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Film Grain v Digital Grain (Monochrome)

LennyBloke
Posted 21/04/2023 - 09:28 Link
There is often talk about film v digital and the different "look" that they produce - but I wonder how much of this down to our own nostalgic memories (certainly true in my case) and whether that "look" is actually achievable with Monochrome digital images?

The first part of the problem is that we have become accustomed to viewing our images on a screen, and these vary in definition, quality, tonal range, etc. but no matter how good a screen is, it is not the same as viewing a print (as we almost exclusively did back in the film days). But even if we produce Monochrome prints ourselves I doubt that many of us have a printer that is capable of producing anything like the tonal range of a photographic print.

I've diverted a little from the point I was raising - can we create an authentic film-grain look with digital - It would good to know your views and experiences of this. I've spent plenty of time trying to reduce the "grain" from my high ISO images (because I can?) but with this resurgence of interest in Monochrome in the Pentax world perhaps we could embrace that "look"?

If you would like to add some images to this thread it would be helpful. As a starter for ten here's a very ordinary kitchen shot (at iso6400) that I think shows something close to "film grain"....

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You'll need to view it large to see the "grain"
LennyBloke
Posted 21/04/2023 - 10:30 Link
Now this is going to be an interesting thread. Lenny's intro is well argued and clear. I'd been mulling over the same thing for the last week or so in the light of the K3iii mono announcement.

There'll be some who will go the K3iii mono route, others the software - both understandable. I'd looked at modifying my K3ii but that's a non-runner, (cost and technical issues.).
Be well, stay safe, but most of all, invest in memories
Benz3ne
Posted 21/04/2023 - 10:59 Link
Funnily, I don't mind a bit of grain. Digital noise can be a little harsh but I'm actually adding grain in lightroom to a lot of my pictures these days... It seems to take a clinical edge off things and suits the subjects I shoot (largely).
This is especially true for B&W images, funnily.
Flan
Posted 21/04/2023 - 23:19 Link
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This photo was taken at iso 800 and I had already PP it in B@W for my liking but after reading your thread LennyBloke, I decided to put this already Processed picture back into Rawtherapee and chose the Film simulation icon but it didn't do very much, as in to subtle to discern a difference, but directly below the Film simulation Icon there is a soft light Icon and it definitely had an impact on the tonal range.
Of course i do not understand the half of it but my eye is a keen. All three icons HSV, Film simulation and Soft light are directly below the B@W icon so obviously work in tandem.
Probably dosent quite look like film but just thought i would give it a go, hope others can show attempts for a film like look.
LennyBloke
Posted 22/04/2023 - 12:42 Link
Flan wrote:
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This photo was taken at iso 800 and I had already PP it in B@W for my liking but after reading your thread LennyBloke, I decided to put this already Processed picture back into Rawtherapee and chose the Film simulation icon but it didn't do very much, as in to subtle to discern a difference, but directly below the Film simulation Icon there is a soft light Icon and it definitely had an impact on the tonal range.
Of course i do not understand the half of it but my eye is a keen. All three icons HSV, Film simulation and Soft light are directly below the B@W icon so obviously work in tandem.
Probably dosent quite look like film but just thought i would give it a go, hope others can show attempts for a film like look.

IMO it's often the tonal range that is key to a really good black and white image - too many I see are overly contrasty and almost stark looking - your photo has a definite film quality look (to my eye ) - you haven't got the grainy look I was alluding to but to be honest this image probably wouldn't suit it, it's excellent as is
LennyBloke
Posted 22/04/2023 - 13:16 Link
Just had a quick play in RawTherapee using Flan's suggestion of "soft light" in RT. This example was taken on the KP and converted to B/W in RT, not the best but thought I would join in

1. In Soft Light setting;

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2. This one with with Tone Mapping enabled, which I thought would show a difference to soft, it sharpened it up a bit;

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3. This one again with no Tone Mapping.

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Posted 22/04/2023 - 16:42 Link
"If you would like to add some images to this thread it would be helpful. As a starter for ten here's a very ordinary kitchen shot (at iso6400) that I think shows something close to "film grain"...."

