EP005: Film Print Emulation (FPE)

Episode 005
Duration 46:33

For over a hundred years the entire production and post-production pipeline from acquisition through delivery was driven by film.

These days, while some are still shooting and delivering on film, the vast majority of us are in entirely digital pipelines.  Yet, there is still a near-constant discussion about film print emulation, or FPE for short.

Ask anyone involved in production and post about this subject and you’ll likely get dozens of different answers about what FPE means, and often conflicting opinions on the basic characteristics of a ‘film look’.

In this episode of The Offset Podcast, Joey and Robbie explore why everyone is always talking about FPE, how the phrase film PRINT emulation can misleading, why sometimes film characteristics are not always a good thing, and the good and bad of modern tools in crafting a film emulation look


The Offset Podcast is sponsored by Flanders Scientific -leaders in color-accurate display solutions for professional video. Whether you are a colorist, editor, DIT, or broadcast engineer Flanders Scientific has a professional display solution to meet your needs. Learn more at FlandersScientific.com 

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Transcript

01:00:00:07 - 01:00:16:14
Joey
Hey. Welcome back to the Offset podcast. This week Robbie and I are talking about something that colorists have been talking about for a long time Film, print, emulation. Stay tuned.

01:00:16:16 - 01:00:35:01
Joey
This podcast is sponsored by Flanders Scientific Leaders in Color Accurate Display Solutions for Professional Video. Whether you're a colorist, an editor, a DIT, or a broadcast engineer, Flanders Scientific has a professional display solution to meet your needs. Learn more at Flanders scientifically.

01:00:35:03 - 01:01:04:18
Robbie
Jerry Film, It's a thing I hear that our industry is largely based on for the past hundred or so years. Film. When you say film to somebody, it conjures all sorts of things, right? From nostalgia of your first movie theater experience. For some of us, it might be the smell of chemicals in our nose as as a film develops, right?

01:01:04:20 - 01:01:29:07
Robbie
For some of us, it might be this thing that we've only read about in, you know, in online and in books, right. And never have had any practical experience with over the past. I think over the past 20 or so years, as we have transitioned from, you know, really film acquisition as a key part of the the acquisition chain to digital actors.

01:01:29:08 - 01:01:50:08
Robbie
You know, analog acquisition with analog cameras and then finally to digital cameras. Now digital cinema cameras. Film has for most of us, kind of the actual film part of it has kind of left the the lexicon of what we do day in and day out. Not a lot of us are handling actual film. None of us are working on projects that are originated on film.

01:01:50:10 - 01:02:20:20
Robbie
There might be some of us that are still doing projects that have ultimate distribution back to film, right? That's that's true for some people. But regardless of where you stand, there is this love affair about all things film, right? One only has to Google the phrase film, print, emulation, RFP for short to be overwhelmed.

01:02:20:22 - 01:02:22:01
Joey
Acronym. Yeah.

01:02:22:03 - 01:02:32:11
Robbie
Very quickly, be overwhelmed with a million Google returns. Some people selling products and lots and effects and various things.

01:02:32:15 - 01:02:34:07
Joey
You call them all charlatans, right?

01:02:34:09 - 01:03:06:12
Robbie
But and then there's some people who are going to espouse the beautiful ness of film and how digital sucks and how some people go, you know, digital the best in film sucks. There's a lot to this man. And in the past 20 years, film, print, emulation has become a hot button topic for a lot of colorists. And I want to talk about that today because I think that there are some pros there are some cons, and there are, as you said, there are some charlatan stuff mixed in where it's just, you know, nobody knows what they're talking about.

01:03:06:12 - 01:03:20:12
Robbie
So let's talk about film emulation. And I want to start with what does that mean to you, Joey? To Ana? What does FP mean? Because honestly, it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

01:03:20:14 - 01:03:52:23
Joey
Yeah, and that's kind of the problem with it is film. Print emulation means whatever you want it to mean. Right. Let's let's break it down a little bit. Film. Print. So are we emulating the printed display of a film or are we emulating the color characteristics of the negative film, or are we emulating the whole process? And when you start looking at tools to do some of this and we start looking at visually evaluating things in this context, you know, every film process is different.

01:03:53:01 - 01:04:27:23
Joey
And historically, films have been made with chemical processes and color timed with chemical processes, and they were very, very specifically supervised to that project. That's why when big, big movies shoot on film, they buy gigantic batches of film. So they will be from the same production run because that's how finicky some of this chemistry is. They don't want big shifts up and down in various directions from, you know, this source film was shot, was was manufactured two years before that one.

01:04:28:01 - 01:05:12:08
Joey
So there is kind of the technical side of film, print emulation, and there's kind of the creative side of film emulation. I'm not a firm believer in the technical side because, like I said, all film processes can be emulated, but every film process is different. So, you know, this really started early in the days of what was called Digital Intermediate, where you shot a film on film, brought it into a computer digitally and monitor it under a transform to emulate what the final print would look like so you could manipulate it digitally with the goal of printing it back out into film and having visual consistency from what you saw digitally to what is now

01:05:12:12 - 01:05:40:08
Joey
in film. But what now colorists are doing is taking digital sources and wanting to pretend like it's looking like it was going through this film process for creative reasons and then printing it back out to digital. So when you get on the forums and you get on the people selling lots and they say, subtractive film process, three layers, blah, blah, blah on my lot, that's magical.

01:05:40:08 - 01:06:05:23
Joey
That'll be $1,000. I'm sorry. They're talking out of their rear ends because if they were to emulate on a technical level, a particular exposure on a particular film with a particular print, you know, you could do this with test patterns and having access to a lab and very high quality measurement tools. You can do this. This is how the digital intermediate process used to work, right?

