolost

And finally Cinestyle where we have an even flatter profile with even less contrast and less saturation.
Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Cinestyle

Again, I know this looks ugly right now, but it will allow us to do some color grading to get the final cinematic look we want.
Canon SL2 Cinematic Aspect Ratio

Canon SL2 Cinematic Aspect Ratio

Now let’s talk about aspect ratio. Our SL2 shoots at FHD or 1080P which is 1920px by 1080px resulting in 16:9 aspect ratio. But motion pictures are viewed at a much wider aspect ratio. There is no right answer here but I usually go with 2.35:1.

To do this, you simply change the resolution in your project file. In Premiere Pro, go to SEQUENCE->SEQUENCE SETTINGS, and change the horizontal value to 816.

In addition to getting a wide-angle video, you also have the added benefit of being able to re-frame your shot since you can move the footage up or down within the new frame.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Film Grain

Canon SL2 Cinematic Film Grain

Let’s move on to film grain. Pay attention the next time you are watching a movie, and you’ll notice that the image isn’t really all that clean, it’s actually kinda noisy. If the movie was shot digitally, this isn’t how the footage looked when they shot it, there was film grain added to the final product to help it mimic the look of actual film.

Here is some sample footage with no film grain, and you can see that it’s pretty clean and clear. I’m going to go ahead and add some 35mm film grain on top of it and then adjust the blend mode to OVERLAY. Now there is a stylistic choice of how much grain you want to actually add to your footage. I think 50% looks good in this case and let me zoom in to 100% to show you the difference, so without grain and then with grain. And then let’s play this clip and look at how it looks when it’s rendered.

Click here for some great FREE 1080p and 4k film grain.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Color Grading

Canon SL2 Cinematic Color Grading

Let’s move on to color grading and I want to start by pointing out that color grading is both subjective and a stylistic choice. There is no right and wrong here, it’s a matter of getting the look you as a filmmaker want. It will also depend on the type of project you’re working on. A promo for a boxing gym is going to have a different look than a local flower shop video.

There are a ton of film luts and color grading plugins out there and they are an excellent way to give your footage a more cinematic look and feel. They are also a great way to save yourself some time when you’re editing by starting with a preset. I’ll include some great options in the description, and as I mentioned, this is going to be a creative choice.

I will do a dedicated tutorial about color grading SL2 footage because it should definitely be its own standalone topic and I want to cover it in more detail. Again, if you’re interested or have any specific questions let me know in the comment section.

Canon SL2 Cinematic Look Sample

Can You Get Cinematic Footage from the Canon SL2 (200d)?

Alright, so that covered how to achieve the cinematic look with the Canon SL2. Hopefully you can see that even with what most people call a beginner camera, you can still achieve some really nice results. I really hope this tutorial was helpful. If it was, please let me know by leaving a comment, giving this video thumbs up and if you haven’t yet, join our community by hitting the subscribe and notification buttons.

For more tips and tutorials I also recommend that you follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @techgeartalk.

You know what I always say, buy it nice or buy it twice!

Good luck and see you soon.

Variable ND Filters:


Buy the Canon SL2 Camera (updated):

Body only: http://geni.us/tgtcanonsl2
Kit used (for review) in video: http://geni.us/tgtcanonsl218-55
Deluxe Kit: http://geni.us/tgtcanonsl2deluxe

Great Additional Lens Options:

Canon EF-S 10-18mm: https://bhpho.to/2C8pi80
Canon EF-S 18-55mm: https://bhpho.to/2GaCVZE
Canon EF-S 55-200mm: https://bhpho.to/2DfELCi

My favorite 3-axis Gimbals for smaller Camera:

Moza AirCross 3-Axis Gimbal: https://bhpho.to/2OuFV6j
ikan MS-PRO Beholder 3-Axis Gimbal Stabilizer: http://geni.us/tgtIkanBeholder
Zhiyun-Tech Crane v2 3-Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer: http://geni.us/tgtZhiyunCraneV2
Beholder DS1 Handheld Stabilizer 3-Axis Brushless Gimbal:

Microphones for Canon SL2:

Rode VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Microphone: http://geni.us/tgtRodeVideoMicro
Rode VideoMic Pro http://geni.us/tgtRodeVideoMicPro
Rode VideoMic GO http://geni.us/tgtRodeVideoMicGO
Rode VideoMic Pro Plus http://geni.us/tgtRodeVideoMicProPlus


  1. I recently tried shooting in Cinestyle but once I put a lut on it that converts it to REC.709 I can tell the footage is pushed way too hard and it looks extremely noisy, any advice?

    • Hi Jerry, thanks for reaching out. Can you try applying the lut at less than 100% and see if the results are better? Let me know.

  2. Thanks. That was very useful.

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