Here is a shot on the K1 and 24mm Sigma Super Wide II at ISO 5000, changed to B/W in RT using 'Soft Light', an evening shot BTW and handheld so the focus is not very sharp. A wet and rainy day here, that's my excuse

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in colour;

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Edited by loadoftripe: 22/04/2023 - 16:43
RobL
Posted 23/04/2023 - 08:46 Link
Afficionados will claim that as film grain is random and digital noise arises from a regular pattern of pixels they can never be the same. Unless, now here is an idea, a clean image is overlaid on a random texture like sand in Photoshop.
Lubbyman
Posted 23/04/2023 - 11:16 Link
RobL wrote:
Afficionados will claim that as film grain is random and digital noise arises from a regular pattern of pixels they can never be the same.

Hmmm... it depends on the distance scale you're looking at. Random noise on a regular lattice (technical term!) is still random at the distance scale of the lattice. If you can't visually resolve smaller distances than the separation between lattice points then film grain can be reproduced on a pixel lattice at the resolution that matters, any finer detail in the film is not seen so is not relevant.

Here's an interesting article on film grain link. Among the very techy stuff are a couple of conceptual points that seem relevant here:
- Film grain that we perceive is clusters of silver grains, not the grains themselves. So it's the size of the clusters that matters, not the size of the silver grains.
- Film grain is the product of the human eye and brain working in combination .... Thus, film grain is “perceived” property rather than an actual “particle.” It is, however, real visual phenomenon.
It seems to me that as long as the digital 'grain' is perceived to be the same as perceived film grain then it's job done, even though the way it's generated is different. After all, who complains that applying unsharp mask is not the real thing as it's just altering perception of sharpness rather than increasing 'real' sharpness?

Steve
LennyBloke
Posted 23/04/2023 - 17:36 Link
loadoftripe wrote:
Just had a quick play in RawTherapee using Flan's suggestion of "soft light" in RT. This example was taken on the KP and converted to B/W in RT, not the best but thought I would join in

This one with with Tone Mapping enabled, which I thought would show a difference to soft, it sharpened it up a bit;

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I think you can see an expanded tonal range in this one - I'm far from an expert on these sort of features/techniques, but it does seem to make a difference
LennyBloke
Posted 24/04/2023 - 16:03 Link
I have another taken with the K1 mkII and Sigma 24mm, converted to B/W in RT, using Soft Light and Tone mapping (which is probably incorrect) resulted in the pic below. I quite like the flare

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LennyBloke
Posted 25/04/2023 - 19:15 Link
loadoftripe wrote:
I have another taken with the K1 mkII and Sigma 24mm, converted to B/W in RT, using Soft Light and Tone mapping (which is probably incorrect) resulted in the pic below. I quite like the flare

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I'm good with the flare - I think you've lost a little of the deepest blacks and brighter whites, but like the composition
LennyBloke
womble
Posted 01/05/2023 - 21:44 Link
I use "Silver Efex 2" (the one that was free until it wasn't) for my BW conversions. Some of them are too heavy handed, some are pretty good. It has various film emulations and the ability to add grain. I've never really bothered to shoot digital and film side-by-side and compare.

As someone who shoots a lot of film but edits scans rather than darkroom prints, I must say that I do so because I enjoy using old manual gear rather than any particular adherence to a "film look". There are clearly differences between different stocks ("Let it snow" has a beautiful fine grain and a lovely range of tones, for example). Whenever I get approached by someone wanting to revive the long-dead argument about film v. digital, I smile and just say "I shoot film because I enjoy it. No other reason."

I've had the US Pentax Gnome with me for the last few weeks and I've been using the Q-S1. I'll use some film with him before he flies back to the US later in May. Why? Because I can.
Kris Lockyear
It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera… they are made with the eye, heart and head. Henri Cartier-Bresson
Lots of film bodies, a couple of digital ones, too many lenses (mainly older glass) and a Horseman LE 5x4.

My website
Flan
Posted 08/11/2023 - 17:30 Link
Resurrecting the thread LennyBloke
I saw a youtube vid about a software plug in named, Boris FX Optics.
It had loads of textured backgrounds and so on
But more importantly,It also contained loads of film overlays in which one can preview and choose from.
Looked very impressive.
johnriley
Posted 08/11/2023 - 22:45 Link
I've always enjoyed the look of grain, but sharp grain such as from Kodak Tri-X dveloped in an acutance developer. It's a bit of an art form in itself, with so many options of film and developer combinations, and then of course different dilutions and temperatures, all refining the look.

With digital, the effects can be simulated and Fuji in particular offer upfront various JPEG film settings. IR is a special case in that the film version is very grainy, but with digital we have the choice of adding noise or creating something new and having noise/grain free IR.

But IMHO noise can be used to advantage and a sharp, noisy picture is better than a mushy noise free one.
Best regards, John

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