01:06:05:23 - 01:06:15:03
Joey
They would run it through the whole process, profile every step so they could emulate it digitally. Right? You're only film print emulating that one film process.

01:06:15:03 - 01:06:16:15
Robbie
And that lab in particular. Right.

01:06:16:15 - 01:06:17:08
Joey
And that lab.

01:06:17:08 - 01:06:19:14
Robbie
Right at that time. Right.

01:06:19:16 - 01:06:31:07
Joey
You know. So to me, the goal of a accurate film print emulation is just you're trying to hit a moving target and there's no point.

01:06:31:11 - 01:07:04:12
Robbie
Yeah. I mean, so, you know, a good point here that I think is something that is a distinction that is important to make. I think that you're right that FP in large attempt, it's about what is your goal? Are you trying to emulate the distribution medium of film and what it looks like projected on a screen playing off a projector, you know, that kind of look, or are you trying to recreate the acquisition esthetic and look and feel of the actual, you know, the actual acquired thing on film?

01:07:04:12 - 01:07:39:11
Robbie
Right. And they're kind of two different things. I think as an acquisition medium, it's a pretty good goal to have the film look as an acquisition medium, as a as a look as a filter too, because honestly, I love the look of a lot of acquired film, right? The other side of it, the distribution side, I don't really understand so much because I don't know about you, but I'm sure you know, most people have been to a theater where everything kind of looks like crap, right?

01:07:39:13 - 01:08:04:07
Robbie
The print has been beat up. It's, you know, there's scratch is there's there's, you know, gate. We've there's all these things that we have from a nostalgia point of view associated with film, but they're crap, right? Like, you know, gate weave and like, you know, jitter and like, that's not good, right? It's just a byproduct of them. It's a mistake of the, you know, the handling of the film, the projector, the process, whatever.

01:08:04:07 - 01:08:24:13
Robbie
Right? So I think you have to be when you go into this, regardless of whether you're doing it from a technical or a creative thing, have to realize what your goal is there. And I personally think it's a it's a perfectly good thing. Or it might be a little lofty, but it's a perfectly good thing to try to treat your digital sources so they look, behave, feel a little bit more like film.

01:08:24:15 - 01:08:34:06
Robbie
But the distribution side of it, what it looks like in the theater and those prints, I'm a little I'm a little iffy on.

01:08:34:08 - 01:08:53:19
Joey
Yeah. And that's why you get into what I call the creative side of it. And that's where it actually gets a little bit of fun because there's a million intangible aspects that go into the characterization of what an image looks like, whether it be a film image, digital image, whatever. By the time it gets to our eyes, it's not film or digital, right?

01:08:53:19 - 01:09:20:02
Joey
It's just photons, right? So there are a million different aspects to that image formation process that you can react to creatively. To me, my goal when I'm doing any kind of creative look is to take the things that I feel esthetically work with the mood of the project and the creative needs of the project and look good. Yeah, and put in and the things that don't don't put them in.

01:09:20:06 - 01:09:38:16
Joey
So I take a builder's approach to it. I love grain. I think grain is a great way of adding entropy to an image that your brain will interpret as detail. That's why a slightly grainy image usually appears a little bit sharper because you've got a little bit more localized contrast around the edges where the grain is and your brain likes that.

01:09:38:18 - 01:10:04:20
Joey
It also helps dither out banding and stuff like that. And it's just in general a various esthetic thing that I like. Some people like exceptionally smooth images because they feel modern and clean and fresh, and that's fine too. That's a creative decision when it comes to color for film, print, emulation, there's a lot of commonalities. I think that people associate with film, but they're really not part of film.

01:10:04:20 - 01:10:19:17
Joey
It's just a lot of film over the time has had color response similar to this. It's not all film, but you know, usually and Robert, you've seen this in basically every project I've ever graded for. I like to push pure blues.

01:10:19:17 - 01:10:20:08
Robbie
Porcini.

01:10:20:08 - 01:10:48:14
Joey
Into a little bit more. Sandy Teal Yeah, you know, not to say the T.E. Lawrence thing, but just like I like my blues, to have a little bit more green in them than real blue, to the point where when I see like a deep, pure like primary blue, I almost kind of react negatively to be like, Yeah, that looks kind of I hate to use the term video because again, all of this is subjective and it's not actually inherent to the format, but it looks a little video to me.

01:10:48:15 - 01:11:15:17
Robbie
Yeah, I know you so, so green is one of them. I think you're right. Some of that look and color. I think there's another one actually. We'll put it in the show notes here. But company three colorists, Ivan Lucas, who just did the grade on the Barbie film, who has incredible colors. I love his work. He has a really, really rich history of proper photochemical development from his time working in France and now in the U.S..

01:11:15:19 - 01:11:39:04
Robbie
Anyway, he's he's just gifted. He has a great discussion about kind of the the initial process of FP and kind of choosing proper what transforms to work under, as you talking about in the days of digital intermediate. So it kind of works that way. And that's a that's an interesting thing. And even then he, you know, kind of basically describes of it as like a pick and choose, try to see what works.

01:11:39:04 - 01:11:57:15
Robbie
So I know what gives us the best feel for the film, that kind of stuff. Right? So you mentioned you mentioned the grain, you mentioned kind of film ish color, right? Trying to emulate some stocks of what, you know, the response, I guess, of some of some acquisition stocks. I think I've saw a couple other things in that builders equation.

01:11:57:15 - 01:12:16:01
Robbie
I think about relation, right, and how things handle edges. I think about blooming and highlight roll off a lot. That to me is potentially one of the biggest things about an RFP when it's convincing is how the highlight because you know in film you don't really I mean you don't, you don't clip in the same way.

