Tired of having to load each LUT to see what the effect will be on your footage? Color Finale LUTs collates and previews your LUTs for you.
LUTs or Lookup Tables are like color filters and there are millions of them. Even Sony has some free downloadable LUTs for some of their professional video camera’s. LUTs seem like a great idea to have for when you are in a hurry, or if you are not very creative or a color grading novice.
However, collecting large numbers of the things may quickly lead to thousands of small files on your system of which you have no idea what they make your footage look like. And while some LUTs are free to download, the best and most appealing ones cost money, some a lot of it.
Color Trix now has a solution to that problem in the form of an app, called Color Finale LUTs. This app solves most of the issues that crop up soon after you have invested in LUT packs.
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Quick recap: what are LUTs anyway?
When you apply a LUT to footage, you are actually applying pre-defined mathematical formulas to the existing colors of your footage which change them in certain ways, sometimes even replacing the colors your camera shot altogether. LUTs adjust and alter gamma, contrast, saturation, luminance and hue, and at the end of the day your footage may look dramatically different from what you shot in the first place. Oh, and did I mention, in most NLEs all of this is just one click away?
There are many types of LUTs, ranging from LUTs that are meant to calibrate your monitor to LUTs that translate the colors on your screen to colors on film. In a digital workflow, there are two types that are central to what your color graded footage will look like: camera LUTs and style or look LUTs.
An input or camera LUT is used at the beginning of the color correction process. It adjusts the footage so that the color correction tools work properly. A video clip shot with an ARRI looks way different from one shot with a Sony CineAlta upon offloading. Both clips will need a camera LUT to color correct as without one, the footage will look washed out, sometimes have colors that seem off, and you may end up with very unsatisfactory results.
You apply a style or look LUT after you’re done color correcting the footage and are ready to move on to the color grading phase. The look LUT contains instructions to create a baseline for a desired look in your footage — or the final look if you’re happy with the out-of-the-box results — and as such it can be an incredible time saver in the color grading process. Look LUTs always assume natural color, which is why you’ll want to apply the camera LUT if there is one.
Some cameras don’t have associated camera LUTs; that doesn’t mean they cannot be color graded. It only means their dynamic range is average, and they’re programmed to create average natural color in-camera.
Why people buy LUT packs in the first place
As some video editors discover, color grading is a science and an art, and first-class editors who are also first-class colorists are very scarce. Both professions are built on formal education and, generally speaking, years of apprenticeship and training.
Most of us, however, are excellent at picking an existing style or look. We get to watch a blockbuster film and think: “Now that’s the look that my client wants for their tinned sardines commercial on national television.”
Then we ask a quote from an established colorist and discover creating a color style can be quite expensive. And so, as we are in a world where the tinned sardines vendor has a limited budget but you and they are both convinced the look of that hundred million dollar movie project for the big screen is the way to go, you invest in a LUT pack. God willing, you have many clients like the tinned sardines guys, and before you know it, you are buried up to your ears in LUT packs.
With them comes no obvious way to discover what each LUT looks like or which LUTs look alike, which fit camera A’s footage better than camera B’s, and if you want to find out what your own project will look like with any of those LUTs applied, you’ll need to fire up your NLE and apply each LUT in succession to find out.
Your NLE isn’t a LUT manager
And there are many camera manufacturers’, software companies’ and independent producers’ LUTs or LUT packs to choose from. They often design these looks for specific purposes, like color correcting footage shot by their cameras, or for emulating that distinctive look you were after with the tinned sardines client.
Most NLE’s can use these LUTs without problem as they have some sort of LUT loading module or mechanism. In Final Cut Pro X, for instance, you can use LUTs in two places. In the Info Inspector, you will find a Camera LUT option, while on the Timeline you can add a Custom LUT effect. The Custom LUT effect has a list with LUTs to choose from.
Some Final Cut Pro X plug-ins also have LUT options. Color Finale by Color Trix Ltd., for example, has both LUTs and presets.
