Create video with film burn effect

Film burn is a popular 'film-like' video effect. Here's how to achieve it without having to shell out for expensive plug-ins.

When you consider how much care is usually taken to avoid exposing cinefilm to dust, heat, light and mishandling, it's amazing how much effort we put into making our digital productions look like they've just been pulled out of an attic after 10 years of neglect. Watch any surf/skater/indie music piece and the odds are you'll find all sorts of video nastiness on it, but the current effet du jour is film burn - also described as film flash.

Flash and burn

Real film burn is caused by the cartridge popping open or leaking light during recording, but it can also be caused by a misfeed of the film through the camera gate behind the lens. This causes overexposure, bleached-out detail, colour shift and patterns on the final exposure. Okay, so it's a little difficult to explain, but you'll know it when you see it - it looks a little like this. It's popular because it creates a retro look that instantly gives your video that "rough-cut" and authentic feel.

Obviously, no amount of light is going to create the same effect with today's magnetic tape, so a little jiggery tweakery is required. Usually, this would involve the use of heavyweight software like After Effects or Final Cut Pro, or even an investment in some stock footage like ArtBeats' gorgeous-but-pricey Film Clutter clips (www.artbeats.com). But you can actually get a similar effect with an entry-level editor that supports multiple video tracks and keyframing. I'll be using Premiere Elements for the purpose of this tutorial, but the same principles can be applied to other editing packages.

Overlay

The first thing you need to do is create an overlay using your image editor of choice. I'll be using the file BURN6.bmp for this example. This overlay looks a little like a misfed film, but there are no hard and fast rules when creating your own - just go for soft edges and glows. When you've got an image that you're happy with, add it to your project library along with the rest of your video clips.

Drag the image into place above the clip you want to apply this effect to and resize it accordingly. As with all intrusive effects, be careful not to overdo it; I'd suggest a clip length of no more than five seconds, but it's a personal thing.

It's not just the overlay that needs to be adjusted in order to make this effect work, we also need to adjust the underlying video clip to simulate the flash and overexposure that we're after. If you're applying the effect to part of a longer clip, it's a good idea to cut the video into sections using the razor tool in order to isolate the effect segment from the rest of the sequence - see this image.

When you've done this, pull the Gamma Correction filter from the Video Effects list down onto the underlying video clip and click on the Setup... button (next to where it says "Gamma Correction" in the Effect Controls pane). Drag the slider down to the 0.3 mark, and it'll get that overexposed look we're after. You can use Brightness/Contrast adjustment, or Levels filters in other editors to achieve a similar look.

Sadly, this filter isn't key­frame­able, but opacity is. Holding down < Ctrl > click on the Opacity guideline (the yellow line running through the clip) to create three keyframes at the beginning of the clip. Drag the middle one downwards, and then repeat this process toward the end of the clip - you should end up with something that looks a little like this - and this adds a strong flicker to the clip. You can add more if you like.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Laurence Grayson

PC World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?