Digital cinema cameras and DSLRs are capable of producing incredible results, but they are also known to deliver images that can be too perfect, or even clinical in many respects. Film on the other hand is flawed in the most beautiful ways, and it’s subtle nuances – notably it’s grain structure – makes it it feel like a living, breathing, organism. This is why so many filmmakers look for ways to add real film grain to their digital footage. It’s all about bringing back those near-invisible flaws of real film that make it so mesmerizing to watch.
Naturally, as someone that has spent years chasing the “film look” when shooting digitally, I’ve tried using countless different film grain products in an attempt to give my footage the same quality as motion picture film. These have included third party plugins, video files of grain scans, and everything in between. Even still, after experimenting with so many different options over the years, I’ve never quite found any one product that was perfect for my needs.
Ultimately, this led me to create my own custom film grain from scratch.
The biggest issue I’ve had with most grain products in the past was simple – they weren’t actually applying real film grain to my footage. Most plugins simply use various digital methods for creating a film grain look, and aren’t using any real scans of grain to achieve the end result. In my opinion, that defeats the purpose, as my goal has always been to get the most authentic film look possible, and there is a noticeable difference between applying real film grain to my footage, and grain that is clearly digitally created.
There are of course some companies that do offer real film grain scans, but in many instances these products can be very expensive. In some cases, they may cost in the hundreds of dollars for a pack of grain, which can be prohibitive for many independent filmmakers…
When I set out to create some fully original film grain by myself, I had two goals in mind – Use only authentic film scans, and make it affordable for filmmakers. It was also important to me that the grain was scanned at 4K, allowing it to be used on high resolution content, as well as standard HD material.
I spent several months shooting and scanning various film stocks, applying them to test footage, and eventually outputting a total of 6 unique film grain products.
Here’s a quick video sample of the grain applied to footage:
As you can see in the video, the grains have been grouped together in the following packages:
- Super 35mm
- Super 16mm
- Super 8mm
- Super 35mm
- Super 16mm
- Super 8mm
Often times, film grain products are grouped together by film size (35mm, 16mm, 8mm), and will offer different variations of those stocks – for instance, coarse or light. I wanted to take a very different approach with my custom grain however, and include all three frame sizes in each pack. Whether you opt to go with a clean or dirty pack, you will have access to all three film sizes.
The Super 35mm grain is ideal for a subtle look that’s just barely visible, and designed to just take the edge off of overly clean digital footage. The Super 16mm grain is bolder and more noticeable, calling attention to itself without feeling distracting. The 8mm grain is gritty and raw, making it perfect for flashbacks or other highly stylized shots.
Here are some screen grabs of the clean grain applied to the same shot:
The grain files found in the clean pack are completely neutral. Any imperfections that were present on the original scan were removed, allowing the files to deliver highly consistent results when applied to your footage.
The dirty pack on the other hand has not been altered at all, and still has some grunge, flicker, dirt, and scratches on the scans. This ultimately will help you achieve a more stylized or vintage aesthetic.
Below is an example of the difference between the clean and dirty grain files.
Super 35mm – Clean
Super 35mm – Dirty
APPLYING & CUSTOMIZING THE GRAIN
Each film grain pack includes three individual 4K Quicktime video files (35mm, 16mm, 8mm), all of which have been encoded using high bitrate H.264 compression, allowing them to be universally applied on any editing software, on both Mac & PC..
Applying the video files to your footage is extremely simple, and can be done by dropping the film grain of your choice on top of your footage in your editing software. From there, you simply need to change the composite, transfer, or blending mode (depending on what terminology your NLE uses) to overlay. Just like that, the gray background will disappear, and all that’s left is the grain structure on top of your footage.
You can also adjust the contrast, opacity, scaling, and many other variables to create an endless amount of custom looks from these scans. A two page PDF is included with every pack that outlines some instructions and ideas that will get you started in minutes.
Each pack can be purchased for only $29, and for those of you that are interested in both the Clean & Dirty Packs, I am bundling them both together for $49.
So many of you have purchased my Cinematic LUT Packs earlier this year, and it’s truly been amazing to see some of the incredible work you’ve all come up with using those looks. I can’t wait to see some more of your work as you get a chance to apply these grain packs to your footage!
To purchase the packs, please use the product links below:
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!