01:12:16:01 - 01:12:16:09
Joey
If you're.

01:12:16:09 - 01:12:24:13
Robbie
White, right? You don't clip in the same way that you do in a digital image. Right. So that that knee that roll off going into, you know, pure white is a lot.

01:12:24:14 - 01:12:26:03
Joey
Simply transparent on the film.

01:12:26:03 - 01:12:46:21
Robbie
Yeah, it's a lot softer, a lot more esthetically pleasing. And funny enough, that's actually one of the complaints that a lot of people have about like ACS workflows, that they do that too much, which I kind of like, but that's another point. Another one is besides green is, you know, dirt, scratches. We have you know, we've we have jitter.

01:12:46:23 - 01:13:05:12
Robbie
Don't really captain obvious here, but here's a big one I think that people often overlook about FP is temporal resolution to about what the source is right People are like, well I shot in $0.60 now I want it to look like film. Well, guess what? You don't have a fighting chance because 60 piece.

01:13:05:12 - 01:13:21:01
Joey
But that's the thing. Good. You know people have also been shooting high speed film for slo mo for hundreds of years. It looks completely different. Typically I actually and I know I've told you the story before, but I think it's very relevant. I was working for a new client and they were like, Yeah, can we do like a film look on this?

01:13:21:01 - 01:13:21:19
Robbie
Yeah.

01:13:21:21 - 01:13:39:10
Joey
I'm like, Yeah, of course. I started pushing all my shadows blue. I started doing hue versus hue and putting grain all over. I was like, Yeah, this is an awesome film print look. Yeah, They're like, No, but it's like now it's just it's still way too smooth. Well, they weren't even talking about color. They weren't talking about grain.

01:13:39:14 - 01:13:58:07
Joey
This was 60 eye television footage. I'm sorry, $0.60 HD footage from a major sports broadcaster. So very good temporal resolution. They wanted it to stutter like $0.24 That's all they wanted. They wanted me to put a fake, I mean, frame rate limitation on it. I mean, everything else we threw out in the garbage.

01:13:58:09 - 01:13:59:18
Robbie
This is my this is my first.

01:13:59:21 - 01:14:01:06
Joey
What do you mean by film?

01:14:01:08 - 01:14:25:15
Robbie
This is my first experience with this. And I think a lot of other people who are like me in their mid-forties, going back to the early two, thousands probably have this experience. You know, Graham Mattress, who's now with Red, used to sell a set of tools, plug ins for Final Cut Pro Black, gave a 24 PPI look. And at that time you remember correctly, that was the time of the Panasonic.

01:14:25:15 - 01:14:30:19
Robbie
What was it, the DV 100 or whatever that camera was that was doing pull down to. Yeah, it was.

01:14:30:19 - 01:14:32:07
Joey
Black hold reversible pull.

01:14:32:07 - 01:14:51:20
Robbie
Down the Yeah. So get back 20 398 all the time so you know listen if you're going to if you even want to get in the the the you know the universe of talking about FP you're your temporal resolution is a key component of that right. And how that that motion you know, and even not even just shooting that frame rate shooting.

01:14:51:22 - 01:15:09:03
Robbie
No. You know, 180 degree shutter or whatever various shutter speeds that are associated with a with a with a film camera. Right. If you're shooting, you know, too fast of a shutter. Right. You're going to get that staccato. Look, things are not going to motion blur. You're going to have you know, it's just not going to feel that way, you know?

01:15:09:03 - 01:15:09:12
Robbie
I think so.

01:15:09:12 - 01:15:32:08
Joey
And it's funny because this despite the romanticism, I'm of film and everybody in our industry basically kind of touting film projection as the benchmark for so many years. This is completely subjective. The kids these days like high frame rates because they play it on their video games. Yeah. And what's funny is I go back to my dad was a broadcast engineer for CBS News.

01:15:32:08 - 01:15:55:07
Joey
He was very early in innovating with electronic newsgathering. He was a broadcast engineer working with, you know, essentially 60 frames of second interlaced footage for decades. Yeah. You know, he still to this day will go to movies and complain that the motion is too stuttery every time they move the camera horizontally to stuttery they need a higher frame rate.

01:15:55:11 - 01:16:05:14
Joey
We look better than this in the news in the sixties on CBS, you know. So it is a computer. Every aspect of this imaging pipeline is completely subjective.

01:16:05:16 - 01:16:50:15
Robbie
Well, it's true. It's even it's even like the subjective ness of it is also like it's almost like it's definitely genre based, but it's also regional based, too. Absolutely. I remember a couple of years ago we were traveling to China to do some some training with the Flanders scientific team as part of our TV. And at the time you would come along, it was me, you, Patrick Ewing Hoffer and Dan Moran, and Dan, who's just an unbelievable creative colorist, has, you know, really built up a lot of his portfolio with his FP kind of dirty, grungy, textured kind of looks.

01:16:50:17 - 01:17:13:23
Robbie
And he was doing a class on FP for this group at B R TV in Beijing, China. And it was, you know, 200 people in the room and he was doing his thing and, you know, all Westerner standing there were like, Man, this is cool, so awesome looking like I love it. And he like literally, legitimately getting questions of like, why are you segregating the image?

01:17:13:23 - 01:17:15:15
Robbie
Like, why are you making it so much?

01:17:15:15 - 01:17:16:11
Joey
Grain Yeah.

01:17:16:11 - 01:17:41:23
Robbie
Why is it less sharp now? Why are you like, you know, all those kind of things? So I think it's really going to depend on the genre and the kind of mood. But I wanted to ask you kind of to switch gears here for a second. So as you kind of alluded to at the top of this conversation, there are people who are doing FP in a very scientific, measured way, right?

