[A special contribution to Wide Lantern from filmmaker Benjamin Wong, now based in New York.  Ben’s also a photographer and writer.  We’ll  be going to Ben for his expertise in the ever-growing field of technology in the entertainment industry.]

A Swiss Army knife of filters, looks, and FX

Price: $599

I’ll be honest.  My expectations for the Tiffen DFX Video/Film Plug-in were pretty low.  Call me superficial, but the Tiffen software website looked a bit old-school compared to some of its competition.  On top of that, their marketing material listed so many filters, I didn’t really understand what their plug-in’s focus was.

Once I installed the plug-in (on a MacBook Pro running After Effects CS5), however, I was pleasantly surprised.  I had a chance to play with quite a few of the included 120 or so ( I lost count after a while) filters and this is what I found.

 

What is the Tiffen DFX Video/Film Plug-in, exactly?

I’d say its closest competitor is Magic Bullet Looks.  Like Looks, Tiffen DFX lets you tweak your footage in almost endless ways to create, ahem, different “looks.”

For example, you could make your footage look like it was shot on film stock, matching the grain, light quality, etc. of that film stock.

Or you could give it a blown out, hyper-intense Bourne Identity look, light streaks and all.

Or maybe on set you wanted to shoot something with a diffusion filter, but you didn’t have one that day.  “We’ll fix it in post,” said the director.  No problem – simply add the Diffusion filter in Tiffen DFX.  (What’s nice is that Tiffen emulates a lot of their real-life physical filters, like their Pro-Mist and Smoque filters.)

As far as the quality of looks compared to Magic Bullet Looks, it probably comes down to personal preference.  Tiffen DFX includes a ton of real-life film stock presets and digital filters that emulate their real-life physical Tiffen filter counterparts, which is nice.

 

So it’s just for creating “looks?”

Actually, Tiffen DFX includes a grab bag of random filters with some pretty cool features.  Some of them are corrective and some of them are just neat.

 

Noteworthy filters (IMHO, at least)

So in addition to the filters that create different looks, I found some pretty interesting FX filters, too:

 

Rays

This adds soft light rays to your scene.  I really liked the quality of the rays:

Before: I am a poor peasant

 

After: I am an angel

 

Ice Halos

I just thought this looked cool. Seems like the perfect FX for a car commercial or Swedish House Mafia’s next video.

Looks

Ironically, Tiffen DFX includes a filter called “Looks!” And like Magic Bullet Looks, you can select from a variety of preset looks.  However, you’ll a much broader range of looks if you dive into all the individual Tiffen DFX filters instead of just sticking to their Looks filter.

 

Day for Night

I could have really used this filter on a recent project.  I thought it did a pretty good job of emulating a dusk-ish look after some tweaking:

Key Light

This filter sounded too good to be true.

According to the website: Key Light relights images with a directional or point light. Changing the lighting after an image has been photographed gives the photographer/editor control to fix or enhance their images, as well as create interesting lighting effects.

Interesting. I tried re-lighting a couple different shots, and while the effect was interesting, I didn’t find it believable that the image looked like it was re-lit from another light source.  The example on their website looks pretty good, though, so maybe it just has to be the right type of footage.

But honestly, to create a 2D filter that completely changed the position of your key light of your footage in post, you would need some voodoo magic.

 

Match

This filter matches the overall quality of some footage to another. I didn’t get a chance to play with it too much but I could imagine it being useful on projects cut from a variety of different cameras and sources.

 

Color Shadow

This fun filter reminded me vaguely of some Chase (I think) commercials crossed with old music videos:

The interface

Once nice feature about the Tiffen DFX plug-in (in After Effects, at least) is that you can use the traditional set of plugin controls:

… or their full-window Tiffen DFX interface.  This interface usually includes a variety of presets, too, so it’s really a nice way to put a look together quickly:

The Agfa APX® 400 film stock preset was particularly lovely

 

The Tiffen DFX interface is similar to the Magic Bullet Looks interface.  There are some differences though, and ultimately Magic Bullet Looks seems more streamlined towards purely just creating looks.  If you’re debating between both products, the best thing to do is try their demos.  As of this writing Tiffen currently offers a 15-day demo on their Tiffen DFX plugin.

 

Performance

Performance was good.  I believe the plug-in was recently written for 64 bit, too.  You won’t get real-time 24fps performance like you would with a real-time color corrector like Davinci Resolve, but I found the performance average to better-than-average relative to comparable plugins (according to my scientifically accurate “it feels faster” gauge).

I also noticed all the filters have a “Force 16-bit processing” checkbox, which I believe will help keep the image quality high, especially when applying multiple filters.

Thankfully, I didn’t notice any hiccups or crashes while using the program.

 

Parting Thoughts

The Tiffen DFX 3 Video/Film Plug-in was truly a pleasant surprise.  It offers a tremendous number of high-quality filters to create an almost endless range of looks.  In addition, it features additional specialized filters that go beyond just creating “looks” that could be invaluable depending on your project.

It’s definitely worth a download to check out their demo and see if the Tiffen DFX 3 Video/Film Plug-in is a good fit for your toolkit.

 

— Benjamin Wong

benjaminwong.com

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