Intro to Film Emulation: Getting the Film Look in Post with LUTS & Plug-Ins

When it comes to aesthetics, most digital filmmakers want their footage to get as close to the "film look" as possible.

Which is understandable — the look of film is beautiful! There are a bunch of factors that go into making footage look film-like and cinematic, including lighting, composition, and camera movement, but film emulators are a great way of getting the film look in post. If you're just starting out and aren't really sure about what film emulators are or what they do, this video from Charles Yeager from Tuts+ will help you learn the basics.

Film emulators do just that — they emulate film by "matching the color values of digital footage to different film stocks." Popular software and plugins like FilmConvert and Koji Color allow you to not only add the look of film stocks to your footage, but they also allow you to add film grain. They also often provide a bunch of LUTs that you can drag and drop onto your clips to get an instant look, which is helpful and quick and simple, but doesn't afford you a ton of control.

Speaking of LUTs, here is one word of warning: don't be lazy! Or — be lazy — it's your life and your film, but just know that it's really easy to let LUTs do all the work, but grading your film is a job too important to entrust to a single asset. Choosing the look of your film usually requires a ton of little decisions and tweaks, and obviously it makes things easier to just drop a look onto your clips, but it might help you to think of it as a good starting point before you add your own personal touch. (Okay, I'll get off of my soapbox now.)

What are you favorite film emulation tools? Let us know in the comments below!


Your Comment


There are some great plug-ins available when you are using FCPX or Premiere. But using programs like DaVinci gives u a more realistic result I think.

March 21, 2016 at 4:30AM


This is a very basic overview, befitting of something called an "Intro". A lot of us will find it redundant information, but a lot of people starting out will find it very helpful - which got me thinking, shouldn't NoFilmSchool set up a "Beginners" or "Just starting out?" tab, where all the back catalogue of introductory articles is compiled together, and organised by subject? Wouldn't have to be every single "basic" article, just a selection of the best.

I would often refer curious would-be-filmmakers to such a collection, were it available.

March 21, 2016 at 5:32AM



March 30, 2016 at 1:40PM

Christopher Evans
Video Artist

My colorist used the FilmConvert plugin on DaVinci Resolve for my short film, THE EXAM. We used the Kodak stock and film grain settings to get away from the sometimes clinical and antiseptic look of video. That said, we were trying to achieve a very cool, wintery look. You can see the results here:

March 21, 2016 at 6:31AM, Edited March 21, 6:31AM

William Speruzzi
Writer | Director

Perhaps not "cream of the crop," but there are a lot of free LUTs out there to get people started. SmallHD and VisionColor have good starter packs which are free:

If anyone else uses good, free (LEGAL!) LUTs, please share!

March 21, 2016 at 10:36AM

Joseph Arant

For grading with LUTs, I recommend checking out Sherif Mokbel

And Juan Melara

Juan Melara has some free LUTs as well.

You can add a little bit of control with LUTs by reducing the opacity. Although it is intended to be a magic bullet, I add slight amounts of different ones and stack them. A last note-- and this is something MeisnerMedia points out on Youtube, you might get interesting (better) results picking the wrong camera.

March 21, 2016 at 10:50AM

David Barrington

@David Barrington: +1 for Juan Melara's LUTs. I find that his and many other film LUTs push the contrast quite hard, so when use them in Resolve I stick them on the last node of the grade. I use the previous nodes to tweak the image to my liking, usually by pushing the gamma up and reducing the contrast a bit.

March 25, 2016 at 11:56AM

Jason Gondziola