September 23, 2012

FilmConvert: the Best Film Stock Emulator You've Ever Seen

We've said a lot about the digital versus film debate, and a lot of people have a lot of different opinions. Film still had a technological advantage over digital until really the last few years or so, and now we have digital sensors which can match or exceed film stocks with dynamic range. Either way, with digital sensors being "too clean" for some people who have loved the look of film, there is a program called FilmConvert that takes the color information of specific cameras and actually uses that to determine how a specific film stock could best be represented using that sensor. Click through for some videos of the program in action.

From Vincent Laforet's blog:

Some more of the capabilities of FilmConvert:

Update: Here is an email from Craig Herring at Rubber Monkey about the DSLR picture styles (thanks to Jeff):

We are in the process of building separate LUTs for commonly used picture styles. Currently it is based off the “standard” picture style, which a lot of people (we now find) avoid using. This is a top priority for us and you will see a change here soon. We are also looking at creating LUTs for additional source cameras… matching more sensors for our film emulation.

Obviously this isn't a replacement for shooting film, and certainly not a replacement for true color correction/grading, but the fact that they are using the specific way the particular sensors render color to get closer to the final look is something I haven't seen before at this level. While there are plenty of film grain emulators out there, like CineGrain, rgrain, and Gorilla Grain, this program is designed to emulate the color response in a way that makes them almost indistinguishable from the real thing. While some of them aren't perfect, it's the closest I've seen motion video come to looking like film. Here is a more in-depth explanation of what they are actually doing from Vincent's blog:

Rubber Monkey, who developed the software, recorded various color charts on different stocks of film and then mapped the qualities of various HD sensors to those charts which is an incredibly important distinction that separates it, from many of the other plugins out there. Instead of throwing a simple curve on the image to approximate the look of "film", FilmConvert accurately shifts the values of the image based on the sensor you shot, and intelligently converts the colors that sensor captured, to the type of film stock you choose to emulate.  In other words – they know not only how your individual sensor "sees" or captures a particular color, but just as importantly how each film stock would "see" or render that same color – AND HOW THE TWO CORRESPOND!

If you're wondering what else sets this apart from other similar color preset programs, it's details like this:

On film, grain is more or less intense depending on the color and luminosity.  For example – there is less visible grain as an image approaches black, because that is where the negative is the densest, and there is more visible grain at 80% white than at pure white.  Or for instance there is more grain in the blue channel of a tungsten stock film (don’t forget that speed and white balance can’t be changed on a film camera, these setting are dependent on stock) because the blue layer of the emulsion has a higher light sensitivity (higher ISO) than the red or green layer.  FilmConvert takes all of this into account based on whatever stock you choose to emulate.

I do like the look of many film stocks and processes. In terms of still photography, there are still formats that far exceed the capabilities of digital, maybe not in color range and dynamic range, but certainly in resolution. Personally, my favorite stock for still photography was the panchromatic Kodak Plus-X 125 ASA, but since that's not offered here, I can't apply that look to any of my videos -- though it's interesting that the Polaroid look is offered. You might be saying, why would anyone want this? Well, there are many cases for films that call for a look that isn't so clean and perfect, or for certain scenes that should look more distinguished from the rest of the film. I could also see this being used for period pieces which would typically have been shot on celluloid, but are now using digital because of cost or workflow.

They have both a standalone version and a plug-in version for Adobe Premiere/After Effects and Final Cut Pro X/Motion. The regular standard version runs $100 for 8 film stocks, DSLR emulation, and up to 1080p, and the Pro version is $250 for all 19 film stocks, DSLR and RED cameras, EDL/XML timeline import, up to 4K resolution, and the ability to export uncompressed files.

You can also download a free trial version of all of the options above, so you can get a sense of what the program can do, and also check out how close they are actually getting to the film stocks using the links below. Since more and more people now own RAW shooting cameras, and with more of them coming our way priced under $10,000 like the KineRAW or the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, emulating these film stocks is even easier since you've got the most color information possible to start with.

Assuming they add more cameras, is this something any of you might use on a serious project - like a feature?

Links:

[via Vincent Laforet]

Your Comment

65 Comments

I am completely having faith on this program ..this is the revolution no more talking

September 23, 2012

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visualmed

revolutionary or reactionary?

