Cobalt Elite Film emulations
With our innovative approach, what we once believed to be an unattainable goal has now become a reality.
Exploring the Possibilities of Scientific Colour Emulation of Film Emulsion
In the past, we believed that achieving a proper scientific colour emulation of a film emulsion was an impossible feat. The market is filled with various options for “film emulation” presets and colour profiles. However, we found that most of these options lack the fidelity and the method required for proper scientific reproduction.
The never-ending variables, such as the set, the developing process, the scans, and the characterization process, make it challenging to keep everything in control. We have observed that many actors in the market make claims about their product’s quality, with tons of negatives in the pictures, fridges, and sometimes even white scrabs and plastic gloves to emphasize their approach to the task. However, when you see a colour checker of 24 patches or nothing about the colour workflow, it is usually just a marketing gimmick.
To achieve our goal of scientific colour emulation, we invested months in fixing the feasibility of the process while keeping our high standards intact to offer something comparable to a real calibrated scan from a roll.
Our primary objective was to find a proper target, rolls that were not badly expired, a certified light, someone expert with decades of film shootings, a specific lab to develop the film negatives, and a well-calibrated scan process just before our advanced process for any of our digital emulation. After months of hard work and dedication, we finally achieved our goal.
Target and Illuminant
It’s quite impossible to have a good colour calibration of a camera, in digital with a colour checker of 24 patches so you can imagine how impossible is the task to achieve a proper emulation of a complex film emulsion using the same small and limited sampler.
We started to think about the feasibility of this process when we found our target (below) with thousands of patches to get a proper reproduction of the Pointer Gamut. Using it in combination with the SG target offered us a good starting point.
Once, during months, we got the best possible rolls for the task and a properly certified illuminant for the set, we contacted one of the best Italian photographers, Roberto Quagli, as one of our past collaborators and as we know, the best for his long experience in film shootings.
Our second endeavour involved sourcing a suitable and certified illuminant for our targets. After much effort, we were successful in acquiring one. As can be seen on the right, the precision of the lighting is crucial to achieve accurate colour results
Development and scan
The development process plays a crucial role in the film processing industry, and we understand the significance of adhering to the best practices. We have meticulously followed the most viable approach for all our rolls, ensuring that both slides with E6 and negatives using the C41 process have been processed with utmost care and precision. Our team has collaborated with the best available lab, leaving no stone unturned to keep any possible variable under control. We believe that every detail matters and our commitment to excellence reflects in our development process.
As digital photographers, many of us are unaware of the true colours and signatures of film emulsions like Portra, Velvia, and PanF. Instead, we rely on the general taste advertised by preset producers, online reviews, and common videos. For those without experience with film, our only reference point is often memories of developed rolls and yellowed prints from old labs. Even online databases can be misleading, as they may show a famous film emulsion with a specific colour signature in one picture and the opposite in the next. This is because many photographers today are not familiar with the scanning process and its impact on colours.
At our studio, we use a colourimetric process during scanning to emphasize colour accuracy over sharpness, which is often the main concern. By doing so, we have successfully reproduced the original signature of film emulsions within a colour profile. However, we also kept the unbalanced version of our emulations to reflect the “memory” created by the habit of scanning slides and negatives without following a calibrated process. As you can see from the comparison of the GFX file and the original film on the right, they are so close that you can confidently mix digital and film in your next shooting.
Our Elite colour profiles
By selecting your preferred profile, you can expect precise emulation results. However, if necessary, you can make adjustments to the raw file while utilizing the Cobalt profile to ensure colour consistency even after extensive post-production editing. Both balanced and not-balanced versions of each colour profile are available.
The “raw” NotBalanced version preserves the essence of the real film, capturing its unique personality and imperfections, while avoiding significant damage caused by poor casting or development. The Balanced version is meticulously balanced along the neutral grey axis, catering to professional needs such as printing and extended shoots with challenging lighting setups. Although it may sacrifice some of its distinctive “personality,” this ensures consistent performance under varying shooting conditions. So the balanced version produces results similar to a development and scan process that follows a calibrated colour workflow, while the not-balanced version is akin to a product obtained through scanning at home or in a lab without white balance calibration, or for positive films, what you see when you put the slides on a projector.
In addition, we have incorporated the linear versions of each profile to provide users with greater flexibility for extended raw editing. By including the linear versions, we empower photographers and enthusiasts to have more control over their editing process, enabling them to fine-tune and customize their images according to their unique artistic vision. This enhancement gives users the freedom to explore and experiment with a wider range of editing possibilities, expanding the creative potential of our packs.