01:17:41:23 - 01:18:00:06
Robbie
I have heard of people, even friends and colleagues of ours who are like, I got a I got a hold of some film stock. I put it in my freezer so it wouldn't degrade. And one day I'm going to take it out and I'm going to, you know, put a, you know, a meter on it. What are those things called dense or ometer or whatever they're called and put it on and measure the density of the film.

01:18:00:08 - 01:18:22:15
Robbie
So there are people who are doing this in a very scientific, measured way that is repeatable, to be honest with you. I only understand about 50% of it, but they are doing that work. And then there are people, as you said, that are literally just pragmatically in a plug in or, you know, a DCT or something doing this kind of work.

01:18:22:15 - 01:18:35:03
Robbie
And I wanted to ask you, these new tools that we have is that is that a cop out to do something, you know, use something like film convert or the handsaw or something like that.

01:18:35:03 - 01:19:01:23
Joey
So, you know, you get to that technical side of, you know, you're scanning the film, you're putting test patterns through the entire process. Like I said earlier, you're emulating you can very accurately emulate one film process. I think that's a fantastic starting point for building a creative film emulation. Right? But let's say you had a bunch of old film stock in your freezer and you ran it through an entire profiling process with the most accurate instruments in the world, right?

01:19:02:01 - 01:19:10:00
Joey
You still were only profiling. That set of film developed how that film was developed in that chemistry at that time.

01:19:10:00 - 01:19:11:14
Robbie
And there's there's some variance there. Sure.

01:19:11:19 - 01:19:21:18
Joey
There's always going and there's a lot of variance there, which is why, like we said, the olden days of doing Digital Intermediate, they did these processes continuously through the production.

01:19:21:18 - 01:19:22:04
Robbie
Yeah.

01:19:22:06 - 01:19:52:09
Joey
I think it's a great starting point and a lot of the companies like Film Convert Dance or some of the other film print plug ins that are coming out films, they go through those processes as their base, right? But then they give you lots of modification controls to work with on top of that, because I promise you, if you just take the base settings of a particular film stock from any of those plug ins and you go and shoot that film stock and have it professionally developed or professionally scanned and bring it in and then apply display transform to it so you can see it.

01:19:52:11 - 01:20:18:22
Joey
It's not going to match Exactly. There's too many different variables. Yeah, but I bet you you could dial it into match for that particular context, which is important to think about too, especially when dealing with films that have mixed sources. So you do have some film sources in your overall project. You need to match them together. That's when you start thinking about how do we bring this in and emulate the negative sides of film that we creatively might not want to do, but to make the video stuff flow with the film?

01:20:19:00 - 01:20:46:23
Joey
Yeah. Yes, we need to emulate the same gate, weave, elation, etc. that's in the film, in the video stuff, so you can cut between them, right? Are collisions a big one? Pollution is one of those things that it's love it or hate it, it is inherent to film. If you don't know what collation is. And it's funny cause we're talked about collation in a film print emulation podcast localization happens on the film negative, not on the film front.

01:20:47:01 - 01:21:19:21
Joey
Right, right. Are pollution is you shoot film. There's three di layers of film roughly equating to your red screens and blue is it's not exactly the same. It's relating to di color not Yeah yeah. But yes, you essentially have what represents the red, green and blue layers. Then you have the back of the camera light hits through that film, bounces off the back of the camera, hits the back of the film, starts exposing it again, especially around harsh edges with a lot of contrast.

01:21:19:21 - 01:21:37:22
Joey
Yeah. Which is why a lot of basically all motion picture film has a black what they call anti-collision layer on the back of it. That anti-collision layer is not perfect on any film, so you still get kind of little, little red flares around bright high contrast edges that diffuse into the green in what I think is a very pretty.

01:21:37:23 - 01:21:42:05
Robbie
And it can be confused a little bit for lensing issues. Sometimes they can be.

01:21:42:05 - 01:21:43:04
Joey
Confusing absolute.

01:21:43:04 - 01:21:43:19
Robbie
Terms as light looks.

01:21:43:21 - 01:21:45:04
Joey
Kind of low.

01:21:45:06 - 01:21:48:03
Robbie
Chromatic aberration kind of issue kind of thing, like that.

01:21:48:05 - 01:22:06:20
Joey
But the reason why it's usually red is because that's the last layer. You know, up there has been a location has been a fad recently. Right. And I'm guilty of it to somebody. It's like I put elation on this thing. I'm like, I'm a policeman on this thing. I don't make my own elation. It's going to be better than your relation.

01:22:07:01 - 01:22:26:17
Joey
Hey, you just came up with a whole Asian plugin and it's awesome. They're relation plugins, better resolve, add the whole Asian plug in. who's got the best relation? Well, nobody is really coming back to think. Is this really a good idea? Yeah. You know, it's like you were so preoccupied with whether you could you didn't really think whether you should.

01:22:26:19 - 01:22:42:06
Joey
And I think in a lot of cases, I don't know. I really like the look of it and I. But it only goes hand in hand with a nice heavy grain, in my opinion, because that that flare around the edge has to diffuse into grain, not into pure smoothness.

01:22:42:06 - 01:23:06:02
Robbie
I agree. I think one of the interesting things to me that's happening in FP these days and it's not obtainable for us mere mortals, right? But at the high end I'm thinking of, for example, the the Dune film from a couple of years ago, right, where they actually printed the film and then brought it back in to get back character.

