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Keith (M)

Grain2Pixel Review – A Photoshop Plugin for Converting Negatives

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Interesting review on the 35mmc website.

Today I am going to review a new piece of software, or rather a plugin to Adobe Photoshop called Grain2Pixel, which can convert scans of negative film into positive images. It can be downloaded from this website: www.grain2pixel.com.

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This looks very nice. But even more interesting is the motorised film holder for scanning that he's building. I scan using a BEOON and having to lift it, move the film (under glass) and then reposition is a major hassle. I've signed up for his mailing list in the hope that this might be "the one" that solves this problem.

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The downside for someone in my position is that it’s a photoshop plugin, cc2018 min. 
Negative Lab Pro sounds a better option.
 

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2 hours ago, Steve Ricoh said:

Negative Lab Pro sounds a better option.

It's still a plugin for Adobe. When one of these products is released as a stand-alone app I'll be interested.

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Thanks for posting this Keith, I'm always interested in new ways to scan film. A little bit too bad that there was no comparison with ColorPerfect which is what I use for my colour negs but still a very good article. The results looks terrific for a free plugin, though a slight bummer that, given that it is free, it doesn't work with non-subscription Photoshop versions. I'm personally on CS6 and have no plans to subscribe to Photoshop.

On 7/31/2020 at 1:59 PM, Keith (M) said:

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I also use ColorPerfect in Photoshop and it just kind of does what it's supposed to do fast and without fuss which makes it good enough. My guess is this free software is good if you do all your negative scanning by camera including the digital contact sheet, but I use an Epson V700 for that then just pick the best for a full camera (or scanner) scan so with a limited number I don't need any automation to invert the images. The 'non-destructive' part goes over my head, I'm old school and keep copies as I go along the path of post processing, the original full scan never gets altered.

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I was confused by the article - probably just read it too quickly - and first got the impression this was just a plugin for use with digital camera captures. In fact it works (and possibly is primarily intended for?) linear TIFF scans from scanners.

In any case, I'm gonna give it a try, as the comparisons looked great.

I'm just very bummed it's freeware, as this effectively kills all innovation and competition in the entire market for this type of software, and also risks the endeavor ending-up as abandonware after a couple of years.

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15 hours ago, plasticman said:

I was confused by the article - probably just read it too quickly - and first got the impression this was just a plugin for use with digital camera captures. In fact it works (and possibly is primarily intended for?) linear TIFF scans from scanners.

 

Why is it needed then, the average scanner can convert the image negative to positive and batch process anyway, no further processing required? The let down feature of Lightroom or Photoshop is they are poor at converting a negative into a positive (the 'invert image' function not to be confused with 'rotate image'), you either need more intelligent software to process your camera scans in which photographing a negative comes out as a negative, or you use a scanner and it's software that you can adjust according to film type and personal preferences before pressing the scan button.

I was also confused by the article, it started out sounding like a good idea but as more and more lard was spread on it started to sound more and more bloated. And I agree that 'freeware' doesn't instill confidence. 

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14 minutes ago, 250swb said:

Why is it needed then, the average scanner can convert the image negative to positive and batch process anyway, no further processing required? The let down feature of Lightroom or Photoshop is they are poor at converting a negative into a positive (the 'invert image' function not to be confused with 'rotate image'), you either need more intelligent software to process your camera scans in which photographing a negative comes out as a negative, or you use a scanner and it's software that you can adjust according to film type and personal preferences before pressing the scan button.

I was also confused by the article, it started out sounding like a good idea but as more and more lard was spread on it started to sound more and more bloated. And I agree that 'freeware' doesn't instill confidence. 

I've been using ColorPerfect for my scans (for the first couple years from Vuescan, and nowadays from Silverfast). I want the scanning software to output a neutral, 48bit linear scan, with no image-manipulation at all (ideally).

I like ColorPerfect - but it has its quirks. But most of all I'm worried about the future of that software also: which is dependent on just one developer (who seems to update less frequently these days)..

The best scenario for a freeware product, is that it's at least open-source. That way it's less likely to become abandonware. I don't even see the reason for a closed-source project that's also free? 

