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Are LUTS worth it? How to make LUTS

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

What are LUTS and how to make your own cinematic LUTS

Hi all, in this video we look at LUTS, the pro's and cons and how to make them while also challenging some the ideas of the "cinematic look".

LUT is short for Look UP Table which is very simplified terms are a series of lighting and contrast settings that are saved as a file and can be used like filters over footage. They are almost essential when grading very flat LOG footage and make converting footage to standardised REC709 colour spaces way easier. They are a quick way to add stylisation to your footage without going through the whole thing for each individual piece of footage. However there are some misconceptions about there use and in the video above I detail some of the pro's and con's, challenge the idea of the 'the cinematic look'.

I also give you a short tutorial about how to make your very own LUTS. It's very much an entry level tutorial but I am planning to attempt the creation of a technical LUT in the near future. This will take into account ETTR (expose to the right) principles of exposure, the use of white balance and colour balance.

The truth LUTS can be bought in packs of 100s for as little as 30 bucks. But rather than see this as a sign of value for money I would personally view this as a point of concern and evidence of hastily tacked together LUTS thrown together in Photoshop or a LUT creating program over a couple of hours of work. In contrast to this we have the fantastic Leeming LUT pro LUTS which are well thought out and planned technical LUTS that understand the principles of white balance, colour science and ETTR techniques. These LUTS are one of the best purchasing choices I have made, link below (no sponsorship).

Finally in regards to the cinematic look, I would challenge you to define the cinematic look. Films like Saving Private Ryan, The Godfather and The Blair Witch are wildly different yet all received cinematic release and so therefore all surely meet the criteria for the 'cinematic look'. I can only really narrow the cinematic look down to two main things and both are a product of the days of film. The first is 24p, a frame rate that refers to the number of individual pictures shown per-second to give the illusion of movement. The frame rate has been used for almost a hundred years and so subconsciously we are so used to this movement and the level of motion blur that accompanies it that we can feel if something is shot outside of this perimeter. A good example of this would be Peter Jacksons Hobbit films which were shot in 48fps and derided as feeling unnatural, instilling a sense of the Uncanny Valley.

The second thing and perhaps less crucially is the use of noise or film grain. Movies used to all be shot using film and film grain was a natural result of the chemical processes that are used to create each image. This grain adds a texture to the image and from a personal stand point I love this texture over the often super clean look of digital. So for your film look I would maybe start here as far as colour grading goes.

But as far a cinematic look goes far more of it is dependent upon lighting, blocking, props, costume and set design. The cinematic look is a result of creative planning, mo single camera or LUT will make your film feel cinematic and planning, lighting, sound and props will.

Chapter markers:

0:00 - Intro

1:32 - The "cinematic look" myth

7:07 - Vlog-L Tutorial pt1 Photoshop:

14:09 - Vlog-L Tutorial pt2: Premier Pro:

19:24 - Cine D quick grade

20:25 - Cine D Montage:

21:01 - Final Thoughts:

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