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Digital Film Tools 55MM 3.0

Photographic and effects filters for Adobe Photoshop By Dave Nagel
We've reviewed a few of Digital Film Tools' plugins for Adobe Photoshop in the past, all of which have been solid examples of photographic effects filters. But the company's latest suite, 55MM 3.0, simply dwarfs all of them. It includes not only improved version of the filters in 55MM 2.0, but also several new ones, plus two plugins that were previously only available separately--Light! and Ozone--both of which were fine plugins in their own right.

55MM is a suite of 36 filters designed not just to create special effects, but to reproduce photographic techniques, photographic lens effects, lab processes and natural phenomena. The suite is available in two versions: one for Photoshop and compatible hosts and one for compositing and video editing systems, both of which support Mac OS 9, Mac OS X and Windows. Today we take a look at the version for Photoshop running on Mac OS X.

New in 3.0
Before we get started on the suite itself, I should give you a brief overview of what's new in the latest release. 55MM 3.0 includes a number of new features, including new plugins. We'll get to the specifics of the plugins below. But, in short, the new version adds Black Mist, Center Spot, Combined Grad, Cool Mist, Diffusion, Light!, Overexpose, Ozone, Selective Grad, Streaks and Warm Mist. You might recognize Light! and Ozone from our previous coverage. Both get some minor changes in the versions bundled with 55MM, but Light! also gets new support for 16-bit images, which was not supported in the previous release. All of the filters in 55MM 3.0, in fact, support images in 16-bit mode.

Aside from the new filters and 16-bit support, the collection gains several other improvements, including:

  • Blurs now have Horizontal and Vertical blur parameters.
  • Enhanced Glow Type parameters.
  • Warm/Cool parameter added.
  • HLS Highlights parameter added for controlling the amount of Highlight tinting in Tint parameter groups.
  • New Black and White parameter for the Infra Red and Night Vision plugins.
  • New algorithm for Selective Soft Focus.

It also includes support for Photoshop CS, the host used for this review.

The filters
The 36 plugins in 55MM can be classified into three primary categories: lighting/natural phenomena, photographic effects/lab processes and image correction/retouching, along with more general tools. With this many filters, I'm not going to be able to show you every one, so let's take a look at some of the highlights.

In general, all of the filters in the 55MM collection are extremely easy to use, but they also--in many cases--offer quite a bit of depth in terms of both image controls and functionality. They also offer fantastic results. The effects are high-quality and sometimes unique. But even when they're not unique, they consolidate functionality to cut production time to a fraction of what it would take you to produce the effects manually.

The Light! filter is a great example of this. We've actually shown you, in a tutorial, how to produce Light!'s basic effect--that of casting light onto a scene. But the manual process is not a quick one, and it lacks precision because you have to achieve the effect through trial and error. The Light! plugin, on the other hand, shows you your results as you're working and allows you to make adjustments that would simply be too prohibitive to pursue using only Photoshop's built-in tools.

Let's say, for example, that you have a picture of a couch and want to make it look as if light is being cast onto it from a nearby shuttered window. You launch Light! and select your shape from one of the many, many presets included with the software. (Or you can create your own.) This casts the light shape onto your object.

Then you're able to use blur and displacement to force the light to follow the contours of your object, so that it looks like you're actually working with something in three dimensions.

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