By Shane Hurlbut, ASC and Derek Johnson
Lance Maurer and his team at Cinnafilm developed the Dark Energy Suite, a revolutionary texture management system I used on Act of Valor, The Last 3 Minutes and The Ticket. It vaporizes compression, noise and artifacts from HD footage and adds textured film grain to it. This is how I was able to seamlessly cut film and the Canon 5D MkII together on Act of Valor. Killing the HD compression and using the same grain quality between the 5D and film was the recipe for success.
This was originally only available through a tower of power suite, but now this lightning in a bottle is more affordable via an Adobe After Effects plugin that supports footage up to 2048×2048 resolution. Dark Energy processes and neutralizes HD noise and compression and adds textured film grain to HD footage via two powerful modules: Anti Matter and Matter.
Dark Energy is your ally for better looking images and can be used a few different ways. It allows you to compensate for underexposed footage, HD noise and lousy codecs, improving your image and expanding the range for the colorist. After removing grain, the footage can be sharpened in Anti Matter. Then the footage can be colored prior to using the Matter module.
Dark Energy Matter puts a new esthetic power in your hands, the ability to add grain and texture catered to your specific story. You are able to dial in the amount of texture to your HD footage.
Using Anti Matter and Matter together, you are able to vaporize HD compression, add texture, and match the look of different cameras in your cut.
Here is an example from The Ticket using Dark Energy. (Click the images to view larger versions.)
Here is a quick overview for using Cinnafilm Anti-Matter plugin in Simple Mode so you can get an idea of how it works. We used screen shots from a great video tutorial that Cinnafilm has put together. There are also demo videos available on their website.
Cinnafilm offers a 30-day trial for Dark Energy here: http://darkenergyforaftereffects.com/. It is only available for PC at this time.
Simple Mode Example:
Use footage that is in its native form. The plugin has a Cineon Converter for Log files.
Making sure you are in Full Mode, start by dragging and dropping the effect onto your footage in After Effects. You will see three small profile boxes appear, color coded for each channel of RGB.
Working in the Spatial Mode is where most of the noise reduction will happen. You will use the Temporal and Sharpen settings as a refinement.
After you drop the filter on your footage, click Analyze and three profile boxes come up.
Each time the box moves, it will automatically give you a new noise profile. You can also view by channel only. Using the sliders on the left for each channel, adjust the filtering result and bring back details that may have gotten lost.
As you work on the image, it is a good habit to turn the fx box on/off so you can see the detail.
Once you are happy with the overall effect of the Spatial filter, you can turn on the Temporal and Sharpening modes and make additional refinements.
The key is to use the Spatial filters in a way that you are not losing too much detail when removing noise and balancing that with the Sharpening function to restore the details that are softened.
The final step is the Denoise Refinement. This helps bring back grain into your image. It is a mix of all of your refinements with the original image and helps retain the filmic look.
This texture device allows you to mix tons of formats. Shoot five or six different camera systems and monitor their compression. You can remove HD noise and tailor your compression, sharpness and texture each format to have them seamlessly cut together. The digital medium is looking too clean and is lacking the gauze of motion picture film. Use this powerful tool to take your imagery to the next level. Bring back the gauze and texture your footage to tell your story.
What is your experience with texturizing processes? Have you used Dark Energy?
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