Digital Film Tools – Film Stocks review
At one time photographers would match a specific film stock to create a mood for their photographs. For example a high ISO (ASA) film might have been chosen for a gritty grainy look, or Kodachrome 25 for ultra smooth colours, maybe even shoot reversal film stock and do some cross processing. Now digital capture has taken away that choice, instead we have an overall smooth grain less look on almost everything that is shot. There are many things that can be done in Photoshop or other imaging applications whereby we can simulate many of the traditional film stock. However, many of the film effects may require an above average working knowledge of filters, combination of filters and blending modes.
Film Stocks plug-in
We have been sent a copy of Film Stocks by Digital Film Tools. This is a plug in suite of filters that simulates 288 different colour and black & white film stocks and old film processes. You also have the option to customise any of the predefined settings and save them as a new preset. The plug-in can be used with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, Apple Aperture. A separate licence is required for Adobe Premiere Pro, Adobe After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro X. So let’s take an in-depth look at Film Stocks.
Film Stocks In use with Photoshop
With an image open in Photoshop, simply go to menu Filter > Digital Film Tools > Film Stocks 1.0. This launches an impressive, yet easy to use interface. Your image occupies the main window. A series of presets are located on the left hand side, these will change depending on which film stock type is selected from the film category thumbnails located at the bottom of the screen. The image control parameters are located on the right hand side together with a histogram. For photographers who want quick results you only need to click on a film category and then select a preset setting that suits the subject, then click the Done symbol. It’s really as simple as that, you don’t even have to wade through the user guide. However, there is far more to Film Stocks than this.
Simulation of Ilford FP4
Once you have selected a setting that you like then use the parameters to fine tune the image to your liking. There is a plethora of adjustment options available, these include curves, RGB sliders, Colour Correction sliders, Colour filter overlays, Sharpen, Diffusion, Vignette and Grain. Any adjustments that you make can be saved as a new preset and applied to other images.
A low resolution version of your image is used in the preview window, this makes applying Sharpen a difficult task as the image is pixelated. You can change the resolution by going into File Preferences and changing the Preview size from 1024 to 2048, this does improve things but it is still a low resolution preview. Amendment – There is a Magnifier which can be turned On or Off, just press the number 1 key, this will give you a true 100% view of the image with the effect applied. The Magnifier window can be dragged away from the left column and resized to fit screen or any other size you require.” Having a smaller preview does speed up any adjustments you make, and these appear almost instantly, however, some of the sliders do have a slight sticky feel, often you move the cursor to leave the slider behind. To the right of every slider is a Reset button, this puts the value of that slider back to its default, I liked this inclusion, most other applications the Reset button can often take everything back to a default setting. The other nice feature is that if you expand the Parameters panel then you can have finer control on the sliders, or simply type in a number.
Simulation of an AutoChrome
The preview window has several options, you can zoom in or out with the magnifying glass or use the I & O keys – pity Digital Tools didn’t stay with Photoshop + & – keys. Although a numeric value is displayed, you can’t enter a value with your keyboard, I was trying to get a 200% magnification but could not achieve it. The pan tool can be accessed either by the icon or using the space bar on your keyboard, I was able to smoothly pan around the image.. Other options include Before and After and split screen previews, fit to screen, snapshot, view snapshot etc. When viewing in split screen mode you can drag a marker to define how much of the screen you want to preview. However, if you have another tool selected then you can’t move the markers, even though the cursor is displaying a double arrow.
The predefined effects are excellent with a wide variety of options in each category. The categories include; Black & White Films, Black & White Lo Fi, Colour Films Cross processing, Colour Films Polaroid, Colour Films Print, Colour Films slides, Faded, Historical, Lo-Fi, Lo-Fi cross processing and Motion picture films. There are numerous presents under each category, for example under Colour Slide there is a preset available for film stocks from Agfa, Fuji (Velvia, Provia), Gaf 500, Kodachromes -25, 64 & 200 and almost all Ektachromes. Under Black & White most popular film stocks from Ilford, Kodak, Polaroid and Agfa are included.
Faded photograph effect
The Historical collection includes many long forgotten processes, and some I have never heard of before “Ziatype” . Some effects are more convincing than others, certainly if you used fine art media to print out the results then you are not going to be disappointed.