01:23:06:04 - 01:23:29:17
Robbie
Sick of the print, right? I mean, and that's that's like, you know, as far as I'm concerned, that's the right way to do it. Right? Because you're actually using the actual medium. But at the same time, I look at that sometimes and I have conversations with people that are smarter than I am, who are more versed on the technical and creative details of film pipelines than I am.

01:23:29:18 - 01:24:00:17
Robbie
And I got to be honest with you, man, sometimes I just don't see the minor differences, right? I am partly convinced that people see things in emulation that are not actually there, that they're they're they're convincing themselves of something about this magical thing called film that doesn't really have an additive effect in a, you know, in a way that the average viewer would notice.

01:24:00:17 - 01:24:27:05
Robbie
Now, their argument is, yeah, of course, it's not something that you can obviously point out. It's a feel. It's a it's a perceptual thing, you know, perceptual thing. I don't know, man. I just look at something like that. I watch Dune. I watched the theater. I could tell that, you know, the filming of it. Yeah, but I wasn't like, my God, this would be a totally different film if it was, you know, completely, you know, had taken the step out and done an emulation of some sort.

01:24:27:05 - 01:24:41:08
Joey
Like Dune looked amazing. They take nothing from it. It looked amazing. But like, I think the process of doing a film out and then bringing it back in is essentially ceding some of your creative control to randomness.

01:24:41:10 - 01:24:44:00
Robbie
Which is the thing I get it, which is the thing.

01:24:44:02 - 01:24:57:14
Joey
And you can always tweak it later. And obviously the end result was wonderful. it's it's an interesting approach. I don't think I would call it the right way to do it because again, you're seeing some creative control to random analog error. Okay.

01:24:57:15 - 01:25:16:21
Robbie
So let me let me say a little differently. I think it is it's certainly a way of doing it. But I guess the broader point that I'm trying to make, and this is going to be a really unpopular thing, I think people are going to think I'm throwing throwing daggers, right? I just think there are some people that are a little bit elitist about this, right.

01:25:16:23 - 01:25:35:05
Robbie
That are just sort of like my recipe. My way of doing it is the right way of doing it. This is the only way that we can get back to this film. Look, you know, and all kind of stuff. And I, I read these things as you do and as our listeners probably do ad nauseum. And I just I'm like, Who cares?

01:25:35:05 - 01:25:56:02
Robbie
Right? There's a there's an adage that my dad always has always said to me for my whole life playing golf. Right? And that is there are no pictures on the scorecard. Right. And what I mean is that this conversation is the process. You can talk about it right or wrong. You know, the particulars of grain versus hay lation versus this delay or whatever.

01:25:56:02 - 01:26:14:06
Robbie
Right. All that really matters is at the end of the day, it gets you to the place that you want to get to. Right. And whether you're doing that by buying, you know, hundreds of thousands of feet of actual film and shooting the film that way or doing a print back to film like the cartoon did or whatever, that's not better.

01:26:14:06 - 01:26:56:15
Robbie
Or in my opinion, than doing it with a tool like Film Box or doing it with, you know, grain inhalation built in resolve, right? All that really matters is that that look in the feel and the style is superb. Works for everybody, right? There's no right or wrong way of doing this. And what I get, particularly flummoxed by is a certain set of our industry trying to make the people that like clean, pristine, sharp looking images, make them try to feel like they're, you know, that they're wrong, that they're lower on the totem pole, that those kind of images.

01:26:56:16 - 01:26:59:14
Joey
In those people's defense, they are kind of wrong.

01:26:59:16 - 01:27:28:11
Robbie
But the but but you know but it doesn't matter, right. If you're doing if you're doing a commercial for I don't know, you know, a tech company. Right. And it's supposed to be clean, high tech, you know, looking the last thing that you want is fricking blooming in green everywhere on that spot. Right. And so it's really like I find a lot of the FP elitists think it's a for everything kind of thing.

01:27:28:11 - 01:27:32:16
Robbie
And if you're not doing it for everything, you're doing something wrong.

01:27:32:16 - 01:27:51:21
Joey
I definitely fall into that category sometimes, you know, you get into to this rhythm of I really like this part of the look, this part of the look, this part of the look. So I keep bringing those into my projects. Right? And you know, you're right. It's not right for every project. I just to backtrack a little bit, we were talking about some of the the plug ins and the elite ism that goes along with this.

01:27:51:23 - 01:28:18:18
Joey
I think anybody over touting the pure technical accuracy of whatever their film emulation solution is. That's that's a huge red flag. Right? These are creative tools. Like I said, you can emulate one film process. You can't emulate all film processes. If the big selling point is we are claiming to be the most accurate and accurate is create has creative value, then no, I think that's that's where you get into charlatan ism.

01:28:18:19 - 01:28:47:12
Joey
Whereas you know, I have no association with them, but I think film convert is a fantastic plug in. Yeah because one I can use it in my color managed pipeline right. None of these tools matter if you can't use them in a modern color managed pipeline. Right. Because then I can't use it in my projects like Film Convert and some of these others just just sit into the pipeline very well and it lets me do a look that I really like the way it looks.

01:28:47:14 - 01:28:57:11
Joey
I am never going to claim that that is accurate to this film or that film or whatever. I'm going to say this is how I want this project to look and I like it.

01:28:57:13 - 01:29:22:14
Robbie
So, you know, I think there's I think there is a certain set of people that are FP lovers, but but are pragmatic in its approach and more importantly, really understand the pipeline at a deep level, right? Our buddy Toby Tompkins is one person who comes to mind. Colin Kelly is another person that comes to mind about this. Right.

