Ever since I started shooting on
video I have wished that I could achieve a convincing "shot
on film" look. Unfortunately, with the limitations of video,
you can get close to a "shot on film" look (see below),
but the footage still lacks the subtle nuances that comes from
film. Additional enhancements to the video may be made in postproduction
(simulating a 3:2 pulldown, adding in grain, defects, etc),
but to do these many additional enhancements can require a lot
of time. If you dont have time, the footage could be sent
to a post house that specializes in adding the "shot on
film" look, but that can be cost prohibitive if there is
a large amount of footage.
Time and money, two things that
seem to constantly plague the video professional. Enter CineLook
from DigiEffects. CineLook can easily save you time and money,
while helping you achieve the look you need for your next project.
CineLook comes in two forms; CineLook
Broadcast, and CineLook FilmRes. The two are identical except
that CineLook Broadcast is limited to image sizes of 768 x 576
(D1 NTSC & PAL), while CineLook FilmRes can handle sizes
up to 4000 x 4000. CineLook FilmRes also comes with a hardware
lock, and an additional feature that removes/adds grain from
film. This is useful for adding film grain and film treatments
to computer generated footage, which allows live action film
footage and CGI to blend seamlessly with one another.
Simply, CineLook takes your video
footage and manipulates it to simulate the look of film. This
is such an easy plug-in to use, chances are you will be able
to get great results within minutes of installing the software.
This is made possible with the film-stock presets. While it
would be impossible to include ALL the film-stocks available
today, the 50 most popular are included as presets that you
can apply to your footage. Once you have selected a preset,
you can adjust the setting to refine the effect.
Here are some samples of CineLooks
you say, "but what if I dont know anything about
what each film-stocks response is like?" You can
scroll through the presets to find the stock that works best
for you, or you can go to other sources for your information.
I like to read American Cinematographer, not only does it discuss
in detail how a movie was lit and what instruments were used,
it also describes what film stocks were used in the shoot and
why the Director of Photography chose that particular stock.
- The premiere episode of Foxs
Millenium was shot on Eastman Kodak EXR 5293 for day exterior
and interiors and 5298 for the nighttime interior and exteriors.
For some specific shots Eastman 7240 and 7250 Ektachrome color
reversal stocks were used.
- Special effects shots for Armageddon
were shot on Kodak 5279, 5293, and 5248.
- To reduce grain in The Fifth
Element, Kodak 5293 was used for non-effects shots and 5248
for any shots that needed greenscreen work.
As you can see from the stock list
(figure 2), only three of the six stocks mentioned above are
included in CineLook. That is the purpose of presets. With a
preset, you can find a close match then make adjustments. Making
changes to a CineLook preset is quite easy with the control
- StockMatch controls the type
of grain you want to add to your footage and allows you to
defocus the RGB layers independently.
- TimeMatch allows for blending
of previous frames to blur the video motion.
- ChromaMatch controls the color
correction process. These adjustments can be made in two ways;
numerically or through curve control.
If you are familiar with how curves
work in other programs, you should have no problem making adjustments
to the RGB channels. Tweaking the color from shot to shot can
be time consuming and I now have an even greater respect for
those Colorists running the Telecine machines.
A few years ago, I produced a segment
for an awards show spoofing what the student films of famous
filmmakers might have looked like. One of the filmmakers spoofed
was Quentin Tarantino and Pulp Fiction. I utilized the talents
of Gentry Edwards, a Director of Photography, for this segment.
While it looked great on video, I had wished I had the time
to give it some grain and age the footage. Time and money were
plaguing the producer again. Now that I do have some time, lets
quickly apply CineLook to this clip.
- Export the footage from your
editing program (in this case AVID) and import it into AfterEffects.
- Position the footage in the
- Open the Effects menu and choose
DigiEffects Cinelook Broadcast/DE CineLook
- Scroll down to the preset window
and select the film stock you wish to use. I chose FJ Color
F250 8550. When I apply effects like this, I put myself in
that particular situation and try to figure out what might
have occurred at that particular time to effect the shoot
so it would look like the effect I am applying. This stock
adds some red and the midtones have been raised to lighten
the dark areas.
- To increase the blur I raised
the Time Slur to 6,4,2.
- Since this was an early student
work, I increased the grain slightly (how many students buy
the best film or video tape stock anyway) by 25% to 9, 7,
CineLook comes in two parts;
CineLook which is used to apply the film look, and FilmDamage
which simulates film artifacts. This footage needs to have
aged with time, so apply FilmDamage to the clip. You may ask
what the differences are between FilmDamage and the AgedFilm
plug-in that comes with Aurorix2 (also reviewed elsewhere
on the Digital Producer site). While both give the look of
old film, FilmDamage gives you more control, is faster, and
can produce a more realistic look.
- Start with the Color Light Damage
Chances are the film would not
have been processed 100% correctly, nor would it have been
in the best of storage places, so some stains would have developed.
- Change the Stain size to 120.
- Increase the number of stains
- Increase the opacity to 150.
- Render the Composition.