September 23, 2012

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Felipe Leonardo

=)

Their gimmick doesn't stand up because of two things: 1) the settings on-camera may vary widely for gamma/color etc. and why must I know beforehand what someone's going to want to do in post specifically? 2) The way presets can be used with footage from any camera is simple: first do a empirical grade to correct color (e.g. matching color charts/RGB values) and then apply your preset. Voila.

Presets are good for flipping through for ideas but I usually only use them as starting points if at all. Gussying up a set of presets with some whizbang marketing might shake money out of a few beginners (and for endorsing them I would hope the pro's get some of that money). No one in the audience thinks "Hey that's Velvia!"

September 23, 2012

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Peter

Alternatively, the "gimmick" that doesn't stand up is video cameras with broadcast codecs where color information is baked into footage on set?

September 23, 2012

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nobody

Just FYI, this program is meant for use with RAW footage (from the Alexa, Red one and Epic, BMCC, etc.). It can also work with DSLRs, but the best use of this would be for RAW footage.

September 28, 2012

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Edge

I'm afraid the advertisement is disingenuous. The digital "unprocessed" footage is rediculously washed out and made to look really bad (my Canon 550 D has much better quality straight out of the camera) so that the Film Convert footage will be made to look all the better.

Lets see a genuine comparison with good quality digital footage.

September 23, 2012

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Anthony Costine

"washed out" or flat? seems to me to be the latter; the flat look mimics the film negative look. if you really think the 550D straight-out-of-camera image is amazing as is, I assume you don't recognize the benefits of Technicolor Cinestyle or FLAAT.

September 24, 2012

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Edge

um, yeah, its supposed to look "washed out". thats because its ungraded. your 550d spits out a pre-baked look that resembles footage thats already been graded. except you wont ever get a chance to grade it, and if you do, the footage falls apart. :/

September 24, 2012

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john jeffreys

Exactly. If you get a flat image, that can be a good thing. It gives you more room to play with when CC, and it also seems to look more 'film-ish'

September 24, 2012

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Tyler

It's magic. Been testing for a couple weeks and it both achieves the claims it sets...and unifies the image into a cinematic reality that for me...creates pure aesthetic pleasure.

September 23, 2012

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Vashi Nedomansky

I don't see a point for the software, you can use Resolve for this... there have been programs that you can do this in for a heck of a long time, this isn't revolutionary at all.

September 23, 2012

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Jeff Akwante

Somehow adding grain directly in Davinci Resolve?

September 23, 2012

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Felipe Leonardo

Yeah you can add grain in Davinci Resolve, as far as I know

September 23, 2012

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Jeff Akwante

So you're saying that you can totally get this look in resolve, yet you obviously don't use resolve yourself.

September 24, 2012

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Sam

I'm not a Davinci Resolve user myself, but I don't think you can get it 100% with Resolve or any other color correction suite.

I agree you could use Davinci, in addition to some film stock scans like Grain35 by CrumplePop: http://www.crumplepop.com/grain35-landing-page/ and have some very convincing results, but for 100% (or 99%) accuracy, you should be able to have the same scene shot both with every of your cameras, and each of the stocks you're trying to emulate. Then you could use Resolve to match them and save node setups and/or color LUT's

So, for me it's not that Davinci is not capable of doing it. It's that you would need the samples for accurate matching.

Years ago, Antares did the same for microphone modeling. http://www.antarestech.com/products/amm.shtml
Again, to do this, you need samples of the SAME audio material in the SAME acoustic conditions so you can isolate the microphone characteristics you're trying to emulate.

September 24, 2012

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I don't see why you wouldn't be able to get this in resolve. I use nuke and you sure can get it in NukeX.

September 24, 2012

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Jeff Akwante

Looks reeeeally similar to something like magic bullet looks.... with grain.
"Different: color, contrast, grain" Isn't that what one does in a grade? Possibly minus the grain depending on what you like? It's certainly what I do anyway.

September 23, 2012

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Moore

However what I'm seeing is that it edits color relative to the film stock you are emulating. So the red in one stock might look different in another stock because it has scanned it's color things from that film stock.

Dunno, I think someone needs to do some further comparisons.

