Tiffen Dfx v3 is a suite of filters and effects that is available for popular video and photo applications as a plug-in or a standalone application. Over the past few months, I have been using the software suite primarily in Premiere Pro CS5.5. However, I have also touched on the standalone app and as well as the After Effects and Lightroom plug-in integration.
As with any software or plug-in, understanding the capabilities of it is paramount to fully utilizing the application to meet the needs of your workflow. I don’t pretend to have an exhaustive understanding of all that’s within Tiffen Dfx 3 at this point; however, I have used it enough to realize where it meets many of my needs and makes life easier in post-production.
When I first dug into the effects tab of Premiere Pro after installing Tiffen Dfx 3 I was simply overwhelmed at the number of options. Still today, I’m impressed by all the options available; however, I’ve got a few things that I’ve really grown to love and use on a regular basis.
Tiffen Dfx 3 is broken down into several categories of effect (or filter) types with several effects/filters available inside each of these categories. The categories are Film Lab, HFX Diffusion, HFX Grads-Tints, Image, Lens, Light, and Special Effects.
Film Lab gives you access to effects like bleach bypass, cross processing, and several others. Inside of each of these individual effects there are several adjustable parameters that allow you to create a number of unique looks within each effect. HFX Diffusion gives you a number of different diffusion filters, many of which pull directly from the effect generated by Tiffen’s glass filters. Glimmerglass, HDTV F/X, and Pro-Mist are just a few of these. HFX Grads-Tints offer a ton of real world glass filter effects, along with numerous adjustments inside of each of the filter effects.
Under the Image category, you get access to some really unique effects that can be quite powerful when editing compressed or noisy video. For an all-inclusive plug-in set, it’s great to see filters for DeBlock, DeNoise, and DeBand available on top of everything else inside Dfx 3. While the software can only go so far to pull it back together before it turns into soft mush, these are nice tools to have on hand when footage needs just a little massaging.
I regularly shoot a multi-cam setup with the Sony FS100 and Canon 5D Mark II. While I’ve gotten the in-camera profiles pretty close, they still don’t match up perfectly. Since I’m generally in the same lighting setup with these two cameras, I built a pair of custom preset using the Tiffen Dfx 3 color correction adjustments (rather than the actual film presets) inside the Film Stocks filter. One preset is built for and applied to the 5D footage and one is for the FS100 footage. The color correction meets in the middle of the two camera profiles and gives me a nice starting point for any additional grading that I want to apply.
Of course, I can do this in other color correction tools within Premiere or After Effects; however, the fact that it’s easy to with the standard Premiere interface for Dfx 3 and that I have some serious fine tuning controls is a big boon for Dfx 3. It’s as easy to build presets with the Dfx 3 effects and filters as it is with any of the stock effects within Premiere Pro.
The other filter that I use most often in interview shoots is the Pro-Mist filter, which is based off of Tiffen’s real-world glass Pro-Mist filters. I likely wouldn’t shoot an interview with a Pro-Mist filter on my lens because once it’s there, there’s no going back. However, Dfx 3 allows you to adjust a plethora of parameters, including the brightness and blur (which are a little much by default), to accommodate your specific tastes. It doesn’t take much, but a little dash of the Pro-Mist filter can do wonders for smoothing out skin and is very useful on older subjects, as well as ladies with skin that may not be overly flattering in full HD closeups.
One of the things I really like about the Tiffen Dfx 3 filters is the quick access to all the filter types within the Premiere Pro Effects panel. Once applied, the sliders for adjustments are accessible in the same clip effects panel where the stock effects show up. There is no need to open up a clip in a third-party’s preview window and learn an entirely new interface for working with the effects (of course, you can – as I’ll get to in a moment). Not that that’s all bad; however, it’s very convenient to pull up a filter, apply it to a clip and immediate the effects on playback as you make further adjustments.
As noted, you can also go into Tiffen’s own interface for applying effects, and in some applications it is necessary if you want access to all of the controls. In Premiere and other apps, if you want to access Dfx 3’s built-in presets, you need to load Dfx 3’s interface.
In Premiere, you simply click the “Edit…” icon from with the applied effect panel of your clip. This loads up Dfx 3 and you get access to all of the presets for the selected effect. This is a quick way to grab a film stock and apply it to your footage. It’s relatively fast on my Core i7 MacBook.
The one thing that I don’t like about loading the Dfx 3 interface is the fact that it doesn’t show you the frame you were on when the plugin loads. It appears to default to the last frame of the currently selected clip.
This isn’t a huge deal, but it can be a real headache when you’re trying to base the look off of one particular moment. The simple workaround is to put a marker on the sequence and then trim the tail of the clip to the frame you want to use for reference. Then apply your settings inside Dfx 3. When you are back in Premiere, extend your footage back out to the previously-set sequence marker.
[Update: Tiffen says that it should load the current frame; however, I haven't been able to replicate that behavior. I'm looking into it further and will update this review with any additional developments.]
On the photo side of things, I see Dfx 3 useful when you want to push a given stylized look across several images. I used it mostly as a plug-in for Lightroom, and Dfx 3 seems to play nice with Lightroom and stacking edited versions with originals once the effects have been applied in Dfx 3.
Once inside Dfx 3, you have a ton of presets available and then several more tons of parameter adjustments to cope with. You can alter the blend modes of presets and custom effects, as well as the opacity.
If you are all about Lightroom presets, you may have a hard time bouncing files out to Dfx 3 and back. That said, Dfx 3 allows you to do some layering, textures and film stock simulations rather quickly and effectively. In my experience, it’s a quicker way to get stylized looks from Lightroom than bouncing images out to Photoshop and back.
Tiffen’s interface takes some getting used to; however, I found the more I used it, the more I liked it – aside from a couple of quirks noted above. It’s definitely an acquired taste, and some folks may not be able to buy into it.
All in all, I give the Tiffen Dfx 3 plug-in big thumbs up and high recommendation for video applications. As for the photo plug-in, I would encourage you to try before you buy to see whether the plug-in interface and effects are going to bring what you need to your workflow. I think it has a lot to offer for many photographers; however, I don’t necessarily think it will be something for everyone’s workflow.
You can see current pricing and download a free 15-day trial of the standalone, photo plug-in or video plug-in from Tiffen’s website.