Here's how to harness the power of the Lumetri Color feature—even if you're not a colorist.
Video editors working on a tight budget have to color correct and color grade the footage on their own. In this article and YouTube video, I'll tell you everything you need to know about the Lumetri Color effect. You can use this knowledge both in Premiere and After Effects—and most of it can likely be useful for any video editor, regardless of the platform.
Working with Color: Introduction
When you’re working with color, you probably want to set up your workspace differently than when you’re assembling a rough cut. If you go to the Window - Workspace, there is the default Color workspace. You can customize it any way you want by dragging, resizing panels and so on.
Secondly, to set up Premiere Pro to work in 32-bit float image processing, you need to open sequence settings and check the “Maximum bit depth” checkbox. Also, it’s good to change preview settings to a high-end codec (for example Quicktime ProRes 422).
Before you do any color work, it’s good to differentiate between color correction and color grading. Basically, color correction is balancing the image, achieving proper exposure and representation of colors. And color grading is a creative add-on.
Basic and Creative Corrections
The basic tab is all about the big stuff, mostly related to color correction. If you’ve ever used Lightroom, Camera RAW or any other photo editing software this should look familiar. You have a color picker here, which sets any color you choose to neutral grey. So it’s the fast way to achieve correct white balance in your image.
Quick tip: If you want to zero down any slider or control in this effect, just double-click it.
It’s also the place for applying utility LUTs. Creative, color grading LUTs are supposed to be added to the Creative section in Lumetri Color workflow. You can check creative LUTs in a thumbnail view, so you can preview the look before applying.
In the basic tab, you can find two sliders responsible for saturation of colors. Basically, saturation treats colors equally, and Vibrance focuses on areas that are low saturated initially.
There are two curves in Lumetri Color. The first one is like any other curve. You can work on the tonality of the image with the luminescence curve and you can work on separate channel curves.
The second one is the Hue/Saturation curve. That basically means that you can manipulate the saturation based on the hue. Pro tip here is using the Shift key when dragging. This way you’ll not change the hue when moving outward or inward.
Color Wheels & Match
In this tab, there are new features for shot comparison and for color matching. NFS writer Jason Boone has a great video on this topic, so be sure to check it out.
Comparison View lets you watch two frames side by side so you can compare shots or match them manually since Scopes automatically switch to Comparison View as well. Just set the referencing frame with a timeline indicator and click Apply Match. By default, it also detects faces using Adobe Sensei AI to preserve natural skin tones in the image.
You can still adjust the match working with color wheels. These allow you to work on shadows, midtones, and highlights separately.
When you want to separate the part of the image and work on the separated area, that’s what we call secondary color correction or color grading. You just need to create a key based on either hue, saturation or luminance. To make your key blend in with the rest of the image, it's good to denoise it with this slider and to blur it a little bit.
Then you can manipulate the selected part of the image. You can change the hue, exposure, color temperature and so on.
Vignette and fx bypass
The last tab, Vignette, is pretty obvious once you play with it. It works like in Lightroom, Adobe Camera RAW or any other image processing software. It lets you add vignette quickly and easily.
BTW, there is also a new feature in the panel which is fx bypass option and reset effect option. It lets you reset and bypass the effect without a need to switch to the Effect Controls panel.
When using Lumetri Color you need to remember that the order of the effects in Premiere Pro matters greatly. So if you add another instance of Lumetri Color, it builds upon the first instance of the effect.
Working with multiple Lumetri Color effects can be useful when working with masks. This allows you to adjust certain parts of the image. Each instance of the effect allows you to add a new mask.
It’s good to have all of your LUTs in the drop-down menu inside the Lumetri Color effect. To add LUTs to it, you need to manually go to the directory you have installed Premiere Pro. Go to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Common\LUTs
There are two folders here we’re interested in. Anything you put to the ‘Technical’ folder will appear in the Basic Section and anything you’ll add to the ‘Creative’ folder, goes to the Creative Section.
Workflow for applying Color Effects
The first and most obvious method of working with Lumetri Color is to apply it on the clip level. It’s a good way if settings you’re going to use are applicable only to this clip and need to be adjusted on any other.
The alternative method is using an adjustment layer to apply Lumetri Color. This is a good way if your footage is consistent throughout. You can add the adjustment layer to the timeline and span its duration over all of the footage. Of course, you can mix these two methods if you need to do adjustments separately on some of the clips and some grading to all of the clips at once.
You can also apply this effect to the Master Effects tab. I talked about it in my previous video. It lets you apply the effect to all instances of the given clip at once.
Exporting .look and .cube files
Lumetri Color panel lets you export your settings as a .look file, which can be used in another Premiere Pro project or After Effects. You can also export your settings as a .cube file, which can be used in any color grading software.
It’s good to have tools that are objective when working with color. Most often, we evaluate the image using waveform, vectorscope or parade. You can find all of these in the panel called Lumetri Scopes.
Basically, the waveform is a graph that on the horizontal axis represents the image and on the vertical axis represents the luminance. So, if the left side of the frame is mostly in shadows area, most of the waveform on the left will have very low luminance.
The parade is based on the same rule but here vertical axis represents an intensity of a given channel on the image from left to right.
HLS Vectorscope displays hue, saturation and lightness based on the angle, distance from the center and brightness level. YUV Vectorscope, on the other hand, displays a color wheel, that shows the information about a chrominance on given frame.
These tools let you evaluate exposure, color shifts and saturation of images. And what’s most important you can compare different shots and evaluate their color consistency.
When to use DaVinci Resolve
When would it be better to use Resolve than Premiere Pro?
Well, since it is professional color grading software, it has better tools and environment for that purpose. So if you’re working on a high budget project it will be probably better to involve colorist that works on Resolve. Also, if your grade has a lot of tracking involved, such as skin retouching, eye adjustments, lip adjustments, and a lot of other masks to track, working in Resolve will be much faster.
You can also use DaVinci Resolve to create LUTs that can be imported to Premiere Pro. Just export them as .cube files.
Control Surface Support
It’s also worth mentioning that you can use Control Surface with Premiere Pro. I worked on Tangent Element and it’s very handy. I wonder if new Blackmagic Micro Panel is supported as well. If you know something about it, let me know in the comment section.
To evaluate color properly you need a good and well-calibrated monitor (called a "reference monitor"). Viewsonic, Dell, and LG make some reliable models for this purpose.
Do you use Lumetri Color for your projects? Any tips to add? Let us know in the comments down below.