September 24, 2012

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Tyler

dosen't magic bullet looks go some way in achieving this, the presets may not be named as film stock but you can achieve a lot of this in colour correction and plugs like the ones aforementioned.
great interface, lovely icon design etc... but nothing really cutting edge their joe,

September 23, 2012

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kuban

Magic Bullet Looks is interesting, but if you can't see the difference between that and this program, I just can't help you. They are achieving their results in a very different way (this also looks better in my opinion), and that is the reason I say this is closest you're going to come emulating the look of film, and not just film in general, but actual specific film stocks.

Could you do what FilmConvert is doing in your own color program? Probably, but you're going to spend a lot more time doing it.

September 23, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

it would see there is a substantial number of people here that you can't help if that is your logic joe.
I'd say your rather dismissive, but hey we all have our own thoughts

September 24, 2012

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kuban

Yep, quite a few.

September 24, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I prefer FilmConvert to Magic Bullet Looks for 2 simple reasons. FilmConvert is realtime playback and you can actually change the settings while the clip is playing to get a sense of the image in motion. Having to work on a still image in MBL is cumbersome to say the least. Second...Magic Bullet Looks grain is extremely limited and inferior to any of the FilmConvert grains...plus you literally have to render out each shot to see the MBL grain in realtime and full resolution. Just my take after a couple weeks of testing...

September 24, 2012

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Vashi Nedomansky

Agree. Magic Bullet does not produce looks like this. They are "fun" but they look manipulated and tacky by and large and I get much better results grading myself, and I am by no means a colourist. These looks have a different more organic/embedded look that is much more palatable.

But i would have to test to see if it's worth the coin vs grading software or perhaps working in as a good accompanying plug in.

September 24, 2012

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Lliam Worthington

We have been playing this game in the audio world for over 10 years now. Trying to emulate an "analog" feel in the digital world. What i have learned is there is much more going on then just color and grain changes. It's all about the "non-linearities" that analog tape/film add, as well as the cameras that shot them.

Film is not perfect and there are subtle moving parts that effects the look and feel from frame to frame in the camera. It's the sum of these parts that help create a film look, but i feel until these slight changes are also addressed we are still missing half the puzzle.

September 23, 2012

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Matt

I think the old-school sound quality is probably at least if not more relevant than the picture quality to delivering the authentic experience. It's quite hard to emulate all that went into that tone (the old Nagra's, the projector head bump, the Altec Voice of the Theater speakers, etc.).

The popcorn is still greasy underfoot though.

September 23, 2012

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Peter

Why not just use old school sound recorders and get the real thing?

September 24, 2012

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john jeffreys

Expense and flexibility.
Recording and non-destructive editing/mixing in digital is faster and easier than destructive editing mixing and all that in analog. Analog audio can be great, but it's a whole different beast process wise, just as using real film.

September 25, 2012

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This is a much more complicated question than I think most people realize.

Vintage recordings had many differences from contemporary ones. Everything from performance to recording techniques were different, as well as all the equipment.

On the equipment side, you have to deal with the microphones, preamps, EQs, compressors and recording medium. If you use all of the original equipment, you have to deal with the typically very involved maintenance and upkeep and have the skill and experience to get the most out of it. An engineer trained in getting the most out of an in-the-box (ITB) environment may not know the intricacies of getting the most out of the vintage equipment.

In addition, there is the tricky aspect of differentiating between the "desirable" and "undesirable" elements of the sound. What is it about a vintage recording that a given listener/artist/producer likes vs. dislikes? Sometimes there are one or two important parts they really appreciate but they overall want a more modern sound.

Anyway, if someone wants a "vintage" sound (as in first half of the 20th century), the number one thing I would do would be to either record with a ribbon microphone or apply a strong TILT filter by Numerical Sound to roll of the high end. The Antares Microphone Modeler was a product I wish they continued to develop but it sadly has not been updated in years and is now obsolete in most workflows.

September 26, 2012

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While you can in theory do this in Magic Bullet Looks this looks better to me straight off the bat, without the need to dial back all the settings and tweak like I have to do in MBL.

September 23, 2012

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Stu Mannion

there is nothing new in this, but they made software which is easier to use and user friendly if you like, compare to others.

September 24, 2012

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Peter

The interface seems very intuitive. Pretty neat program, maybe a tad pricey for the full-blown version.

September 24, 2012

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Jeff

Wow. Sold. That is fantastic. Just forwarded to three producers.

September 24, 2012

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marklondon

Looks nice. I like it.

