Film Stocks 1.5 full review

There are a large number of film stocks to choose from, but a lot are quite similar and there are few real ageing effects.

In most things you have to keep moving forwards just to stay in the same place. Here we have Film Stocks 1.5 being the case in point. A year after the original release, which ran into a brick wall from Alien Skin called Exposure 4, there’s an update to the plug-in from Digital Film Tools. Does it address all the shortcomings of the original release or add some newer effects to combat all the retro and vintage apps that have been released this year? Well, no, unfortunately for DFT, it doesn’t. What it does do is add OpenCL graphics acceleration so that when adjust the opacity of a layer, the effect is updated in real-time in the preview window. It isn’t smooth, but it’s better. There’s now 32-bit floating point precision for faster processing and the user interface is much higher resolution which those with Retina displays can enjoy. There are some bug fixes as well.

If you haven’t come across this package before, it aims to emulate chemical film stocks, split into black and white, lo-fi, cross processing, Polaroid, print, slide, faded, historical, colour lo-fi, lo-fi cross processing and motion picture film categories. Each category has a range of presets with thumbnails that give a preview of the effect using the image currently loaded. Simply click on a preset to load it and it then appears in the layers stack on the left. One of the strengths of Film Stocks is that multiple filter effects can be stacked and the opacity and blend mode of each can be set accordingly. There’s also a mask system with gradients, spots, a cut system or hand-painted. The layer system though is clumsy and could be implemented in a clearer fashion. To start with, the original image is presented as a layer, but then there’s a duplicate, current layer above it, even if nothing has been selected at that point which makes no sense. Once a filter has been selected, it takes effect on that current layer. If you add another layer, it appears as another duplicate layer and shows what the current state is, until you apply a filter to it, then it changes to that. It’s also fairly random in that sometimes it doesn’t recognise the control points or display the mask brush immediately and sometimes it does. Or, you can set the blend mode of the duplicate layer to say, Multiply, the image preview responds, then add a mask which by default blocks everything. The main image preview changes to show that there is a mask active. So far so good, but when you then paint on the mask to remove it, the thumbnail layer preview updates correctly but the main image sometimes doesn’t change at all. And sometimes it does. I also managed to crash the plug-in completely by brushing off the image.

Having found an effect you like, the various parameters of it can be tweaked so that it produces a result with better characteristics.

Back to the interface and the centre of the screen houses the preview image while above are various viewing options like having before and after version. You can also take snapshots to return to.

The key feature though is that there is access to how each preset works by clicking on the Parameters tab. These cover all the functions used to generate the various film effects from film response, colour temperature, sharpening, blur and grain. If you create something unusually with them you can save the settings yourself.

When rendering out the final concoction, again, this has been speeded up and now is very quick. That however, is one of the few plus points. The other is if you need a specific film simulation. The fact of the matter is that there have been a number of film stock and vintage apps released this year, and sure enough, Alien Skin’s Exposure 5 has just come out as well. While this isn’t in that league in either functionality or expense, it doesn’t even offer enough compared to the budget offerings either.

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