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Author Topic: Emulating the look of film/photochemical material  (Read 7481 times)
VisualLifeLine
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« on: July 26, 2012, 04:49:46 AM »
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Hello,

I'm trying to learn about, how to create the impression of an analog films on a digital file.
I tried AlienSkin Exposure, DxO and different LR development presets, but none of them gave me the result I was looking for.

I currently apply a preset made by Cold Storage in LR, tweak it to my taste and take the file in Photoshop, where I make general retouching (not related to the 'film look') and RGB curves adjustments and add grain via AlienSkin Exposure. This process works (at least sometimes), but it's a lot of hit and miss/trial and error and therefore time consuming and the results are not always to my taste.

So I want to know how you proceed to achieve an analog appearance of you digital files.
What is your workflow?
 
Best regards,
VisualLifeLine


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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2012, 03:59:45 PM »
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Quote
This process works (at least sometimes), but it's a lot of hit and miss/trial and error and therefore time consuming and the results are not always to my taste.

You get that, too. Welcome to digital processing.

To put it as simple as I possibly can what you are attempting in getting that "film look" is basically calibrating and profiling the response of a digital sensor to real life scenes of varying brightness, contrast and color in order to force this response to represent a subjective outcome..."the film look" in an automated, color controlled process.

Reality's photons captured electronically by a sensor do not succumb easily to human's subjective idea of how they should look on every capture as an automated process.

IOW your hit and miss attempts are a natural condition to post processing of a digital image. I'ld count yourself lucky if you're getting this level of consistency in your process.
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2012, 04:01:53 PM »
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And to add it would help us here to help you if you could post a sample of what you consider is the "film look".
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VisualLifeLine
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« Reply #3 on: July 27, 2012, 12:01:22 AM »
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Thanks for your opinion.

For example this guy:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluecut/page4/

I know he shoots with a Pentax 67 and a Canon 5D2. I think I can actually see, which picture is taken with which system, but the 5D files look somehow really organic. Do you know, what I mean?
B&W is IMO kind of easy to achieve realistic results with my workflow (described above). But color is problematic.

Do you have further ideas?

One point is profiling the cameras sensor, you said. I can do that via the XRite/Gretag Colorchecker Passport.


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makaphoto
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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2012, 01:33:24 AM »
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NIK have got a photoshop plugin that's got several modules to imitate the look of analog film. It's called Color Efex Pro 3 and is quite impressive with all its photo filters.
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VisualLifeLine
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« Reply #5 on: July 27, 2012, 02:30:51 AM »
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I read somewhere, that Alien Exposure is better than Color Efex and this piece of software doesn't convince me.
This guy here http://50lbsoflust.tumblr.com/ is shooting H4Ds and said, that he does the raw conversion in phocus and then a few curve adjustments. He said, that the characteristics of the .3f- files make a great amount of the look.

So what do you think is there secret of getting it? What are your 'manual' techniques. Curves? Fill layers?
Do you analyze the RGB values of existing film scans and try to match the values on your digital file?



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bill t.
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« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2012, 11:57:56 AM »
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Crush the highlights, you need to reestablish the "shoulder" curve response of film, which is pretty much lacking in digital.

Restrict yourself to using only brightness and contrast sliders to adjust tonality.  Like with graded printing papers.  Forget every other LR control.  Or if you're working with color, set the contrast to either "a little too much" or "not quite enough" and work only with brightness.  And possibly set the white point to either 5500K or 3200K, but nowhere else.  That's how it was.

But above else, know that you needed to have very good on-location lighting to make good film shots.  The scene had to look good when you clicked the shutter.  Make all your color and tonal adjustments on the set, forget doing it in post.  Or if you are shooting landscapes, pitch a tent wait for the right light, while dreaming of a future time when photographers will be able to make profound adjustments to every aspect of their images at the push of a button.

If you want to really look like film.  But to the eyes of a guy who was there in the day, most of those example images really don't.
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2012, 03:12:43 PM »
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I read somewhere, that Alien Exposure is better than Color Efex and this piece of software doesn't convince me.
This guy here http://50lbsoflust.tumblr.com/ is shooting H4Ds and said, that he does the raw conversion in phocus and then a few curve adjustments. He said, that the characteristics of the .3f- files make a great amount of the look.

So what do you think is there secret of getting it? What are your 'manual' techniques. Curves? Fill layers?
Do you analyze the RGB values of existing film scans and try to match the values on your digital file?


