July 12, 2012, 12:36 pm
Around 2010, while preparing for a 31-city tour with Clay Blackmore and my business partner Jeff Medford, I discovered Tiffen Dfx post-production filters. To be honest, at first impression, I wasn't drawn to this system — I was pretty obsessed with Apple's Color, and doing color correction right inside Adobe Premiere.
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By Ross Hockrow
Editor’s Forward: Ross Hockrow, 26, began his illustrious career as a filmmaker in 2006. His productions include several television commercials and more than 50 music videos covering a wide range of artists and genres. Ross has also written ten screenplays, three of which have been made into feature films, and two others, which have been optioned by major film companies. In 2008, he wrote and directed his first feature film, the internationally acclaimed Detox, which was accepted to three film festivals and won Best Original Score at the Chasma Film Festival. In 2009, Ross directed his second feature film, Born Outside, and joined Clay Blackmore and Jeff Medford as editor and director of photography for the How To Photograph Everyone Tour, while simultaneously writing, directing, and filming his third film, A Happy Ending, which was shot entirely on Canon 5D Mk II and 7D cameras.
Ross is currently Owner/Filmmaker of CineStories, an innovative enterprise that brings together crews, cinematographers, and creative talent and works with a number of Fortune 500 companies, private vendors and high-end clientele on a wide variety of video productions. Here, in his own insightful words, are some of his adventures in the fascinating and challenging realm of post-production.
Around 2010, while preparing for a 31-city tour with Clay Blackmore and my business partner Jeff Medford, I discovered Tiffen Dfx post-production filters. To be honest, at first impression, I wasn't drawn to this system — I was pretty obsessed with Apple's Color, and doing color correction right inside Adobe Premiere. I'm not sure if I wasn't into the idea of changing my trusted workflow or was just too overwhelmed with the tour to really dig into the Dfx and learn it, but I downloaded it and didn't really use it all that much. However, I was intrigued with the ability to emulate a range of film stocks and there was one filter that I marked as a favorite — Faux Film. I was drawn to it because since the DSLR revolution we've gone so digital looking. As cinematic as the DSLRs are, they produce a very digital looking image. The Dfx “film look” filter added a little grain, made the whites whiter and the blacks blacker. It was the sort of contrast I was missing from a true video camera such as an HVX.
That kept Dfx in the back of my mind; however, I wasn't doing much production during the tour so there really weren't many situations coming up where I would need it.
Fast forward to 2011 for the Get In Motion tour. This is really when I started using Dfx. Final Cut X was eagerly anticipated at that time, and I was excited to see what it was even though I’m an Adobe user. I'm a huge fan of their color program as I mentioned above.
My first immersion of Dfx was using the filters to enhance clips after using the original Final Cut color program, to make them "funky" for lack of a better term. Once I dug into the Dfx program I realized that was just an added bonus; its true strength was in actual color correction. I started doing color correction using the Dfx plug-in with Premiere. I was sort of baffled at first at how easy it was. When I used Apple's Color, it was a ritual for me to blast the music, make a cup of coffee and color correct for hours. I really enjoyed it even though it took half a day for a 5-minute short film. But I was taking on a lot more work at that point and couldn't exactly spend that much time in color post-production. I finally got to the point where I was comfortable enough to color an entire project with Dfx. I made a cup of coffee, turned on the music, and 30 minutes later I was done. I lost my ritual but gained back a lot of time. Oh yeah, the results were the same. What I learned from this experience is that color correction is color correction — it doesn't really matter what program you use but how fast you can do it. Once I was able to optimize my clips with Dfx, I started branching out. There are a few tabs in Dfx that I'd never seen in any color program, the main one, which I think really makes Dfx unique, is the reflector tab. This lets you add a reflector to any scene. You control the color of the reflector, its position, and the strength. It’s kind of crazy how well it works and once I discovered it there hasn't been a shot where I haven't used it.
