Add visual interest to images and video with Tiffen Dfx 4 digital filters

Tiffen is renown for their physical filters and gels, but they also have a nice portfolio of digital products. I tested the complete Tiffen Dfx 4 digital filter suite for video and photo. The complete Dfx 4 package comes as a stand-alone app and plug-in for Adobe, Apple and Avid NLEs, and for Adobe’s image editing apps as well as Apple’s Aperture. It is the only plug-in package that replicates Tiffen optical filtering, Rosco and Gam gobos and gels, and now also hundreds of photographic film stocks. It is a quite complete toolkit for photographers and cinematographers alike.

I concentrated on the new features of Tiffen Dfx 4. These include OFX plug-in support for apps like DaVinci Resolve and Nuke, Sony Vegas and DaVinci Resolve Lite. Dfx 4 has 12 new filters: Borders, Cartoon, Colorize Gradient, Detail, Develop, Grunge, Harris Shutter, Pastel, Pearlescent, Radial Tint, Satin and Tone Adjust. It now has 93 historical film processes and 30 motion picture film stocks added as new presets within the film stocks filter.

Tiffen Dfx 4

More parameters and tools have been added to presets, including new tools for colour correction, tint enhancement and gradient control, all accessible from within a much improved interface with bigger previews and Mac Retina display support. Processing takes place in 32-bit floating point precision, which improves upon the ability to selectively access your image’s dynamic range without clipping values in a true non-destructive workflow.

A new edge-aware smoothing algorithm has been added to some filters for refined control and application and a new Curve Tool has been added for still programs, which is designed to control tonal range through RGB and individual red, green and blue curves.

Working with Tiffen Dfx in Photoshop CS6

In Photoshop CS6 the Tiffen Dfx 4 suite lives in the filter menu. When you select it, it will open the Tiffen Dfx 4 interface, which now looks really sharp. The effect groups are shown in a bottom row, the image effect layers in a left sidebar and the presets per effect group in the right hand sidebar. Also at right you’ll find a second tab to show the parameters.

Some effect groups host only one effect. In that case, Dfx 4 will take you straight to the parameter tab. Otherwise, you’ll be taken to the presets tab to first select a preset to your liking. All presets can be customised using the parameters. Most parameters come with two display settings: Output and Matte. This makes it easy to apply an effect to a restricted area.

Mattes are created with the mask button and will show up in the left sidebar next to the effect layer you’re working on. One of the cooler features of Tiffen Dfx 4 must be that you can paint a mask with Ezmask, which makes creating a mask a no-brainer.

The interface allows for easy stacking of effects, experimenting with different effects, turning them on and off, etc. One of the appeals of Tiffen Dfx 4 is its enormous number of filters and effects — if you can’t find an effect you’re looking for in this app, you won’t find it anywhere else, I’m sure.

The customisation of an effect is easy too, although I do have one mild grudge: in some parameters I think a colour wheel would be more efficient to work with than a slider. Nevertheless, it’s very easy to achieve just the look you want.

The effects themselves range from brilliant to gorgeous to subtle. Tiffen’s new film stocks are great and there are many of them. If you have Dfx 4, there’s no need to buy a separate film emulator. Some films, however, gave me strange results. Ektachrome 2, for example, generated a strong magenta look — I can’t believe any Ektachrome film would have had such a strong magenta haze, but most films look the way I expect them to look.

Other beautiful or special filters in my opinion are Colorize Gradient, Harris Shutter, Pearlescent, Radial Tint and Satin. The only time you’ll want another filter package is when you want to create lens-specific bokeh effects, because those are not part of Tiffen Dfx 4.

Working with Tiffen Dfx 4 in Final Cut Pro X

In NLEs like Final Cut Pro X, Premiere Pro and Media Composer Tiffen Dfx 4 is up against some powerful cinematographic plug-in developers like Red Giant Software, Crumplepop, GenArts and the like.

Tiffen Dfx 4

Nevertheless, even here the Dfx 4 offering is anything but skinny. First of all there’s the new ability to run Tiffen Dfx 4 inside OFX hosts like DaVinci Resolve and Nuke. But even inside Final Cut Pro X or Premiere Pro the plug-in offers enough unique effects to buy and use it, even if you’re already using Red Giant’s Universe or Magic Bullet Suite.

If you’re a user of any of these products already, there will be overlap with some Tiffen filters, but the ones the other developers do not offer make it worthwhile the cost.

The workflow inside a NLE is pretty much the same as with Photoshop CS6 if you choose to open the parameters in the Tiffen interface. However, in Final Cut Pro X for example, you can change all of the parameters right in the Inspector panel. You can even show the matte in that panel. This allows you to apply a filter and see its effects change in real time as you move the sliders.

This even worked on my mid-2011 iMac when playing the timeline while changing the parameters. The effects changed as I dragged the sliders.

Tiffen Dfx 4

Again, as with the still image filters, most of the effects are brilliant and allow for a high degree of customisation so you can create the look you’re after. Comparing the looks you can achieve with the Tiffen package to the ones you can get with Magic Bullet Suite 12, for example, is a difficult task as some effects look alike but aren’t identical. Which you prefer is then a matter of taste.

In one area I found Magic Bullet Suite 12 to be better than Tiffen: the colour grading module. In Tiffen Dfx 4 colour grading is done with the sliders and is less powerful, allowing for less granular control than Colorista III. In all other areas, including Looks 3, I found I could achieve about the same effects — bar some subtle differences — with either plug-in. Even the Red Giant Mojo effect can be achieved with the Tiffen filters, although it takes a couple stacked on top of each other to get there.

Conclusion

Tiffen Dfx 4 film/video plug-in is available for €440.50. One Dfx 4 video plug-in will run in After Effects and Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5, and Avid Editing Systems (64-bit), if installed and activated on the same machine.

Tiffen Dfx 4 photo plug-in is available today for €132.15. One Dfx 4 photo plug-in license will run in Photoshop/Photoshop Elements, Adobe Lightroom and Apple Aperture if installed and activated on same machine.

Given the multitude of effects, their unique character, the quality of the filters and the interface, and the customisation allowing you to achieve precisely the result you’re after, I can strongly recommend the Tiffen Dfx 4 filters.

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