Dirty Looks – To Grain Or Not To Grain

June 8, 2016

Adding grain can help add a wonderful cinematic feel to a project but in the world of heavy compression is it a smart decision?


I recently had the displeasure of sorting out some major issues caused by adding grain to a project.

I love grain. I mean I LOVE grain!

For me as soon as the client requests a print style look I almost instinctively pull out my favouriteĀ film grain and never look back.

Unfortunately, one job went quite badly wrong because of this and it has made me rethink my need for grain on a project.

Member Content

Sorry... the rest of this content is for members only. You'll need to login or Join Now to continue (we hope you do!).

Need more information about our memberships? Click to learn more.

Membership options
Member Login

Are you using our app? For the best experience, please login using the app's launch screen


Homepage Forums Dirty Looks – To Grain Or Not To Grain

  • andi winter

    hi dan! i only use grain for cinema deliveries, and only if i can test it as dcp with the dop in a cinema i know. sometimes i am amazed how less grain is noticed in the cinema, other times the grain felt way too high and we skipped it for the final dcp. on web deliveries i tend not to use grain, because of the danger that some encoding step messes up the picture.

  • Dan Moran

    That seems like a great way to look at it! I think I may have been a little big headed / stubborn when delivering things like music videos. I love the way grain looks in the suite but a lot of the time the clients are delivering to Vimeo from the viewing copy I make instead of a high quality source. I think I should follow your mentality of grain for TV / Cinema and no grain for online

  • Robbie Carman

    For me its about the subtle texture that grain adds and not making it a central part of the overall look. In other words if grain is killed as part of compression for web or even NR that happens sometimes for broadcast deliverables I’m ok with that and were the grain stays alive I’m good with that too!

  • Dan Moran

    Totally agree. I think I may have been a tad aggressive with my grain. Very much using giant heavy grain to make it feel filmic rather than just enjoying the subtle differences it added.

  • vimeo/youtube need a post compression grain filter applied after compression. It really sucks that if you follow their guidelines and compression your own video they go ahead and recompress it for 1080 anyway, dropping the video quality greatly. I typically put the grain on the timeline level to easily switch it off.

  • Marc Wielage

    I had a situation a year or so ago where we had a flashback look on a feature that used grain, and then the rest of the feature (contemporary) had no grain. The clients were not happy when YouTube clips didn’t show much of a difference, since the compression eliminated about half of the look. I told them “once it leaves this room, it’s out of my hands.” It holds up on Blu-ray, but streaming is the Wild West for compression.

  • I also love the look, but it always get trashed when it goes online. I may adapt the no grain for online, grain for DCP and other HQ deliverables. That said, I think grain has a way of softening the image and adding a bit of slight movement that still stays even if the actual “grain” is lost in compression (Similar to the reasons when you use it in compositing).

Log in to reply.

1,000+ Tutorials to Explore

Get full access to our entire library of over 1,100+ color tutorials for an entire week!

Start Your Test Drive!