Why will shooting with a diffusion filter make such a big improvement in the visual quality of your footage? Why do some call it "instant filmlook" and "instant magic"? Why do we shoot with diffusion filters pretty much all the time?
There are several reasons. One is that video cameras have a built-in electronic edge sharpening process that is applied in realtime to lines of high luma and chroma contrast as you shoot.
35mm film is much higher resolution than video, and without this sharpening filter, video looks too "fuzzy" or "blurry"- exposing the natural low resolution of Standard Definition video. If your camcorder allows you to dial the "sharpness" down, try it- you probably won’t like it.
But this sharpening filter, though a necessary evil, is a "video giveaway"- the edge harshness it produces is a key characteristic of video and informs your audience subliminally that your project "wasn’t worth shooting on film".
Tiffen diffusion filters, like the Soft F/X 3 filter, cancel out the "harshness" while still maintaining the sharpness of the image. Wow! That’s magic! How does it do this? Well, Tiffen has been designing filters for broadcast and film for 65 years, and they’ve won numerous awards, and, well, maybe it is magic.
If you zoom in on fine detail with the Soft F/X 3 filter, like individual strands of hair, you see that the harsh "video edge" has been transformed into a smooth, beautiful image but maintaining sharp, crisp edges- still in perfect focus.
Facial wrinkles are softened, lights and windows take on a dreamy glow, whites, light areas and glints from metal, glass and jewelry "flare" or "bloom" outward subtly to produce a magical, captivating look that entrances your viewers, allowing you to better tell your story. Which is the goal of DV creation in the first place- to put your viewers in a captivated state where they are experiencing your story and not merely "watching your edit".
Except for video professionals, your viewers won’t be aware you shot with a filter- your footage will just look "beautiful" to them. People and objects will look much better than they do in real life.
Since Tiffen filters are used in practically every feature film, your viewers will "smell the popcorn"- associating your project with the big budgets of Hollywood and not amateur productions.
For years, shooting commercials in Portland, I got choice gigs because my footage looked better than other production companies- even though their cameras were much more expensive. My secret? The Tiffen Soft F/X 3 filter!
Another advantage of shooting with diffusion is that your footage will compress better for web and CD delivery- and even DVD, because compression codecs have trouble with sharp, harsh, high contrast edges.
Tiffen offers a range of filters. The number at the end indicates the "strength" of the filter- a 1/4 or 1/2 is the most subtle, a "5" is the strongest. But the numbers don’t really correlate between filter types- a ProMist 1 is stronger than a Soft F/X 3.
What filter should I buy?
– We think the ideal filter to start with is the Soft F/X 3 filter- a beautiful look for almost any project.
– For a very subtle effect, get the Soft F/X 1.
– If you want a subtle filmlook but without the magical, dreamy look, without the blooming from lights and whites, a very safe filter to shoot with all the time is the Black Diffusion FX 3. (Protects your lens also!)
– The Black Pro Mist 1 is similar to the Black Diffusion FX 3 but reduces contrast more- it will bring detail out of shadow areas, and help you avoid blown-out highlights.
– The Black Pro Mist 1/2 is even more subtle than the 1.
– An interesting diffusion filter is the Center Spot. This filter helps you somewhat simulate the shallow depth of field characteristics of 35mm film by maintaining perfect sharpness in the center area, while diffusing the periphery of the frame. In this way, detailed, busy, distracting backgrounds are softened, leading your viewer to focus on your subject, and thereby your story. Very trendy, very cool looking effect.
For more info on filters: http://dvcreators.net/tiffen-filters