With modern digital cinema cameras, it is often preferable to achieve a look that is more "cinematic" than "digital." No one factor creates a filmic feel, but the precedent is simple enough -- film itself. The emulation of emulsion may depend on anything from lens choice and lighting to grading and grain plug-ins, but there is one sure-fire way to get a true film look: using film. Celluloid acquisition may be beyond the budget of your shoot, but using a "film intermediate" process -- that is, transferring color corrected digital footage out to film, then scanning back to digital -- could be one technique for splitting the difference. A webinar with VFX artist & colorist Jerome Thelia details just such a process, regarding the Oscar-winning short film Curfew. Read on for details.

This webinar isn't new by any means, but that doesn't mean the information it contains is not valuable or relevant. Filmmakers have more options than ever for emulating film grain in post. This technique can be seen as the "organic" -- and more expensive, though more authentic -- alternative. In other words, this is about as close as you can get to a film look without actually shooting film, because it actually uses film as part the post mastering process. Kudos to Shaheryar Ahmed over at Lift Gamma Gain for posting this. The webinar features Jerome Thelia (who has also done some restoration work with Criterion) and is presented by Studio Daily and Assimilate.

First, here's the trailer for the short film at the heart of Thelia's presentation, Curfew. The film won the 85th Academy Award for best live action short and forms the basis of an upcoming feature.

Get comfy, because the webinar is a solid hour and fifteen minutes, including Q&A. Jerome goes into exactly the amount of detail you'd want regarding a process like this, so the length and depth are welcome and then some. He hits on the normal post production workflow the film would have undergone for both digital and film delivery, the actual process that took place, LUTs, color grading, fixing film dust and hairs, attributes of anamorphic shooting (digitally or otherwise), plus a little history of both the anamorphic format and 2.35-ish aspect ratios.

Obviously this process won't be possible on every production, nor should it be used indiscriminately. However when it's aesthetically beneficial, as the case is for Curfew, a 'film intermediate' constitutes a really interesting creative option. As Jerome points out, there's a certain magic to the way random grain structure transforms digital noise. Likewise, a poster on the LGG thread has this to say, but regarding the audio realm:

That's a lot like what they do in the audio world with 2" tape. Dr. Dre and a bunch of other artists keep big Studer and Ampex decks around to run their final mixes through them and then back out to digital. If you have the opportunity, give it a try. It might give your film that "fat sound" you just can't get anywhere else.

While solid-state acquisition may be superseding legacy media such as analog and celluloid, this type of translation and de-translation seems as good a reason as any to keep them around. Having the option to add a more "organic" layer to digital media is great, and hopefully it won't go away any time soon.


[via Lift Gamma Gain]