Did you know you can use DaVinci Resolve to create your own LUTs? Find out how in this video tutorial — including free LUTs!
Rewind a decade, and in the consumer and low-budget filmmaking world, After Effects and Premiere Pro presets were all the rage. A preset that could take your Canon 550d footage and make it remotely cinematic — this would quickly become a temporary sensation in the online filmmaking community. Come 2019, and you don’t hear as much about After Effects and Premiere Pro presets — you hear instead about LUTs.
One reason why LUTs (Look Up Tables) have become so popular is the increase in consumer camera systems that can shoot in LOG. LUTs linearize these washed-out images back to what they should look like — but with protected shadows and highlights from the LOG exposure curve (which, in turn, also makes for greater manipulation). LUTs also give editors a quick creative grade to build upon.
But it is very important to recognize that LUTS are not the be all and end all of grading. They’re for creating a foundation for your grade; they’re not a one-click-and-done solution.
There’s certainly no shortage of jokes mocking the overuse of the M31 LUT to get that “cinematic” orange and teal look, but here’s the LUT applied directly to an image . . .
. . . and here’s the LUT used with a number of adjustments . . .
A LUT isn’t a magic wand. Say that you’ve done an awesome grade in Resolve, and you want to create it as a LUT to use again in the future — or share it, or even sell it. You can export that grade as a LUT.
First and foremost, there are several operations you can’t translate into the LUT export: any OpenFX, Sharpen and Blur, Power Windows, Tracking, or Sizing. Essentially, you can’t translate the majority of the tools and adjustments in the middle pallet, except for curves. HSL qualifications can also get lost in the export process. Therefore, make sure that the adjustments for your LUT come solely from the primary corrections pallet. You can use as many nodes as you like — just make sure they contain adjustments from the primary corrections tool. (Note that if you have a node with a modification that will be omitted, such as power windows, and on that node you also have a curve adjustment, both elements will end up deleted, not just the power window.)
Exporting a LUT couldn’t be a more straightforward process:
- Open the clip thumbnail viewer.
- Right-click on the thumbnail of the clip with the grade.
- Select “Generate 3D LUT (CUBE).”
You can then select a location for the export. The default will be the LUT folder on your drive. Simply create a name, and a LUT file is created. If you saved the LUT in your LUT directory, then it will automatically populate into your library. But, what if you’re importing a LUT onto a different system? To do that, open the project settings, open the LUT folder, and then copy the LUT from the import destination to the LUT folder. Upon closing, the LUT will be in your directory. Simple.
Creating and importing LUTs is the simple part; playing around with the color science is the fun-but-tedious part. Expect constant trial and error, and remember, not every creative LUT is suitable for all clips. However, if at this point you still don’t feel comfortable creating your own, we’re giving away these five LUTs . . .
(These are free to use in any personal or commercial project. By downloading, you agree not to resell these assets.)
Tangerine Dream — Like the Mid ’60s, this LUT works best for brightly lit exteriors, and it will give your image a colorful, hazy cast.
Nolan Cold — A LUT that will give your cityscapes and rocky terrains a cold, metallic cast.
Mid ’60s — A LUT that will give sunny landscapes a retro haze with pink highlights. Kind to skin tones.
Washed ’80s — Browns, reds, and milky blacks. The true color pallet of ’80s Hallmark American Crime dramas.
For more on applying LUTs to your video footage, check out this tutorial by our friends at Shutterstock.
Interested in the tracks we used to make this video?
Looking for more post-production tips, tricks, and resources? Check these out.