How to: Make a film look like – A Scanner Darkly

Posted: July 17, 2006 in General Area, How To

How To: Make a new movie, or existing movie, look like the upcoming film “A Scanner Darkly”

What you’ll need:

1. Your content..your film, or movie naturally…

2. Quicktime (pro) or another program capable of movie imaging to PNG files

3. Photoshop

4. a arse load of time
Step one: Transfer your content to your computer.
Step two: Open it in QuickTime Pro.
Step three: Go to File > Export… select the Export: as Movie to Image Sequence. Then Click Save.
Step four: Go to File > Export… select the Export: as Sound to Wave. Then Click Save
Step five: Open about 50-100 frames in Photoshop. (The last step basically spliced the movie into several (hundreds to thousands depending on video length) slides)

Step six: Use the following effects,

Artistic>Poster Edges Filter (11,3,6) or re-adjust these once you apply the other filters Noise>Dust and Scratches (1,1)
Stylize>Diffuse (anisotropic)
Adjust brightness and contrast since the last few filters will usually darken the video quiet a bit Save the file and repeat with the rest of the frames.

The fastest way to do this once you have a look that you are satisfied with, is to automate your tasks in photoshop, Create a New Action, record your steps, and set either a hotkey or you can even use a macro program to click automatically, which is what I ended up doing, and is the fastest way to do this. To give you a time reference, my 23 second film consisted of about 550 PNG files that needed to be edited, and on my macbook pro, took about 10 seconds (once automated) per PNG file, applying filters, and saving the file, then closing it automatically. The macro program just clicked the mouse button in the same location over and over. There are many mouse click macro programs out there, choose the one you like best. The whole thing took about 4 hours to do, but I didn’t start off with an automated process, once I realised I could achieve a consistant look and feel once I had my settings correct.

When you are completed converting the frames, re-open quicktime.
Go to File > Open Image Sequence – and click on the first PNG of the image files you edited.
Go to File > Export – For Export, select Movie to AVI. Click Save.

After this you can add audio tracks (you can rip the audio track as well with quicktime), or you can add music as I did in your choice of editing software. It really helps to have a good quality video editing software, Pinnacle Studio (in combination of Pinnacle Liquid pro) is decent for PC users, and of course Final cut pro HD is great for the mac, for less technical users, I guess you could use Windows Movie Maker 2, and for mac users, iMovie HD.

I plan to make a short film, and by short I mean like 5-10 minutes lol, just to use some different rendering effects and to see how it looks as a whole. If your not familiar with the film A Scanner Darkly I highly recommend checking out Warner Bros website here .

Have fun!



  1. nidi says:

    what, frida isnt good enough or what??? always playing favorites!!!
    frida is not the ugly red-headed stepdaughter!

  2. JAMES says:

    Wow, what a genius you are. You’ve managed to crack the simple little filter they used to make that movie! Too bad your version looks nothing like it. Why, I wonder? Oh because it actually takes the ability to DRAW and PAINT to use the software that was involved in the making of that film. Maybe you didn’t notice the LINEWORK in the movie. The MOVING LINES?? Yes, its called rotoscoping animation, not the posterizing filter in photoshop. Stop wasting your time.

  3. Exempt says:

    Wow and your a complete idiot, everyone knows its rotoscoping animation, a powerful mysterious tool called google probably told you that one. I never stated that it was the same technique used in the film, it took almost two years to draw and re-render the movie, after it was completed filming, this is just a simple method to mimic the effect, with different lighting effects and adjustments a relatively same look can be achieved in photoshop, frame by frame, this 30 second clip took about 45 minutes once I automated the process. And there was no posterizing applied to the clip I made, so go back to photoshop basics, or you could have just read the one paragraph how to before you opened your trap to see that I didnt use any posterization. But I figure anyone as anal as you probably isnt to educated in the first place. Thanks for the comment though, opinions and ideas are always appreciated.

  4. Sam says:


    What the fu*k, this guy gives a nice tutorial on how to get a good effect for a video clip and you go shit on it, seriously, learn some people skills and then get laid you dick.


    Ps. nice work!

  5. Peter says:

    If you had video editing software couldn’t you just use this filter in that? Rather than having to use Photoshop which would be more complicated and take longer?

  6. convert midi says:

    I have to say that is really a good website

  7. of the many video clips that i download, i always watch those that are very funny :,.

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