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October 2014
Issue: May 1, 2011

Review: Digital Film Tools PhotoCopy

By: Brady Betzel

PRODUCT: Digital Film Tools: PhotoCopy

WEBSITE: www.digitalfilmtools.com/photocopy/

PRICING: $195

- Visual representations of each preset

- Activation for multiple software platforms (After Effects/Media Composer) on the same computer

- Highly customizable treatments with the ability to easily add a vignette quickly

At some point we have all been in an edit bay when someone says something like, “My iPad can make any movie look like Gone With the Wind. Why can’t you make my project look like that?” 

After the initial groan of realizing that you are basically being asked to use a star wipe in your Apocalypse Now, you begin to tinker with the color correction tools and even secondary color correction tools to mimic the look of something that took hundreds of people and thousands of hours to create,  but can be created on the new iPad iMovie within minutes. After a half-hour of tinkering you come up with something halfway close that will pass the producer’s discerning vision, but still not quite what you personally deem acceptable. 

Here is where Digital Film Tools: PhotoCopy (for After Effects, Avid Media Composer and Final Cut) can save hours of frustration by emulating the looks that have made films like Titanic and King Kong sing. 

GETTING STARTED

Immediately upon installing the video/film or still image license of PhotoCopy, you will notice that the plug-in is installed on multiple software programs with a single activation. The still image version will run on Adobe’s Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom, as well as Apple Aperture. On the video/film side, it will run on Adobe After Effects and Apple Final Cut Pro and Avid editing systems.

The workstation I am using for PhotoCopy is an HP xw8400, dual Intel Xeon 3GHz, 4GB DDR2 memory, Nvidia Quadro FX 3500, 64-bit Windows 7, Adobe CS5 and Avid Media Composer 5.0.3. 

To test PhotoCopy on a newer flavor of video (H.264 QuickTime to be exact) to see where we are at, I brought out my Canon T2i DSLR with a 50mm lens and filmed :30 of 24p, 1920x1080 footage. I imported the footage into a 1920x1080, 24p After Effects CS5 comp. The outdoor footage looked great, but it would be nice to give it a color treatment without having to spend hours tweaking. 

In the “Effects & Presets” window, the PhotoCopy plug-in is located under Digital Film Tools. Once applied, PhotoCopy gives an immediate color treatment to the footage by clicking on Preset, then Load to load the pre-built effects. The Preset Browser is graphically identical between applications, which helps when switching between effects and editing applications, and not losing concentration between interfaces. There are five columns on the left, including: Movies, Paintings, Photographs, Processes and Custom to choose your treatment from. In addition, there is a dynamic search bar on the top, which is very handy if you know specifically what movie, process or photograph you want to mimic. Type in a movie, such as Lord of the Rings, and it will populate with any preset that contains the words “Lord of the Rings,” which may come up multiple times because there may be more than one look per movie. 

On the right-hand side is a frame from your composition that your timeline marker was last placed on before you clicked Load from the effect window. The frame shows the chosen effect applied to your footage very quickly and easily.

The organization of the PhotoCopy presets is very simple, yet a little opposite of what I am used to seeing in a pro effects/editing program. It categorizes the presets by Movie, Photograph or Painting title instead of color temperatures or colors. So if you are a cinephile, in addition to editor/visual effects creator, this plug-in will be very intuitive. Furthermore, each preset has a thumbnail image from the movie, painting, photograph or process located next to it. Under the Movies column the presets range from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. There are a total of 94 Academy Award-nominated films, 72 famous Painting presets, including Cèzanne’s The Bay from L’Estaque, as well as well-known Photograph presets that include Abbot James Joyce and Weston Nude — 40 photograph presets in total.

The Processes column is my favorite. It contains specific film and still processes used throughout multimedia’s developing history. Some examples include Ambrotype, Gum over Platinum Palladium and Polaroid Emulsion Lift. For someone like me who does not have an extensive toolkit of film exposure processes, PhotoCopy gives an unintended history lesson of media types and processes. The last column, Custom, allows you to save any favorite looks that you come up with.

In all applications, each preset has a high level of customization and ability to keyframe looks. The high level of customization allows for extensive refinement of the presets, including Color, Texture, Vignette and Match. The Match setting allows you to apply the same look that is applied to another clip or layer to the current one. Even adding a vignette is quick and painless.

FINAL THOUGHTS

PhotoCopy is a great plug-in that gives the editor, motion graphics artist or even the ambitious director the ability to quickly create and finely tune a look that mimics Academy Award-nominated movies. It’s especially useful in an edit session where a producer may not know the technical words for adding grain, brightness, color, saturation, etc., but does know that their favorite movie has the exact color treatment that they want on their movie or project.