LUT’s for The Beginner

Updated (July 8th, 2015):  Veteran Cinematographer and avid teacher of the cinematography arts, Shane Hurlbut has posted a free, four part tutorial on how to create 3D luts using DaVinci Resolve. Additionally, he has many of his custom made LUTs for sale on the site for a very reasonable price.

image How to Create 3D LUTs: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

In today’s world of cinematography learning how to light is a long journey, learning how to RUN a camera is  long journey. As difficult of a task those can be, learning how your footage goes from the camera to the screen is a long journey filled with a lot of technical jargon and intermediate steps.

Shooting what I call “natural sight” footage is what we start to do as camera operators. We know what the footage will look like because it looks like what you basically are seeing naturally with your eyes in the viewfinder.

Then, if you are lucky, or unlucky, you get a nice fancy camera that can shoot in a flat or log format. Most higher end cameras do this to help capture more dynamic range (ratio between the largest and smallest possible values of color and brightness).

With this benefit a price has to be paid. The price for dynamic range and more control in post is learning how to process the footage in post – funny how the truth sounds so obvious. For the DP’s who work on bigger budget projects, they have the advantage of a colorist working on the project. For us smaller independents we have to learn how to process the SLOG/flat footage.

With all that, it looks like LUTs are the first thing to understand – look up tables.

Jay Friesen gives a high level overview of a what LUTs are: http://nofilmschool.com/2011/05/what-is-a-look-up-table-lut-anyway

Andy Shipsides over at the AbelCine website wrote a good article on applying LUTs to Log Footage in FCP, Premiere, Avid and Resolve: http://blog.abelcine.com/2012/06/21/applying-luts-to-log-footage-in-fcp-premiere-avid-and-resolve/
He then did an update here: http://blog.abelcine.com/2014/02/18/an-updated-guide-to-applying-luts-to-log-footage/
Abelcine has an online workshop on creating “on set” LUTs

Learning the history helps to learn the principles. LUTs are used to view SLOG footage. Mike Most pens an article telling us what a Log Is… and Isn’t: http://mikemost.com/?p=243
Mike writes about Understanding Log Grading since you now know what a Log is – and no, it’s not that thing you flush down the toilet every morning! 😉 – http://mikemost.com/?p=251
Here’s a good Arri article on Arrie LUTS: http://www.arri.com/camera/alexa/learn/log_c_and_rec_709_video.html

Casey Faris uses cute little cats to explain the whole affair, plus a whole lot more, more than you ever wanted to know!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgL1Z7tsBz8&list=PLnLRZNxrwwEK1pncdNdAmWwEyzjSZOBpzhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgL1Z7tsBz8&list=PLnLRZNxrwwEK1pncdNdAmWwEyzjSZOBpz

Applying LUTs to Log footage…

I’m a practical guy. It is one thing to understand the concept. It is another to actually execute against the concept. For me, I like doing. I like playing with software and hardware. I enjoy exploring the details and when I can’t figure something out, I’ll pick up the manual or hit by best friend Google…  For me, I have an FS700 with an Odyssey 7Q and have been mainly shooting REC 709 with it. Now’s the time to learn to use the SLOG2 feature and learn how to color correct it. Since I use Premiere for editing I’ll search for those.

Here’s a nifty tutorial on how to apply a LUT in Premiere CC ‘14: http://nofilmschool.com/2013/06/lumetri-create-custom-looks-in-premiere-speedgrade
This article has two links to YouTube videos that explain how to use Premier’s Lumetri Effect and how to create custom looks.

Creating LUTs

For me, and let’s be clear, me is all that matters ;-), the easiest way to learn, manage and work with LUTs within Premiere, my editor of choice, is to use Lumetri or Red Giant LUT Buddy or the free version of Davinci Resolve (LUT export is built into the product). I’m much better at working with Premiere and Red Giant than withi Resolve. Although, I’m slowly picking up Resolve.
Here’s a great review of LUTs and using LUT Buddy: http://news.doddleme.com/equipment/red-giant-shooter-suite-review-part-2-lut-buddy/
Here’s a good video tutorial on installing and using LUT Buddy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bo2_hAZpJV0

Buying LUTs, Acquiring LUTs

Why go through the hassle of learning about LUTs or creating LUTs when you can buy or otherwise acquire them? That’s a question you’ll have to answer when you’re all alone on the porcelain throne – just kidding.
Actually, I think learning by looking at what other people have done is one of the best ways to educated yourself. With LUTs there’s going to be more and more people creating LUTs and then either giving them away or selling them. Go out and get a few, play with them, manipulate them and create your own!
Here, Casey Faris gives a great tutorial on how to use LUTs within Premiere Pro utilizing Lumetri: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvjHqNlrCJw
Here, James Miller discusses LUTs and has for sale some of his LUTs and he even will do custom LUTs for you if you’re really pinched for time!
LUT discussion: http://philipbloom.net/2015/03/22/luts/
LUTs for sale: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PvjHqNlrCJw

Ground Control coloring has a whole lip-smacking website full of coloring information, products and freebies! There’s a bunch of free LUTs there to get you started – http://www.groundcontrolcolor.com/free-luts.html

Now that’s a lot of information – hope you have fun learning LUTs and improving your footage!

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