With its Dfx digital filtering software, Tiffen has stepped out of its role in optical filters and into digital film editing. Aimed at both still and video shooters of all skill levels, the Tiffen Dfx software suite aims to digitally simulate a variety of post-production techniques and, for the most part, succeeds.
While Tiffen offers its still-image manipulation tools as either a stand-alone piece of software or a set of plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop, the video editing capabilities of Dfx can only be utilized as plug-ins for a specific set of video editing applications, namely Avid, Final Cut Pro and Adobe's Premiere and After Effects. You can download all three versions from Tiffen's Web site for a 15-day free trial. You can also purchase a boxed version for an extra shipping and handling fee. For our tests, we downloaded the trial version of the plug-ins and installed them on a Mac Powerbook G4 running Final Cut Pro 6.0 on top of OS X 10.4.6.
The installation package required us to install several dubiously-named programs for no stated reason - we weren't sure what a Nalpeiron Daemon was, we didn't like how it sounded and the meager documentation was no help - but that will bother only security-conscious power-users. Otherwise, the install process went smoothly, and, after reboot, we found the plug-ins safely nestled in the Video Filters menu. They're sorted mostly logically by filter type and broken into categories like Gels, HFX Grads / Tints and Lens. Those familiar with Tiffen's optical lenses will see familiar names: Glimmerglass, Smoque and so on. You'll also find more conventional film lab processing filters like Bleach Bypass, a range of simulated lighting effects like Gold Reflector and some of those fun special effect filters everybody loves but almost nobody uses, like X-Ray or Nightvision. Finally, you can apply preset film grains and "looks," from 8mm to Old Photograph.
What The Filters Do
Applying the Dfx filters is as simple as applying any other video filter in Final Cut Pro. The integration is seamless. You can tweak and fine tune almost every aspect of a filter, from the color content to the saturation to the screen position to the intensity of the effect.
Tiffen has gone out of its way to let you do what you want with your footage. You can color-correct using the equivalent of traditional F-stop controls to affect brightness and saturation levels, or more precisely by controlling the color balance in the shadows, midtones and highlights of your video, or more generally by applying a lighting or tint filter to enhance or nullify certain colors. This approach to digital filters should be especially comfortable for users who started out in traditional film and cinematography techniques. Students of the digital age are used to specifying the size, color, opacity and response range of the simulated grain of their video in precise increments, but if you're accustomed to ordering your film pre-flashed and then asking the lab to do a skip-bleach process on it, that's exactly what you can have the Dfx filters do, using that exact terminology. We easily simulated any variety of tints and gels and diffusion filters. It was pretty straightforward to make our footage look like an old-fashioned Two-Strip Technicolor film, a high-contrast black-and-white early-video clip, a grainy, unbleached Saving-Private-Ryan-style movie and a (deliberately) awful Vaseline-smeared-star-filter 1970s made-for-TV melodrama. It's worth noting that we encountered no technical problems amidst all of this fiddling, though rendering times were understandably slightly higher than they are for un-filtered video.
The Price of Power
All this fun flexibility comes with a price: Unless you know what you're doing and what effect you're looking for, it's easy to get lost in the options and controls, and sooner or later you will have to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with the technical adjustments. Tiffen markets Dfx to amateurs as well as pros, but the technical knowledge to justify the $599 price tag is probably greater than a rank amateur possesses, and the product is best suited to someone with at least intermediate videography skills.
For the right person, however, Dfx offers a powerful and subtle set of technically sound filters that are significantly more flexible and cost-effective than the optical and chemical processes they emulate. While some filters are better suited to still images, the rest could be valuable to the videographer doing a substantial amount of digital post-processing work.
Windows XP Pro, XP Home, or Vista, 1.0 GH Pentium III, Pentium or AMD processor, 1 GB of RAM (2 GB or more recommended), 1 GB of available disk space for caching and temporary files, open-GL capable graphics card, display with 1024 x 768 resolution or higher, (1280 x 1024 resolution recommended), three-button mouse
Mac OSX 10.4 and above, Macintosh 1.0 GHz processor or faster, PowerPC G4, G5, or Intel processor, 1 GB of RAM (2 GB or more recommended), 1 GB of available disk space for caching and temporary files, Display with 1024 x 768 resolution or higher (1280 x 1024 resolution recommended), Three-button mouse (though we managed just fine with one button)
Adobe After Effects 7.0 and above
Adobe After Effects compatible plug-in applications
Adobe Premiere Pro 2 and above
Autodesk Combustion 4
Avid Symphony, Media Composer, Adrenaline, Nitris, MCXpress 1.5 (Win)
Avid Xpress 2.0, DV, Pro (Win)
Avid Media Composer Systems running on Mac OSX 10.4.6 and above
Avid Xpress Pro Systems running on Mac OSX 10.4.6 and above
Avid DS (32 bit systems)
Apple Final Cut Pro 6 and above
- Capable of simulating a wide variety of traditional effects
- Highly precise levels of control
- Accessible to both digital video and film veterans
- Not suited for beginners
- Unimpressive documentation and product support
- Hefty price tag includes many filters that will likely never get used
A powerful and versatile set of digital video filters that require a knowledgeable operator to use them to their full potential.
The Tiffen Company
90 Oser Avenue
Hauppauge, NY 11788
$600 for download of plug-in set, 15-day free trial available