Filters for Removing Compression

Artifacts and Simulating a Film Look


Updated: 10/11/2008


Digital video can sometimes look harsh, overly sharp, and brassy compared to film. A number of optical and electronic (plug-in) filters are designed to counteract these problems.  These are especially applicable to consumer and prosumer cameras.

If your video has the characteristics in the left side of the chart below, you have two choices. The first (center column) are filter options that can be considered for basic correction. The third column adds to that and offers suggestions for a more obvious dramatic effect (overcompensation). Be sure to read the information directly below the table.

Unfiltered, Original Effect

Basic "Correction"

Clear   "Overcompensation"

Slightly harsh video

1/2 Soft/FX, or Warm Soft/FX are good choices for exteriors, or
1/4-1/2 Black Diffusion/FX

#2 Black Diffusion/FX
#2 Warm Soft/FX

Hard video, cool color

1/2 Black Diffusion/FX, or 1/4 Black Pro-Mist are good choice for interiors, also 1/4-1/2 Warm Pro-Mist

#1 Black Diffusion/FX
#2 Warm Soft/FX

Overly sharp, cool color

1/8 Warm Pro-Mist
1/4 Black Diffusion/FX, plus 812* filter

#1 Black Diffusion/FX +812*
#1 Warm Soft/FX
#1 Softnet
1/8 Double Fog (exterior scenes)

*812 is a color warming filter. The Warm Pro-Mist filters incorporate this. To keep from negating the effect of optical filters, white balance your camera with the filter off.

Note: Be careful with any filter that incorporates an etched or embedded pattern. At wide-angle lens settings, or when a lens is stopped down, these patterns can become visible. If this is an issue, try a Soft/FX filter as an alternative.

Any optical filter should be checked through testing, or with a good color monitor before use. Since most effects can't be undone in postproduction some people prefer post filtration.

Depending on the effect you want to create, and depending on the video equipment you are using, you can use these suggestions to do research on the manufacturer web sites (listed below) and see what gives you the effect you want to create.

If you find all this too time-consuming
to research and test, two good choices to try
are the 1/2 Black Diffusion/FX filter for interior work,
and a 1/2 Soft/FX for footage shot outside.

Although bordering on a special effect filter, Tiffen's Gold Diffusion/FX 1/2 is the favorite of some videographers, because it adds a three-dimensional look to both interior and exterior scenes. The filter also enhances skin tones and makes video from prosumer digital cameras resemble high-end video cameras.

Most of the optical filters listed above are available from Tiffen. Tiffen also has Dfx plug-in (post-production) filters that offer more than 1,000 effects.

Other filters, some with similar characteristics, are available from the following four manufacturers. You will often find recommendations for specific makes and models of video cameras.