One version of Rubber Monkey Software’s popular FilmConvert color grading/film emulation software that tends to be overlooked is its Photoshop plug-in. As a staffer there once admitted, film simulation for stills is an already crowded field. Yet the plug-in certainly has its virtues.
I have tried quite a few film simulation plug-ins for Photoshop over the years. In recent years I have tended to stick with DxO FilmPack primarily because it integrates into DxO OpticsPro raw processor. But FilmPack does not contain the simulations of motion picture films that FilmConvert does – the first obvious difference between the two packages.
The second difference is the controls that each package, FilmPack as OpticsPro plug-in and FilmConvert as Photoshop plug-in, grants you. FilmConvert for Photoshop – let’s call it FCforP for short – is based on the color grading paradigm of its siblings whether plug-ins for movie NLEs or color grading packages, or the standalone application for that matter. There are NLE-like color correctors and a histogram-cum-levels slider.
FilmPack for OpticsPro – FPforOP for short – is blessed with tight access to the myriad of fine-tuning controls OpticsPro provides for turning your raw image files into TIFFs and DNGs that you can open in other image editing software or fully-fledged, ready-to-be-shared JPEGs. On challenging images I bounce up and down the GUI balancing film simulations against contrast, color channels, selective tone and even DxO Smart Lighting in version 10 of the host application.
FCforP however is very much a plug-in and most of your work with the images will be run through its host program, Photoshop, before and after applying a film simulation. Different types and degrees of integration. Different film types and different types of outcomes.
Why Choose FilmConvert in Photoshop?
There are two main reasons then that I choose FilmConvert for Photoshop for some stills images –for movie project-related documents and for images that I will be dropping into a timeline. With rare exceptions, I much prefer to be in a movie frame of mind when grading stills for these uses and what better way of doing that than in a filmic interface like FilmConvert’s?
Opening the FilmConvert plug-in up in Photoshop is not far removed from doing the same in one of the other host programs. It is almost like I haven’t left an NLE, a color grading package like DaVinci Resolve or the standalone version of FilmConvert. No break in my state of mind, no sudden switching from one pattern of thought, one form of visualization, to the other.
The biggest difference between those two ways of seeing and visualizing? A still for use in a movie timeline is there for seconds or less, part of a long flow of imagery allied with sound, just one tiny aspect of a cumulative storytelling effort. Each still needs to relate to all the other stills in its grading and dynamic range, as well as all the rest of the moving images surrounding it.
A photograph to be looked at long and hard as an image in its own right, framed on a wall or framed with text in print or on a web page, needs to stand out from its background and be edited in a way that achieves that. I will take it to extremes if I have to. The optimum grading for one such image might look completely ridiculous if applied to another in the same set of images, the same photoessay.
Film Emulations and Camera Packs
FilmConvert contains 19 film simulations, giving you plenty to choose from – subtle differences between film stocks or really big differences if you need them. What films does FilmConvert emulate? The names of the film stock presets are cryptic but decodable. KD denotes Kodak, FJ means Fujifilm’s Fujichrome and Fujicolor, IL is for Ilford, Plrd stands in for Polaroid and so on.
Motion Picture Film Stocks:
The links in the lists below lead to information about each film stock.
Color Reversal Stills Films:
Monochrome Stills Films:
Color Negative Stills Films:
Camera Packs and Picture Styles
Another big difference between the FilmConvert plug-in for Photoshop and other film emulation plug-ins for Photoshop is its Camera Packs. Each pack essentially profiles your camera and its picture styles for accurate color rendering within FilmConvert.
This is handy if you have shot stills for your project with several different cameras and want the results to be color matched. Or you can forgo selecting your camera and picture style and stay with the default sRGB setting in the Digital Camera sector menu.
There is no hard and fast rule on these things. I tend to be a bit experimental and go by what looks interesting. The FilmConvert user interface suggests a workflow.
Start off by selecting a camera or stay on Standard sGB. Set your exposure then color temperature. Click the film emulation left or right arrows to see how each emulation works for your image, if you have not preselected the film stock you will be using.
Then, set the color intensity, grain percentage and grain size with the sliders and drop-down. Work the color correctors and sliders for shadows, mid-tones, highlights and saturation. After which you can effectively bend your image’s curve with the three levels sliders. I visualize in curves so tend to translate other controls into them in my mind.
When you are satisfied with what you have done, hit the Apply button and you are back in Photoshop, free to add more layers, more controls and more filters if you wish.
(cover photo credit: snap from Karin Gottschalk)