How to Create Your Own Film Grain in Premiere Pro for Free!

Premiere Pro 27/01/2019 4 min read

Film grain is an aspect of older films that we still want to emulate today. Custom created film grains and overlays are something people are willing to spend a good amount of money on simply to infuse existing footage with a particular feel.  

But if you’re wanting to save money and still get a great look, let us show you how to create a film grain overlay in Premiere Pro for free! 

Here we are inside of premiere and I have a shot here that we want to make look like it was shot on film. To get right to the tutorial go to the timecode listed here, but we just want to briefly clarify something. So when people talk about film grain there’s usually 2 different kinds they might be talking about. There’s the over the top film overlay that makes it look like your footage is like 100 years old, and then there’s the more subtle film grain that comes from the photochemical process of actually shooting on analog film. We’re talking about that second one, and there’s a lot of packs and overlays that you can purchase to get that subtle film look. But if you don’t want to spend money, you can actually create something very close and similar right inside of Premiere Pro!  

The first thing that we’re gonna do is add an adjustment layer and work with that. The reason we’re doing this is because chances are your effect is something you’re going to want to stretch over multiple clips, and it’s just easier to do it once rather than for each individual clip you might be working with. So right click in your project manager and go to new item, adjustment layer. Then drag and drop it over your footage.  

Next we’re simply going to is go to our effects panel and search for noise. Or go to video effects, noise and grain, noise. And just drag and drop this effect onto our adjustment layer. Cool, so right off the bat you should see no difference.  But here’s where we start to create the effect. Just to show you what this effect does we’re going to take the slider here labeled amount of noise and raise it up really high just to get a clear picture of what it’s doing.

So we can see here that we get a really ugly look like we set the camera iso way too high. And if we play it we can see that it makes each of these little pieces of noise dance around. What we’re gonna do is transform this bad looking noise into really nice looking grain substitute. To start. Go to the checkbox beside use color noise and deselect it. It might be tough to see but this takes any color from the noise, which immediately makes it look more like grain and less like iso noise. Great, so now let’s take the amount of noise percentage down to something really low. My personal recommendation would be anywhere between 8-15% depending on how harsh or subtle of a look you want but feel free to play around and see what you like!

But there’s 1 last problem we have to address. If you’re working in a 24 frame per second timeline, this will work fine on it’s own. But if you try to work in a 30fps or 60fps timeline, the effect will be broken because the noise will be moving around too rapidly. It won’t look like film grain anymore and the illusion will be broken. So you’ll need to work with a little bit of a different system.

To start you’ll need to quickly create a new sequence that’s set up for 24 fps, or 25 if you’re on the pal system. To do that go to your project manager, right click and select color matte. Set it’s color to 7f7f7f and hit ok and title it 50% grey to help you remember what it is.

Great. Now do the same process we did previously. Create an adjustment layer. Add the noise. Set it to your percentage. Get rid of color. And now we have our effect on a grey background. You may have seen this kind of a look on packs of film grain overlays before. So what we’re going to do is set a good amount of time for this to be running for. For me I’ll let it run for about 10 seconds.  

Then set your in and out points with i and o, and export your video. But here’s the catch. You’re going to want to export it at the highest possible quality to make sure each individual piece of noise or grain is as clear as possible.  

So let’s set it to profile high, level 5.1, render at maximum depth, VBR 2 Pass, Target bitrate and max bitrate at 150, and then use maximum render quality. Then name it and let your computer export the video to the destination of your choice.

Now that our computer has exported our film grain overlay. Bring it into your project manager. Double click it to bring it up in your source monitor and drag from this little video icon to drag in only the video and exclude audio. Place it overtop of your footage and this is what we have. Now the magical step is to go to effects controls and under blend modes, choose overlay.  

Now we can see that our effect has been properly included into our footage. And if it looks great, leave it as is.  But if you want to tone it down a bit, just bring down the opacity of your film grain clip!

And that’s it, you’ve just created your own custom film grain substitute. This isn’t intended to replace film grain overlays, but I’d encourage you to do a blind test for yourself and see if you can tell the difference. Bottom line is that this is a super simple $0 solution to getting a really desired look!

We hope you found this video helpful.  If you did, we’ve got lots of other tutorials for Premiere Pro, After Effects, and filmmaking in general!