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?


[via Vincent Laforet]