September 24, 2012

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I work primary in the audio world and the debate of analog vs digital has been going on for years. People say that analog is the better choice. My take on it is that 192k digital audio is truer representation of the audio but analog tape is what our ears like. Using analog tape add as lot of info into the mix. (i.e. tape hiss and frequency attenuation). The reality is people have been trying to copy the sound of analog tape using digital a/d conversion. I say if you want the tape sound use tape.

I believe the same is with film. If you like the look of film use a film camera. I believe the beauty of digital is the lack of grain and the ability to get vibrant colors. We are just now being able to get amazing digital video! Why don't we run with digital video and see create a new standard and new look. Why are we trying to take our new Red camera look like an old film camera?

I understand that "film look" is what our eyes are used too and very happy with. However, why try to copy what has been successful? We are the artists, lets use new technology to define what looks great.

September 24, 2012

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Stephen

I agree with your assessment that people make a choice based on aesthetics. It can be analog or digital...if the end product is pleasing...it doesn't matter what route was used to achieve that goal. Options are good and this is just one of those. In my experience, most people don't know what the source or end format is and as long as it aids in telling the story in the best way possible...who's to say which is "better". Both film and digital is manipulated after capturing to make it serve the story as decided by the filmmakers. For me, FilmConvert is very pleasing and organic.

September 24, 2012

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Vashi Nedomansky

I think part of the key is being able to understand and appreciate the differences, so that we can choose what we most want in any given situation. Well done tape recordings have a nice

On the audio side, I do more mixing work than recording work and there are some things I would rather hear via analog tape and some things I would rather hear via digital. It varies both by material and project. I feel like it is the same with the visual side of things. Either way, whether it be visual or audio, we are worse off without both options.

September 26, 2012

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Discussions about the advantages/disadvantages of analog vs. digital are only relevant as long as analog stays analog, and how often does that happen today? If we’re talking about commercial products, eventually all that analog goodness is going to get converted to digital for delivery to your audience. Once you hand your prized roll of Scotch 256 (love that smell) over to the mastering engineer, the argument becomes moot, doesn’t it?

December 9, 2012

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Frank Lee

This software only emulates colour response as far as I know, there are much more to that "film look", such as film shine, soft yet defined edges, slight chromatic abberation and vignette, smooth highlight roll-off etc.

For serious film emulation I use Tiffen DFX for After Effects with lots of tweaking, instead of this "push-button" style app.

September 24, 2012

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Marvin

No Canon 60D preset! :(

September 24, 2012

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Luix90

Isn't the 60D using the same APS-C sensor as the 7D, 550D and others?

BTW, I'm interested in seeing how this software responds to the myriad of picture profiles the DSLR's use....

September 24, 2012

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Dave N.

An email response from Craig Herring at Rubber Monkey:

"We are in the process of building separate LUTs for commonly used picture styles.
Currently it is based off the "standard" picture style, which a lot of people (we now find) avoid using. This is a top priority for us and you will see a change here soon. We are also looking at creating LUTs for additional source cameras... matching more sensors for our film emulation".

September 26, 2012

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Jeff

After effects since cs4 or 3, comes with Synthetic aperture's color finesse which has many film stocks / grains already built in.. Although this UI for Filmcovert looks very appealing I'm pretty sure the same results can be achieved using After effects / color finesse..

September 24, 2012

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John

I use Color Finesse all the time but obviously this is much more powerful in that it takes the camera sensor into account in achieving the end result. No, not revolutionary, but a much welcome addition to any serious colorist's toolkit.

September 25, 2012

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I see nothing revolutionary here. Maybe the way they "get there" is revolutionary, but the end result is pretty much the same you can get in AE with a few plugins.

September 24, 2012

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FabDex

Having tried the demo I'd have to say this is much faster than after effects for this type of thing. I try to keep after effects for compositing and motion graphics as I tend to get frustrated with how slow it an be sometimes, especially since I have a pretty fast machine. Im currently learning resolve and speedgrade, but I can see this having as place within my personal workflow. I just love tech which makes my life easy. Though I have to admit it takes ages to import xml, hopefully its a bug which can be fixed.

September 24, 2012

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Robert

How long is the trial/demo?

September 24, 2012

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Never mind, it just adds watermarks.

September 24, 2012

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I don't get this - does it work with any color profile you set up on your DSLR? What about saturation, contrast, sharpness settings ? It sounds magic

September 24, 2012

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