Kodachrome64 Capture One -style study – version VI

Update 29.5.2023: I made a new style which is based on different reference and thus this remains but is not anymore my preferred look. You can read the newer post here.

This is my on-going study on the look of the obsolete Kodachrome 64 slide film in Capture One. For this VI version I changed my approach a bit. Earlier versions were taking the film’s color scheme but ended to be more polished and jack-of-all-trades, especially suited for people photography. This time I studied how close I could get the more rude look of the original slide film. And I made compromises – and didn’t achieve a look that one would point at and say: “That looks like Kodachrome 64 to me”. But overall I ended up creating a look that you might find interesting.

Now that there are no expectations left what comes to the accuracy of this film emulation, I can tell what I did with this new style. But first I comment the the naming of this style. I used the name Kodachrome 64 though I acknowledge the differences to the original film because I want to remember my styles better than just using a name like “old slide look”. Many of my styles are based on some “old slide look” :-). Then again, I am certain that some elements of this style do have more similarities with Kodachrome 64 than any of my other styles. Some might notice that my previous published version was IV and V is missing. I did a V-version, but it was not worth publishing, thus the jump to the VI-version.

I use the color wheel (color editor) of Capture One to make the colorscapes to my styles. I tried my best with the color curves, but the nightmare of messing the overall color balance in combination that you cannot use the color curves alone to achieve these looks made my decision to use only the color wheel (color editor). With color wheel you have to realistically settle to tune maximum of three different luminosity levels in certain color range. Usual approach is to use only one setting for a color range, but carefully adjusting you can fit three color areas to one selected color range. I mostly use one or two per color range. In the following image is shown one color area (dark red) I have tuned for this particular Capture One -style.

My earlier styles have had smoothness setting at 15 around the color area (smoothness setting adjusts the range of fall-of for a certain color adjustment). With newer styles like this one I have lowered the smoothness setting to 12,5. When you make changes to adjacent color ranges (like you have to do when making a film emulation) the fall-off range has to be same for all color areas (now in my case: 12,5). The color ranges cannot overlap or you are in trouble with your colors. But the fall-off range can and usually need to overlap. Capture One does not make this kind of adjustment easy as you cannot see more than one color range at the time in the color wheel. You can see that the fall-off area ends “somewhere”, but it is difficult to notice that there is a “darker” area around the color area (where the visible color already has faded away). That dark area must not overlap with adjacent color adjustment range (which unfortunately cannot be made visible at the same time).

In the past my biggest problems adjusting colors has been that the adjacent color settings overlap and cause weird sh*t in the color gradations. And only after noticing the “dark area” have I been able to get the gradations decently good looking.

Now, back to the style. My question after seeing some many thousand images taken with Kodachrome 64 and scanned to internet is, why would anybody really want to get that look with their modern cameras? I mean, the style is not beautiful, it doesn’t have accurate colors and it seems to have so high contrast that you loose significant amount of information in either shadows, highlights or both. Many refer to Kodachrome as “journalist” -look, mostly because it was used for such purpose during it’s era. There are those that nostalgically claim the Kodachrome was about the best there ever was. I don’t see it such way. But I was interested in this look because I happened to own Fuji’s camera which included the Classic Chrome film simulation. And I stumbled a lot to the claims it was modeled after Kodachrome film. And I started to create a Capture One style that was somehow Kodachrome’ish, but had a look I thought useful. I made a lot of iterations and different styles and thought I would not go farther than above mentioned version IV, but this time I wanted to delve deeper.

The biggest compromise I have made here and in every earlier iteration of Kodachrome 64 emulation has been the reds. Or the luminosity of the reds. My reference and many photos I have seen show that a certain red color range has a very high luminosity. That I haven’t been able to replicate without destroying the image information in the reds. I mean, the color is totally washed with that bright red and there are no details left to see. So, the reds are tuned clearly darker and slightly less saturated. Then again I have seem photos that are closer to this compromised version so I cannot really say which way it would look more “real”.

Another big compromise concerns the contrast curve. I had to cut down the highlights from what the reference suggested. I love bright burned highlights, but such style I first made would not be usable for most photos, so I tamed the highlights as carefully as I could to give this style more dynamic range but retain a bit of the contrasty look.

There are always some “steps” in colors when they are adjusted with the color wheel. There is one setting for one color area and another for the adjacent color area. To smooth out the steps I have also adjusted the adjacent colors to match in luminosity and saturation as well as I could, and this stage makes compromises to the colors I adjusted from the reference.

Certain yellows aren’t as bright in this style as they should be, and not as “green tinted” as I see from the reference and many many images taken with Kodachrome64. I admit I just wasn’t able to pull the yellows right, considering that the style would look a bit odd with greenish yellows. Greens are difficult to adjust and photos I have seen taken with Kodachrome64 make some range of the greens very very dark. I guess the word for the greens in this style is also “compromised” :-).

So, what is left of Kodachrome 64 in this style. A look that certainly is different from other styles. A style that is contrasty, not pleasing but more like “telling a story”. It is a look that one could use for experimental photography and maybe street photography. Give it a try, the link to download the style is here.

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