The more I dig into Dfx the more control possibilities I find, such as perspective and gels. These are two things we'd all love to control after the fact but they really haven’t been accessible until now.
When going into Apple's Color or Adobe's Speed Grade external color correction programs, you need to be sure of your edit because once the colored sequence is back in the editing program it becomes difficult to make changes to the clip. For example, after you've sent sequence from Color to Final Cut, you can't extend any clip on the timeline. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you want to make that last minute change that involves extending a clip, you'll know the pain. With Dfx, you have no worries because it all happens inside the native editing program.
Another point is that Dfx allows you to split screen while changing effects. This is very useful if you're trying to learn how to color correct. It can teach you certain aspects of the color correction process that may have you lost. Using Dfx and mastering it can be a great way to learn what some of the controls mean in these other external color programs such as Color and Speed Grade. These tools can all co-exist nicely if you know what you want and what all the controls mean.
A little short film about being addicted to Facebook:
A video birth announcement:
Dfx to the rescue: 5 great ways it saved the day
Here are a few more examples of what I’ve done with Dfx that include before and after screen shots of each:
Example 1: This is from the birth announcement. It's a master two shot, shooting into a window. This is very difficult because by nature we just like the look of telephoto lenses more. Because of the window, I've lost a lot of things including my true color. On the left (before), I'm a little washed out, the table doesn't have the detail I'd like it to have, the dark tones in the clothing don't have the definition I'm looking for, the wall is a little too green for my taste, and of course the skin tones are way too colorless to be anything resembling reality. To correct these defects, I used the Dfx color correction tool. It’s my most often used tool in the system and I use it on every single shot.
Most of the time I use it in a subtle way, just like normal color correction, but this time the original needed a lot more work. I started by turning down the blue in the highlights just a tad; then I increased the brightness of the overall image a little bit, and turned up the overall contrast of the shot quite a bit. However, the key ingredient was turning up the red quite substantially. Taking out the blue removes the cold feel of the shot, and adding the red gives it a warm feel, which is the emotion we were going for in the film. Color and emotion go hand in hand when it comes to film. The best part about this is that I achieved this look in about 45 seconds. No joke. It would have taken me a good half an hour in other programs but with Dfx, and my knowledge of color, it was quick and painless.
Example 2: This is pretty obvious. The after result is universes better than the original. Again, I used the color correction tool. I turned down the blue in the mid tones a good amount, but raised the blue level in the shadows. I added a tint of red in the highlights, but adding contrast really changed this shot a great deal as you can see. The key to color when you have an image that’s a little washed out is to raise the saturation a little bit to bring back some lost color. It took a minute to make this image look the way it does. At first glance you may think it’s okay as is, but when you start adding things too it, it's obvious that it needed work.
Example 3: This is the opening shot of the film, and as you can see from the before version, it's dark. The way the camera was hanging over a railing I couldn't see the screen. When I got it on the computer, I realized it was underexposed. Instead of just brightening up the shot, I used my favorite effect from Dfx, the reflector. The reflector is so great because you can control the color of the reflector (sliver/gold) and the position in which the light hits the image. Adding a reflector to this shot literally saved its life. How often do you get to shoot through a fan? In other words, I wasn't willing to sacrifice, and I didn’t have to.
Example 4: I thought this was a good example of a shot that couldn't be cut, looks like crap, and was saved by Dfx. The before images makes me kind of sick. It’s blue, groggy, and has zero depth, partly because of the location. There really is no background. The subject’s skin is as white as the background so there’s no separation. I added the color correction tool, turned up the red in the mid tones and the shadows, and now I have something acceptable. I would have had a big problem if I couldn't save this shot. This is an example of a shot that I knew would need work while I was shooting it, and Dfx made the process far less labor-intensive than it would have been otherwise.
Example 5: As soon as I saw this in the film, I said to myself, “I wish I had had someone standing to his right holding a silver reflector.” In Dfx, I made it happen. Don't just look at the fact it's brighter but look where the light is coming from.
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