01:29:22:16 - 01:29:43:20
Robbie
You know, I think that the average Joe is when they you know, it's like, ooh, cool film convert lots of sliders, just crank everything to ten and you're done right. I think the smart people, the the non-evangelical FP folk right they're one side of this equation the slap it on and put every single slider to 11 is the other side of the equation.

01:29:43:22 - 01:30:02:05
Robbie
I think people like yoga. Look I think people like Toby and Colin like those kind of those kind of colors. But I've learned a lot from over the years. Go, No, no, no, no, no. Like if we insert this part of it in this part of the pipeline, we get this result. Or if we insert this part of it over here further down the pipeline, we get that part.

01:30:02:05 - 01:30:33:08
Robbie
But they're not they're not dogmatic about it. They're using the knowledge that they have about the pipeline, the film pipeline, and trying to emulate that and add value in the parts of the pipeline that they have access into. Right? Yeah. And that and that's, you know, that's that to me that's, that's a great thing. I'm thinking back to the you know when Colin developed some of his, his initial DCT was right you'll remember he had and I think he still sells them, but he had a negative part of things.

01:30:33:09 - 01:30:34:05
Joey

01:30:34:07 - 01:30:56:07
Robbie
He had a print side of things, right. And so to me, that was like, just right there. I was like, this is so smart. You understand the pipeline enough that you're breaking out these processes into different parts of the pipeline rather than just this one, you know, General slap it on at the end and crank all the sliders to a lot and kind of Yeah.

01:30:56:07 - 01:31:17:12
Joey
And just a quick like big up the Colin for for those plug ins they were they a year I think he still sells them and what he's still currently has very good creative with development tools I would say one of my favorite short films I ever graded was when we first got access to those plug ins and I was really exploring them and it just had an overall look to it that I just absolutely loved.

01:31:17:15 - 01:31:18:04
Robbie
Yup.

01:31:18:06 - 01:31:19:11
Joey
Yup.

01:31:19:13 - 01:31:30:12
Robbie
And Colin, Colin's a great example again, because, because he really understands the underlying pipeline, he's not just slapping it on there to slap it on is.

01:31:30:12 - 01:31:32:19
Joey
Pragmatic, it is absolutely intent.

01:31:32:19 - 01:32:01:15
Robbie
Driven. And that, and to me that's the best, you know, I think I just, you know, when everybody mentions this this, this EFP thing, my first thought is just, you just mean slapping some grain on it. And like, now it's filmic. Reed but that, you know, doing that scientific part about it and then taking the results of that scientific part about it and realizing that, nope, I'm in a modern digital color correction tool that has its own workflows with code managed pipelines, etc., etc..

01:32:01:19 - 01:32:09:02
Robbie
Let me insert where I can that's not going to use it again. That's the right way to do it from my point of view.

01:32:09:04 - 01:32:36:00
Joey
Yeah, I, I agree with that. That is the, the kind of that's the creative approach to take. This is a tool we're using as a tool. The big thing that people get mixed up with too, though I think it's really important to mention is if you're being this heavy handed with an image effect on your, your image, you're really throwing away a lot of the DP and director's work and they might not appreciate that.

01:32:36:02 - 01:32:57:16
Joey
If you talk to if you look at any of you. Okay, let's go back to the name, film, print, emulation. When you hear that, what a people as a whole associate it with, they don't actually associate it with a particular set of looks. They associate it with the perception of high quality and high budgets. Right. I can make it look like this movie.

01:32:57:18 - 01:33:21:06
Joey
Well, no, unless you hire those actors and that set designer and those production that those lighting guys, you're not making it look like that movie because 98% of the final look of a film happens in front of the lens. Right? So to be able to kind of again, when these guys claim that we can technically make it super accurate to the look of such and such film.

01:33:21:10 - 01:33:39:02
Joey
No that's charlatan ism that's that's they're making they're talking out of there. But because they're they're just the lighting, the production design, the creative intent, all of that matters so much more than a volumetric color manipulation to make it look like a certain film process.

01:33:39:06 - 01:34:03:01
Robbie
You know, I don't know if you've seen it. I've only watched the first few episodes of it, but a shout out to our at least to my color philosophical hero, that is Walter of Apollo. Walter Gray to the show, I think is now in its second season called Winning Time, which is the show about the Los Angeles Lakers, the basketball team, back when.

01:34:03:01 - 01:34:04:02
Joey
It looks amazing, the days.

01:34:04:02 - 01:34:32:03
Robbie
Of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson, that stuff. And it's honestly it's pretty heavy handed in the way in the that it looks but you can you yeah it's without its with considered thought because when you look at it right the look and feel of the color of the green everything actually matches up perfectly with wardrobe, makeup, set design.

01:34:32:08 - 01:34:58:10
Robbie
It's not like you had this modern clean looking story and production design that just had some grain and some mutilation and stuff slapped on top of it. It makes sense for the period 16 mill kind of look right? It will kind of look too, and make sense for the period, the concept, the story and those two things are not divorced straight.

01:34:58:12 - 01:35:24:20
Robbie
And to me, that's where I was trying to go back to like when I mentioned like, you know, doing a tech ad that's supposed to be super, super clean and whatever, right? Like, that's just not the place for that kind of thing. Right. And it's arguable like, you know, I see I see some shows, some films that I'm just clearly bothered by how much they tried to make it look like that.

01:35:24:22 - 01:35:42:04
Robbie
Right. To make Yes. The film like the film part of it almost becomes like a character now in certain situations. Think like Wes Anderson, for example. Right. It's just become the shtick. But everything about those is just off the charts. Like, what am I looking at?

01:35:42:08 - 01:35:44:03
Joey
Seasons of Halt and Catch Fire.

01:35:44:04 - 01:35:45:01
Robbie
Exactly right.

