The Colorful and Crazy World of Creative Effects Film

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A new trend has been quietly building in the film world, a trend that is polarizing, exciting, and fresh. But mainly, it’s a trend that is drawing more people to film photography, and that’s always a good thing. What we’re dubbing “creative effects film” is a unique sub-genre of film that has maybe been pre-exposed to light for color light-leak effects, or maybe it’s been pre-exposed to include small drawings on every frame, or maybe it’s just false color film of some kind, which provides a surreal aesthetic. It’s a hard category to pin down by nature, due to its unabashed disregard for the tenets of straight photography. I guess you could call it the punk rock of the film world, or maybe it’s free jazz in all of its abstract glory. Whichever analogy you choose, let’s take a closer look at some of these creative effects films.

Lomography

I’ll start with Lomography, since it’s a somewhat unique case with this class of film, but also because it’s one of the elder statesmen and inspirations of this whole sub-genre. Lomography helped to pioneer this lo-fi, creative, colorful, grainy, and punchy look that has become so—dare I say—trendy for quite some time. Distinct among other creative effects films, Lomo’s films here are not pre-exposed, instead relying on other tactics to achieve their effects. Much like this maker’s cameras themselves, Lomography’s creative effects films have an acquired taste of false colors and surreal effects.

LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400, as its name would suggest, gives an overall purplish hue to photos along with some other false colors reminiscent of how color infrared film looks (e.g. pink foliage and deep teal skies). Lomography writes “Blue becomes green, green becomes purple, yellow becomes pink. Red tones stay red, which keeps skin colors natural in a sea of trippy tones,” and it’s also worth mentioning the variable film speed of 100-400, which can be used to affect color response, where overexposure lends a richer and warmer tone. LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400 also has the distinction of being available in the 120 format, as well as in a 35mm disposable camera format, which features a built-in flash with integrated colored gels for even more crazy colors.

Lomography LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400 Color Negative Film
Lomography LomoChrome Purple XR 100-400 Color Negative Film

Lomo’s other creative effects film is Redscale XR 50-200 (called Lobster Redscale for the small 110 format) which is a pre-loaded color negative film for producing a redscale effect. Redscale is a technique where you are essentially shooting through the base of the film, and exposing the color layers in reverse order, which imparts an overwhelmingly warm, red tone. This effect is possible with any color film, but Lomo’s option is the simplest, since you won’t need to re-spool your film.

Lomography 35mm Redscale XR 50-200 Color Negative Film
Lomography 35mm Redscale XR 50-200 Color Negative Film

Unique Films

For the rest of the article, we’ll be focusing on films that have been “effected” in some way, usually by hand, prior to being re-rolled into a cassette and delivered to you. Including different ways of pre-exposing the film, and resulting in washes of color or detailed designs on the film, these effects all share the quality of being entirely unique. This adds an element of uncertainty and surprise to your shots, because you have no way of knowing exactly how the effect is going to appear in the final image. These films promote fun and experimentation with film photography; they force you to lighten up a bit for the images to be seen as a success. They reward an open mind and a willingness to try new things.

Revolog is one of the most prolific makers of film of this new ilk, with 12 different films available.

  • 460nm and 600nm both have even, monochromatic color effects that offer overall false color tints, either blue/violet or yellow/green for 460nm and red or blue-green for 600nm.
  • Kolor, described as “everyone’s favorite film,” adds a smooth rainbow of colors over the entire frame in flowing gradients encompassing red, blue, orange, green, pink, turquoise, and more.
  • Kosmos adds a blue stardust-like effect to images, described as nebulas or little galaxies, that become highly visible in darker areas of an image.
  • Lazer, as you’d expect, has green and blue laser-like lines that stretch across the entire roll horizontally. The lines expand above and below the sprocket holes and will connect from frame to frame, making it perfect for some unique panoramic or multi-frame effects.
  • Plexus has one of the more distinct effects of the line, with its bluish “neural net” structure, underwater look, and overall sci-fi feeling for a particularly alien look.
  • Rasp features myriad colored lines running horizontally, vertically, and diagonally from frame to frame for a linked and continuous appearance that’s well-suited to panoramas.
  • Streak imparts a scratched and vintage look to photos, with a slight yellowish tone, as if they were taken through an old window or with a beat-up lens.
  • Tesla I and Tesla II are clearly inspired by Nikola Tesla, and his Tesla coil, and feature bright, dynamic lightning bolts in every frame. Tesla I has bluish-white bolts while Tesla II has red-colored bolts for an even more surreal effect.
  • Texture adds a bubble-like structure across each frame where the organic pattern shows up in great definition in darker areas of an image while remaining fairly invisible in lighter regions.
  • Volvox is a sci-fi-inspired film that imparts bright neon green dots of varying sizes across each frame, with a stronger green coloration in the darker areas of an image.