Multiple effects can be applied to an image by creating a new layer and then using masks to hide portions thereby revealing an underlying layer. This can produce some unusual effects that could never be achieved by using film.
Finally when you are happy with the result, press the Done button. This button is not well located at the top left, most Photoshop filter buttons are normally positioned at the bottom right of most filter palettes.
Try a fully functional trial version of Film Stocks from www.digitalfilmtools.com once downloaded simply run the FilmStocks 1-0 installer which installs the plug in to your stills or video application. The trial version will run for 15 days, after this period you will have to purchase a licence to continue using the plug-in.
A well designed plug-in that produces many outstanding effects with ease and also offers the ability to customise existing presets or for creating your own from scratch. The ideal tool for the photographer who mourns the death of film.
Digital Film Tools for video
The video version works in exactly the same way as the image editing plug-in does, all that has been said before will apply for this version too.
So why an extra section to this review?
Digital Film Tools have a video version of the same plug, this works with Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Apple Final Cut Pro, Final Cut Pro x, Avid and Quantel . Each of the 288 film Stock looks are on the whole excellent, even if the majority lend themselves to a stills photographer rather than a movie maker. To apply the filter just simply drag and drop the effect onto a clip on the timeline, a long list of numeric settings appear in the host applications effect controls panel. Now you have the option to work your way through each setting or you can click on the Setup button to open the Film Stocks interface, which is near identical to the one for Photo editing, albeit with a few omissions such as Masks. Take Snapshot, Layers and Magnifier. I have used the graphical interface for this review.
Premier will display effects as numbers
The full Film Stocks view is an easier interface to work with
Looking at the categories, I can see some of the Black & White film presets as being useful, although I can’t remember Ilford FP4 as being a movie film stock, or for that matter Kodachrome 25, nevertheless these film looks will work well on a video clip. The Historical presents and cross processing effects will make interesting viewing in a movie sequence and should provide the user with a good starting point for creating some unique looks. Most of the other presents are a variation on colours or curves to simulate movie stock or stills film. A skilled operator could replicate many of the looks, by using many of the excellent colour correction tools in Premiere or After Effects. However, Digital Film Tools have researched and recreated these 288 looks is a single package which would take a skilled operator many hours to create a similar look from scratch.
When you launch the plugin you are presented with the Film Stocks colourful interface and a single frame from your clip, the film looks are applied using this frame as your reference. The frame is the current frame where the playhead is parked on the timeline when you apply the filter. From here you can apply any of the filters which will give you an instant update. I would have liked to see the effect applied to the entire selected clip as a movie preview, but you can make an accurate judgement from a single frame. Once you have applied the filter you are taken back into the editing application and the file will have a red line above it, indicating it needs to be rendered for smooth preview playback. For an entire short movie this can be a time consuming process, I applied an overall look to a 45 minute film and it took 2 hours 48 minutes to render. However, in reality you may only want to apply a movie look to a short clip, and then the render time is more than acceptable. I am using a computer with 16gb of RAM and a i7 2600k CPU, which is not slow by any means. Applying a similar effect using the colour correction tools in Premiere with the Mercury Playback Engine and the render was instant, but then that doesn’t take into account the amount of time it would take you to work out all the colour permutations in order to achieve a given film look.. The key advantage Film Stocks has, is that all the settings are predefined for you.
Red bar indicates clip has to be rendered
Having previously stated that some of the Historical and Faded presets produced interesting effects, I would have liked the inclusion of some old film effects, i.e. flicker, jumped frames, damaged and scratched artefacts which randomly appear during old movie clips, old TV screens, out of register colours, light leaks, glimpses of sprocket holes, or even some crackling sound effects. I can think of plenty more effects that could be useful. However, the package is clearly labled as Flim Stocks and as such it delivers an excellent set of film looks.
Overall conclusion on the Film Stocks version for video
The Film Stocks plugin from Digital Film Tools provides some useful video/ film looks which will look great in any video production. The video version is just over double the price of the photo version and yet not offering any more features, in fact a few have been taken out. Compared to other similar products on the market it does present good value. However, I am not convinced why basically the same product as Film Stocks for Photo should cost $100 more – I know new code has to be written to make it work with video, but the underlying colour permutations are the same.