Reality has many ways to make you save money. Not only it gives you the most realistic results, but it includes many features that, with other solutions, require additional products. This makes it much more convenient, software companies like to use the term “cost effective,” than any other rendering system. And that is because, among other things, Reality uses the most awesome renderer of them all: LuxRender. In this article we are going to see how we can achieve several different looks for the renderer image without even whispering “Photoshop.”

Desaturate, baby!

For many decades, visual artists used the black and white film, B&W to his friends, to convey an aura of mystery and sophistication. So many film directors used B&W to make their debut feature look more artistic, more intellectual.  Both Spike Lee and Kevin Smith made their first movie in B&W to give it a better look than the 16mm film stock, or the cheap digital camera used in Clerks, would deliver. Black and white even became the signature look of an entire cinematic genre,  the French “film noir.” Black and white is elegant, intriguing and fascinating. A clear case of “less is more.” If you never used it in your renders, here are some quick tips on how to get the great B&W look for your images just using Reality and LuxRender.

Once your image is completely clear of render noise, and not before, click on the Gamma + Film response panel in Lux and reveal the Film Response dropdown list (don’t call it a menu). “Film response” is a geeky term to indicate the ability of Lux to imitate film stock. In the days of film photography there were several makers of film, each with their distinctive look. Even among a single maker, there were different types of film, each with a different way of reacting to light. I personally remember choosing Fujifilm 35mm film because I though that it created images with warmer, more brilliant colors than other films.

Today we have all that power to our fingertips, without having to change roll of film, or lugging multiple camera bodies with us. In case you ever wondered why photographers carry different cameras with them, in the old days, meaning ten years ago, that was one of the reasons. Today we can emulate all that with ease via LuxRender’s Film response. Once we select one of those film stock names, Lux will automatically adjust the image to look as if it was shot using that type of film. The simulation is extremely precise, since Lux uses actual measured data from laboratory tests and the result feels so much more organic than by simply desaturating the image. The response curve of film has a very distinctive look, created by how the specks of silver halide in the film emulsion react to light.

Film response in Lux

A few options in the list above produce B&W images. I will use the promo for the Austrani Outfit Automatic Preset for Reality to demonstrate how we can create multiple looks from the same scene. This is the original image:

Austrani Outfit promo

And these are the results, left to right, of applying the Agfapan APX 025, 100, and 400 presets in LuxRender:

Austrani agfapan apx 025

Agfapan APX 100

If you find that the first and the second images are the same, that is because they are. It turns out that the 025 and 100 of the Agfapan are not showing any difference. The 400 version has a slight change of tone. The difference is subtle but it is visible if we flip between the two images. In making these variations I did not change the exposure of the image. So, is this it? Three B&W settings which are actually two? We actually just started.

By changing the Gamma value in the same panel we can shift the mid-tone point in the image, creating different configurations. This works for all kind of images, but it is very effective with B&W modes. Here is the same Agfapan Apx 025 preset but with a gamma of 1.63:

Agfapan APX 025 Gamma 1.63

There are other effects that can be added to an image directly in LuxRender. Bloom adds a diffusion layer than makes the image look as if it was shot through a smeared glass. The effect can be very subtle or very pronounced. It adds a dreamlike quality that can be useful for flashbacks or other “altered state” situations. A vignette is the darkening of the edges of the image, an effect that was very visible in the first years of cinema, when lenses where of low quality and they “clipped” the edges of the film frame. Today that effect is very much in use to add an artistic touch, and to focus the attention of the viewer on the subject in the center of the frame. This is the result of adding both bloom and vignette to the above image:

Austrani Agfapan apx 025 gamma 1.63 bloom & vignette

More B&W presets

Did you notice that when we click on the dropdown list of the Film Response in Lux, there is an option named “External…?”. That option is used to load a film response preset from an external file.  So, where can we find more film response files? Right here, at, of course. I have found a few more B&W film emulations that are not included in Lux and I created a free package that you can download. Once you do that you can use the External option in Lux to load any of those files. The set includes emulations for these films:

  • Agfa Scala 200 ISO slide film
  • Agfa Scala 200 Push 1, 2, and 3
  • Agfa Scala 200 Pull  1
  • Eastman Double-X cinema film – 12 minutes
  • Eastman Double-X cinema film – 6 minutes

The “minutes” listed for the Double-X film probably indicate the length at which the film has been exposed to the fixer or wash during development. There is no information about it, but the development manual by Kodak outlines the plausible times. The “push” and “pull” variants for the Agfa Scala film refer to an old photographic trick of under or over exposing film. If you’re interested in the technical details you can read this interesting article that explain the process.

Here is an example of using the Agfa Scala settings:

Austrani Agfa Scala

And here is an example of the Eastman Double-X:

Austrani Eastman double-x

You can download the B&W presets, for free,  by clicking here. Please let us know your impressions in the comment section below. We love hearing what you think of Reality. Even better, give us a link to your artwork.

Stay tuned for more tips about Reality and Lux in the next installment of this blog. Subscribe to receive emails when new articles are posted.