CineGrain: A Film Grain ‘Plug-In’ In Your Pocket

A Video Review and Tutorial

What is Cinegrain?

Product Website:

If you want to add film grain or mimik certain types of film looks (Super 8mm, Silent Film, film flashes, lens flares) then the Cinegrain package of film footage may be right up your alley. It’s not a plug-in – but actual scanned film. Since it’s not a plug-in it’s very easy on the CPU. But – it is a little heavy on your wallet… which is why I dig in so deep and show several different ways of customizing the footage for your projects.

The Cinegrain package includes 1080p and 2k ProRes video clips ranging in length from a few frames (film splices) up to 45 seconds (film grain). Packages range from 50 clips to 400 clips clearly organized by category:

  • Film Grain: 35mm, 35mm Dirt Fixed, 16mm, 8mm
  • Dirt Scratches: Heavy dirt, light dirt, heavy scratches, light scratches
  • Heads & Tails: Leader, Tails, Countdowns, Title Cards
  • Optical Filters: Straw, Sunset, Grads, etc
  • Looks: Wookstock, Silent Film, Roswell, Full Gate with Keycode, etc
  • Flash Frames: Flash Frames, Light Leaks, Strobes, etc
  • Specialty Lens Flares: Telephoto, Wide Lens, Vintage, Rotating Lens, etc

A Plug-In In Your Pocket?

Yup. These are ProRes movies on a hard drive… a small hard drive that fits in your pocket.

And in the Tutorial section of this review I’ll be showing you how you can use this footage (in Final Cut 10 and DaVinci Resolve) to gain as much flexibility with this footage as most plug-ins… and with much quicker render times.

That’s why I call CineGrain, ‘A Plug-in In Your Pocket’; you can carry around with you, use it when you need and enjoy all the advantages of most film grain Plug-ins without the usual worrying if the plug-in is installed. Just hook up the drive, import your clips, and you’re good to go.

Using & Evaluating Cinegrain

I’ve recorded an extensive Video Review and Tutorial on Cinegrain. I’ll show you what they’re selling and then take you through how to use it in Final Cut 10 (using Overlay Modes and manipulating the Color Board to customize the ‘Look’ of the grain)… and then I’ll do the same thing in DaVinci Resolve (using the footage both with Composite Modes and as an External Key). At the end of the video I’ll let you know if I think this product is a good buy for the money.

Since this is a rather long Review / Tutorial, I’ve included a Chapter List (scroll down) in case you want to skip ahead to a specific section of this video.

If you enjoy this tutorial be sure to Sign Up for my free weekly color grading email newsletter, The Tao Colorist. I feature these types of tutorials plus tons of other color grading, industry and career news from all over the ‘Net. I curate the ‘best of the best’ and deliver it to your ‘virtual doorstep’ in time for your Sunday Morning Coffee.

Full Disclosure

The product I’m reviewing was sent to me – at no cost – by Cinegrain for the purposes of this review. Other than my original request for review I’ve had so subsequent contact with them and received no other renumeration or special considerations for creating this review. All opinions and mistakes are mine and mine alone.


The Video Review

Update: At 5:17 I state that the Dirt-Fixed 35mm footage is only available in the Professional package. This is incorrect. Many Dirt-Fixed clips are available in several of their packages.

Update 2: I’ve updated the video, watermarking the CineGrain footage. I expect to do a more graceful job of it in the future – but for now, understand that the big ol’ text and gray box behind it does NOT appear on the footage when you buy it!


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Table of Contents

Play along by downloading these elements:

  • Sign Up to Receive free Cinegrain Footage:

Start: Cinegrain: What Is It?

3:41 Types of Footage Provided by Cinegrain

5:17 The Different Packages Cinegrain Is Selling (Note: the Dirt Fixed versions of their 35mm grain is available in several packages besides the Professional Package)

6:22 Full Disclosure: Cinegrain sent me their footage at my request for this review

7:14 Download the Footage I'm using and follow along!

