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What is the key to make digital look like film?


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#1 niulinfeng

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 09:28 PM

What is the key to make digital look like film? what should I pay attention to when make digital look like film look?


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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 22 October 2013 - 11:19 PM

This is a pretty old topic, people have been discussing this since the late 1990's...

 

First of all, the look of film includes movies that look like "Singin' in the Rain" to "Seven", from b&w movies to color movies, all shot on film.  Super-8 and IMAX are film formats.  Reversal and negative are types of film processes. You can run some film cameras at 1000 fps.  So you have to narrow down what you mean by a "film look" - most people mean the look of 35mm color negative, the standard for cinema features for a long time.  And they usually mean movies shot at 24 fps with a 180 degree shutter, with some exceptions.

 

The other issue is not so much what makes film look like film, but what makes digital look like digital.  What are you trying to avoid versus what are you trying to replicate?

 

One problem starts to be that if you shoot everything just right and make no mistakes, maybe you can make a digital image look like it was shot on film, but what about the shots that were misexposed or needed heavy color-correction in post?  A badly exposed shot tends to make the inherent design of the process more visible, and when film goes wrong, it goes wrong in ways that we are used to seeing, it still looks like film, but when digital goes wrong, it goes wrong in new ways that film never did.

 

So there is a long list of things that can make digital look more like something shot on 35mm color negative.  Basic things are shooting in progressive scan (since a film camera can't shoot interlaced scan), shooting (for normal motion shots) near 24 fps and near a 180 degree shutter angle, shooting with a camera that records a very wide dynamic range (like color negative), shooting with a camera where the sensor size or lenses allow you to achieve the average depth of field characteristics of 35mm (a small sensor digital camera gets you more depth of field, which may be great if you are trying to achieve the look of "Citizen Kane", but it makes it harder to get a shallow-focus look.)

 

But half the battle is avoiding digital artifacts more than adding film ones.  Avoiding harsh clipping in highlights, avoiding a no-shutter look, avoiding interlaced-scan capture, avoiding the look of high sampling rates like 60X instead of 24X for sample motion per second, etc.


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#3 Will Montgomery

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Posted 28 October 2013 - 04:45 PM

The exposure situation is really key. Where digital looks most digital is those clipped highlights like David mentioned.

 

Here's an example of something that looks very video/digital-ish vs. what film can look like (flat.) All that light streaming through the trees is very hard for straight digital capture while film sort of smooths the edges of the exposure to capture more information. Keep in mind that the film image hasn't been graded so the finished product will be more vibrant without lost highlights.

 

Both the film and video shots would have benefited from proper lighting (David is probably cringing!) but you can kind of see what makes video look like video from this.

 

post-7911-0-35844400-1378238833.jpg


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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 28 October 2013 - 05:44 PM

I may have asked this before - I seem to recall having seen that image previously - but what was the FS700's setup? If this is in Rec. 709, and it does look rather as if it is, then that's not comparable with something that's deliberately a "flat scan for later grading".


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#5 Will Montgomery

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 09:49 AM

Yes, that's why it's not a fair or even good comparison... the FS700 should have been Rec 709 but the camera showed up right as the shoot began and no one knew their way around the camera so we shot straight video setup.  Its not to show how it SHOULD be done, rather a general statement about video cameras (without Rec 709) vs. film.

 

However, on other shots where the exposure wasn't tricky, the FS700 was a champ even in the regular video mode.


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#6 Justin-Bendo

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Posted 12 December 2013 - 02:12 PM

There are many important factors in making digitally-originated footage look like film.

 

Before matching exposure, grain, and saturation, you must begin with a signal which is free of chroma subsampling artifacts, as colors are sampled in full resolution in the analog film world.  Chroma subsampling is a process where the chroma channels are sampled at lower resolutions-- i.e., half vertically or half vertically and horizontally, leaving 1/4th the luma information per channel. This makes chroma channels appear 'blocky' and difficult to key since they are relatively low-rez.

 

Film can resolve billions of colors, unlike 8 bit DSLRs which can only resolve 256 shades of grey per color channel.  16 BPC (bits per color) resolves 16,384 shades of grey per color channel--- a massive improvement.  

 

Banding affects digitally originated images, unlike film.  So, to get close to film, you should have little-to-no banding in your digital images.

 

Aliasing affects digitally-originated as well.  Harsh jaggy edges are not found in film, but are often found with digitally originated images.

 

 

Then, you need to replicate the gamma toe and latitude of film.  An 8 stop DSLR will not look like 12 stop film.  

 

Then match color saturation and grain and you should be close   B)


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#7 Richard Cotton

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Posted 17 March 2014 - 07:50 AM

First - not to overexposed as mentioned above. Second - use good film presets. I ended up with processing video in Lightroom (!). I just apply one of film presets for photographers from All Films by reallyniceimages.com (or use any other good film presets vendor). And it normally gives me the starting point which is good (or bad) enough to look like film.

