Tips to Get the Sci-Fi Aesthetic Perfect

If you have a bunch of science fiction movies that you like, we will bet a good amount of money that the cinematography in those films played a huge role in helping them make it to your list. Cinematography, defined as the art of capturing motion in cinema, can make or break a film.

In some genres, like sci-fi, for instance, it plays a very vital role.

If you’re planning to engage in a sci-fi video production, here are a few cinematography tips that might help you out.

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Art direction is the life and soul of sci-fi cinematography. You see, unlike most other genres, sci-fi relies heavily on created worlds. The goal is to get the audience to immerse itself into the new world that they’re exposed to on screen, and only outstanding art direction can make that happen.

So, work out a proper budget and make room for a professional production designer. You’ll need this person as early as possible to get the process started. Then, work out the options for props, sets, locations, and any other element that will have a significant impact on making your sci-fi world look believable.

If you can’t make room for a professional in your budget, take the time to hunt for someone who’s passionate enough to do it for a lower fee. At the same time, rewrite certain aspects to make the cinematography fit in with the budget. For instance, change locations if it can be done. This could go a long way in making things easier without compromising on the look.

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Sci-fi productions usually have plenty of VFX. However, if you don’t have the right people or the budget, it’s better to keep things to a bare minimum. As they say, less is more in certain scenarios. This scenario is one of them.

In case you’re wondering how a sci-fi project is going to be successful without VFX, think again. There are enough indie sci-fi productions out there that will prove you wrong.



There are no particular rules when it comes to lighting for sci-fi films. Each sci-fi film is unique in its own way, and there are plenty of sub-genres that require their own specific lighting formats. For instance, a sci-fi action like “Aliens” relied on completely different lighting compared to, let’s say, “The 5th Element.” The mood you are trying to create can vary, depending on storyline and plot.

However, there is one particular camera-technique that is universally used for sci-fi productions – shooting with increased shutter speeds.

You have the 180-degree rule where you are required to set the shutter speed at twice the rate of the frame rate. For instance, if your frame rate is 24fps, then your shutter speed should be around 1/48. If it’s a sub-genre, such as sci-fi action, the shutter speed should be much higher. A higher shutter speed helps create more intensity in movement.

However, make sure you don’t go overboard with the shutter speed. If you do, you could end up with odd footage. The goal is to make the audience experience the effect on a sub-conscious level.



Film emulation is generally a good thing. However, it may not work for every type of project. In fact, it definitely doesn’t work on sci-fi productions. It may even work against the film or video, which you obviously don’t want happening.

In general, sci-fi projects need to possess a clinical and sterile appearance. Emulation has the exact opposite effect. The purpose of emulation is to soften the digital harshness of the film and also, to mute certain colors. You do it when you want to avoid making the cinematography look too edgy. But that edginess can work for sci-fi productions.

A lot of sci-fi productions are shot digitally, but incorporate the clean and sharp look during the post-production phase.

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Most sci-fi narratives deal with subjects that aren’t positive. So, choosing warm tones can end up misleading your audience. It’s safer to go with cooler tones that create an unsettling atmosphere.

However, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. Things depend on the script. So, think a little and determine whether warm or cool tones work best.

Lucas Chu

Melty Cone is a full service video production company in NYC. We make commercials, corporate videos, branded content, brand videos and the best videos in New York!