doddleREVIEWS: FilmConvert – Color Grading and Film Look Tools

filmconvert-logoIf you’re looking for an affordable and easy way to get a terrific film look, from film stock to color and grain, FilmConvert is an ideal plug-in every editor should consider purchasing (and it supports quite a few popular NLEs). You simply drop the filter onto your footage, select your camera profile, how it was filmed, the film stock you’d like, and it’ll look great. But you can do some serious color grading in the Camera Controls, and still end up with a terrific film look for your project.

A Small Note

Years ago, when I would produce or direct a short or feature film, the cinematographer would usually handle color correction in camera, with custom profiles and a filter. Very little grading was done in post. The only digital cameras at the time (1999 – 2008 era) that could handle Raw were completely out of our price range, including the RED ONE.

Things have completely changed with the DSLR and cinema camera revolutions; you could get a true film look, wonderful lenses, a large sensor, Raw (and other great codecs), and much more, without spending $60,000. But with that came a need for better color grading tools, and FilmConvert really offers an affordable and powerful way to create the looks for your film or video project, without having to get a Master’s Degree in color grading.

Features

film-convert_nobodys-tomorrow
FilmConvert and Final Cut Pro X (Nobody’s Tomorrow, copyright MPS Digital Studios and David Michelinie)

FilmConvert is a color grading plug-in for Final Cut Pro X / 7, Adobe Premiere, DaVinci Resolve, and other popular NLEs and graphics / animation programs. It features several different film stocks you can use to truly emulate film, plus you can control how much grain your footage will have (6K scanned).

FilmConvert Color Controls
FilmConvert Color Controls

At the bare minimum, if you aren’t a color grading expert, you can drop the filter onto your footage, and then open Color Controls, and choose your Source Camera (Brand > Model > and how it was filmed, such as S-Log).

FilmConvert General Settings
FilmConvert General Settings

From there, you can select the film stock you prefer, the size (i.e., Super 35, 16mm, etc.), and use sliders to control the amount of Film Color, Curve, Grain, Exposure, Color Temperature, and Mix.

Choose a Film Stock
Choose a Film Stock

It’s pretty easy and powerful; my iMac and Final Cut Pro X handled the rendering easily, but your performance may vary. The results look terrific, and like we shot on 35mm film.

But if you want more power and control over your overall look, go back into the Color Controls, and you have the classic 3-wheel Color Corrector option. These include Shadows, Mids, and Highlights, plus a Saturation Slider and a Levels window with Histogram (Black, Mid, White).

FilmConvert offers something for editors, no matter their level of color grading expertise. In addition, you can also create and export 3D LUTs (look-up tables) you can use while filming.

Ease of Use

To test out FilmConvert, I used it to do some color grading and add more of a film look to my movie, Nobody’s Tomorrow. The short film, written by comic book legend David Michelinie (Iron Man, Venom), is the first film I’ve directed in 11 years, and I made sure I had a great cast and crew to help out.

My cinematographer, Michael Eldon Lobsinger (aka, MEL), was a student of mine many years ago, and has become a terrific filmmaker and teacher. He went with the Sony FS100 with a 24-70mm Canon lens and a MetaBones adapter to shoot the movie at 24p. This was because I didn’t mind shooting in 1080p, and the super 35 sensor in the camera, along with many great settings and features, was able to capture a terrific, film-like look.

Here’s what the footage looked like before I added FilmConvert, featuring stars Mary Stucchi and David Carleton:

Before (Nobody's Tomorrow, copyright MPS Digital Studios and David Michelinie)
Before (Nobody’s Tomorrow, copyright MPS Digital Studios and David Michelinie)

Not bad, but it needed a little something extra to get it to where MEL and I were happy. He suggested some plug-ins to use, but since my experience with color grading was limited (remember, most of the projects I’ve worked on had the look mostly set in-camera by the DP), I decided to use FilmConvert.

I dropped the filter on the above clip, then I clicked on the Color Controls button, and selected the camera (in this case, the Sony FS700 – it’s part of the Camera Profile I downloaded from FilmConvert’s website, SonyFS700 / FS100), and chose Still. If I wanted to, I could use the three wheels to manipulate the color more. But MEL had the look about 80 to 85% where we wanted it while filming, and we agreed on how it should look with FilmConvert.