 

12196179936_d150f13067_z.jpg


Edited by Richard Cotton, 17 March 2014 - 07:51 AM.

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#8 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 17 March 2014 - 10:58 AM

Easy.  Shoot film.


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#9 sergio frias

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Posted 02 May 2014 - 06:55 AM

The exposure situation is really key. Where digital looks most digital is those clipped highlights like David mentioned.

 

Here's an example of something that looks very video/digital-ish vs. what film can look like (flat.) All that light streaming through the trees is very hard for straight digital capture while film sort of smooths the edges of the exposure to capture more information. Keep in mind that the film image hasn't been graded so the finished product will be more vibrant without lost highlights.

 

Both the film and video shots would have benefited from proper lighting (David is probably cringing!) but you can kind of see what makes video look like video from this.

 

post-7911-0-35844400-1378238833.jpg

 

Took that image to photoshop,aplied some exposure and gamma correction,color balance, lens blur to background,vibrance and saturation...looks similair to the film image :)

 

film+test.jpg


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#10 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 03 May 2014 - 10:17 AM

Why would you grade the digital file to look like a flat film scan though?  You still have to get that flat scan to appear like a finished film, so you'll have to grade it again.  I don't know how much latitude that digital file gives you to do that with over and over and over again. 

 

I think a lot of people truly just miss the point of a lot of this "film vs. digital" dialogue.  What I mean by that is that although yes, both scanned film images and native digital formats can be used to begin the grading process as digital files, scans - or native files - of the exact same resolution etc. as a DI,  and so they DO have an inherent shared starting point in terms of resolution to grade from between the two, well...the point is that the process of shooting on the film media itself, in camera, provides certain nuances that are totally particular to that media, and actually capture light VERY, very differently.  You are never going to replicate the chance organic randomness of true film capture because of the actual way that it operates on a microscopic level to capture actual light.  This is a microscopic but essentially mechanical process analogous to magnetic tape.  It is not a "conceptual" process of mathematical algorithms that lock light into pixels.  Whatever people are doing today to "make digital look like film" is not actually doing anything of the sort.  But they are making something new, that is simulacra, derivative of film, but not film, using film as its inspiration or departure point.  It is not film though, because it's not film (duh).  You can develop the most advanced xerox machine in the world and stick a lens onto it and tell its microchips to apply whatever photoshop filter bed-sheets "over the top" to warm it up that you want to, but it's something new, and not going to behave truly like film, or look like true film.  The best you can hope for is to "trick people into feeling like it's film because it reminds them of film" in my opinion.  There might be a few processes or artists out there that can make anyone feel that.  But they aren't "making film".  They are making digital!


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#11 Matthew B Clark

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Posted 03 May 2014 - 10:46 AM

The interesting thing to me is, why do people have the desire to even go to such lengths to make digital look like film?  When "digital" has also got the opportunity to go in other directions that film can't exactly replicate.  Knowing these is the key to your choice of medium I suppose. 

 

So why can't folks just embrace that they are different?  Ask yourself seriously, is printmaking the same as drawing?  Lithography was developed as a way to "replicate drawings", but is realtively easy to discern, having deeper blacks and a certain texture from the stone they are drawn on.  From a distance, hanging on a wall over a mantle, they both look like drawings.  After a short while, people started to become known though solely as "printmakers".  Today college courses are taught on printmaking and drawing as separate fields of course.  Many people can still do both....since they are based on the same ideas and skillsets (film and digital sub-analogy, anyone?)  but they do so separatey!  They embrace the different parameters and "arts" of each, and people have obviously learned to encourage their different aesthetics.  Producing beautiful work in both.

 

I just personally do not reach for an apple and a complex arrangement of orange flavorings when I feel like tasting an orange.


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#12 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 03 May 2014 - 10:53 AM

Matthew, I think (although this isnt all anymore) that there are a subset of digital shooters who actually want to shoot on film but feel that they cant for some reasons (money, not understanding workflow, fear, etc.) and these people like the perceived comforts of digital but want to end up with the film look. I, personally, was like this in the beginning. I knew nothing about film other than I liked the look. But I thought it was too expensive of a medium to learn on. I started out a member on the DVX site and was recommended to come her after posting too many threads over there asking film questions. They told me to come here and ask and I did and learned from others that film doesnt have to be expensive or difficult. Now, I find film much easier to shoot than digital.


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#13 Will Montgomery

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Posted 05 May 2014 - 11:01 PM

 

Took that image to photoshop,aplied some exposure and gamma correction,color balance, lens blur to background,vibrance and saturation...looks similair to the film image :)

 

film+test.jpg

Thanks for taking the time on that. Of course the film image was very flat and the final graded image would look a little more vibrant like the video image, but hopefully retain more of what's in the highlights. I'm not sure what the point of that image I posted was other than to show what I was getting from the FS700 and what I got from 16mm.


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