What makes a shot cinematic? Film aficionados love to throw the term around, but it can be hard to nail down a single definition. Most people rely on a “I’ll know it when I see it” approach, which is hardly useful for working filmmakers and creatives looking for the right shots to include in their projects. That’s why we’ve put together a quick reference list of five essential “cinematic” qualities for shots featuring 20 of the most downloaded clips in our stock footage library.

This guide will help you select the most visually interesting and captivating shots for your next creative project, and members can download the entire 20 clip collection of cinematic stock footage on VideoBlocks.

Without further ado, here are the 20 shots, sorted by cinematic quality:

 

#1 – Movement

Film is a moving image, not still photography, and great cinematic shots will capture this. Whether you pick clips with movement in frame or it’s the frame itself that moves as the camera changes position, movement will ensure you capture and keep the audience’s attention.

For shots with movement in-frame, look for striking lines created by the motion, such as those seen in these timelapses and slow-motion shots.

 
Download this Slow Motion Bubbles in Liquid Footage.

 
 
Download the Dawn Breaking Over Rock Arches Footage.

 
If you’re using clips where the camera angle moves instead, look for shots that change at a slow enough pace that the audience can process what they’re seeing without being so slow as to bore them–this is especially important for long-view landscape and establishing shots like these.

 
 
Download this Majestic Snowcapped Mountain Panorama Footage.

 
 
Download this Aerial View Flying Over a Bridge at Sunset footage.

 

#2 – Framing

Visual composition is often what makes or breaks a shot, from unique and less traditional camera angles to a rich depth of field.

Picking shots with unconventional vantage points can give your audience a new and different perspective than they’re used to seeing every day. Watch how these clips draw the eye by placing the camera in unusual points of view.

 
Download this Looking Up at the Stars Through the Trees Timelapse Footage.

 
 
Download this Inside Shot of a Waterfall at Sunset.

 
Meanwhile, a rich depth of field means that the frame is full of details, both near and far, to catch the audience’s eye. See how in these clips objects closer to the camera practically jump off the screen towards the audience while the scenery in the background remains crisp and clear.

 
 
Download this Famous Eiffel Tower in Natural Light Timelapse Footage.

 
 
Download this Traffic and Neon Signs on the Vegas Strip Footage.

 

#3 – Contrast and saturation

Highlights, lowlights, and bursts of color can make clips standout. When paired with strong framing and use of motion, these qualities set truly cinematic shots apart from mediocre ones.

Deep contrasts between light and shadow create points of visual interest within the frame while accenting shapes and movement. Watch how the light directs the eye’s attention, creating its own motion in these shots.

 
Download this Copper Canyon footage.

 
 
Download this Landscape Sunset of the Bay Bridge Timelapse Footage.

 
Similarly, deeply saturated shots can inspire emotion and tell their own color story. These shots illustrate how strong color statements can create their own subtle visual narratives.

 
Download this Grassy Beach at Sunset Footage.

 
 
Download this Beautiful Lake Resort Aerial Footage.

 

#4 – High resolution

While grainy footage can have its own aesthetic and nostalgic appeal, these distortions can also distract from the craftsmanship of a shot and lower your project’s production value. High definition clips like these 4K shots are more likely to capture an audience’s attention and leave them with a strong sense of visual impact.

 
Download this Dolly Shot Through Pink Blossoms Footage.

 
 
Download this Aerial Shot Over Lighthouse on a Rocky Outcrop of Boston Footage.

 
 
Download this Modern Urban Scenery City Panorama Footage.

 
 
Download this Rocky Desert Landscape Aerial Footage.

 

#5 – “Wow” factor

Cinematic shots are as much about spectacle as they are about composition and lighting–they keep the audience hungry for more. Make sure you pick clips that have that little something extra, whether it’s a spectacular view of the heavens, a cool visual effect, or a death defying stunt.

 
Download this F-16D Fighting Falcon from the Cockpit Footage.

 
 
Download this Stars Spinning Over Joshua Tree Timelapse Footage.

 
 
Download this Light Hall in Escalator Timelapse Footage.

 
 
Download this Clouds of Hierve el Agua Footage.

 
How do you define cinematic? With unlimited downloads from our Membership Library, you can decide for yourself–or just download these 20 curated clips.

 

Cut to Cinematic Shots