Digital GEM: Going Against the Film Grain
Reducing the grain that is found in film has been a
problem since the creation of photographic film as we know it.
What is “film grain” you ask? To be technical, “film
grain” is caused by the silver halide crystals in light-sensitive photographic
emulsions. The faster the film, the larger the grain size. The larger the
grain size the more evident the film grain becomes. Larger
grains, or silver halide crystals, give film a greater sensitivity to light. That
is why faster films have more grain.
Digital GEM is a technology that was developed by a company
called Applied Science Fiction. The GEM acronym actually stands for
Equalization & Management. What DIGITAL GEM does is that it
analyzes a film's grain pattern, extracts all data that is related to image
quality, color and sharpness, and removes the grain from the scanned image.
This results in dramatically improved images. This is essentially the
equivalent of noise reduction in digital images.
So, who should use this
technology? It is my opinion that this technology should always be used when
any type of film image is to be scanned into a digital format. When applied,
this technology can greatly improve the overall quality of an image by reducing
or, in some cases, removing the unwanted grain altogether. Using this
technology in conjunction with other technologies and photo correction
techniques your photo’s can have the wow factor that you have always dreamed
Even in the world of digital
photography these days, most photographers are using some sort of noise
reduction technology to clean up there digital images. As part of my regular
workflow I use Noise Ninja which is an excellent product that can be used as a
Photoshop plugin. It can be run in automatic, which is great for running batch
files, or in manual mode.
As part of my regular workflow when scanning in my personal images I always use
Digital ICE and Digital GEM with a setting of 3 or 4 out of 5. These settings
appear to give the optimum results for reducing film grain on images.
Unlike Digital ICE, Digital GEM appears to work very well on Black and White
film as well as Kodachrome films. Digital ICE cannot be used on Black and White
film, unless it was developed in color, and has reduced impact on Kodachrome
Digital GEM is considered to be
part of the Digital ICE4 group of technologies. Also included in this group are
Digital ICE, which is used to remove surface defects, Digital ROC, which is used
to restore and correct color, and Digital SHO, which is used to optimize
exposure and contrast. There are several scanners on the market today that use
this technology today. These would include the Nikon Coolscan 5000 and 9000
series film scanners that we use as well as the Epson 4990 flatbed scanner that
we use for scanning photographs and large format positives and negatives.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments.
About the Author: Stephen Cornfield is a photographer who has several years experience photographing weddings, sporting and informal events. His company, Photo Field Imaging, www.photofieldimaging.com, also provides photo editing, restoration and scanning services for all types of photographs, film and slides.
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