What Are LUTs and How Are They Used for Color Grading?

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What Are LUTs and How Are They Used for Color Grading?

While grading your film, you may wish to use a look you generated for another clip or scenario. LUTs make it simple to do so. A LUT, like your favorite pair of rose-colored sunglasses, may be used to swiftly turn mundane video into something more fascinating.

However, cinematography LUTs are much more than just video filters. The appropriate color grading LUT elevates the aesthetic of your film and saves you time in the grading lab.

What Does LUT Stand For?

LUT is an abbreviation for “lookup table.” It is exactly what it sounds like: a set of values to which a computer or camera may refer while processing an image.

The color space in which your camera captures is a vast variety of values. Consider this to be a color palette that the camera may employ to replicate any picture. The camera uses these values to record whatever is in front of it, which combined produce a configuration that we know as a photographic picture of the scene.

A LUT exists in the same way that the original value spectrum does. There is a matching value in the LUT for each chrominance and luminance value, which may or may not be offset from the original. One LUT may solely deal with luminance, for example, without affecting any of the original color values.

A LUT is essentially used to map a graded appearance onto the basis of the original color space that you began with. You may then apply your look to any additional film captured under the same circumstances without having to start from scratch.

LUTs are exported to the.LUT,.CUBE, or.3DL file formats, depending on the LUT type and the software from which they are exported. The formats are compatible with a variety of software, including Premiere, DaVinci Resolve, Final Cut, and even Photoshop.

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Related: How to Use Scene Cut Detection in DaVinci Resolve

Why Are LUTs Useful?

More seasoned users may sneer at the idea of pre-formingulating a generic appearance for everything. However, utilizing a LUT is often simpler than creating each grade from scratch.

Don’t get us wrong: we appreciate the artisanal approach, but the practical advantages of utilizing LUTs to grade film cannot be overstated, particularly in a collaborative setting. Here are a few reasons why someone would want to utilize a LUT rather than manually grading footage:

  • LUTs eliminate the guesswork from color grading. If you’ve established a successful grade, you can quickly replicate it elsewhere.
  • Efficiency: Grading footage might take time. With a pre-set look, you can swiftly go over large swaths of material, applying a basic LUT to whole sequences. On a clip-by-clip basis, you may then fine-tune this foundation.
  • Flexibility: Your LUTs will go with you no matter which creative programs you end up utilizing. There is no need for a conversion or approximation step between programs. Most, if not all, will accept your LUT file without hesitation.

One wonderful thing about LUTs is that you can carry them with you on stage. You may then see your picture in any color space, whether graded to approximate the final outcome or flat (as many videographers prefer).

Related: How to Use Color Match in Premiere

Different Types of LUTS

Many variations of LUTs are used in video production.

Camera LUTs

These LUTs are created by camera manufacturers and include the “magic” that specific camera brands are renowned for.

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Some of the most precisely constructed creative trademarks in our sector are proprietary color science formulae. One famous example is Panavision’s Panalog. The finest camera LUTs, on the other hand, can extract the widest range of values from whatever you’re shooting with.

The analog-to-digital conversion process is a fascinating and challenging part of cinematography. When incoming light registers against the sensor, a camera LUT is applied to the image as a picture profile. It is subsequently transformed into a voltage signal field. There’s a reason why ARRI ALEXA video seems so distinct from DSLR footage.

Display LUTs

Display LUTs, also known as viewing LUTs, are often used on set with a flat LUT to disguise the dismal appearance of raw video when presented on a reference monitor—Rec. 709 is a famous example.

Top-of-the-line cine cameras may concurrently output a full-res log video for postprocessing and a display feed augmented with a viewing LUT. This film seen on set seems to be excellent. And whomever is in charge of editing will still have the flat footage needed for a professional-looking grade.

Creative LUTs

After technically fixing the material, the director has the opportunity to enrich the ambiance of each scene with a more creative grade. Once the grade has been determined, it may be stored as a LUT for future use.

If you’ve ever browsed the Lumetri presets in Premiere, you’ll see that many video filters come within this category. Creative LUTs, like these filters, are used to establish the atmosphere. Whether somber, ethereal, or sterile, these LUTs allow you intuitively express emotions to the viewer.

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Related: How to Read Lumetri Scopes in Premiere

Technical LUTs

LUTs are incredibly beneficial from the standpoint of a technician. They may be used by technicians to transform video from one color space to another for presentation. Using a specific LUT, for example, to convert Rec. 709 footage to something like DCI-P3 makes altering color spaces simple.

LUTs for calibration are also extensively utilized in movies. These are used to standardize a project’s appearance across many sorts of displays. They also correct for slight technological differences in picture quality caused by various monitor manufacturers.

Related: What Is a Color Gamut?

Incorporating Video LUTs Into Your Own Projects

If all of this discussion about LUT conversion and camera LUTs has you questioning a career in postproduction, we encourage you to rethink. Using LUTs for your films allows you to give your viewers that huge Hollywood look, and you can do it all on your own.

While there are numerous free LUT packs available for download, creating a bespoke appearance is far more satisfying. So, if your project is becoming monotonous, we recommend experimenting with various LUTs until you discover one that is ideal for your video.

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