The render times are as to be expected
for my machine. Rendertimes will vary depending on the amount
of RAM you have available and the processor speed as well. I
always like to test software like this on the slowest machine
I have for two reasons. 1) To see if the program will work,
and 2) to see how long it takes to render out. This 17 second
clip took 120 minutes to render, or about 7 minutes per frame.
Not to bad considering the speed of this particular machine.
CineLook also comes in an ICED version that you should probably
check out if you have a lot of footage that needs to be processed
in a shorter amount of time. The ICED version renders 10 times
faster than the regular version.
Compare the final to the original.
figure 3 with original mpeg video clip
figure 4 with CineLook applied to mpeg video clip
Here is another example of CineLook
in action. swing.mpg
A really nice look can be achieved
by using this plug-in alone, but for the best results, start
with the highest quality video you can get. Cinelook is not
the video postproduction savior. It will not take bad video
and make it look like 35mm film. 8mm and VHS video might be
okay if you are trying for a 8mm film look, while SVHS and Hi-8
will do better in the 16mm formats. You should really try to
shoot on BetaSP or Digital Beta (DigiEffects recommends the
later) for the best results.
Besides shooting on the best format
you can afford, there are a few tips you can do in the field
to help maximize the plug-ins effect.
Tips for shooting video to look
- Pools of light and dark.
Even though you need a minimum
amount of illumination to get a decent picture, try creating
areas of light and dark for your subject to walk through.
I recently read an article where the author said lighting
for video must be very dull with absolutely no shadows. This
is simply not true. Cameras are improving in quality and in
their ability to reproduce a scene with less light. A simple
trick I learned is to make use of pools of light wherever
you can. While this does nothing to "trick" the
camera, it will enhance your overall picture quality by adding
more depth to the image. One caution, areas that are too dark
will tend to get grainy, thus ruining the illusion. This is
one of the reasons film has a higher quality picture over
video. Film has a very high contrast ratio (100:1), while
video has a low contrast ratio (30:1 last time I looked),
causing the image to "drop off" when an area gets
too dark. The Pulp Fiction spoof above has some rather nasty
shadows that were hard for CineLook to compensate for. The
bottom line is, if you want it to look like film, light it
- White Balance
The purpose of white balancing
the camera is to "register" the camera so it knows
what color white is under a particular light source. When
a camera is white balanced on a white card, all other colors
in the scene appear "normal". Different film-stocks
can favor particular colors, which causes the image to look
a specific way. You can do the same thing with a video camera
by white balancing on different colored cards. To warm your
scene, balance on a light blue card. To cool the scene, balance
on an orange or pinkish card. This tricks the camera into
thinking blue is white, thus shifting its internal color
balance wheel, effecting all colors in the scene.
- Diffuse the image
In the early days of film, it
wasnt uncommon to coat a filter with Vaseline to get
a soft look. If Vaseline is not something you want to smear
on a clear filter (never smear it on the lens itself!), then
a pair of sheer pantyhose stretched tight over the lens will
perform the same way. These two methods can really soften
the hard-edged look of video. A great example of this soft
look are the close ups of Maddie Hayes from the Moonlighting
television series. Another method I have used in a Film Noir
piece is a smoke/fog machine. Obviously this will generate
a "smoky" atmosphere, but when a room is filled
with the stuff and thins out, it is the perfect diffuser.
A word of caution, check with crew and talent to make sure
no one will have a negative reaction to the smoke, chances
are they will be in the smoke for long periods of time. If
you have the money and do not want to resort to these "guerilla"
methods of shooting, look into investing in a high quality
soft-filter. Tiffen puts out a great line of filters specifically
for this purpose. Ive used Pro Mist filters in a couple
shoots as well as the Soft/FX 3 filter. Filters are available
from many rental houses and may also be purchased from many
high quality camera/photography stores. While you can use
the defocus settings in CineLook to diffuse the image, using
smoke/fog or a filter can soften the image without needing
to apply any post effects.
is available on the MacOS and WinNT for Aftereffects 3.1 (standard
or pro bundle), as well as the Avid Media Composer and Xpress
Macintosh as an AVX plug-in, and Discreet Logic Flint, Flame
and Smoke. On a side note, I tried CineLook on Win95 and it
worked fine although you will lose technical support if you
do. I recently upgraded to After Effects 4.0, and at the end
of this writing I loaded the CineLook Broadcast plug-in into
4.0 and I have not experienced any system crashes. In fact,
the update and render speeds seem to have improved with the
AE4.0 engine. The cost of CineLook NT Broadcast is $695.00.
This may seem like a lot up front, but this plug-in will more
than pay for itself within a few jobs (many effect houses charge
$85.00 per second to do the same things this plug-in does).
In addition to getting great results
from CineLook Broadcast or CineLook FilmRes, you might want
to check out CineMotion, which can be used to further enhance
CineLooks functionality. See the review of CineMotion
elsewhere on the Digital Producer site.
Ease of Use: 10
Overall Rating: 9
DigiEffects World Wide Web address
When not molding the minds of video
production students at the American InterContinental University
in Atlanta, Georgia, Stephen Schleicher creates graphics and
animations for many video production companies. He can be reached
Footage for this article was shot
and provided by Gentry Edwards of Cass Media.