These days Look Up Tables (LUTs) are a common staple of digital artist’s libraries, especially when working on film or CGI post-production. They vary in functionality though, and with the vast array of LUTs available to choose from, how do you know which one is right for your project? While it’s fair to say it’s project dependant and (therefore subjective) it’s also fair to say that you can make the wrong choice depending on the starting point with your footage. This is why having a technical understanding of how LUTs work is crucial for your post-production pipeline.
Fear not – here’s our brief guide to understanding LUTs, and how to get the most from your coveted LUT collection. We’ve also included 17 free high quality LUT resources below to help you get started.
So, what is a LUT?
In very basic terms, a LUT (Look Up Table) is basically a reference file that reads what colour a pixel is, then tells it what colour it should display instead. It really is as simple as that. Well…. almost.
LUTs exist as two main types –
- 1D LUTs act as a general simple colour correction over an entire image with little to no depth of control over individual channels
- 3D LUTs which allow you to adjust RGB values separately for a greater range of colour control over your channels. This breaks down further depending on what an artist/editor is trying to achieve, but broadly speaking you could separate LUTs into several key categories:
This breaks down further depending on what an artist/editor is trying to achieve, but broadly speaking you could separate LUTs into several key categories:
Technical LUTs which are specifically for changing an image or film from one colour space into another in order to preserve their appearance across platforms.
Artistic LUTs which are created using software with the purpose of mimicking colour grading or looks, such as the kind you would expect when applying filters to photography.
Calibration, Display, and Camera Patch LUTs which have varying functions but are all loosely related to setup of a post-production workflow that allows you to ‘normalise’ footage before fully embarking on a creative grading process.
The difficulty with LUTs is when the incorrect selection is made for the wrong purpose, or when a correct selection is made but cuts to a shot with different LUT requirements resulting in abnormal results between shots. 1D LUTs tend to be great for contrast and colour balance but they don’t lend themselves well to deep colour grading, especially when working with film. 3D LUTs place colour and luma into a 3D space (or cube) which is a more effective way of capturing the complexity of real-world colour in a grade. The trick is to establish a clean, even base to work from before attempting to grade with LUTs, whether this means your film is shot in LOG or your renders are gamma corrected and set up in a neutral colour space. This allows you to leverage the most amount of colour variation without the LUT clashing with existing grading or counter production colour correction.
So, if you don’t mind an email signup, below is a list of FREE LUTs to get you started…
- Color Grading Central – In partnership with visionCOLOR, download a free M31 Blockbuster orange/teal LUT from the Osiris LUT pack, 6 ImpulZ Kodak & Fuji LUTs profiled for generic LOG and Rec.709 profiles and a whole new pack of LUTs called Motion Picture Film LUTS
- Colorist Juan Melara – LUTS for Fuji Film 3510, Kodak 2383 and 2393. Direct Download: Film Print Emulation LUTs
- CineColor.io – Eleven free LUTS including a ‘fix’ for the Alexa classic LUT, an iPhone to Filmic look, Digital to film, and Blockbuster look.
- Filmmaker Tom Majerski – VisionT emulation LUT (Kodak Vision 3 500T) and Tcolor LUT (Technicolor Process 4 -Vibrant)
- Lutify.me – 7 free 3D LUTS.
- PixelTools – 8 free PowerGrades for DaVinci Resolve including teal and orange, and soft black and white with film grain.
- iwltbap – 3 x free creative look luts 8700, Aspen and Sedona.
- DELUTS – 4 free LUTS. One ‘hipster armchair LUT’ and 3 x Zacuto Gratical LUTS.
- SmallHD – 7 free LUTS based on the look of popular movies.
- DigitalColorist.com – 10 free creative looks.
- Ground Control Color – 6 x Camera specific LUTS and Rec. 709 conversions and 3 x Creative Looks.
- Filmmaker Frank Glencairn – Free Kodachrome 828 film emulation ‘K-Tone’ LUT for LOG footage.
- Motion Array – 10 free creative look LUTS and 10 more Action Movie LUTS.
- Rocket Rooster – 5 free creative look LUTS.
- Light Illusion – 3 free creative look LUTS – Film Look for Log footage, Film Look for TV Legal footage, ARRI Log Look LUT based on ACES data.
- Filtergrade – 8 cinematic look LUTS.
- FreshLUTS – Aiming to be ‘the world’s largest free LUT sharing platform, FreshLUTs has a growing number of LUTs to download
Sometimes its best just to dive in and discover what your favourite LUTs are through a bit of experimentation. Whatever your preference, correctly used LUTs will elevate your film or 3D visualisation to another level and can turn even the most basic footage into a professional looking piece of work.
Andy Pennington is a visualisation artist of 20 years and the director of Float, a company specialising in producing CGI for design industries. You can follow Float on Instagram Twitter and Facebook, as well as online at float.digital