01:35:45:03 - 01:35:48:10
Joey
Which I love that it's very heavy handed, but I loved.

01:35:48:10 - 01:36:10:01
Robbie
It again, another thing where the story lines up to the way that the pictures are presented, we're I'm bothered about it is when something is getting clearly, clearly clean, storyline is modern, clean, and all of a sudden the whole thing looks like eight millimeter film. But we're supposed to be in 2023. Yeah, you know what can and it doesn't make sense, right?

01:36:10:03 - 01:36:40:02
Robbie
So I think I think that, you know, kind of, you know, choosing wisely, as Walter did and had that team for that show, it makes perfect sense. And I would say one last thing about this is that subtlety I have found is a loss art with a lot of this process. Right. In other words, you and you said this at the beginning, like adding a little bit of subtle grain can like, you know, change perceived sharpness about things.

01:36:40:02 - 01:37:05:18
Robbie
Right. That's a very subtle thing, right? You're talking about grain in that process that you have to really pixel people to kind of see. Right. And I think that subtlety in an RFP is something that a lot of people don't provide to it. They just go, I want 100% of this look and not taking the builder's approach that you that you have I've mentioned, you know.

01:37:05:20 - 01:37:32:12
Joey
Yeah. And I think the the other part of the equation that we haven't really talked about yet is the display. Yeah. Part of the equation, right. We've talked about manipulating the images, the sources, stuff like that. But now we're moving into an era where while film projection used to be the gold standard for, high fidelity display of an image, now it's not modern laser projectors for cinema.

01:37:32:17 - 01:37:59:08
Joey
Modern HDR TVs have a far better display capability of film projection. So how do you take these creative looks and bring them into that world? That's where it gets harder. That's where you mentioned winning time. That Walter Gray. That looks great in HDR. Yeah, right. There's no real like HDR film projection. There's no benchmark to compare. well, if this was an HDR film print, it would look like this.

01:37:59:08 - 01:38:24:19
Joey
That doesn't exist, right? So we're taking those creative aspects and putting them into a modern context and I think like you said in those situations, discretion is and subtlety is so important because people want to say, I've got the best film print look on this thing, but if you can't really notice it, if it's subtle, nobody's going to be like, well, I want I want to buy that.

01:38:24:22 - 01:38:44:12
Joey
But from you, right? So part of it goes into this inflation of selling looks that is just pointless in my head. But I want to bring up another example for people to just watch and critically look at creatively and just take in. And that is inverse of X work on Go.

01:38:44:15 - 01:38:46:00
Robbie
Dude, dude.

01:38:46:02 - 01:38:46:19
Joey
I think that is.

01:38:46:19 - 01:38:47:07
Robbie
Let's just.

01:38:47:07 - 01:38:55:12
Joey
Ask looking filmic, not film but filmic HDR grade I have ever.

01:38:55:14 - 01:38:56:07
Robbie
Much in.

01:38:56:13 - 01:39:00:11
Joey
All the right pieces in all the right places to make it work with the story.

01:39:00:13 - 01:39:18:02
Robbie
Honestly, this is so funny because we did not preplan this. I am literally because I couldn't remember the name of the show. I'm literally on IMDB right now and I search for Ian's name. I was like, What was the name of that show? Yeah, in fact, Glow, right? 2017 and 20 1930 episodes?

01:39:18:04 - 01:39:27:17
Joey
Absolutely. In my opinion, the best you can possibly do with this kind of creative style that we're talking about.

01:39:27:18 - 01:39:57:14
Robbie
Totally. And Ian Ian is, in my opinion, obviously a masterclass. He's one of the best out there, but his level of subtlety, like he did a show that I'm also looking here on IMDB, the old man, which I think was on Amazon and that was again, it had obviously shot on moderate modern cinema cameras, but took the builder approach to texture and look without hitting you over the head with it.

01:39:57:14 - 01:40:17:17
Robbie
Right. And I think that's the important thing about another friend of ours who I think does great work in this regard, Brian Singler, who does a lot of high end spot work, he brings a lot of that, that same kind of thing, right? Like I'm going to sprinkle this where it aids the look and feel of it, but not hit over the head with it.

01:40:17:18 - 01:40:37:17
Robbie
I think that's that's the thing about FP that a lot of people are trying to do and I think they do it poorly, is just, you know, to borrow the Spinal tap analogy, everything to 11 with a particular look. And it's just like, No, I think you could do much better at two or three right then 11 and just in sprinkle in.

01:40:37:19 - 01:40:46:06
Joey
And again that, that sprinkle approach of not taking it to 11 only can work with good photography, good lighting and good production design.

01:40:46:08 - 01:41:05:22
Robbie
What you said this earlier and maybe you didn't say this exact way, but I'll say it this way. Oftentimes the decision to go heavy handed is hiding something. Yeah, it's hiding mistakes. It's hiding problems. It's, you know, how many times have you sat with a client go, Well, we're just making it black and white. I think we're pretty good.

01:41:05:22 - 01:41:06:16
Joey
Yeah, perfect.

01:41:06:18 - 01:41:07:21
Robbie
I think, you know, we'll.

01:41:07:21 - 01:41:11:07
Joey
Fix the white balance right off, and it'll be art, you.

01:41:11:07 - 01:41:29:13
Robbie
Know? And I think that oftentimes is like, you know, when you're sitting there with the client, you're going, okay, what do I do? They're asking for something. They're asking for something, Ask for something. I know. Let's do a grainy 16 mil look. Right. And it's like and and, you know, so it is sometimes a little bit of a mask for sort of four problems.