7:56 Cinegrain System Requirements

8:27 Begin: Using Cinegrain in FCPx

9:43 Prepping the Alexa Footage with Pomfort's 'Alexa Look2Video' FCPx Plug-in

10:52 Examing FCPx's Built-In '8mm' Effect

11:55 Plug-Ins vs Cinegrain

12:47 Cinegrain: How to Use It in FCPx

13:53 How to Customize 'The Look' of Cinegrain

16:39 FCPx Example #2 - 16mm_500T

18:46 Tinting Cinegrain using the FCPx Color Board

19:28 FCPx Example #3 - Heavy Dirt & Scratch

20:29 More on Manipulating Contrast & Color

21:08 Using Transforms on 'Heavy Dirt & Scratch'

21:58 FCPx Example #4 - Cinegrain's 'Looks'

23:25 FCPx Wrap Up

24:04 Using Cinegrain in DaVinci Resolve

24:18 Resolve: The Initial Grade

25:58 Begin Method 1: Using Resolve's Timeline

26:20 Adding Cinegrain to a Video Track

27:08 Customizing the Cinegrain Footage

28:36 Example #2: Woodstock Look

29:22 Begin Method 2: Using Cinegrain As An External Key

29:42 Setting up External Keys

30:53 Adding an External Key in the Node Tree

31:15 Doing an Overlay inside a Layer Node

35:26 Example #3: 35mm Grain as an External Key

35:58 Manipulating the External Key

37:06 Adjusting the 'Under Image'

37:50 Cinegrain In Resolve Wrap Up

38:04 How much is Cinegrain?

38:58 Sidebar: System Requirements

39:31 Cinegrain Licensing: The Not-So-Fine Print

40:43 Why Budget-Based Licensing Doesn't Work for Me

41:30 The Missing License

42:24 Final Recommendation

43:07 Goodbye & Visit the

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DaVinci Resolve 8.1.1 Lite – NOT!

The $995 Resolve Tax Is Gone

Around here on the Tao, it goes without saying that BlackMagic DaVinci Resolve ‘dot’ updates are usually much bigger than they sound. Today DaVinci Resolve has been incrementally updated from 8.1 to 8.1.1. For most companies, this is the kind of update you might consider skipping.

And at first blush I thought the same about Resolve 8.1.1. Three new features are released but none seem critical. One is significant price drop. The second is something you might have seen coming. The third new feature? It’s a biggie but not ground-breaking.

Or is it? I’m about to argue that for a large part of the post-production industry – from hobbyists to indie filmmakers to those delivering for Broadcast – the third new feature is very VERY significant.

In fact, as a friend Tweeted to me today:

BlackMagic isn’t content with disrupting the Color Grading industry with a $999 ‘Hollywood Quality’ color grading package. They are now intent on disrupting themselves.

But first, the (first) significant price drop…

The $500 ‘Avid Tax’ Is Gone

Starting with DaVinci Resolve 8.1.1, DNxHD is now included with every install of DaVinci Resolve and DaVinci Resolve Lite.

Yesterday – if you wanted Resolve to play DNxHD files or render out to DNxHD – you had to buy a $500 add-on that enabled this feature. If you talked to the BlackMagic team about this ‘Avid tax’, they said they were passing on the cost of the licensing – but only to those people who wanted DNxHD rather than imposing that $500 ‘tax’ on all the other people who didn’t need it.

Here's the Avid DNxHD product listing from B&H Photo's website

No longer. DNxHD is now a part of every install of DaVinci Resolve – paid and free.

Normally a $500 price drop would be huge news amongst those of us who value integration with Avid products but here’s that innocuous little feature that has big-time implications:

Resolve Lite: Two Nodes, and BEYOND

DaVinci Resolve Lite has added by subtracting – the two color correction node limit has been lifted. DaVinci Resolve Lite now supports unlimited nodes.

If you’re not familiar with Resolve, they’ve just lifted a major restriction. Previously, the  two nodes limitation prevented Lite users from adding three powerful ‘specialty’ nodes. One of the things these Specialty Nodes share in common: They require a minimum of 3 nodes in the node tree.

For example, here’s a node tree from one of the new ‘Looks’ that ship with Resolve 8.1.1 (if you’re keeping track, pre-built Looks is the third new feature):

'Technicolor' Power Grade: This 5-Node Grade would have been impossible with DaVinci Resolve Lite 8.1

Do you see that Node labelled ‘Parallel’?

In Resolve Lite 8.1 this specialty node (and two others like it) were off-limits. And the above 5-node color grading tree would have been impossible.

