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How to get that film look – with Shane Hurlbut

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Cinematography & Filmmaking

Film Look, filmstock, Shane Hurlbut

Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut shares tips on how to get the film look on digital (DSLR) cameras. We’re using Rocketstock Emulsion filmstocks.

When talking about ‘the film look’, there’re multiple steps we need to go through. It’s not just some look we can create with color grading. The organic look after the emulsion of film is something digital cameras can’t create yet. Some of the issues are the digital noise and overexposed areas.

Clean Video

The first thing you wanna do is making sure you get a clean image from your camera. This means: no in-camera adjustments, such as sharpness or noise reduction to the recorded clips. To disable these, you wanna go into the picture profiles of your camera, locate the neutral or other flat profile and turn all the settings down. Decrease the contrast, sharpness, noise reduction and saturation as much as possible.


Next comes the choice of lens. Newer lenses are often too sharp, which is a typical property of digital video. That’s why we’ll have a look at older lenses to adapt to our DSLR body. Such lenses can be found on Ebay or secondhand photography fairs.

Canon has their very populair FD series. With the right adapter, such as the metabones to can use these lenses with your Nikon, Canon or Sony DSLR. I have a collection of older Nikkor AI lenses, which fit directly onto my Nikon DSLR, or with the Nikon to MFT Metabones Speedbooster to my Lumix GH5.

Be careful when purchasing such lenses as they’re pretty old (seventies and eighties). You wanna avoid bad lenses that have fungus inside or scratches. That’s why I like to purchase them from fairs more likely, as I can physically hold and look at the lenses being sold.


By using older lenses and having the in-camera sharpness turned off, you will find your shots to look pretty soft. This is also the idea. It eliminates a lot of the digital noise and your bokeh is going to be gorgeous, just like film! So when adding the digital sharpness back in post, you wanna do this with the Unsharp Mask effect. This way we can add sharpness back to specific regions, like the subject, and stay off the beautiful out of focus parts.


After the color grading we can add the filmstock onto the clip as the last step. We’re using Rocketstock’s Emulsion, which is a complete pack of high quality clips, rendered in 4K proress quality. All these stocks where shot on big production studio cameras, so that means you’re adding REAL film grain to your video. It sets the quality of your film look to a whole new level.

Shane Hurlbut

We’d like to thank Shane Hurlbut for the very inspiring chat and great tips on using filmstock with digital video. You can follow Shane on his blog The HurlBlog or join his premium academy at Shane’s Inner Circle.

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