Tiffen is renown for their physical filters and gels, but they also have a nice portfolio of digital products. I tested Tiffen Dfx digital filter suite for video and film. And I know this sounds like hyperbole, but it knocked my socks off.
I tested Tiffen Dfx v3 with Final Cut Pro X. I could also have tested it with Avid Media Composer. In Final Cut Pro X it appears in the Effects browser neatly organised in different categories. I first read the user guide and found out I was on familiar terrain: Tiffen Dfx has been developed by Digital Film Tools, and shares its interface with DFT’s other products.
I went through the whole list of effects and found a large range of digital versions of well-known Tiffen filters and gels. That was a nice surprise, although I think that if you can afford them, the physical products will outperform the digital ones. It will also require better skills at movie making. In Media Composer or Final Cut Pro X you can start over if an effect isn’t what you want it to be. If it’s been filmed, you can start over again, but it will not be as effortless.
The Tiffen Dfx plug-in is integrated with Final Cut Pro X, so you can control most of the effects from within FCP. However, in some cases you will prefer to control the settings from within the Dfx interface. Some effects have such long lists of parameters you can set, it’s better to set them in the Dfx interface — at least the initial settings. As with any effect in Final Cut Pro X, you can change the parameters over time using keyframes. These are obviously not available in the Tiffen interface.
Launching the Tiffen Dfx interface is done by clicking the Interface checkbox. If all goes well, the Dfx interface will launch.
Each new effect requires the Dfx interface to be launched all over again. I would like to have the Dfx interface to stay open and individual effects launched as windows, for example, because that speeds up the process. A bit like what Red Giant does with Magic Bullet Looks. But then again, the Tiffen product has too many filters for that to work.
You might be tempted to stay inside Final Cut Pro X and not launch the interface at all, but in many filters and effects you will miss out on presets and additional settings. An additional benefit of the Tiffen interface is that it automatically stretches across your entire screen (not full screen) so you can open the built-in histogram without losing screen real estate.
As I said, I tried a large number of filters and effects on short clips (under 30 seconds), just to see how they would work out. Presets are abundantly present when relevant. For example, the number of film stock presets is dazzling. On the other hand, I would have liked not just photo stocks but also film stock support.
Each effect can be customized. The interface is easy to use, with mainly sliders to drag. Some settings I found a bit difficult to see the changes of. For example, in many filters you can define a “Range”. When you select to see only the Selection from the View drop-down — you can see the Original, the Output and often other discrete areas as well — the viewport turns to a monochrome representation of the frame you selected in Final Cut Pro X. Sliding the Range will change the selection, but I keep forgetting that white is what the effect will be applied to and black where it is not… This is a problem you won’t have if you work on a more regular basis with the plug-in, of course.
By the way, the Tiffen Dfx plug-in comes with an excellent user guide that explains the interface in detail with parameters discussed for every effect.
The filters themselves range from unique and gorgeous over amazing to common. Most of them are not common at all, but those that are find themselves in the good company of big brand effects like Red Giant Software’s and Crumplepop’s.
My all time personal favourites are the Glimmerglass ones, the Gobo filter and the entire range of star and Neutral Density filters. If I could spend a whole afternoon with only one filter, I would definitely choose the Gobo filter. It allows you to create dramatic light effects, change the aspect ratio of the gobo any way you like, and integrate the effect in such a way that it is impossible to see it’s been done digitally.
If you ever buy only one set of filters/effects for your video/movie projects, then I would definitely consider Tiffen Dfx to be the one.