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How to Introduce Grain and Noise to Video (and Why It's Actually a Good Idea)

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Noise and grain aren’t always something to get rid of. A little noise can be used for a variety of reasons in your video: to create a particular look or even to hide things you’d rather your audience didn’t notice. In this quick tutorial I’ll explain why you might want to introduce noise into your film, and some of the best ways to do it.

Why Add Noise to Video

Grain Creates a Cinematic Look

We’re spoiled with having a choice of affordable, amazing tech at our disposal. As recording devices and the way we watch films improves, footage can sometimes now look too clean and sharp, particularly for some film genres. For example, I recently watched a show that combined documentary-style interviews with re-created footage, but they’d processed them both in the same way and it was… odd.

Adding a little grain can help with a cinematic look, and gives your audience a specific frame of reference. There are ways we’re used to ‘seeing’ in cinema in particular – 24fps, letterbox format and so on – and we find that familiar and comforting, for want of a better word. Watching something that looks too smooth and realistic can actually put people off; we’re just not used to it.  

A Sense of Nostalgia

You might deliberately try to emulate a particular era, or even just to age some contemporary footage you’ve shot. Adding grain or other textures, can be a great way to ‘dirty’ this new, clean footage up and help achieve the look you’re after.

It Can be a Sticking Plaster

Adding grain can help to hide things you’d rather your audience didn’t see. If you have banding in your colours, or compression artifacts, then including noise can mask those. However, beware when adding grain to videos intended for online uploading, like Facebook and YouTube. Those platforms will heavily compress your video. If you’ve added noise, that’s extra information in your video that will be processed and compressed and can result in more artifacts than you were originally trying to hide.

Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash
Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash

How to Add Grain and Noise to Your Video

Use a Built-in Generator

One of the easiest ways to add grain is to use the add-ons your editing suite comes with. There are things to consider when you’re adding grain this way. Adjust the opacity and blending mode of your noise layer(s) to get a more tailored result. If you’re trying to recreate an old film look, you’ll probably want several layers, one each for the different effects like noise, scratches and dirt for example.

Use a Photograph

You can use a still image with transparency to add noise or a texture. If you do this, it’ll look more realistic if you add some movement to it and so better replicates moving cinema film. Fractal Noise in Adobe Premiere Pro lets you add noise with motion.

Try a Template

A template pack can give you lots of customisable objects in one easy template. Give this one a try, from Envato Market:

Vintage and Grunge Film Effect 06 for Adobe After Effects

Try this Adobe After Effects pack to add a variety of effects to your film. The pack includes noise (or grain), scratches, vignette, light leaks and more. The links to the free fonts used in the preview are included too.

Vintage and Grunge Film Effect 06
Vintage and Grunge Film Effect 06

More Great Video Helpers

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