Back in the primary settings in Final Cut Pro X, I played around with the different film stocks. While I was really drawn to the reverse color look (FJ Velv 100, Fuji), I chose the first setting, KD 5207 Vis3 (Kodak).

I then manipulated Exposure and Temperature, selected Super 35, and used the sliders to further control the Film Color, Curve and Grain. I kept the Mix at 100%, and then let FCP X and my beast of an iMac handle the rendering.

Here’s what it looks like now (and both MEL and I agreed this was what we wanted):

nobodys-tomorrow_after
After (Nobody’s Tomorrow, copyright MPS Digital Studios and David Michelinie)

I can probably use a mask and brighten Mary’s character a little bit more, but I think it looks terrific, and much more film-like. Again, I came close to using the reverse color film stock, a look I strove for in my first ever feature film, Skye Falling, filmed in 1999 on a Canon XL1 (I wish I had the budget for 16mm reverse color film). Where was this plug-in back then?!

If we had chosen a different camera and filmed in Raw, MEL and I would’ve done more heavy duty color grading within FilmConvert, and it has the controls to do so, as you can see (but note that I didn’t download all available camera profiles):

Camera Options (not all profiles downloaded)
Camera Profiles (Note: Not all camera profiles downloaded)

Supported Apps

FilmConvert is a plug-in for Final Cut Pro X / 7 and Motion; Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects; DaVinci Resolve, Magix Vegas Pro and Scratch (OFX); Avid Media Composer; and Adobe Photoshop (macOS only).

As a standalone app, it supports both macOS and windows. Check below for a full list of supported apps, including HitFilm, below.

Pricing

FilmConvert costs $149 for individual suites of applications, such as Final Cut Pro and Motion, Premiere Pro and After Effects, DaVinci Resolve, etc. But for $219, you can purchase a bundle license to use for all supported apps. This is a great deal, since you may cut in FCP X, but handle VFX in After Effects and color grade in DaVinci Resolve. No need to buy the plug-in multiple times for different systems.

Conclusion

The great thing about FilmConvert is once you drop it onto your footage, and adjust the settings to your camera, amount of grain, etc., you can more or less have a terrific film look. With the caveat that the look was captured while filming and just needs a little extra to create some appealing footage.

But it also comes with sophisticated controls to really dial in your look, giving you full power over the final image. It’s really terrific for those who are advanced, just starting out, or in the intermediate.

My movie had a nice film look to begin with, thanks to the talent of my cinematographer, the camera, and lighting. But FilmConvert really took it to another level, giving Nobody’s Tomorrow a true 35mm film look.

I highly recommend downloading the demo with a watermark and experiment with it on your footage. Test out the cameras, settings, etc. I did, and it proved to be a terrific plug-in. Check out FilmConvert.com for more info.

Full Technical Details and Supported Systems

macOS

  • Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 12 – 15
  • Blackmagic Design Fusion 7 – 9 Studio
  • HitFilm Pro 7 – 8
  • The Foundry Nuke 9
  • Assimilate Scratch 7 – 8

OSX 10.9.5 and above is required.

For OpenCL rendering a version 1.1 capable graphics card and runtime system are required.

For CUDA rendering (Resolve 12 only) a CUDA Compute Compatibility version 3.0 capable
graphics card is required.

Windows

  • Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 12 – 15
  • Blackmagic Design Fusion 7 – 9 Studio
  • HitFilm Pro 7 – 8
  • Sony Vegas Pro 12 -15
  • The Foundry Nuke 9
  • Assimilate Scratch 7 – 8

Windows 7 sp1 (64 bit) and up.

For OpenCL rendering a version 1.1 capable graphics card and runtime system are required.

For CUDA rendering (Resolve 12+ only) a CUDA Compute Compatibility version 3.0 capable
graphics card is required.

About Heath McKnight 16 Articles
Former Editor-in-Chief and Writer at doddleNEWS, from April 2012 to December 2017. Heath helped grow doddleNEWS into an industry-leading filmmaking news, reviews, and education site. He's been a news editor and writer for over 15 years, and a producer/director/editor in film and video for over 24 years. He's written for TopTenREVIEWS, Digital Media Net, Videomaker, MovieMaker, MacWorld, and other sites and magazines.

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