Resolve Lite 8.1.1 now not only makes possible this node tree – it now ships with Resolve and Resolve Lite as a pre-built Look.

This is really big news.

For existing Resolve user let me repeat: Not only is there no restriction on the number of nodes that Lite users can use, all the Specialty Nodes are enabled – resulting in a color-grading software package that is virtually identical to the paid version of the software.

Lite No More

Lest I put too fine a point on it:

For a large number of post-production professional there’s almost no reason to rush out and buy the fully paid version of DaVinci Resolve.

BlackMagic has disrupted itself.

Here’s my case why the free version of DaVinci Resolve should not be called ‘Lite’.

What Are DaVinci Resolve Lite’s Remaining Limitations?

  • Render to SD – and HD- Only – Resolve Lite limits the frame size of your renders to 1080p or smaller. You can grade 2K and 4K material. You just can’t have either a project size at or render out to 2K or 4K. Nor is image processing hobbled in any way, so feel free to do a Premium De-Bayer for your RED HD deliverable. But if you want Cinema sized renders – this limitation means you need to buy the full version.
  • Single GPU Card – Lite is still limited to using a single GPU card. If you’re going to buy an expansion chassis to run 2 or 3 instances of a graphics card (for more Real-Time functionality) – you need to buy the full version.
  • Single Red Rocket Card – Same limitation as above. For RED stereoscopic projects where you’d want two Red Rocket cards – you need to buy the full version.
  • No Stereo 3D features – If you need to grade a stereo project – you need to buy the full version
  • No Noise Reduction – Resolve Lite won’t enable this CUDA-only feature – even if you have a CUDA card.
  • No Multi-Resolve Features – Lite doesn’t support grading from a remote location or sharing a database on a server between multiple Resolves.

Lite? Says Who?

Looking at that list of limitations it strikes me that Resolve Lite isn’t Lite at all.

In fact – there isn’t a single restriction on Resolve Lite that would have kept me from working on a single job over the past two years. Let’s take another look, with commentary:

  • SD- and HD- Only– SD jobs have pretty much disappeared for me. It’s 100% HD… even for jobs that shoot at 2K or 4K! Right off the bat that tells you something about me – I don’t do Hollywood features. For the rest of you who are in my boat, HDCamSR at 1080p is about as ‘big’ a frame size we need… even if the client shot RED at 4K – which, as I said, Resolve Lite fully supports as a source.
    Here’s the kicker: If you DO need  2K / 4K deliverables you can grade at 1080p on DaVinci Resolve Lite, take that project to your local post house and have them render out the 4K deliverables – since DaVinci Resolve Lite projects and DaVinci Resolve Paid projects are fully interchangeable.
  • Single GPU Card – Multiple GPUs are essential for 2K and larger frame sizes. Especially if you need real-time playout at those frame sizes. But 1080p is well within the processing power of a single GPU. And if you’re working with RED material, grading with Proxies to overcome GPU deficiencies and maintain the frame rate is a well-worn workflow.
  • Single RED Rocket Card – See above. Even among RED users, I’d bet only a small percentage are running two Rockets.
  • Noise Reduction – At first blush you’d think this would be a necessary feature that you’d be willing to upgrade to the paid version. Except… most HD jobs have a much bigger problem than excessive noise – they need to eliminate macroblocking artifacts from compressed codecs. Noise Reduction doesn’t solve that problem at all (in fact, it often exaggerates macro-blocking). It turns out that those mostly likely to benefit from Resolve’s Noise Reduction are those who are working at 2k frames sizes with multiple GPUs running dual RED Rockets for Stereo workflows!

Do I need to take this any further?

DaVinci Resolve Lite Free

Are you’re starting to feel a tingle running up your leg? 😉 Do you see what I’m saying?

There is nothing Lite about DaVinci Resolve Lite 8.1.1.

It has the full color grading power of the paid version and it’s limitations are remarkably targeted and consistent as being important to a very specific subset of post-production professionals.

In fact (get ready for my completely self-serving plug) – if you were to download DaVinci Resolve Lite tonight and then sign up for the Tao of Color MasterClass training… there isn’t a single thing I’m doing in the training with paid version of DaVinci Resolve that you won’t be able to do with the DaVinci Resolve Free! And I’ve already recorded 15 hours of training on the Paid version having no idea this Free version was just around the corner.

