Should You Adjust Your Footage's Color Before or After Applying a LUT?

So, you've got the LUT that you want. Does it matter if you adjust the color of your footage before you apply it?

Color grading seems kind of simple at first glance—just move some dials and levels and boom, you've got a sweet, stylish grade—especially if you've got a LUT! Right? Not quite. In fact, it takes plenty of finesse and knowledge about how grading tools and LUTs work in order to get the exact look you want, an example being the order in which you adjust your levels and add a LUT. Editor Casey Faris explains what happens to the color of your footage when you adjust it before you add a LUT, as well as after in this helpful video:

This might be an issue that beginner editors and color graders might've never thought about, especially if they aren't that experienced working with LUTs. However, knowing that the color of your image can change quite a bit based on the order in which you do certain things, like adjusting the brightness or contrast and applying a LUT, can help you not only avoid getting unexpected (and unwanted) results, but also using it to your advantage to actually get the results you've been trying to get but haven't been able to.     

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18 Comments

Casey is not distinguishing the difference between a camera profile LUT ( like a de-log LUT ) and a color grading LUT, because many people are shooting with either LOG profiles or very flat dynamic range profiles that need to be brought back into a standard linear gamma range BEFORE you apply any corrections and this includes applying color grading LUTs.

So your process might be something like this...

Step 1 : Apply camera profile LUT

Step 2 : Make corrections to your footage

Step 3 : Apply color grading LUT to your footage

August 6, 2016 at 10:48PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32253

In many, many cases this is just not true Guy.

Some of the most popular LUTs, for instance from Film Convert and the Impulz pack, are tailored to take a particular recording format (Canon LOG, S-LOG, V-LOG etc) straight into some kind of Kodak/Fuji film emulation. This middle step of going into linear gamma is just not necessary. Moreover, it is a lot less accurate than working with a single LUT.

And besides, the point of the video is just to show how a LUT limits everything that comes before it in the grading chain, but is itself affected by what comes after it. This is true for any kind of LUT (or indeed any correction).

August 7, 2016 at 8:36AM

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I am not sure if it's a good idea to use LUT converting Log footage straight into Film stock. Do you feel it's harder to match shots by doing color correction underneath/in front of that LUT?

October 6, 2016 at 8:22PM

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.

August 8, 2016 at 2:50AM, Edited August 8, 2:51AM

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keith
486

..

August 8, 2016 at 2:51AM, Edited August 8, 2:52AM

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keith
486

Camera LUT, unless it is wrong should not limit luma or chroma and should be at the end of the chain or prior to your look LUT...

This is a reply to Gary above, but however many times I try and post it pops in this reply!?!

August 8, 2016 at 2:52AM, Edited August 8, 2:53AM

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keith
486

Do hi-end, Hollywood feature colorists use luts, at all?
Or, do they create grades completely from scratch?

August 7, 2016 at 9:32AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
2054

Both. But it I've never seen off the shelf grading LUTs in any post house that I've worked at.

August 8, 2016 at 2:47AM, Edited August 8, 2:47AM

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keith
486

I've seen colourists use technical LUTs to bring log footage into Rec709, but never for creative purposes.

Personally I avoid them unless it's superfast turnaround work and just use contrast or lift/gamm/gain to bring a shot to a pleasing level of contrast that doesn't clip in the wrong places on my scopes.

August 8, 2016 at 3:52AM, Edited August 8, 3:54AM

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"Flatter, hipster type of grade"
A grade hipsters use?
I'm going to avoid that.

August 7, 2016 at 9:54AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
2054

I think everybody has the right to do it anyway they want to do it, the final result is what matter, my personal preference is:

Step 1: Color correction (back, white, saturation, etc)
Step 2: LUT
Step 3: Color grading

August 7, 2016 at 3:34PM

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You're throwing information away doing it like this.

August 8, 2016 at 2:45AM, Edited August 8, 2:45AM

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keith
486

The way I do it...
Using Resolve, select 3D camera LUT, tweak or adjust shadow/highlight/color by eye/hand, develop 'look' by eye/hand, export.

August 7, 2016 at 5:05PM, Edited August 7, 5:09PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
2054

This is precisely why tutorials need to be independent from sales people. If you do corrections post lut you have thrown away some of the information. So if you pull down on a lut which clips blacks you are pulling down without the information in the bottom range. You are just crushing. All LUTs should be at the end of the chain. If you want a deeper black that the lut gives you don't use the damn lut. Unless you want to throw information away. People here saying you should use a cam lut at beginning then look lut at the end are amateurs (I will refrain some saying something worse). Just because you're working in 32bit does not mean nodes are destructive.

August 8, 2016 at 2:44AM

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keith
486

Back in 2011. Nofilmshool posted this article http://nofilmschool.com/2011/05/what-is-a-look-up-table-lut-anyway

The take away said this:
The key takeaway here is that LUTs are not used to creatively grade a final result, they’re used to make up a difference between a source and a result. In practical application -- with the CineStyle profile, for instance -- the LUT will let you view your footage during editing more naturally than the flat, desaturated image originally recorded. However, it’s best to remove it for final color grading and rely on your properly calibrated monitor to tell you what color it is and yourself to determine what color it should be. If not used carefully, improper LUT use could screw up your footage or limit your image manipulation options in post.

August 8, 2016 at 4:42AM

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Johnny Wu
Director, Producer, Editor
439

I think Guy McLoughlin might be correct in his comment at the top.

When I bring in log footage, I apply a specific camera profile lut in Resolve.
Tweak it to my liking and, in successive nodes, create a 'look' by hand.

Wonder what Denver Riddle would say about it?

August 8, 2016 at 7:10AM, Edited August 8, 7:10AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
2054

I haven't touched Resolve in a while - but I believe it allows you to make adjustments both before and after the LUT.

In other words - starting with the LUT and then applying creative decisions after that is an absolutely fine starting point, but one should be able to add a node/layer before the LUT if necessary to rescue data that might be clipped or whatever.

Similarly, after all that hard work spent tweaking to make it look good on your awesome wide-gamut display, you might need to add an output LUT at the end of the pipeline for different deliverables, and again you can make changes before or after that as necessary too. A node based workflow should work well for this sort of thing so you can have different paths that branch.

This is not my own opinion, coming from ARRI:

"The colorist can then perform his/her grading underneath/in front of the conversion LUT, but also has the option to alter the image after it is converted"

- https://www.arri.com/camera/alexa/workflow/working_with_arriraw/masterin...

August 10, 2016 at 2:17AM, Edited August 10, 2:17AM

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Mic drop answer

June 18, 2017 at 9:38PM

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