by: Mario Georgiou, October 2004, send
Film Tools, go
to the web site
plug-in compliant host application Windows 98/Me/2000
or XP; Pentium III or faster CPU
Film Tools is a company which specializes in creating practical
tools for digital imagers and Creatives. 55mm is a suite
of plug-ins which in essence replaces many of the typical
glass filters photographers are likely to use in their
day to day shooting and also many filters which are less
common but nonetheless nice to play with. The suite also
does a nice job of simulating several photographic processing
techniques and effects. So why use 55mm instead of glass
filters or chemical processes? The answer is really quite
simple: non-destructive editing. You can shoot your photo
with standard glass and then apply the effects you need
without permanently altering your source image.
are several filter types including glass and color filter
emulation, development techniques and processes, film grain,
mode conversion, correction, enhancement and light effects
filters. Glass and filter emulations include Centre Spot,
which creates a soft focus type effect around the centre
of your image. The Color Grad and ND Grad filters allow
for the definition of graduated effects which can be applied
to your images in a fashion similar to traditional graduated
glass filters. The beauty of these digital filters is that
they can be modified in an almost infinite number of combinations.
filter provides controls to soften images; its controls
also add a glow effect. Dual Tint allows you to apply and
define graduated tints to your images. This filter also
gives you a great deal of control over the appearance of
these tints. The filter could be improved somewhat with
the inclusion of a distribution control for starting and
midpoints in the tint, but otherwise is excellent.
is probably best left to the world of glass filters as
in the real world it allows you to remove stray light particles
and haze from your images. 55mm version of this popular
glass filter focuses on deepening skies in your photos
and it does this very well using a combination of graduated
tints and mattes. The Infrared filter is probably one of
my favorites as it does a pretty good job of emulating
an infrared look. It's far from accurate and only applies
the effect in black & white, but I still like it.
Gels filters comprise of four sets of predefined color
filters based upon the gels used in production studios.
The filters faithfully reproduce gels from the Calcolor,
Cinegels, Cinelux and Storaro Selections. The Sunset/Twilight
filter is fairly straightforward in that it allows you
to enhance your images using up to three definable tints
- great for colorful transitions and sunsets.
The Star filter is quite nicely implemented as it allows
you to apply an effect which is very similar to that produced
when placing a star filter on your camera. It creates highlights
in the brighter parts of your image and allows you expand
or brighten the effect as you see fit.
Filters designed around development techniques and processes
include Bleach Bypass which can create stunning high contrast
and saturated images, and Cross Processing which allows
you to emulate the effect created when you process slide
film using normal film processing or vice versa.
The correction and light effects-based filters found in
the 55mm collection are also a treat as they give you a
good deal of control over your images. Mist allows you
to generate a soft glow around the highlights in your image
and can additionally be used to reduce the overall contrast.
Black Mist is a more subtle application of the same effect.
Warm Mist kind of speaks for itself. The Color Conversion
filter uses a number of presets to tweak the color in your
image. You can also define your own custom values and like
many of the other filters, you can also apply gradations.
The Color Correct filter allows you control over a great
range of your images attributes. This filter place pretty
much every correction filter available in Photoshop in
one dialog. It facilitates easy editing without the need
to constantly change menus and dialogs. The Selective Color
Correct filter takes this further by allowing more control
over how and where your color corrections will be applied.
The Color Temperature filter allows you to correct an image
using degrees Kelvin, opacity and its highlights. It's
nice because it reflects very much how many photographers
would work in the real world.
filter does exactly what it implies. The defocus effect
can be applied selectively in both the horizontal
and vertical planes. The filter also allows control over
image bloom which will wash out an image in varying degrees
depending on your settings. The Enhancing filter will enhance
only the warmer colors (reds, browns & oranges) in
the image you've selected.
The Fluorescent filter will correct the greenish cast
most often found in photos taken under that kind of lighting.
Light! is an interesting filter as it allows you to use
light creatively. There are predefined libraries of shapes
to add shaped highlights similar to what would be cast
by window, doors and other openings. The only thing that
might improve this filter would be the ability to be able
to use EPS based shapes and a shear slider that can help
shape the windows to more accurately reflect the planes
upon which the light is cast.
Soft EFX allows you to soften selective parts of your
image while retaining detail in other parts, it is great
for removing small blemishes and wrinkles. The following
filters also speak for themselves: Fog, Glow, Grain, Low
Contrast, Matte Generator, Overexpose, Selective Saturation,
Streaks, Tint and Ultra Contrast.
The Black & White filter allows you to convert your
color images to black & white using a combination of
brightness, contrast and gamma. You can also selectively
make changes to red, green, blue, yellow and orange channels
in the image. This filter is my least favorite as it doesn't
really give a better conversion than what you can already
get using Photoshop's own features. Digital Film Tools
could improve it by adding the capability to emulate different
film types which would be in keeping with much of the philosophy
reflected in their other filters.
The Fast Blur filter is a very nice implementation. It
selectively blurs images in both the vertical and horizontal
planes. Faux Film attempts to emulate the look of film
by adding noise. It's not bad but there are other more
dedicated filter solutions for this function. F-Stop is
also quite cool as it emulates the effect of adjusting
the aperture on your camera's lens. I'm not sure about
the accuracy of the effects, but it's a very powerful filter
with many controls for modifying images.
The Lens Distortion filter does exactly what its name
says, correcting problems like barrel distortion and pin
cushioning. Night Vision is fairly straightforward as it
emulates the look of a night vision system, green hue and
all. Selective Soft Focus creates some great looking and
Use the Printer Points filter to tweak the RGB values
of an image individually or together. The shadows, midtones
and highlight areas can also be modified and controlled
with this filter. The adjustments are made using motion
picture laboratory printer points as the unit of measure.
The final filter I will mention is the Ozone filter. It
was the one filter that I felt was a bit of a challenge
to me as it is based upon Ansel Adams' highly technical
Zone System. I have done a fair amount of photography and
have read about the Zone System and from what I've seen
a lot of practice and work is required to truly understand
and use it. All I know is that I'm going to be playing
with this one for while and that I'm going to be looking
for a good text book on the zone system.
Cons: Some of the filters aren't exactly accurate in their
implementation, but much of this has to do with the physics
of photography rather than the filters themselves. The
interface could do with a few enhancements. Many of the
filters seem functionally repetitive.
Pros: Extremely powerful and easy to use. Highly configurable.
The functionally descriptive names for the filter make
the selection process easy when it comes to deciding on
which one to use.
I have thoroughly enjoyed playing with this plug-in suite
and although the filters won't necessarily replace every
glass filter available for your camera, they will save
you plenty of money. The simplicity of the interface belies
the suite's power because Digital Film Tools has taken
a different approach to UI design in that they are not
trying to dress up the functionality of their filters,
instead making them more accessible to the user. Most of
the filters are well thought out and easy to use. There
are many plug-ins which do their jobs very well and there
are several, such as the Polarization and Infrared filters,
which may be fun but a little difficult to take these too
seriously due to the difficulty of implementing the actual
physics involved in their glass equivalents. I highly recommend
Digital Film Tools 55mm for any photographer and user of
Photoshop who is looking for some great photographic filters
without having to carry a huge amount of glass around with
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