None of these loaders, however, are programmed to manage a LUT collection. For example, the Custom LUT effect has a list, but as we all know, lists with a few hundred items in them become wildly frustrating to use, and LUTs crave for visual evaluation which no creative naming scheme like “GH4-CLD_Fuji Pro 400_FC.cube” is a substitute for.
When the NLE or plug-in does offer some form of visual clue of how the LUT’s color scheme will work out, it will most often be with a generic image, not a frame of your video.
Having a NLE that supports some LUT management, though, doesn’t solve all the problems. For example, if you’re working on a project with a remote team, with each user having their own NLE, the look on one user’s screen may not be exactly the same as the one on yours. If you’re trying out different looks and you’re presenting them to your client, it’s quite unpractical to go through your proposals by running them one-by-one inside your NLE. That simply takes too much time and is too error-prone for a presentation that may or may not generate business.
Taking screenshots of the looks created with specific LUTs is one approach, but it doesn’t solve the need for a consistent, unified visualization of LUT looks within your team, nor does it make experimenting with different LUTs any easier.
In the end, such is the risk of buying LUT collections that if you have many of them, the time and effort it takes to go through the whole collection to find and agree on the right LUT becomes counterproductive and you’ll quickly give up using them altogether.
And that’s a pity because chances are your LUT collections contain exactly what you are looking for in any project you’re working on now and in the future. They can save a lot of time and they can turn an amateur/apprentice colorist into a looks hero by offering a baseline for an ultimately original successful grading project.
Color Finale LUTs
This problem is all too common and the Color Trix team, who successfully developed the Color Finale color grading plug-in for Final Cut Pro X and which lists people among its members who worked on blockbuster movies as colorists, decided to develop a LUT management app for macOS, Color Finale LUTs.
Color Finale LUTs is a LUT manager that:
- supports viewing LUT effects exactly the way the LUT developer has intended,
- lets you copy, move and delete LUTs,
- helps you organise LUTs, including the creation of Smart LUT collections and so-called “Persistent collections” which are collections of LUTs coming from multiple LUT folders on your system,
- enables you to apply LUTs as a Custom LUT Effect or a Color Finale LUT effect in Final Cut Pro X.
Color Finale LUTs is not a plug-in but a stand-alone app that integrates seamlessly with Final Cut Pro X. It has an intuitive, user-friendly interface with an image viewer at the top and a LUT gallery at the bottom. It scans the folders and disk drives you designate for LUTs and lists all of them in a sidebar.
The app supports images from your system as well as video frames from your footage for viewing and assessing LUT looks. It offers innovative capabilities such as layering a camera LUT and a style LUT, and even using any LUT as a camera LUT so you can see how two LUTs stacked on top of each other will turn out visually.
Color Finale LUTs has robust management features. You can create Smart Collections, which are basically saved searches, but also Persistent Collections, which are LUT collections taken from different locations on your system or a mounted network drive, e.g. to sell as a new collection or to share with others on the team.
The integration with Final Cut Pro X means that you can copy a LUT and paste it in Final Cut Pro X as a Custom LUT effect with the LUT already in place.
If you have a copy of the Color Finale plug-in in Final Cut Pro X, you can also paste a LUT from Color Finale LUTs in Final Cut Pro X by going in the Edit menu and selecting Paste as an Effect > Color Finale. Color Finale will then have the LUT inserted as a layer.
If you find a look attractive and you loaded a video frame as an image for viewing, you can even export the whole clip to which that frame belongs as an HEVC MP4 movie for sharing with clients, team members, etc.
In short, Color Finale LUTs enables you to manage those hundreds if not thousands of LUTs you have sitting idle on your disk drive up to a point that you will actually be using them often in full awareness of what they can mean for your footage. In the end, this doesn’t just mean you’ll be color grading faster but also that your investment in those pesky LUTs can start paying off big time.