Reviews, Video

Creating the film look with FilmConvert

A large number of plug-ins exist that re-create the filmic look on digital video footage by adding digital noise that looks like film grain. The developers of FilmConvert take a different approach. They scanned a limited but important selection of film stock emulations at 6K resolution. They tuned the scanned results specifically for the digital camera you're shooting with, which results in filmic looks and grain for footage of up to 4K. The stand-alone version even includes some nice colour grading features.

Film look with FilmConvert: the interface

Rubber Monkey’s FilmConvert exists as both a stand-alone app and a plug-in for Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro and Sony Vegas. To make it work with your camera, you need to download camera profiles. These serve to tune the film look to your specific camera. Camera packs or profiles exist for professional video cameras like RED Epic, but also for popular dSLR cams like the Panasonic DMC-GH3 and even the GoPro Hero2 and Hero3. You can request new camera profiles to be created.

A RED Epic clip with Kodak film look

A RED Epic clip with the Kodak Vision 3 film look applied. Grain settings here at 150%.

FilmConvert's film looks include several Kodak and Fuji colour film stocks, as well as black and white film. There's a Polaroid colour film to choose from too. There are as many colour films as there are black and white films, with the latter taken exclusively from still camera film. There are five movie colour film emulations to choose from.

Film grain with FilmConvert

In stand-alone mode, FilmConvert offers the most control, including some nifty colour and tone curve adjustments. As a plug-in, only the film looks and the grain controls are available. Except for the camera used to shoot the clip, you can change the film stock emulation and the size of the grain, which is linked to the size of the film. For example, selecting a Super 8 film will create a rough grainy look, while opting for 35mm Full gives a subtle grainy look. Grain can be controlled by a slider as well, ranging from zero to 200.

FilmConvert as plug-in

The bottom line is that you can have a filmic look with or without grain added to it, while creating a filmic look is a matter of seconds with FilmConvert, regardless of whether you're using the app as a stand-alone app or a plug-in. Creating exactly the filmic look that fits your subject takes a bit more time or colour grading skill, but still is a lot easier than some of the competing applications. And FilmConvert lets you save your own presets as well as remove them easily and quickly.

The results FilmConvert allows you to create can be stunning or subtle and you can render them as QuickTime movie, ProRes 4444 and a bunch of other formats.

But is it real?

To purists, adding grain or "the filmic look" isn't enough. They want to have the real thing, not something that looks like it until you come closer. In that area the Rubber Monkey people have done what it takes: they've scanned real grain stocks at a very high resolution. This allows them to offer you film looks and the grain that goes with it for up to 4K projects.

Panasonic DMC-GH3 with Ilford 400 ASA black and white film look applied

How real do you want it? The Panasonic DMC-GH3 is a popular camera with dSLR documentary and film shooters. This clip has been enhanced with an Ilford 400 ASA still image film look. Grain at 150% and Super8 to clearly show the results.

However, FilmConvert also models the characteristics of digital sensors — which is why they create these camera profiles — and provides an algorithm to transform digital footage to match film stocks. So, to answer that question: it's as real as it will get in a digital workflow.

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J.D. – Copywriter – Tech. Writer – Editor at Visuals Producer – Contributor at Photoshop User, Studio Daily – Sub-editor at RedShark News