You might be veering off your intended goal or I may be misunderstanding exactly what you're after. I understood you already achieved the "film look" and that you were looking for a more consistent and quicker process.

Did you happen to ask the "50lbsOfLust" photographer how long it takes to get his final results?

If you're shooting in the controlled lighting and exposure environment of a studio using the same lights, you should be getting quite consistent results using the tools other's have mentioned here.

This is what I meant by profiling which requires a constant source shooting environment similar to calibrate/profiling a display or scanner which has as required a single non-changing state to profile from so all you have to do is apply the profile.

In the case of getting a specific "film look" the profile is the plug-ins and other PP apps mentioned by others while the calibration is the act of shooting in a controlled studio environment so each shot is consistent to the next so all that needs to be done is to apply the plug-in preset or filter.

However, if you're shooting outdoors in constantly changing conditions, your mileage may vary with regards to more time put in post processing for consistency image to image.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2012, 03:15:08 PM by tlooknbill » Logged
Schewe
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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2012, 05:48:34 PM »
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So I want to know how you proceed to achieve an analog appearance of you digital files.

You are on a fool's errand...there is no magic bullet for post processing. It's a skill that is developed over time and works best when the original image is already pretty good. Learn how to use Lightroom and/or Photoshop, develop your skill set and work towards having a strong point of view and visual style. It ain't the cameras, it ain't the filters, it's the mind and the eye and the hand. Sorry bud, but you are barking up the wrong tree.
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VisualLifeLine
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« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2012, 01:30:12 AM »
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You are on a fool's errand...there is no magic bullet for post processing. It's a skill that is developed over time and works best when the original image is already pretty good. Learn how to use Lightroom and/or Photoshop, develop your skill set and work towards having a strong point of view and visual style. It ain't the cameras, it ain't the filters, it's the mind and the eye and the hand. Sorry bud, but you are barking up the wrong tree.
I think, you misunderstood me. I discovered a while ago, that emulating plug-ins don't word. So I thought, I must learn how to do it.
Therefore I asked for your workflow. I have good photoshop skills and in general knowledge about image manipulation. But it would be great to learn about your approach to getting a specific look, what analyzing and what tools you use?

The idea of 'profiling' was a good tips. Thanks


Crush the highlights, you need to reestablish the "shoulder" curve response of film, which is pretty much lacking in digital.

Restrict yourself to using only brightness and contrast sliders to adjust tonality.  Like with graded printing papers.  Forget every other LR control.  Or if you're working with color, set the contrast to either "a little too much" or "not quite enough" and work only with brightness.  And possibly set the white point to either 5500K or 3200K, but nowhere else.  That's how it was.

But above else, know that you needed to have very good on-location lighting to make good film shots.  The scene had to look good when you clicked the shutter.  Make all your color and tonal adjustments on the set, forget doing it in post.  Or if you are shooting landscapes, pitch a tent wait for the right light, while dreaming of a future time when photographers will be able to make profound adjustments to every aspect of their images at the push of a button.

If you want to really look like film.  But to the eyes of a guy who was there in the day, most of those example images really don't.

Why shouldn't I use curves? Can you explain the theoretical background please?

  
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Schewe
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« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2012, 04:24:31 AM »
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But it would be great to learn about your approach to getting a specific look, what analyzing and what tools you use?

I use my eyes...and adjust the image to look the way I want it to look...and that skill is something that has taken over a decade...so there's no short cuts I can offer you.
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Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2012, 12:27:20 PM »
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You are also relegating yourself to copying a look where your images are going to look like everyone else's. For me if I was putting this much time and effort into getting "a look", I'ld be wanting to come up with something different that's never been seen before whether subtle or obvious.

Frankly I'm also getting tired of seeing these film chemistry throwback style color distortions applied in movies, called "color grading", and that starts out on film.

Now this is what I favor as the film look...

http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film3/blu-ray_reviews53/true_grit_blu-ray/large/large_true_grit_blu-ray_0.jpg

...which I don't see anywhere applied in movies or still photography today. It's darn near impossible for me to emulate/copy this shooting/processing digitally. But I came close in ACR without using plug-ins and learned a great deal in the process of what affects what starting from lighting and subject all the way to the final ACR edits. I surmised that it has a lot to do with complimentary color filtering such as various hue/saturation varieties of green on red, blue violet on yellow, cyan on orange and what it does to color constancy which can play tricks on the eyes in perceiving overall colorcast.