One More Thing…

Apple Color’ists: No Excuses

I know a lot of my Apple Color brethren have been holding off on making the move to DaVinci Resolve. Now is the time to explore and Resolve Lite is the perfect vehicle. It’ll cost you nothing. And unless you need to render out beyond 1080p – you can use Resolve Free for paid gigs. No watermarks. No limitations. Just pick up a Decklink card and away you go… (conspiracy theorists: this just might explain why BlackMagic has released such a powerful tool at no cost)

Aspiring Colorists: No Excuses

Here it is. A nearly feature parity version of DaVinci Resolve that’s costs NOTHING to get started for HD projects. What are you waiting for? Start grading!


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DaVinci Resolve: New 3-Way Color Correction Interface


Resolve 8.0.1 just introduced this new mouse-driven 3-Way interface


If the lack of a 3-Way Color Correction interface has been holding you back from adopting DaVinci Resolve for Mac – BlackMagic has listened and given you what you’ve been asking for. Behold the new 3-Way Color Tab – released on July 22, 2011 for both Resolve and the free Resolve Lite (see my accompanying blog post about Resolve Lite).

This tab was designed specifically to free Resolve from needing a hardware colorist control surface (which cost between $1500US to $30,000US – depending on the model and manufacturer). It also frees BlackMagic from herding the hundreds of support calls they otherwise would have gotten if they released DaVinci Lite without this interface.

Frankly, I never recommended Resolve for mouse-based colorists – the enhancements offered by Resolve wouldn’t make up for being limited to RGB-only tweaks. And while the Curves interface could certainly fill the gap missing from the 3-Way Color Corrector – it’s a bit too ‘twitchy’ and not as refined as on the Avid Symphony to make curves your primary color balance control.


The Curves Interface in Resolve 8

Refined Controls for 3-Way Color Correction

Also added with this new interface are a bunch of modifier keys to make mouse-based grading more productive.

[UPDATE: Pages 247-248 of the Resolve User Guide that gets downloaded with the software explains all the modifier controls. As well as what the various controls actually do.]

New 3-way Primary tab

  • Hold the Shift key and move the balance to the cursor position immediately
  • Hold the Alt/Option key and drag horizontally to adjust the luminance while in the color wheel area
  • Hold the Cmd key and drag horizontally to adjust the master control
  • Double click on the color wheel area to reset the RGB balance
  • Use the wheel to control the master levels
  • Hold the option key and move the wheel to control the lum levels
  • You can also use the mouse scroll wheel (or two finger gestures on the trackpad) to control the master control wheel

Updated sliders for better mouse operation

  • Adjust using the middle mouse scroll for precision control
  • Click and type a number to set a specific value
  • Double click on the label to reset to default value


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FTC Disclosure
Tao of Color is part of the DaVinci Resolve Beta team but purchased Resolve at full retail price and has not received compensation, goods, or services from any 3rd Party mentioned in this post. We hope, one day, this might change. Affiliate links are used throughout this website, sometimes resulting in a commission on sales (which helps support but without raising the price you pay by one cent.



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DaVinci Resolve: The Free Version

Released: DaVinci Resolve Lite

Resolve's Node-Based Interface

BlackMagic has posted a Public Beta of DaVinci Resolve Lite: a free version of BlackMagic’s $999 DaVinci Resolvw for Mac. Here are the details from the Read Me:

DaVinci Resolve Lite includes all the same high quality processing of the full DaVinci Resolve. However it limits projects to HD resolutions or less, only two color correction nodes, a single processing GPU and a single RED rocket card. Stereoscopic 3D features, noise reduction, Power Mastering, remote grading, and sharing projects using an external database server are features only offered in the full DaVinci Resolve and so are not included in this free DaVinci Resolve Lite edition. Customers who want to eliminate these restrictions can purchase the full DaVinci Resolve Software for only US$995.

The removed features seem pretty reasonable. The 2-node restriction doesn’t allow for the more complicated Parallel, Key, and Mix nodes – which are ‘power user’ features. Yet it still supports a GPU + Red Rocket card.

BlackMagic has struck a nice balance between giving away a very powerful color grading solution but holding back enough key features that owners of the paid versions won’t complain too much.

The download can be found here. Select MacOS > DaVinci Resolve > DaVinci Resolve Lite then fill in your details to download this free app.