01:41:29:16 - 01:41:51:09
Robbie
You know, the programs that we just spoke about, I got some good old man, same programs via the film and the shows that we were talking about. Those are great examples of a considered thought out. Well done. Put it in the right parts of the pipeline approach. Right, Which is wholly different than I think a lot of the general industry of just slap it on there.

01:41:51:11 - 01:42:11:08
Joey
And where are you putting in the pipeline matters so much because it impacts consistency, right? I want to bring up one example not to be completely self-serving, but it's one that I'm very familiar with, which was a feature that we finished about two years ago called called the The Road to Galena, right? Yeah. And that had a filmic kind of look.

01:42:11:10 - 01:42:45:03
Joey
You know, I sat with the director and the DP and we developed kind of a base transform from the camera raw through ACES, which is how I was called managing it to the display. And the film emulation aspect of it is just a node at the very end before the display transform arm that does some volumetric color stuff, does a tiny bit of tinting to the shadows and adjusts the contrast a little bit just to get those little volumetric color things that I personally associate with the film, things that I've seen that I like.

01:42:45:03 - 01:43:06:02
Joey
Like I said, those teal ish blues, kind of a little bit warmer highlights of everything. And by putting that at the end of the pipeline, it gave the entire film. No matter how I balance any particular scene, just there's little bit of consistency. But it was so subtle. Like if you go to any scene and turn that node on and off, you get a reasonable grade without the node on any of them, right?

01:43:06:02 - 01:43:33:14
Joey
They just don't, for example, have that same kind of feel. But it let us do scenes that were wildly different as they should be on a scene by scene basis. But still in this overall ecosystem of the film as a whole. And I think that's where film brain emulation can really be smartly used, right? It gives you a cohesive, creative anchor point for entire film or an entire show where you never seem to leave the world.

01:43:33:16 - 01:43:38:08
Joey
But different scenes can still be completely different environments. Yeah.

01:43:38:10 - 01:43:56:08
Robbie
All, all good stuff, man. This is, you know, this is surely a discussion that's not going to end our brief take on it. And I think it's also important to note that, you know, my feelings about this ebb and flow, as I'm sure yours do as well. Some, you know, some moments I'm all about grungy, dirty, you know, kind of filmy looks.

01:43:56:08 - 01:44:17:14
Robbie
Other times I'm all about clean, simple, you know, more digital looks. I think, you know, the thing that I've learned is just that it has to fit. It has to match the content, the look, the feel, what people are going for. And I, I just really strongly urge people not to use FP as a crutch to do something right.

01:44:17:14 - 01:44:38:23
Robbie
Like, you know, it can be used judiciously to sprinkle some of these aspects in these business logic things that we like granulation, you know, the print color, etc.. But I think where it's done wrong is when people hit you over the head with it. I think it really has to gel with the story has to gel with the overall creative direction to be done, Right.

01:44:39:01 - 01:44:56:22
Joey
Yeah. And with any of these kind of, I hate to say trendy looks, but in a lot of ways this is kind of trendy and has been for a while. You get into a rhythm, right? You start as a color, as an artist to like certain things and then you gravitate towards that on projects that may or may not be right for it.

01:44:56:22 - 01:45:14:07
Joey
You've got to break out of your comfort zone every so often and expand your horizons. And I'm guilty of that. Like I have gotten into rhythms where I'm like, this looks awesome, this looks awesome, this looks awesome. And they all kind of look the same, which in my head means they look awesome, but I'm probably closing my brain off to some possibilities creatively.

01:45:14:09 - 01:45:15:00
Joey
I had a I.

01:45:15:00 - 01:45:41:01
Robbie
Had a situation. I had a situation the other day. Just muscle memory habit. Again, that same pattern I was doing a spot for like a financial services company and like I grungy it all up and I looked at it. I was like, No, this is just not right. Like I don't need, you know, green and my black level, you know, 20% or whatever on the waveform here for this because this is not what it is, you know, so you're right, it's about matching up.

01:45:41:01 - 01:46:05:18
Robbie
So ongoing conversation probably never going to end. But at least our $0.02 on it in 2023. Some good stuff here. Thanks, Joey, for for your thoughts. And to everybody out there listening and watching, Thanks, as always for checking out the Offset podcast. Remember, we drop episodes twice a month, so our library is continually building up. Be sure to check out previous episodes on wherever you check out podcast.

01:46:05:19 - 01:46:19:10
Robbie
Remember, we're also on YouTube and then you can also drop by theoffsetpodcast.com if you want to come right to the site to listen to episodes, see show notes, stuff like that. So for the old offset podcast, I’m Robbie Carman

01:46:19:13 - 01:46:19:23
Joey
And I'm Joey D’Anna

01:46:20:01 - 01:46:22:19
Robbie
Yeah, thanks for listening and thanks for watching. See you next time


Robbie Carman
Robbie Carman

Robbie is the managing colorist and CEO of DC Color. A guitar aficionado who’s never met a piece of gear he didn’t like.

Joey D'Anna
Joey D'Anna

Joey is lead colorist and CTO of DC Color. When he’s not in the color suite you’ll usually find him with a wrench in hand working on one of his classic cars or bikes


Stella Yrigoyen - Editor
Stella Yrigoyen

Stella Yrigoyen is an Austin, TX-based video editor specializing in documentary filmmaking. With a B.S. in Radio-Television-Film from UT Austin and over 7 years of editing experience, Stella possesses an in-depth understanding of the post-production pipeline. In the past year, she worked on Austin PBS series like 'Taco Mafia' and 'Chasing the Tide,' served as a Production Assistant on 'Austin City Limits,' and contributed to various post-production roles on other creatively and technically demanding projects.


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