Along similar lines, dubble film has a series of experimental films with different color profiles.

  • Apollo has a hazy, moody, and cinematic quality for an ethereal effect without imparting over-the-top colors.
  • Bubblegum gives a sweet, candy-colored color profile with noticeable pink and pastel hues.
  • Jelly offers an array of bright and playful colors that vary and surprise, depending on lighting conditions.
  • Pacific imparts a brooding color palette inspired by the ocean, with strong sepia, blue, and green tones.
  • Solar gives unique light leak-inspired effects and bright bursts of serendipitous color.
  • Stereo is inspired by 3D glasses and produces intense, dueling red and blue tints across the frame.

KONO slightly differs from the likes of Revolog and dubblefilm in that it offers both the washes of creative color in its film, as well as some more standard color versions with pre-exposed, detailed designs.

  • ALiEN has pre-exposed little green men and alien heads in each frame.
  • UFO has pre-exposed spaceships and UFOs in each frame.
  • KATZ has kitty cat paw prints in each frame.
  • LIEBE has red hearts in each frame.
  • LUFT has blue hearts in each frame.
  • ORIGINAL CANDY offers bright and candy-colored tones with a pinkish tint.
  • ORIGINAL GALAXY has a bright and bursting colored effect that varies depending on lighting conditions.
  • ORIGINAL MONSOON imparts dark and cool tones to the image, inspired by a post thunderstorm mood.

Psychedelic forgoes the descriptive names for a simple, numbered approach to its films, with each iteration producing a distinctly colorful effect.

  • Blues #2 has been pre-exposed to produce unique light leaks and strong color effects near the edges of the frame, along with a “prism burst” between frames 12 and 13.
  • Blues #3 also has strong multi-colored light leak effects that taper from the edge to the middle of the film, with the strongest effects occurring on the edges.
  • Blues #4 has been pre-exposed to holographic paper to achieve random rainbow effects and bursts of color throughout the entire roll of film.
  • Blues #5 has been pre-exposed to multicolored light sources to produce strong colored effects at the edges of the frames that fade into a more neutral center, and results in a panoramic effect.

Finally, there is also the cosmic-themed Yodica, which names each of its eight film types after a different star, galaxy, or constellation.

  • Andromeda is all about pink, fuchsia, and red tones, which overwhelm the frame with a bright and dynamic warmth.
  • Antares yields warm red hues at the top of the frame and a smooth gradient, from rich purples to cool blue tones, at the bottom of the frame.
  • Atlas is unpredictably multicolored with intense yellows, pinks, greens, and blues covering the frame, and an overwhelming randomness for playful imagery.
  • Callisto has ruby-red hues at the top of frames with a transition to deep blues and then to verdant greens at the bottom of the film.
  • Pegasus offers a horizontal rainbow-striped effect across the frame, with more intense colors coming as a result of underexposure.
  • Polaris produces an icy blue overall effect for a brooding mood, with red vignette effects along the edges and corners.
  • Sirio incorporates a gradient of cooler hues from green along the top to purple and indigo on the bottom.
  • Vega resembles a sunset, with warm orange hues at the base and a transition to a steely bluish purple at the top

What are your thoughts on this new subgenre of films? Are you for the over-the-top colors and random effects? Or would you prefer something a bit more repeatable? Even if not replacing your normal day-to-day films, could you see yourself squeezing some of these fun choices into your regular rotation? Let us know your thoughts, in the Comments section.

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