Get more from your LUTs when color grading (Pro Secrets)

In this blog, you'll find out how to Modify a LUT correctly to retain the color characteristics of a stylistic LUT while subtracting the baked-in contrast as each creator's creative preference requires a different contrast.

In the realm of video creation, Look Up Tables (LUTs) have become indispensable tools for colorists and filmmakers alike. Yet, despite their widespread use, the art of LUT modification remains enigmatic to many. Unlike simply applying a color preset, modifying a LUT involves a mathematical alteration of the RGB values in an image. This process can significantly enhance the visual appeal of footage by adjusting contrast and color shifts, including split toning and hue shifts. In this guide, we will demystify the process of LUT modification, enabling creators to maintain their desired shot contrast while incorporating the distinct color characteristics of a chosen LUT.

Understanding LUT Components

The Essence of Contrast and Color Shifts

Stylistic LUTs, available across digital platforms, are fundamentally composed of two elements: contrast and color shifts. These shifts encompass techniques like split toning, which warms the highlights while cooling the shadows, and hue shifts, which adjust the color spectrum for pleasing contrasts. However, the challenge arises when the applied LUT’s inherent contrast conflicts with the creator’s vision for the shot.

The Role of Rec 709

Rec 709, a standard color space for high-definition television, serves as a baseline for many LUTs. It’s essential to consider how LUTs designed for Rec 709 interact with your footage’s existing contrast and color profile.

The Process of Modifying a LUT

Preparing Your Footage

Begin with color-corrected footage on your timeline. The aim is to apply a LUT that enhances the color characteristics without altering the shot’s predefined contrast.

Applying the LUT

After applying your chosen LUT from a toolkit like the Ultimate Colorist Toolkit, observe the impact on your footage. Often, the shadows may appear unduly suppressed, indicating the need for modification.

The Secret Technique Unveiled

1. **Resetting the Node**: Start by resetting the node to which the LUT was applied.
2. **Adding a Mixing Node**: Right-click on the LUT node and introduce a mixing node above it. This layer will serve as the foundation for modification.
3. **Applying the LUT Anew**: Apply the same LUT to the new mixing node, then remove the LUT’s effect from the original node.
4. **Choosing the Composite Mode**: Right-click on the layer mixer and select “color” as the composite mode. This step ensures that only the color characteristics of the LUT are preserved, removing the unwanted contrast.

Visual Comparison

Capture a still of the modified image and compare it with the footage where the LUT was directly applied. This comparison will highlight how the secret technique maintains the original contrast while incorporating the LUT’s color properties.

Applying to New Footage

Repeat the process with a new piece of footage to validate the consistency and effectiveness of this LUT modification technique. The goal is to achieve a balance where the color grading enhances the visual narrative without compromising the original contrast settings.

Conclusion: The Path to Creative Freedom

This step-by-step guide to LUT modification is more than just a technical walkthrough; it’s an invitation to explore and experiment with your creative vision. By mastering this technique, creators can blend their unique stylistic preferences with the powerful color-grading capabilities of LUTs. We encourage you to continue experimenting, discovering, and contributing to the world’s beauty through your visual storytelling.

Don’t forget to subscribe to and follow the Colorist Factory’s YouTube and Instagram pages for more insights and inspiration. Until our next exploration, keep creating, keep inspiring, and keep making the world a more beautiful place.

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3 Responses

  1. You are the creators.
    This is a super professional method of working with LUT. To be honest, I didn’t know about this work process before you and I missed it. I always used a LUT over a contrast-adjusted image and got a “destructive” effect in the shadows. Damn it, it’s a miracle.
    Please do a lesson on Premiere, if I’m not mistaken, there this method can be obtained through the Track Matte key effect. If it’s not too much trouble, I’m really looking forward

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