3-Way Color Subtab

Resolve 8.0.1 just introduced this new mouse-driven 3-Way interface

This Lite version is pretty big news but don’t lose sight of a brand new interface that makes this Lite version much more accessible to the people most likely to use it… mouse-only desktop colorists. That’s right, this new version of both Resolve for Mac and Resolve Lite now include a new 3-Way Color Panel. See my accompanying blog post about the new 3Way interface and the modifiers you can use with it to enhance your experience grading with a mouse on Resolve.

iMac and MacBookPro Support

One of the big features of version 8 is Open-GL support, allowing Resolve to run on non-Nvidia cards (except for the new Noise Reduction feature which is CUDA – only and requires one of the supported NVidia cards). This opens up DaVinci from being a tower-only app to also running on iMacs and MacBookPros. Due to the limited architectures of these machines, DaVinci describes the ideal workflows for these two particular configurations:

MacBook Pro

Ideal for ‘SD Grading and SD / HD Shot Preview’ suited for:

  • On-set, pre-grade, previewing and training
  • Real-time processing of SD DPX files
  • Apply shot by shot ‘look’ grades to HD images (for later grading in a MacPro or Linux workstation)
  • Supports internal SATA or SSD storage options (BlackMagic recommends the biggest internal SSD you can afford for the best performance)


Best for ‘SD or HD 720p Grading’ suited for:

  • Pre-grade, Previewing and Training
  • Realtime processing of 720p images
  • Preview, grade, render HD images
  • Internal SATA or SSD storage options (again, they recommend a big internal SSD for performance with FireWire, USB, or Internal SATA only for low resolution images if realtime performance is required)

Resolve & Lite: Supported Configurations

Lite may be free but it’s still powerful and requires a very modern Graphics Processing board in iMacs and MacBook Pros for it to work properly. Version 8 was re-written to support Open-GL – the programming language that Apple has embraced for it’s graphics cards. For MacBook Pros, here’s the relevant  requirements for optimal performance of Resolve and Resolve Lite:

The MacBook Pro contains two GPUs; one for high performance graphics and the other for better battery life. It is essential to enter the Energy Saver preferences, in the System Preferences of Mac OS X, and select the high performance graphics option. Failing to do so will render Resolve unusable. On the mid 2009 model, set the Graphics radio button to “Higher Performance”. On the mid 2010 and early 2011 models, disable the “Automatic graphics switching” checkbox.

At the time of its release (Late July 2011) here are the specific MacBook Pro Specs:

  • 17-inch, Mid 2009, 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo
  • 17-inch, Mid 2009, 3.06GHz Core 2 Duo
  • 17-inch, Mid 2010, 2.53GHz Intel Core i5
  • 17-inch, Mid 2010, 2.66GHz Intel Core i7
  • 17-inch, Early 2011, 2.2GHz Intel Core i7
  • 17-inch, Early 2011, 2.3GHz Intel Core i7
  • Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6.7
  • RAM: 8 GB

Also as of late July 2011, here are the specific iMac Specs:

  • 21.5-inch, Mid 2011, 2.5GHz Intel Core i5
  • 21.5-inch, Mid 2011, 2.7GHz Intel Core i5
  • 21.5-inch, Mid 2011, 2.8GHz Intel Core i7
  • 27-inch, Mid 2011, 2.7GHz Intel Core i5
  • 27-inch, Mid 2011, 3.1GHz Intel Core i5
  • 27-inch, Mid 2011, 3.4GHz Intel Core i7
  • Operating System: Mac OS X 10.6.7
  • RAM: 8 GB

What About Mac OS Lion?

According to an email I received from BlackMagic – Resolve 8.0.1 and Resolve Lite 8.0.1 Public Beta are both Lion-ready. Decklink users should update to the latest drivers, which are also Lion-ready. I myself haven’t had time to test it. I suggest running these configurations on a separate boot drive or partition to make sure everything is working properly before putting it into a production situation.



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FTC Disclosure
Tao of Color is part of the DaVinci Resolve Beta team but purchased Resolve at full retail price and has not received compensation, goods, or services from any 3rd Party mentioned in this post. We hope, one day, this might change. Affiliate links are used throughout this website, sometimes resulting in a commission on sales (which helps support but without raising the price you pay by one cent.

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