Emulating the 35mm adapter look

HDV footage that was shot with a 35mm adapter just looks different and shallow focus is not to blame. I can’t pinpoint exactly what makes it look different (except the fact that the footage is less sharp because it’s recording through more glass), but it just looks different than video. Here’s an example below.

So I took the job today to color grade my stock 1080/60i footage and try to emulate a specific 35mm adapter/lens look that occurs on SOME footages (not all). JBQ hates how everything looks yellow, but I just love that look and so by using Sony Vegas and Magic Bullet Movie Looks I was able to come pretty close. I used the “Curahee” Magic Bullet template and then modified the saturation, gamma and gain pretty significantly. Here’s what I came up with:

Better quality .mp4 video file here.

However, there is no perfect solution of course for this kind of extreme grading. For example, you have to under-expose consistently during shooting in order to get a good result with this method during post processing. If you shoot your video with normal exposure, chances are that all the highlights will be blown out after applying the plugins.

As shot, straight out of the camera:

With Curahee at 50%:

With Curahee at 100% and Color Corrector’s saturation, gain and gamma:

(On the pictures above, Andy Kong and his sister are preparing to perform at Ukiah’s music festival last August).


Ivan wrote on November 5th, 2007 at 11:29 AM PST:

I think that the lenses used in this footage are photography lenses. I think they are coated differently than real cinematic lenses, hence the colouring. If you look into the 4 corners, you see a shading effect. This is because photography lenses were used instead of cinematic lenses.

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Eugenia wrote on November 5th, 2007 at 12:44 PM PST:

No, the photography lenses don’t have vignetting or different kind of colors. The reason is because the camcorder lens is recording through a screen that the 35mm adapter is projecting and this creates that look. While the look is technically incorrect, it looks good to my eyes.

Action Snapper wrote on November 8th, 2007 at 1:54 AM PST:

Wrong on two counts:

1) The don’t use mirrors, they use a ground glass focusing screen; other will also use prisms. But no mirrors.

2) The yellow cast is not caused by the adapter. I have made three with Nikon NIKKOR 50mm lenses and Canon EE-S screens and none of them has resulted in yellow-hued footage. If anything, the footage has been slightly lacking in yellow.

Maybe the footage you’ve seen has been colour correted?

One more point. The reason that the footage looks less sharp is because manual focus has to be used with these adapters. Most people are using the tiny camcorder to try to judge focus. But at such small sizes (2.5 – 3 inches) even out of focus footage will appear to be in focus. Simply, the camera has not been focussed correctly. Use a large external screen to help, and the footage will be pin sharp.

When you understand the modus operandi, you’ll understand why the footage appears as it does.

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Eugenia wrote on November 8th, 2007 at 11:59 AM PST:

1. I don’t care about the specifics. The point is, it’s like recording a TV image, another screen.

2. The yellow cast is there on pretty much ALL home-made adapters for the HV20. This doesn’t mean that all adapters have the problem. But the ones I have seen created at home by amateurs, for the HV20, they ALL have a yellow cast. And that’s what I was trying to emulate, not the general 35mm adapter. I even included a bloody sample original video to show what I am after. And no, it was not color corrected.

>The reason that the footage looks less sharp is because manual focus has to be used with these adapters.

Yes, we know.

Action Snapper wrote on November 8th, 2007 at 11:54 PM PST:

You’ve made a statement in your introduction that is factually incorrect: “the footage is less sharp because it’s recording through a mirror”. Yet now you claim that it’s less sharp because manual focus is used.

And you claim that all footage you have seen from BIY adapters has this yellow cast. Well, here are three samples from different DIY adpater that do NOT have the cast:


I’m surprised you don’t care about specifics. Specificas are important, Eugenia, very important. Your work must be pretty shoddy if you don’t care about specifics.

In this case you are just plain wrong. You should at least have the grace to admit this, but your pride and know-all attitude stands in the way.

If you are stating opinion as fact, please make that clear. Don’t mislead people, or dismiss those who point out yor mistakes.

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Eugenia wrote on November 9th, 2007 at 12:03 AM PST:

No, it is not necessary to know the specifics of exactly how an adapter works internally to shoot great footage. It’s the final cut that matters for the viewer, not how you got there. If it’s a mirror, or a screen, or a glass, or a hologram, it doesn’t really matter. The point is, the camera doesn’t record it “directly”. That’s all you need to know, and from that point on, you take your camera and you go shoot. That’s about it.

As for the yellow cast, the ones that *I* have seen for the HV20 from amateurs the last 4 months, do have the cast. The professionally made ones don’t seem to, or not as much. They just look different, and it’s not just the DOF.

>Yet now you claim that it’s less sharp because manual focus is used.

Maybe I was not clear, but when using manual focus doesn’t mean that the whole screen is not sharp. It’s just that parts of the screen are out of focus, on purpose, as an artistic choice. This does not mean that the actual sharpness ability of your gear goes down just because you use an adapter and a lens.

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