For instance check for a green cast in the "restored for blue-ray" image above in John Wayne's warm highlighted shirt, in Kim Darby's skin and dress and other objects on the table, even the shadows. You can't see the green, but if you compared the image side by side to like say the PDI color target which is neutrally balanced the entire overall color cast of the above image looks green. I'm theorizing the filtering of the film negative's red orange mask combined with the spectral qualities of the light used created this overall green cast. See the screenshot below.

What I'm getting at is it's going to be far more difficult trying to copy a specific look that was not derived from a natural and repeatable process over just coming up with you're own which will allow more understanding of what the light, subject and PP tools do to varying the results. Using a plug-in or some downloadable preset isn't going to teach you how it was done.

The two before & after samples posted below were my attempt at imbuing a brown color in skin tone that resembles the color in the above linked John Wayne image. The first one using a halogen flood lamp required heavy HSL/Split Tone edits in the red/orange/yellow channels to give a greenish cast in order to aid in filtering the rosacea like red blotches and overall skin tone while the second used different lights and required fewer HSL/Split Tone distortions in getting brown skin.

I spent quite a bit of time playing around and learning what was affecting color and my perception of it. You won't learn this using a plug-in or preset.

« Last Edit: July 28, 2012, 12:29:48 PM by tlooknbill » Logged
Tim Lookingbill
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« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2012, 07:04:54 PM »
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Found this interesting and informative on the level of subjectivity involved in getting a "film look" even shooting film...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yr3fMPUqlhQ&feature=related

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bill t.
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« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2012, 08:47:55 PM »
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Why shouldn't I use curves? Can you explain the theoretical background please?

Because the only tools available to film workers were 4 to 6 different contrasts of printing paper, and the exposure time used to expose the paper.  Contrast and brightness.  And pity the poor color printer, who only had one contrast grade of paper.  I am suggesting that the "film look" came at least partly out of such constraints.  You could light your scene for a particular contrast ratio, and a particular amount of shadow fill, and a particular amount of highlight kick, that was you "Curves" control.  Yes, there were things like highlight bleaching and negative retouching, and some other exotic "post" procedures but those were uncommon and rarely worked as well as one would have liked.

I think the problem here is that we're saying "film look" when we really mean something else.  Most people who I have talked to in person about this subject really wanted a look that invoked a certain kind of cool, hip glamour that did not look conventional by current standards.  In their imaginations they remember Hurrell and Steichen, and forget the overwhelming amount of dismal stuff.

PS, if you wanna see what film was like when used at its finest, buy this book.  It was all done with lighting and glamour...

http://www.amazon.com/Edward-Steichen-Fashion-Conde-1923-1937/dp/0500543542

If you wanna see what film was really like on an everyday basis, get one of the old US Camera yearbooks.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1935-UNITED-STATES-CAMERA-YEARBOOK-PHOTOGRAPHY-T-J-MALONEY-/350566894207
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Damir
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« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2012, 04:55:19 AM »
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It is not so simple. Everything started by exposing film which can be quiet different of what we have in digital. You can expose "correctly" or underexpose or overexpose. After that you made corrections during the developing stage - this is the basic of Zone System. There are probably more than hundred black and white films, each with different characteristic, one of the specific characteristic was Characteristic Curve - it was a curve like we have today in PS. That curve was affected by type of developer, mostly basic 7 - 9 types and all together several hundreds of different developers which gave slightly different results. So working with curve is basic for black and white photography, curves was measured and affected by processing all the time, for example process that we like to call solarization was generating very strange curves. Than there was in game temperature of developer, concentration, age or the fact how many films you develop in it before specific development, the way you agitate during developing and so on.

Than paper - they also have characteristic curve, there are 6 basic grades and many grades in between, there was also 3 different basic type of papers by composition, and many more in between. There was techniques like split grade printing, also printing different parts of pictures with different grades. There was more than a hundred papers on market, each was different by characteristic curve. Than there was more than a hundred different developer which will gave different results. So the curve was everything in black and white. It controls contrast, globally or locally. Exposing the paper just control what the name suggest - exposure.

At the end you had really endless possibilities, therefore emulating the look of film is really just the matter of you choice due to the fact that there is no specific look of film.

There was less variations in color photography, but again many of them. So if you like looks of film, why you just don't use the film after all?
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