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Review: FilmConvert Pro

Fast, Accurate Film-Stock Emulation for Your NLE or Finishing Software

Ever since the introduction of the modern video camera, many digital filmmakers have been striving for that elusive “film look.” As digital camera technology advanced from high definition to 4K and above, with 24p native frame rates and larger sensors, we have moved much closer to this ideal.

But no matter how good the lighting or how large the cameras sensor, the look of digital footage can leave a lot to be desired. 

This is where a “film look” plug-in comes in handy. I have used many of these plug-ins with various cameras, and they basically do the same thing. Many of them use contrast and color changes to create a look, but they still fall short of that elusive cinematic look.  

FilmConvert, a software tool from Rubber Monkey Software, is described as a film-emulation plugin, and it's different. It accurately models the response of many digital cameras and film stocks, and provides a different transformation for each camera-and-stock combination. 

The examples on the FilmConvert website are very impressive. They have shot several example scenes and charts with a Red One and an Arri 435 loaded with various film stocks. You can compare the images of the digital footage without any processing, the digital image processed using FilmConvert software, and the film footage. The images of the film footage and the processed Red One footage are almost identical. It's pretty mind-blowing. 

FilmConvert works on any digital camera footage. For more accurate results, free camera profiles are available, and the company is constantly releasing new ones. Currently supported Cameras include the ARRI Alexa, the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, the Blackmagic Pocket Camera, the Canon 1DC, the Canon 5D Mk II and Mk III, the Canon 6D, the Canon 550D/T2i, the Canon 600D/T3i, the Canon 7D/60D, the Canon C100 and C300, the Canon XF300, the Digital Bolex D16, the GoPro Hero, the Nikon D800 and D7000, the Panasonic GH2, GH3, and GH4, the Red One, Red One MX, Red Epic and Scarlet, Sony EX3 and EX1, Sony F55, and Sony FS700

The software works within your NLE or as standalone software. As a Windows user, I didn't test the standalone version, which is currently available only for OS X.

Installing FilmConvert was straightforward and easy. After you do so, a "Film Emulation" category is added to your NLE effects box. The user controls are straightforward. There is a camera section, where you choose the camera your footage was shot on and the color space used, exposure and color temperature sliders, a film settings section with a convert to stock selector and a size selector that determines grain size. 35mm full-frame would be the finest level of grain, while 8mm would be the coarsest. Percentage sliders let you decide how much of the emulation and grain to apply.

FilmConvert also features a color-correction section, including three color wheels to adjust the color of the shadows, midtones, and highlights, sliders to adjust the image by adding or removing brightness, and a levels graph and adjustments. 

FilmConvert is the result of extensive R&D and testing. The company's engineers shot source charts with many different digital cameras, including different picture profiles for each, and then shot the same same charts with various film stocks. Rubber Monkey carefully studied how individual cameras record an image and, through this scientific approach, has been able to very accurately transform the look of your footage. 

FilmConvert models the following film stocks:

Motion Color Negative
Kodak Vision 3 250D 5207, Kodak Vision 3 200T 5213, Fuji Vivid 8543, Fuji Eterna 8553, Fuji Reala 8563

Stills Color Transparency
Fuji Astia, Fuji Provia, Fuji Velvia

Stills Black and White
Fuji Neopan, Ilford Delta 400, Ilford Delta 3200, Kodak T-Maxx 100, Kodak Tri-X 400

Stills Color Negative
Fujicolor Pro 400H, Fujicolor Pro 160s, Fujifilm Superia Xtra 400, Kodak Portra 400

Stills Color Positive
Polaroid 600

I tested the plugin on a Boxx workstation with Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2014, using footage from a music video I recently shot with a Sony F55. Having extensively used film-look plugins, I didn’t know what to expect from FilmConvert, but I quickly learned that this was something much different than what I have used in the past. 

After I input the camera info, the quality of the various film stock presets was impressive, delivering very pleasing results. The color-grading options are simple but powerful. FilmConvert does a very good job at emulating the look of a wide variety of film stocks. I used the Kodak Vision 3 250D 5207 preset with the grain slider at 60% for my test footage. 

I was most impressed with how FilmConvert processes color, producing a very organic look. The grain tool is also not what I expected. Unlike other plugins I have used that simply overlay film grain, FilmConvert realistically models the amount of grain required for each color and exposure level in your image. This results in a very pleasing and organic look.

You can individually adjust the degree of color and grain applied to your clip using the percentage sliders. Along with the color-correction tools, this provides a fast way to match shots, or add just the grain of a film stock (and not the color shift) if desired. The plugin seems very responsive and renders fast. 

If you don’t have much time to spend on color grading, but you’d like to get a great look quickly, FilmConvert is a very useful plugin. I am definitely a fan. A free demo is available from the filmconvert.com website.

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