How to colour correct and grade your video and stills with 3D LUTs

May 18, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to colour correct and grade your video and stills with 3D LUTs

May 18, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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3D LUTs, or Look-up Tables, are nothing new.  They’ve been common in the digital film industry for a good while, but it seems only recently that they’re starting to be embraced by individual filmmakers and photographers.

But what are 3D Luts?  Put simply, they’re a tonemap.  They take the hue, saturation and brightness (hence “3D”) values of each pixel in your image, and change those values into to something else.

3d_lut_changing_values

Rhyming with… well, you’ll find out when you watch this first video from Ryan Connolly over at Film Riot, LUTs are a fantastic way to maintain consistency throughout clips used in a video sequence, or across multiple stills form a single photography session.

YouTube video

Developed for video due to the minimal overhead that straight tonemapping requires, they allow realtime playback on video hardware at framerates which can hit or exceed 60fps (which lets you record flat or log, but still see something close to the final result in an external monitor).

So whether you’re simply correcting contrast of flat footage, fixing your camera’s inability to see a particular shade of green, or you’re giving a final finished look to your shorts, LUTs can take care of most of this for you, but you still need to create them in the first place.

This video from Sebastian Bleak shows us how we can create and apply LUT files from within Photoshop CC, as well as some caveats and pitfalls to avoid when creating LUTs in Photoshop.

YouTube video

LUTs are natively supported by pretty much every major video editing application out there, like Adobe Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve, as well as motion graphics and visual effects software such as Adobe After Effects.

For those still using CS6, you may need a little extra help, in the form of Red Giant’s free LUT Buddy plugin if you want to use LUTs in Premiere or After Affects. While Photoshop CS6 does natively allow you to import LUTs natively, there seems to be no way, even through 3rd party plugins, of exporting LUTs out of Photoshop CS6.

Being able to send LUTs back and forth between Photoshop CC and video editing applications certainly makes life a lot easier for photographers making the transition to video while being more familiar with Photoshop’s adjustment layers than with the colour correction tools available in Premiere or Resolve.

Are 3D LUTs in your stills or video workflow?  What applications do you use?  Do you make your own LUTs or do you have a favourite LUT pack you’ve purchased or downloaded?  Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “How to colour correct and grade your video and stills with 3D LUTs”

  1. Guppy Avatar
    Guppy

    I’ve started playing with Impulz Luts (the Pro version), which are designed for Fuji and Kodak film stock emulation. The results are quite nice, with the right manual tweaking you can emulate a negative scan process, correction and final print. Here’s a still from the experiments (of quite an extreme look):