The developer says people can donate if they want to "to ensure future development" (or something like that). Donating isn't a solution though. Even if I give him a one-time donation of $25, there's no guarantee that even 1% of users would do the same - so the project would be infintely better charging $10 or $50 (or anything in between). 

As I said, freeware kills innovation in the entire area of color-inversion software. I guess the only way to introduce a new (better?) process now, is if a developer can produce a self-contained application, without the need for Lightroom or PhotoShop - but this is obviously MUCH more work.

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2 hours ago, 250swb said:

Why is it needed then, the average scanner can convert the image negative to positive and batch process anyway, no further processing required? The let down feature of Lightroom or Photoshop is they are poor at converting a negative into a positive (the 'invert image' function not to be confused with 'rotate image'), you either need more intelligent software to process your camera scans in which photographing a negative comes out as a negative, or you use a scanner and it's software that you can adjust according to film type and personal preferences before pressing the scan button.

I was also confused by the article, it started out sounding like a good idea but as more and more lard was spread on it started to sound more and more bloated. And I agree that 'freeware' doesn't instill confidence. 

Because the average scanner does not do a good job of inverting negatives and even if it does most of them have software so out of date that many film types are not supported.

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I agree, built-in film types rarely work. I think it's better to get as flat a scan as possible and then spend time to colour correct properly.

When I began using ColorPerfect I tried to arrive at good colour within that plugin, but I found it much too complex and unuserfriendly. So I switched to colour correcting all my TIFF scans, whether from Vuescan or from Flexcolor, in Adobe Camera Raw. I've tried various other things, including Photoshop, Flexcolor and Phocus, but nothing comes close to the simplicity and accuracy of ACR.

Incidentally, if one wants to skip using a plugin or other app to invert a colour negative and get a goodish starting point for further colour correction one can do the following in Photoshop: invert the image, open a Levels adjustment and then, for each channel, pull the sliders a bit further than the edges of the histogram. One can easily make a Photoshop action for this and then do the rest elsewhere. 

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Posted (edited)

I think if you like strong color and contrast, then this plugin produces pretty nice results with just a single click. But having done a (five-minute) informal comparison with the results I get from ColorPerfect, then I'll be sticking with CP for now.

btw - if you're not using a camera RAW file, then Mac users don't need to do the executable file-conversions that are in the installation video. 

ColorPerfect 2.25 is compatible with Catalina now at least - which was one of the things I was nervous about. I hadn't noticed it was updated for compatibility a few months ago. I still think it gives the best results of all conversion software, despite the unconventional interface.

Edited by plasticman

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What I find interesting is the statement on https://grain2pixel.com that Adobe Camera Raw does not work well with film scans. Perhaps it depends on the scanner one uses or the settings (such as whether one scans linear TIFF or not), but with the three I have and the workflow I have adopted (which is linear scans to be able to run the images through ColorPerfect) ACR works wonderfully well.

The second thing that I find difficult to accept is that it would be able to do good batch conversions of colour negative. In most situations that will not work because of the nature of colour negative film where the negative is an intermediate step before the final image (whether printed or positive on a screen). Because the light in each scene will differ a batch conversion won't be able to know what the light is supposed to be. The exception is of course if several frames have been shot in identical lighting, like in a studio setting. That said it can perhaps arrive at a good starting point for further colour correction but if so it begs the question why not just do proper colour correction straight off the bat. I am intrigued by this plugin and wish I could test it.

Actually the brief workflow I mentioned earlier will in many many situations be good enough for further corrections. If anyone is interested I can post a comparison between it and ColorPerfect later. I also made a Photoshop action to make it a one-click op.

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On 8/3/2020 at 10:36 AM, convexferret said:

Because the average scanner does not do a good job of inverting negatives and even if it does most of them have software so out of date that many film types are not supported.

Yeah, but you see a preview image that you can adjust with a scanner before you press 'scan'.

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12 hours ago, 250swb said:

Yeah, but you see a preview image that you can adjust with a scanner before you press 'scan'.

I don't know why we're having this discussion Steve? Surely the best workflow is capturing as much 'neutral' information as possible in a scan, without the scanning software intervening in the color-processing part at all (or as little as possible). And then using dedicated image-processing software to do the... well the image-processing part of the workflow. 

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