Feb 21, 2012

Custom Filters and Video Filter Software

About a week ago I received this message:

Hi Luke,

I have been reading your blog daily as a result of my hobby of photography and video.  I am just a little older than you at 50 years old.  I have been off and on doing photography for a few years... My real question is how do you get that "old time" look to your videos.  When I watch them, I always seem to drift away and think I am watching films or home movies from the 50's or 60's.  I don't know how to explain the look I am seeing.  It is almost like a sepia or 8 mm look without the film scratches, etc.  Do you do post production filtering of some sorts?  I guess a better description would be, the videos remind me of early 50's documentary films with the dude with the tenor voice narrating...."Here we are at the Grand Canyon, Timmy can't seem to get enough of climbing rocks.  Even the donkeys join in"  I am sure you know what I am trying to say.  I use a Canon HF G10 HD camera for videos and love it.  My first video camera was a DVD mini disk, by Sony.  I still use it sometimes.  Anyways, enough of my ramblings.  Thanks for the videos and interesting read from your Blog.  Keep them coming. 


Don N.
St. Charles, Missouri

First things first, thanks for writing me the message, Don!  I always appreciate the feedback, and like I said when I first responded to you, your question seemed like a great topic for me to blog about and answer.

I've always been big on post-production filters and customizing them to create different looks.  As you noticed, vintage looks from the 50's on through the 80's have been a point of interest for me.  I actually wrote a post around a year ago (almost to the day as a matter of fact) about creating vintage filters that highlights some of my past experiments.  It's a good place to start if you want to get an idea of what some of these looks I'm talking about are.

I do all of my filters through either a combination of overlays created in Adobe Photoshop, or more recently, through the Magic Bullet Looks Builder as part of the Pinnacle and Avid Software that I edit with.  There are a wide array of presets to play with, and I've often used them as a jumping off point to create custom filters that best suit the look I'm after.

Another tool I use to build and customize filters is the proDAD VitaScene software (also available through upgraded packages with Pinnacle and Avid Studio).  What I love about this program is that it comes in handy for tinting your footage and it also gives you a lot of useful tools for text - like flares or glowing overlays for instance.

Creating filters that look fresh and professional is tough to achieve with presets though, so I almost never use them as is. Instead, I use the presets as templates to build upon. These programs make it easy to layer various filters, to adjust the aspects of each individual filter, and to manipulate your base footage all within small steps of one another.  It's really not a complicated process to play around with, but achieving the right balance for certain looks does take some fine tuning.

If you look at the edit I did for Backyard Bubbles, where I took some of my home video footage and gave it a vintage upgrade, you can see some of what I'm talking about. With this clip I applied very soft crushed edges to create more darkness in the corners, I upped the saturation, played down the contrast, and added a soft blur to take away some of the digital sharpness.  I remember there was a lot of tweaking to get the lighting correct, because it was easy to wash out or black out large portions of the footage.  And, just in case you're thinking I was using some fancy camera, this was shot on a $100 Flip Cam.

In short, pretty much every tool I use to edit video (both personally and professionally) is very affordable and easy to find.  The difference comes from experimenting and playing with what the options really are, and not just what they're presented as.  Digital video has made having a professional edit suite much simpler, and often professional looking results are possible with a less than professional budget.

I hope this helps - and presents some new challenges too!

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