Film Look Presets

I’ve mentioned that I’ve got every “film simulator” known to mankind. Maybe not but I certainly have experienced more of them than most people ever will. Here’s the bottom line on this…

Generally film looks are fairly subtle and don’t scream at you. Well shot, well processed, well scanned film only looks way different than digital under certain circumstances and usually doesn’t look crazy different than just going about your business in digital as long as you have a white balance somewhere in the neighborhood that was the same as either the color correction or lack-there-of on film.

There are some characteristics with negative film (both black and white and especially modern color emulsions) that do respond far differently than shooting digital in the same circumstances and tend to produce an overall effect that you can simulate with digital shot “correctly”. Usually these are high-contrast scenes that respond a bit differently. There’s also far different characteristics when you do negative film ”wrong” vs when you shoot digital wrong. If you underexpose negative film to a significant degree but try to eeeeeek out a print you get those bad blacks that everyone associates with over the top VSCO looks. I hate that in most cases. I certainly never shot or printed film like that. Not on purpose since I was about 13.

Okay — subtle is usually the key with possibly some subtle toning in some cases with some films etc… that brings us to part B of what is about to turn into a rant. How do we get to these subtle looks — specifically for negative film and also for those shooting conditions where you can’t do what you would with color neg to get a certain look. Let’s divide the how into to camps. Camp number one; some reasonable normal way using the standard RAW post processing tools available one way or another no matter what RAW processor you use in a rational and sane manner. Camp number two; attempt to do the same kind of thing in using those tools in the most bizarre manner conceivable. I like camp one better. Fact it I can’t even imagine any other reasons for the camp two method beyond either idiocy or purposeful convolution to somehow impress idiots with the oddities. What’s funny is the higher the price of these “presets” which are no particular secret sauce of any kind nor any sort of advanced science nor a ton of effort nor have any code or special image processing… the more they seem to do bizarre nonsensical things to get to the end state. In appropriate things that render the rest of anything in the tool completely useless.

I checked out yet another film simulation product today. An expensive product, one that wants $119 for a pack of them. Now wait for this part… the “pack” comes with exactly two films. Yep you heard me… TWO. That would but Fuji 400H and Fuji 160NS. Hmmmmmmm, $119 okay these must be great right? We’ll let’s see shall we?

The image at the top of the post is just my lil’ ol’ Fuji 400H over with the warm highlights add-on for Aperture 3. What do I charge for that again… actually for 4 films each of which has a bunch of different “versions” to somewhat sorta give the feel of what happens if you shoot negative film differently or process it differently. Oh wait there’s more, there’s that add-on bunch of stuff that simulates a few things that kinda sorta happen sometimes. Let’s take a look at VSCO 400H too.

You already know how I feel about these… they’re okay but the package as a whole is put together in a reasonably decent way and packages with a bunch of shortcuts for both local adjustments as well as common things you need to deal with. Not a bad job overall. In fact they are the only presets I think are worth the money pound for pound. I think the “camera profiles” are completely and utter market-bullshit considering under laboratory conditions each profile for each camera produces completely different results. So…. which particular one is “accurate”? More-over just using the “standard” less accurate ones I can get consistent results across all of those same cameras. Whatever…

Now for the new guy on the block, $119 for 400H and 160NS. Ready for the holy grail? Here you go…

All of them are zoomed into 100% and are using the same WB target so the WB is neutralized across images and across LR5 and Aperture 3.

What’s wrong with this picture? Is it that the colors are not exactly the same? Not really, could it be that one is in some way far far far far more accurate than the other? Nope, good luck attempting to figure that out with negative film, especially given the method that is endorsed to “match film” suggested by the purveyor of the third product. Actually forget all that stuff. I could argue that mine is more accurate — which version of mine? The one with or without the warm-highlights add-on? Who cares, take a look over on the right hand side of the screenshot on the third product. Oh, the secret sause to match up digital with film is to use the LR5 sliders like that on a relatively low contrast controlled lighting scene that I used as the “test”. WTF? Contrast of +89 and all the sliders used to back all of that off and do other wonky shit? WTF?

This is not how to skin this particular cat, nor is it anyway to use any RAW processor to do anything. WTF? I want my money back for sure. The only other thing I’ve seen this whacked out and this useless is another preset pack for LR that does equally but completely different strangeness only for the sake of bamboozling the trusting but uneducated masses. At least that product gives you like 700 completely different things with the methodology of maybe one of them will make one particular picture look okay. This mess? I’m not even going to attempt to try to explain this bullshit.

Oh, how much are my preset packs for Aperture 3? Ummm I forget, I think they are like $4.99 or something like that. Whatever, I think I’m going to have to do an LR and Capture One version of those just because I’m sick of this crap. Anyone interested???

RB

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