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Using FilmLab to convert negatives

Scanning is only the first step in film digitisation, negatives will have to be converted to positives. There are many software solutions available to do just that, though not all perform equally well. In this article series we will summarise some of the best software workflows. This is the second instalment in our series, we will be unpacking FilmLab, a standalone desktop and mobile device film conversion application created and maintained by Develop+Fix, a small software company based in Maine, USA. In our last article we looked at Negative Lab Pro, check it out here.

FilmLab started its journey as a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign created by Abe Fettig in 2020. Initially released as smart phone only application to view and convert negatives with a simply snap, FilmLab 2.2, released in late 2020, also delivered Windows and Mac desktop applications. Since then each new version has brought improvements. At this time the beta version for FilmLab 2.5 is available to try out. We will focus on this iteration, that includes crop and perspective correction as well as batch processing! This upgrade is a game changer and makes digitising film much quicker and more fun than ever.

You can download a free 14-day trial to try FilmLab for yourself! Once you are committed to buying this app, you can choose from their flexible pricing options, ranging from a monthly ($5.99) to annual ($49.99) or life time ($199.99) subscription.

FilmLab for iOS and Android allows you to digitise film negatives using only your phone, a light source and the film. It is a very quick and easy way to have a sneak peak at your images as your film is drying, make a proof or contact sheet and share snaps on socials. The iPhone version is the most powerful and can handle Raw image files as well as do batch conversions.

FilmLab 2.5 Beta Desktop application

You do not have to do image prep to convert with this software. You start by selecting the folder destination containing the files you want to convert. From there the process is fairly straight forward.

1. Select image(s)

2. Choose the appropriate conversion process

3. Ensure the correct input calibration is selected

FilmLab includes built-in support for almost all camera raw formats and calibration settings for most commercially available light sources, ensuring the optimal outcome given the tools you have on hand. Choose from the various options in the dropdown menu.

4. Crop your image

5. Make adjustments

Use the exposure and contrast sliders for black and white conversions and the exposure, contrast, yellow and magenta filter sliders for colour negative conversions. Note that these are designed to simulate exposure of a negative onto paper in the darkroom. It is quite clever and may be confusing to those who have not done any colour printing. Thankfully it is very straight forward to learn:

  • An increase in Exposure is like increasing the exposure time when you make an enlargement, the more you increase the time of exposure on the paper, the darker it gets.

  • The Contrast slider intuitively increases and decreases the contrast of the image

  • The Yellow and Magenta Filter sliders control the temperature and tint. The yellow-blue and magenta-green tone in the image can be controlled with these sliders respectively.

6. Export

It is as easy as that. Have a look at our blog to discover more tips on good conversion and scanning practices!

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